It’s been nine long years since directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez took us to Sin City, “the town without pity.” But next weekend’s release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For at long last offers a return trip for the faithful. Based on the graphic novel of the same name and the short tale “Just Another Saturday Night” (published in the Booze, Broads, and Bullets collection), A Dame to Kill For also finds Miller sharing his first original Sin City stories (“The Long Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance”) since the last published volume in the Dark Horse series, 2000’s Hell and Back. I sat down the iconoclastic creator at last month’s San Diego Comic-Con, and he told me what the future holds for his neo-noir saga.
Nerdist: From what we’ve seen so far of Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, it looks like the energy of the original Sin City film has been renewed.
Frank Miller: Yeah, and I think that what happened, beyond the fact that Robert and I have more movies under our belts and more experience, [was that] the actors came to their roles with a real understanding of what Sin City was. Even the new actors – like Eva Green and Josh Brolin – would come to their roles with an understanding of what kinds of scenes they were in and what kind of emotional intensity to bring. So let’s just say the build-up to what we got was much shorter and people were much more acute and aware and ready to go.
N: Can you talk about the stories you’ve created for A Dame to Kill For that we haven’t seen in the comics? How did the medium of film direct you in crafting these new tales?
FM: Actually, I wouldn’t say it was the direction of film so much as the direction of Sin City itself. Robert suggested that we include some new material, and I’ve got Sin City stories waiting to go. So I pulled two out. One was the finale to That Yellow Bastard, featuring Jessica Alba. The other was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s story about a gambler that I always wanted to tell. He brought a completely different dimension to it. He’s a completely different kind of Sin City hero. He brings almost a John Garfield quality to it.
N: What do you think brings audiences back to this type of material time and again? Is it the same thing that brings them back to the stories of Chandler and Hammett?
FM: Well, I sure hope so. I do crime stories, and I hope the ones I do are compelling enough to keep the audience coming back. The authors you mention – plus Mickey Spillane, Jim Thompson and others – are real heroes of mine. My visual style brings a different component to it as well. These are comics I always wanted to do ever since I was a little kid.
N: What do you find liberating about noir?
FM: My whole career has been an exploration of the hero. I started out with openly heroic characters at Marvel Comics and at DC Comics. But what always intrigued me was, in film noir, heroes are often improbable. They’re often people whom you might meet on the street and think are disgusting. Or people leading hollow, empty lives — and find one purpose, one good thing to do. A recurring theme in Sin City is these are people who have really lived in the gutter and been through it and are finding their way.
N: Among the actors new to the Sin City universe in A Dame to Kill For is, as you mentioned, Eva Green. She appears here to be someone born out of time, reminiscent of Golden Age actresses like Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis.
FM: In one scene, in which I really first got to see her work on something challenging, where she is trying to seduce Dwight, I felt like I was watching an actress jump from the ’20s to the ’30s to the ’40s to the ’50s to the ’60s — and then back again. Whenever she wanted to. She seems in total command of her craft.
N: In that, she must be simpatico with yourself, since the Sin City comics are inspired by the best of a century’s worth of genre storytelling.
FM: A dirty secret that cartoonists have is that we tend to come up with stories about things that we like to draw. That’s what Sin City is. Ever since I was a little kid I drew guys in trench coats and exotic women and antique cars. And they’re all there!
N: Did you find your process of collaboration with Robert had changed or evolved since the original Sin City film?
FM: It was amazing how quickly it developed in the first one. Because I’d often find I’d have the job of storyboarding a scene, and I’d put four lines just in preparation for the shot that I want. Then I’d just keep drawing, and I’d look up at the monitor — and he’s already shot it. So if anything the communication’s increased. We had more fun, and there’s less lag time. There’s less need for debate. Because we’re both pulling in the same direction more.
N: One could argue that a number of films have employed 3D unnecessarily in recent years, or as an afterthought. Yet in A Dame to Kill For the medium is well-suited to the film’s stories and style.
FM: I think it has to do with the fact that I have a very spare style. What I’ll do is often very, very complex pencil drawings before I ink them. Then I’ll sit down with a big fat brush and black almost everything out until I’ve focused on exactly the things I want you to see. My problem with 3D movies as they’ve been generally done is that they’re full of clutter. There’s too many damn spaceships or monsters in the sky. Because of Sin City‘s tighter focus… I think the fact that a dirty lamp is in the foreground, you’re gonna notice that it’s thirty feet away from everybody below it rather than see eighteen flies flying around it.
N: Could we yet see more Sin City comics or graphic novels?
FM: Sure, it’s kind of hard to stop me. [Laughs.]
N: What’s next for you after this film?
FM: Well, I could say, but that might spoil it. My belief is, if I had my own way about things, I wouldn’t admit to having done a movie until I saw the name on the marquee. But I have more stories about Ancient Greece to do and more Sin City. Robert and I are planning Sin City 3 right now.
N: We’ll be looking forward to it. Thank you for your time, sir.
FM: Thank you.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For opens nationwide on August 21, 2014.