April 29, 2007

HOLLYWOOD KINGPIN:

Revenge of the Dark Knight: Hard-edged comics guru Frank Miller is hot in Hollywood. Now for the graphic details (Geoff Boucher, April 29, 2007, LA Times)

FRANK MILLER, his pale hands wrapped around a cane and the smoke from his cigarette swirling beneath the brim of his Homburg, sat at the poolside bar at the W Hotel in Westwood and watched the swimsuits saunter by. "I'm married to New York," he said between sips of a fizzy Red Bull cocktail. "But there's something to be said about Los Angeles too."

Miller arrived at the W a month and a half ago with a one-week reservation, but the L.A. fling is still going and he's still living out of a suitcase filled with black clothes. The reason is that Miller, the most important comic book artist of the last 25 years, is enjoying his moment in the Hollywood sun. There was, of course, the record-breaking March box office of "300," a lovingly faithful adaptation of Miller's bloody 1998 graphic novel, but there's also the two sequels to "Sin City" now in the pipeline and the Batman project now being filmed in London that borrows its title from Miller's 1986 masterpiece, "The Dark Knight Returns." "They finally got the title right," Miller said with a pretend sneer. "I was wondering when that would happen."

Miller fancies himself a curmudgeon, and on talk shows he's proven to be a firebrand with his political views challenging modern-day Islam. But it's hard to stay grumpy when everything is going your way. Like most stars of the comic-book community (where he is the rare artist who became equally celebrated as a writer), he had become accustomed to be treated like a valet by Hollywood — Hey, kid, thanks for the keys and the vehicle, here's a couple of bucks — and then forced to watch the studios wreck everything on screen. The 1990s Batman movies, for instance, would not have happened without Miller's work, but they often ignored or trampled his contributions to the character. On two "RoboCop" films, meanwhile, Miller was hired as a screenwriter, but the efforts fell flat. Then Elektra, a beloved character he created, tanked badly on the screen in the hands of others.

Now there's a sweet satisfaction in the fact that the new Hollywood approach is to hire fan-boy directors and show fawning respect for the source material. "Sin City's" Robert Rodriguez even insisted on sharing director credits with Miller on those films (a maverick stand that cost Rodriguez his membership in the Directors Guild), and that led directly to a somewhat shocking development: Miller has now been tapped to write and direct his own film based on Will Eisner's classic noir hero "The Spirit." [...]

MUCH has been made of Miller's politics in the wake of "300." The deliriously violent and stylized sword film is based on a Spartan battle in 480 B.C., and although Miller wrote and drew the story for Dark Horse comics a decade ago, in film form it was received by many as a grotesque parody of the ancient Persians and a fetish piece for a war on Islam. Miller scoffs at those notions. "I think it's ridiculous that we set aside certain groups and say that we can't risk offending their ancestors. Please. I'd like to say, as an American, I was deeply offended by 'The Last of the Mohicans.' "

Still, Miller gets stirred up about any criticism of the war in Iraq or the hunt for terrorists, which he views as the front in a war between the civilized Western world and bloodthirsty Islamic fundamentalists.

"What people are not dealing with is the fact that we're going up against a culture that finds it acceptable to do things that the rest of the world left behind with the barbarians in the 6th century," Miller said. "I'm a little tired of people worrying about being polite. We are fighting in the face of fascists."

The director of "300," Zack Snyder, chuckled about the portrayal of Miller as a conservative on the attack or a "proto-fascist" as one pundit called him. "I don't think he really has politics, he just sees the world in moral terms."


Memo to Mr. Snyder: that's all conservatism is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2007 8:43 AM
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