Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NYCC 2011 - Holy Terror! Diva Had A Chat With Frank Miller!

"Really???" Red Dot Diva gasped inwardly, her heart pounded within her chest, partially with sheer excitement and partially with a kind of (un)holy terror.

She gets to interview He Who Wears A Hat a.k.a. Frank Miller at NYCC??!!

Red Dot Diva's first lame squee-ful fangirl thought:  -- O.M.G. --

Next more lucid thought: What key questions should she ask Frank within the frame of just ten minutes??

With a public persona fashioned by dark clothes, an intense gaze and intriguingly diabolical eyebrows, Frank seemed rather intimidating. Even though she crushed over Frank and his previous works like "Sin City" and "300", Red Dot Diva was really not in favour of getting chewed up before she's been up to the Empire State Building. (Which she still has not, BTW.)

So in order to get prepared for the interview, she ploughed through a copy of "Holy Terror", his latest graphic novel about superheroes fighting terrorists, and found it to be a bold, unapologetic and relentless statement by Frank on al-Qaeda and 9/11.

The interview was held at one of the Green Rooms in the VIP Lounge area and started about 10 minutes later than scheduled. After being politely ushered in by the PR representative, she saw that Frank (and his hat!) was already seated at a round table. An image of calm repose that was in total contrast to the violent imagery in the new graphic novel.

The tall and lanky Frank, was surprisingly more soft-spoken and gentler in person, and he put Red Dot Diva at ease immediately by offering to sign her copy of "Holy Terror". She then took the chance to ask if he could also sign a "Sin City" book for her friend. "Sure!" he said easily, even asking for the spelling of the name.

With those tasks out of the way, Red Dot Diva dived into the subject of "Holy Terror" and what ensued was a very enjoyable conversation with Frank, who answered her questions with a kind of serious but languid confidence in that charming accent of his.

Red Dot Diva: "Holy Terror" took a really long time in the making. What were the good parts and bad parts of such a long-drawn creative process?
Frank Miller: The best of it was what it did for the book itself. As my emotions got to be more calm, I was able to see it from a distance and decide on how to effectively do this story. That is, the subject is so emotionally charged and so grisly, and for all that carnage, one of the things was not to show anybody the image of a victim. Essentially, if that happened and if I was a reader, I'd close the book and toss it away. And the other thing was to add just a touch of humour, just to lighten things up.

The bad part was that I loved the project, and as much as I loved the movies I did that interrupted it, it was never far from my thoughts and I was always eager to get to it.

Red Dot Diva: And how much has it changed since you were first inspired about the project? I know that it was originally a Batman project and then it evolved and became The Fixer.
Frank affirmed: Yes.
Red Dot Diva: At what point did you realize that it was no longer Batman, and what made The Fixer, The Fixer?
Frank Miller: Good question. I've done a lot of Batman work and love the character. And I realized that the character had to behave in a way that Batman was not. This character kills people right and left. And it is generally a much harsher personality. So I talked to DC Comics and said you have a multi-billion franchise with Batman and you'd want to protect it. And logically, I would want to protect it. So let me take this away. This isn't a Batman story. The change to it being The Fixer was a very amicable one. And so I was then free to create a brand new character whom I ended up really falling in love with.

Red Dot Diva: It has been 10 years since 9/11, and much information has been gathered since then and emotions have also now been calmer. How relevant do you think this book is at this time when people are more reflective?
Frank Miller: It's meant to be a work of propaganda and not a reportage or an instruction manual for anybody. (laughs) I use the word propaganda because I think it's a very misused word. If there's a story where someone is trying to persuade anybody, it is propaganda. The way people use English - if they don't like the opinion, they call it propaganda. If they do like the opinion, they call it relevance. But it's exactly the same thing. 

Mainly, I feel that in the American homefront has become complacent and has absorbed the impact the atrocity with a little too much ease. I want to remind people of how horrible the enemy we are up against is and the essential threat that al-Qaeda remains.

Red Dot Diva: I notice the parts where there were bits of romance.
Frank smiled: Yes, yes
Red Dot Diva: Was it thought of at the beginning.. or..? I liked those parts!
Frank Miller turned slightly serious with his answer: Well actually, it was one of the first things I thought of because I wanted to begin with the romantic sequence so that people would see what we are fighting for... what we could lose in a repressive, totalitarian sort of existence. This is not in any way meant to be a religious piece. I was raised Catholic but I know a great deal about the Spanish Inquisition, and I don't know anything about Islam but I know a great deal about al-Qaeda. al-Qaeda I want to see slaughtered. I despise them.

Frank points out the emotionally difficult section

Red Dot Diva: Was there any scene in this book that you found particularly difficult to draw?
Frank Miller: Yes. The sequence after the initial attacks where you see the political figures and everything leading up to this (Red Dot Diva began flipping the pages of "Holy Terror" to the part that Frank was referring to.) ... through here, was very difficult emotionally.
Red Dot Diva: I noticed that. It was very sad.
Frank Miller: I was breaking my own heart. The reason that I had the characters fade up into empty panels was to make you think of tombstones, and to show lives that have been annihilated. But to depict it in a way that don't show bloody corpses.
Red Dot Diva: I thought it was very meaningful. In a very poetic way.
Frank acknowledged with a wistful smile: Thank you.

Red Dot Diva: Moving away from "Holy Terror", who was the first person to suggest that you could go into directing?
Frank Miller: Well, I was determined that my work wouldn't be made in movies. I didn't like how Hollywood operated. But Robert Rodriguez in Texas kept calling me up, kept asking me to meet him. Finally, I agreed to meet him... not even in my loft, but in a local saloon because I was so skeptical. And he was this big, tall Texan guy... and he showed some things in his laptop that he had worked out and adapted digitally which was based on "Sin City". And he said, 'Well, do you want to do it?' And I went, 'No.' and put him off again. And then he called me up again. He was very persistent. He asked me to go to Austin, Texas saying, 'Just come for one day and shoot one sequence. And if you don't want to do it anymore, we won't do it anymore. We'd just do a DVD. I'd just have some of my friends over to play the parts.' Seemed like a strange offer.

But I went and turned out that the two friends of his were professional actors and I got to direct for the first time. There was one time when the actress in the movie's opening sequence, Marley Shelton, walked over to me with these eyes that could break your heart. (Note: Marley Shelton played The Customer in the "Sin City" movie.) And she asked me, 'Why did you hire somebody to kill me?' And I found myself talking to her about a minute or two, things about her character that I never told anybody. And her eyes brightened and she went back on set and did twice as good a job.

And I went over to Robert and kicked him in the leg and told him, 'I am in.'

Frank Miller said with a playful grin: He talked me into it. I gotta say, I was seduced.
Red Dot Diva laughed.
Frank Miller: But Robert was very determined to make the movie, and that got me into directing.

Red Dot Diva: And do you enjoy directing as well?
Frank Miller: I greatly enjoy it primarily because I get to work with actors. More than any other part of it, it's the actors that I really cherish. I find that every cliche about actors to be false. I find them to be hard-working, very eager to be directed and very intelligent. In the several movies, I directed, I had no major case of any one whom I thought was being difficult or less than completely professional.

At this point, Frank's minder was already signalling to Red Dot Diva that her time was almost up, so she quickly requested Frank for a short greeting for the Singapore fans.

So here it is, people.... Frank Miller's special video message!

Of course, before she wrapped up the interview, Red Dot Diva had to take a pic with He Who Wears A Hat. And while posing for the pic, Frank said to her, "That's my favourite t-shirt. The white Superman one. I think it looks great."

Red Dot Diva couldn't help by beam (and do an internal Squee).

As one can probably see in the epic photograph below.

My autographed copy of "Holy Terror"

Love it or hate it.

The prickly subject of "Holy Terror" would most likely stir up many polarizing opinions about Frank's unflinching sentiments. Despite of that, Red Dot Diva thinks that the book still has its moments of brilliance even if it does feel muted now - 10 years after the catastrophic event which changed the world.


Red Dot Diva says a very special thank you to Paul Levitz -- for without him, this interview would not have been possible.

Thanks also to Elysabeth Fulda from Sphinx Group for actually making the interview happen!

Red Dot Diva would also like to thank a certain Andre in advance for a special lunch treat -- in exchange for getting that precious "Sin City" autograph from Frank Miller!

Click here to take a peak of the preview pages of "Holy Terror" from Legendary Entertainment's FB page.

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