Robert Rodriguez Makes a Return Trip to ‘Sin City’

Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Nine years after co-directed the noir-like “Sin City” with author Frank Miller, based on Miller’s popular graphic novels, Robert Rodriguez once again joins forces with the artist/storyteller for more tales of sex, violence, corruption and vice in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” in 3D.

Many of the cast members from the 2005 film are back including Jessica Alba as Nancy, a stripper bent on vengeance of her lover’s selfless suicide, Bruce Willis as the spirit of the deceased, Mickey Rourke as Marv, a violent avenger, Rosario Dawson as Gail, a tough working girl in Old Town and Jaime King as Goldie. The film comprises four stories (two from Miller’s graphic novels and two he created just for the sequel). Additionally, new characters enter the seedy, dangerous world of “Sin City,” including Josh Brolin as a private detective (played by Clive Owen in the original), who happens upon his old flame Ava Lord (Eva Green), and becomes embroiled in her dangerous schemes, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, plays a gambler who crosses a powerful and corrupt politician (Powers Boothe), and is an enemy of Nancy.

The Texas-based filmmaker behind “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Grindhouse,” “Machete” and the “Spy Kids” movies recently spoke about making a return trip to “Sin City” nearly a decade after the first film was released.

Q: It must be interesting to go back into this dangerous district. Some might argue that the sequel is even more of a realization of a comic book on the screen than the first one.

Rodriguez: I remember the first film I looked at what we could do with green screen and digital in Frank’s book, and I thought, “OK, maybe we won’t go as far as the book. It might just be too bizarre for audiences.” We did about a half step between the graphic novel and the movie. People really loved the feel of it. They thought it was very original and great, the treatment of it. So this time we went ahead and pushed it further towards the book, especially (the segment) “A Dame to Kill For.” It’s more abstract in his drawings, in his graphic approach to it. It’s just eye-popping. So we thought, if they like that, let’s go all the way. So when people say, ‘How did you update the look?’ It wasn’t really to make it different from the first one. We’re actually closer to the source material than before. And then doing it in 3D, because everything would pop a lot more if you did it in 3D and really make you feel like you were in his graphic novel.

Q: You’ve had a long professional relationship with Jessica Alba. When did you meet?

Rodriguez: I met her when she auditioned for me when she was 17. She was too young for the role for the movie I was doing, but I kept my eye on her because she was one of the few Latin actresses I saw trying to break through. I encouraged her, said, “Keep going. Keep going.” And then she got (the TV series) “Dark Angel,” and I knew her through my friendship with Jim (Cameron). (She and I) had seen each other over the years and we’d say, “We have to work together some day.” When it came time for “Sin City,” I met with her. If you look at Nancy in the book, it was a very difficult character to figure out, because we were trying to be one-to-one with what the book was. That was the character I could just not figure out. I knew I liked (Alba) and I wanted to work with her, so I said, “You’re just going to have to create a Nancy.” She created something that even inspired Frank (Miller) to write the next story for her.

Q: How has your relationship changed since then?

Rodriguez: I am always trying to just work with Jessica. She is awesome. She is in my “Machete” movies. She is in my “Spy Kids” movies. I am trying to put her in every franchise, because then there would be multiple movies that we can work together. It’s kind of why you use the same actors a lot. You get to know them and you realize that one movie cannot explore all the talent they have. You really have to give them several different kind of roles in completely different kinds of movies to push them to push yourself and you trust that you know that they are going to step up because you are counting on them and you are giving them an opportunity to not just do the same thing again. Even this is completely different than “Sin City,” what she does here. She arrived with a lot of that. She arrived with so much of it worked out that it raised the bar. She was the first character we shot in “Sin City 2,” and it raised the bar on all of the acting that was going to come after that.

Q: The cameo you and Frank Miller have in the movie was fun to watch. How did that come about?

Rodriguez: There’s a scene in the script where Jessica is lamenting the loss of Hartigan (Willis’ character), and she’s drinking and there’s an old movie playing. I was like, “Great, we’ll have to license an old movie.” While we were waiting by the green screen, it hit us that we should go shoot little bits of an old movie ourselves. We thought if there was an old movie playing, it should be her just her repeating dialogue she’s hearing from an old movie that she’s seen many times. So, we shot ourselves in the time we were waiting for actors to get to the set in that five-minute window. (looks down at his shirt) I’m actually wearing the same clothes today! We thought it would be fun to have us in the background.

Q: This is the horny fanboy question, but considering how faithful everything else is in the movie when you look at the comics, how does it make sense that Jessica Alba’s Nancy the stripper character isn’t topless?

Rodriguez: That was the thing. When I saw book originally, it was drawn a certain way. Frank drew (the graphic novels) so they could never be a movie. That was the point. He said, “I’m going to draw something that can never be made into a film.” So, some things, especially in the first film, we had to adapt. You couldn’t even find an actress of the caliber of what you wanted that would consider doing that. It was just walking around topless all the time, even when she wasn’t dancing. It didn’t make as much sense.

Q: In the graphic novels, she’s doing backflips topless with a lasso.

Rodriguez: It was very stylized. I knew Jessica wouldn’t do topless but I wanted her (for the part). It was that hard thing where I could have gotten someone who looks just like the photo but can’t act, or we could get Jessica and we could cover her up. Some still think she was naked because she (dances) so sexy, and some things were exposed. They ask her about the nudity all the time with the first one. There wasn’t any nudity. It was all in (the audience’s) mind. We suggest a lot with costume, and with attitude. So, that one wasn’t quite so big.

Q: How did Jessica keep up her energy for the dance sequences?

Rodriguez: We had to start shooting with something and all we had were (Jessica) and her dances. She had to do one long dance after dance.

Q: What’s your favorite of Jessica’s stripper costumes?

Rodriguez: (laughing) I like the cowgirl outfit!

Q: Do you think your collaboration with Frank on these films has affected his work?

Rodriguez: He told me it would be hard to draw these characters again and have them not look like the actors now that they’ve taken on these roles.

Q: Will audiences have to wait another nine years for the third “Sin City?”

Rodriguez: We want to go right away. If this film is supported, and people come out and see this one, it’ll show they want another one. It’ll get us going on another one. We had a lot of fun doing this. I think everyone understands that we need to just go right into a third one and pick up where we left off.