Joseph Gordon-Levitt has spent quite a lot of time around comic book movies lately. From The Dark Knight Rises, signing on to star in and possibly direct Sandman, and his work in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (which opens tomorrow), he’s really getting an education in how to make the genre work on screen. In a chat with Moviefone, the actor-writer-director opened up a bit about his experience on the set of the Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller film, and what he may have picked up from them as he prepares for Sandman.
While some actors have complained openly about how hard it is to create an organic experience when they’re surrounded by nothing but green screens, Gordon-Levitt says he embraced the experience in Sin City. The actor filmed his scenes with nothing more than the actors in his scenes and some basic set pieces. The rest of the environments and elements were added much later, in post.
“The actors were there. But that’s just what’s there — the camera and the actors. And that’s a beautiful thing because, to be honest, on a traditional movie set there’s a lot of technical stuff that has to happen that you have to wait for, as an actor. That can kill your momentum, it can distract you, or you can break focus. But when you’re doing a movie like this — the production design and the location and all of that — it happens later. So the focus is on camera and performance. And in a way it’s really ideal for an actor.”
A self-professed fan of the Sin City books that the films were based on, Gordon-Levitt says Rodriguez’s bravura work bringing it to life made it easy for him to enjoy the final film despite his usual hangups.
“It just sucked me right in. When I watch a movie that I’m in, it takes me more than one viewing because I’ll get distracted by the fact that I know it’s me, it’s not the character. The test for me is ideally when I watch a character on the screen I am not seeing me. I want to hopefully see someone else. And sometimes that takes a second. But for me this was that — immediately I got sucked into other world, with another guy, and I was able to enjoy it like I enjoy Rodriguez’s movies.”
But, as we know, Rodriguez wasn’t alone. Frank Miller, the creator of the Sin City comics, is credited as the film’s co-director (just as he was for the 2005 original). What was that dynamic like? Who did what? Gordon-Levitt sheds a little light.
“It wasn’t really very formal. It just felt like friends who are having a good time and were stoked to be making a movie together. There wasn’t a strict division of labor.”
What’s something he thinks he’ll take with him, assuming Sandman makes it to the big screen? He would only describe the status of the film as “We’re working towards it,” but he thinks he’ll definitely glean some inspiration from his Sin City experience.
“Very much so. And the green screen methodology of ‘Sin City’ — I wanted to see how Rodriguez handled that. Because on my show we do a lot of stuff on green screen and if you watch the show with ‘Sin City’ in mind, you’ll see a commonality here in the approach to the filmmaking. How we do it is we film the actors against a green screen and then put that footage up on the site and so animators and illustrators can contribute their graphics and it all gets stitched together to create the world around the actors. There’s a short in the first episode that’s mostly black-and-white with splashes of color and we only did that a few months after I finished on ‘Sin City.'”
Asked to delve a little further into what’s going on with Sandman, Gordon-Levitt revealed the following:
“Right now we’re working on a script. It’s me and Goyer and the screenwriter and Neil Gaiman, as well as the good folks at DC and Warner Bros. It’s a really cool team of people. It’s a lot of the same people who worked on the Nolan ‘Batman’ movies. It’s really exciting. There’s not a script yet, we’re still kind of working it out because it’s such a complicated adaptation because ‘Sandman’ wasn’t written as novels. ‘Sin City’ was written as a novel. ‘Sandman’ is 75 episodic issues. There’s a reason people have been trying and failing to adapt ‘Sandman’ for the past 20 years. […] We’re still in the middle of it, so I don’t want to make any claims, but I think we’ve got the right ideas.”
And, lastly, how does he feel about his friend- and Looper director- Rian Johnson being tapped to direct Star Wars: Episode VIII?
“I remember when he told me about it, I felt so privileged because he told me about it before the announcement and I’m just so excited. I’m excited for two reasons: one, I’m excited for my dear friend to have this amazing opportunity, and I’m also excited that there’s going to be these movies. These are going to be such good ‘Star Wars’ movies. He’s going to rock it.”