Deborah Del Prete, Odd Lot Entertainment
Back in May 2006, I emailed Deborah Del Prete, a partner in Odd Lot Entertainment with Gigi Pritzker, if she would do an interview for this web site. The subject? Odd Lot’s development plan for its property, Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
“I would love to help you out on this and be interviewed,” she replied. “Please call my office to arrange.”
At the time, I thought it was odd that her assistant couldn’t schedule the interview for two months – Tuesday, July 25.
In early July, Denis Kitchen told me that it looked like Frank Miller was going to be announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego as the new writer and director of The Spirit movie.
That’s when the light went on over my head and I finally understood why Del Prete couldn’t talk to me any earlier.
That, and what I learned later, that her company produced four movies in a row in 2006 (including Buried Alive; Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Girls’ Guide to Hunting & Fishing; Wanted: Undead or Alive; Zero Dark Thirty) and that she was on location all the time, “working like a maniac” in her own words. And the week before Comic-Con, she finished shooting the last of the four films in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and flew to Minneapolis, where she is producing a stage version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
Del Prete, as you’ll learn below, is a life-long comics fan that takes her stewardship of The Spirit as seriously as anyone could. She’s also an experienced filmmaker, as director of two films (Simple Justice; Ricochet River) and producer or executive producer of 14 more, including: The Phantom of the Opera (starring Robert Englund and Bill Nighy; 1989); Hostile Intent (Rob Lowe; 1995); The Wedding Planner (Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey; 2001); Mean Creek (Rory Culkin; 2004) and Green Street Hooligans (Claire Forlani; 2005), which won the 2005 South By Southwest (SXSW) Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature.
BOB ANDELMAN: Tell me at what point you and Odd Lot became aware of and/or interested in Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
DEBORAH DEL PRETE: Well, first of all, I am a comic book fan myself. I collect; I have always been a fan of comics, so I have always been aware of The Spirit and Will Eisner. It was something that was in my consciousness. I have been friends with Michael Uslan for a number of years through a mutual friend, an actor. Michael came to me to and he said, “Listen, I have one of the greatest creative properties ever made in the comic book industry. It’s truly iconic, blah, blah, blah.” And I actually said to him, “Don’t tell me you have The Spirit?” That’s exactly what happened, and he was like, “Oh, my God, yes, I’m home.”
The minute I knew what he had, I wanted it, and we decided to get together. Michael has been protective of the property, because he cared about it, and he wanted to make sure somebody who was going to produce it was going to care about the property, which I feel I do, so it was a perfect match.
You want to tell the story, you are passionate about it, but this is more of a sacred trust, I think, because it is such an important creative work historically in a medium. It’s one of the first great works of the medium. Will himself was such an extraordinary man, such an amazing talent, and just one of the coolest people I have ever met. He was one of these people that I think was eternally young in the very truest sense of the word, who just constantly was innovative and smart and not looking back, always looking forward right up until the end. So it becomes a really important piece to do, not just because we all are trying to make movies and succeed and make money — which is what we are all trying to do — but I am at a point in a career where I really want things that are more important to make, and this is one of them.
ANDELMAN: Your first conversation with Michael was when?
DEL PRETE: Wow. I would say it’s close to two and a half years ago, three years ago.
ANDELMAN: He had the property under option for a long time, didn’t he?
DEL PRETE: He did, but Michael’s company at that point, he wasn’t a financier. wasn’t… Michael tended to have rights but he didn’t make films, he got rights and then would set them up with places. A studio would be making them, bringing in producers, etc., So by himself, he didn’t have the wherewithal to make the films. We are a financing entity. We develop and we produce and actually finance pictures. At that point in his career, he didn’t have the ability to finance even development of the film. You have two choices in our business: a studio develops, or you develop. Unfortunately, in studio development, and Michael has learned this over the years, a lot of things can happen. Because of the way studios develop, you assign your rights to them, and then they start developing them, and a lot of times what can happen is a lot of money can go against the project, and then it cannot get made. Then you are sort of stuck. If you are an independent company as we are, it works a little differently. Michael was looking for a company to develop The Spirit.
The other problem when you give rights to a studio is, you have no control or say. They then decide if they are going to change elements of the character, and that was something that he had kind of promised Will that he didn’t want to have happen. So he needed somebody who would finance, develop, and hire writers, pay for that portion and possibly finance the picture, up until it was shot. So Michael tried, and he didn’t get the right options. He kept getting people who were interested in the project. He certainly had people who wanted to do the project, but they just wanted to do things that would change it in too significant a way.
ANDELMAN: Which, historically, has ruined most comic book-related films.
DEL PRETE: Right. Exactly. It’s one of those things you just don’t understand why people don’t learn. But they don’t. Why have a great piece of property and make into something else?
ANDELMAN: That is strange, isn’t it? There is a video clip on the Internet of Kevin Smith talking about his experiences with Jon Peters. Smith told the story of how he had been hired by Peters to do a script for Superman, about ten years ago. It was this incredible anecdote of how Peters didn’t want Superman wearing tights, and that the third act had to include a giant spider. It was just hysterical, and it was just exactly what you are saying about why don’t people get that these are fully formed characters?
DEL PRETE: I know. It’s ridiculous, but part of it is because these are not people necessarily who have had a history in comics and respect the medium and understand it and care for it. You get a random situation. You may come across some good executive who has that, or you may come across people who have no idea, none whatsoever, and just think their job is something different, and that’s a problem. I understand. I’ve heard that story about Kevin, which seems fairly typical to me, honestly.
ANDELMAN: So you talked to Michael and the two of you obviously connected on this.
DEL PRETE: And the material. We started thinking about what we would do, and then of course, we wanted to bring in a writer to write a draft of the script. Because for us, the way we do things is, again, we don’t want to go to a studio and say, oh, great, we want to make The Spirit, we want to make Spider-Man. We want to buy the property or pay the rights, ownership, and then we find a writer, we pay the writer and then develop the story. The plan was that Michael and I would work with the writer. I work with writers — that’s what I do — to develop scripts. When we get a great script, we attach a director, attach main cast, and then make a deal with a studio for distribution. That was the plan. So we started looking at various writers to write it. I ran through many, many writers looking for somebody with just the right voice that would capture kind of what we all know The Spirit is, who would understand the property. There were lots of writers who came to us who loved The Spirit and wanted to do it, but some were taking it in too much of a camp way, some were taking it in too much of a straight drama way. I mean, there is humor there, there is drama there. To me, the most important quality of The Spirit is his self-awareness. That’s a great quality about the character.
We hadn’t even thought of Frank Miller, because you just never thought Frank would ever do anything but his own stuff. Frank is such a genius talent in his own right; to think he would adapt anybody else’s work was unlikely. We didn’t even go there, even though we would have all loved to, and we had decided that Jeph Loeb was somebody who could do a good version of the script. Loeb, who you are probably familiar with, is a comic writer and a television writer. He was very enthusiastic about it. We love Jeph’s work and so we proceeded with him. In fact, at Comic-Con in July 2005, we had a panel where we announced the movie, and announced Jeph writing it. Darwyn Cooke was on the panel with us, too, because DC simultaneously announced the new Spirit series for this year.
ANDELMAN: Right, and it was also announced that Jeph would write the Batman/Spirit book.
DEL PRETE: Correct. So it was Michael, myself, Jeph, Darwyn, and Denis Kitchen. We talked about The Spirit movie with Jeph writing the script.
Unfortunately, a few months later, Jeph’s sixteen-year-old son died of cancer, and he was, of course, devastated. We were supportive of Jeph, and we were going to wait as long as it took him. But he eventually said that he just no longer could write something about somebody who comes back from the dead in the way The Spirit does, even though he doesn’t really come back from the dead. He didn’t want to deal with the whole concept of a world in which… he was going through a terrible time, as you can understand. He had this wonderful child who he lost, a child who was way too young in age. I am a mother, so I have to say, all things professional become secondary to me in the personal universe.
Jeph said, “I can’t do this any more. I just can’t do it. I can’t do it justice. I can’t live with it. I just can’t.” So we said, “Okay. We totally understand. We are sad for you in every way.”
Then we were going to have to decide who else could do it, and Michael was about to meet with Frank Miller for something. He said, “I am going to bring it up to him, what do you think?” I said, “What do I think? I think there could be nobody better on the planet.” First of all, the relationship between Frank and Will was a great one, as you know, so obviously that was a great idea. So Michael said, “Let me just put a feeler out. Let me just ask him about it.” I said, “Fine, let’s try. We have nothing to lose.”
Frank told me that his first thought was, “I can’t do that, and then his second thought was I can’t let anybody else do it. I have to be the person who would do it for Will.” That was very fortuitous for us. I met with him right away. We had lovely long conversations, and we all knew we were home, we were in the right place. And I have to say that I think that it’s one of those kismet sort of things. I really can’t think of anybody more right in the universe than Frank for Will.
Again, it takes it to a place, again, which is actually really important to me, not just making a movie but doing something that is really important for all the fans and for the man himself, for Will and for Will’s memory. The guy was one of the creators of the whole industry. His wife is really happy, and I am, and Frank is just so enthusiastic about it. He knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. We are thrilled. Sin City was probably one of the most visually stunning things I have ever seen in my life. It was real, to me, a medium where you mix film with comics. He took the comic medium and utilized it in a way that I don’t think has been done before on film, where you get the visual talent of the artist along with the drama of the actors, etc.
Frank is doing Sin City II, and then we hope to shoot The Spirit right after that.
He wants it to look like the Will Eisner Spirit. He wants it to have that visual. Right now, what he is doing is, before he writes the script, he is doing a full outline by building a storyboard with the actual comics, and taking pieces from comics he wants to use in the story, and putting them on the boards and then drawing between them the panels needed to make the full story line. How cool is that?
ANDELMAN: That is pretty cool. I can see the companion book already.
DEL PRETE: Isn’t that awesome? I was like, so cool.
ANDELMAN: Had you ever met Frank before?
DEL PRETE: Well, I had seen him. I had never really met him. I had seen him on panels, I had seen him at Comic-Con, but I didn’t know him personally.
ANDELMAN: What was that first meeting with him like? Where did it take place?
DEL PRETE: We had lunch at The Palm in Los Angeles, and it was great. Frank is a great character, a fascinating personality. I am used to working with artists. I work with a lot of truly great writers, great, great writers, and then I work with a lot of great actors, so I am used to artistic personalities. Great artists have unique personalities. Frank is one of those people. But I like him. He is a soft-spoken guy but very creatively aware. He is funny. He totally has a point of view. I always want to work with directors and writers who have strong points of view. They know the stories they want to tell. They know how they want to tell it. They know who they want to be in it. Those are the people I want to work with. I am not looking for people who are wishy-washy, who just want to do whatever the studio says or whatever we say, because what’s the point of that? Then I could just do it myself, right? I want the talent of the person. Frank is a hugely talented human being, which I think you would agree. He has done some of the most unique works, and so you want that. That’s what you want to bring to the marketplace, something that’s really an expression of somebody’s true, extreme talent. Unfortunately, so many films end up just being these mish-mashes because they don’t let a voice come through.
ANDELMAN: Right. Or they have too many voices.
DEL PRETE: Well, that’s part of the problem, too many voices.
ANDELMAN: What kinds of things did Frank say in that meeting? Obviously, Michael had set the table, so you already knew that he was interested enough to have the meeting, but what kinds of things did he have to say about Will.
DEL PRETE: He was saying what I told you about not thinking anybody else should do it. He talked about Eisner and himself and their relationship. They had that great give-and-take, fighting each other sort of … I just love that, the challenge back and forth, but ultimately, you could see the deep respect, so those were the kinds of things we talked about. Then, his ideas for some of what he wants to do.
ANDELMAN: Were you disappointed that it won’t actually get to start for another year because of his other commitments?
DEL PRETE: I never worry about things like that because I would rather have the right people rush. For me, it’s not about, “Oh, we have to have it this second,” it’s about, let’s have it right. One of the things that I think is appalling in a lot of places is that they go and start shooting a movie when the script is not even ready. I think that’s crazy, and I would rather not have Joe Smith, I would rather have Frank Miller and have to wait a little longer. So that doesn’t worry me at all. And also, quite honestly, it shouldn’t take less than a year anyway. We will have the script; we will be refining it. Even the best writer in the world needs notes, because you are alone in a vacuum. That’s why there are editors. So you work that back and forth. Then there will be casting, and there will be issues with that, and then there will be set building, so none of that worries me.
ANDELMAN: One of the things I did not see addressed — maybe on purpose — is what kind of budget this movie might get.
DEL PRETE: Well, on purpose, yes, because it is going to be a function of too many other factors we don’t really know yet. Casting is one of them. Where we ultimately make the movie. It’s not going to be a huge budget movie, it’s going to be a medium budget. First of all, as you know, he’s not really a super hero per se. There are not going to be a lot of huge special effects, but it’s going to be a visual look. One of the hallmarks of even Sin City and Robert’s Rodriguez’s movies is that they are good at controlling budget. So a middle level is what we are planning on.
ANDELMAN: I would have been very surprised if you had told me it was going to be a big budget, because I would worry, because as excited as everyone is about The Spirit movie and Frank’s involvement, there is still that reality that I have run into, being Will’s biographer, that people don’t know The Spirit.
DEL PRETE: That’s correct.
ANDELMAN: It does not have that level of familiarity.
DEL PRETE: That’s right. It never was a big, popular title. Comic book fans know it, but other than that, the general universe is not that aware of it. That’s correct.
ANDELMAN: Right. The thing that has happened the last couple of years is there are millions of people who are aware of comic book properties as movie characters but still haven’t read the comics.
DEL PRETE: That’s the other part that is amazing. That’s an amazing thing to me. By the way, they buy these properties, and they don’t even know them. But yeah, you are right, and the idea is to stay true, not to become some crazy giant special effects movie.
ANDELMAN: I have to ask you, in the course of this two and a half years, have you ever looked at the ABC movie of The Spirit?
DEL PRETE: I have never seen it, but somebody just gave it to me, so I am about to see it. Isn’t that funny? It’s funny that you just asked, because I have had it discussed a million times. I never really had an interest in it because from everything I have heard it was just terrible anyway, so I don’t tend to look at other things to see what we should do, you know what I mean? I want to have the source material and the writer and just create something. It’s not even about avoiding pitfalls, because from what I hear, it was just something terrible anyway. But I am going to look at it. I do want to see it.
ANDELMAN: It was pretty bad. I can tell you exactly what Will thought of it. I can give you the exact quote. I have a whole chapter in the book about the movie. “It made my toes curl,” he said. “Just awful. It’s cardboard.”
DEL PRETE: I met with Will.
ANDELMAN: I wondered if you had met with him.
DEL PRETE: I was very lucky. I consider that just an amazing honor for me and opportunity that I am so grateful that I got to have, that I met with Will and talked to him all about the project.
ANDELMAN: When was that meeting?
DEL PRETE: Actually, it was at Comic-Con in 2004, so it was the last Comic-Con that Will was at. He and I had a meeting, and we spent a couple of hours together. We actually at one point walked around the floor of Comic-Con, which was another big thrill to me, and he said to me, “I just look at this and can’t believe what came from a few guys in these rooms in Manhattan just drawing.” You know what a huge circus it is, a moving circus it is. It was a huge thrill for me, I mean, and just to talk to Will about what he wanted and what we were going to do, what was important to him, what wasn’t important to him. We did talk about that movie for a moment, about how awful it was. So that was a big deal.
ANDELMAN: What did he tell you was important to him?
DEL PRETE: What was important to him is that The Spirit didn’t carry a gun, that he doesn’t use guns. What was interesting was that he didn’t see The Spirit as a period character. He saw him as a contemporary character. He just happened to be writing him when he did in the ‘40s, but it wasn’t because he meant it to be in the ‘40s, he just meant him to be contemporary. So one of the approaches that Frank and I have talked about is that the movie is not going to be in a period of any kind. It is going to be the same way Sin City was; it will probably have somewhat of a ‘40s-look costume, etc., but a person could use a cell phone. It’s that otherworldly sort of comic book universe. Ant that’s sort of what Frank cared about.
ANDELMAN: I am going to guess the answer is no, but did Will express to you his sense that, well, he really liked collecting Hollywood dollars for options, but he didn’t necessarily feel that they had to ever actually produced the movie, because he really didn’t want to see the movie made.
DEL PRETE: He didn’t say that, but I could understand a piece of that, because it is such a different thing from what he made. Look, everyone was so sad when he passed, and we had all hoped to make the movie while he was alive so that he would have something that was made that he could be proud of that was made from it. We hoped to be the ones to do that. I guess now we hope that we have him looking down somewhere seeing that it is going to be done the right way. But you know, it wasn’t what he did. He made comics. He didn’t make movies, so it was a different medium, so you could understand.
ANDELMAN: But he certainly influenced a lot of movies.
DEL PRETE: Oh, my goodness. His visuals were so cinematic. When you look at The Spirit itself, the original Spirit from the ‘40s and you look at it, it’s just like basically a storyboard layout of live shots overhead, close-ups, visuals that were really cinematic.
ANDELMAN: Tell me a little bit about Odd Lot and about the films that you have been involved with.
Gigi Pritzker, Odd Lot Entertainment
DEL PRETE: Sure. Odd Lot is a company owned by myself and Gigi Pritzker, my partner. We have been partners for over twenty years. We started a company called Gigi Entertainment many years ago, and we were for many years service producers, which is just the same as most people who bring a project to a studio. A movie we made that way was The Wedding Planner. We decided about four to five years ago that we wanted to have an asset-built company where we would own our properties and we would control the creative, and we started Odd Lot. We put together equity financing so that we could actually finance the movies and started self-financing.
We made a movie called Green Street Hooligans with Elijah Woods that was completely self-financed and self-distributed, although we were internationally distributed by Universal.
We just shot four movies since January 2006. We did Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alex Baldwin, and we have done a movie called Buried Alive that Bob Kurtzman directed, the great special effects guy. We made a comedy called Wanted: Undead or Alive with James Denton. We shot all those movies in a row. We have a big slate for next year, obviously including The Spirit, and we are also doing a remake of The Lavender Hill Mob, that Dean Parisot is directing for us.
What we do is all about finding properties we love and putting the right creative talent with them. We try to find a property and a director and work with them to get the right script. We are also doing a romantic comedy next year, with another thriller on the boards.
And we have a new label called Direct Lot for our kind of genre division, so Odd Lot does the big romantic comedies and straight comedies, and Direct Lot is doing the thrillers, the sci fi, and the horrors.
ANDELMAN: And The Spirit will be under which banner?
DEL PRETE: Good question. We are still debating that. I think it is going to be under the main label.
ANDELMAN: Odd Lot.
DEL PRETE: Uh-huh.
ANDELMAN: And where does the name Odd Lot come from?
DEL PRETE: Well, honestly, we used that name because there is a financial theory that when everybody is spending their money one way, you should go the opposite way. If they are buying, you should be selling. So we like to think of ourselves as going against the tide and against the grain, and then it’s a play, too, on the lot, the old studio lot system. We are kind of the odd lot, not quite the same as the others but doing it our own way.
ANDELMAN: Does Gigi have an interest in comics as well, or is that your half of the interest?
DEL PRETE: It’s me. We have been partners a really long time, so we are very in sync with each other, and we always tend to like the same things, but she wasn’t a comic collector, that was my area. But we also kind of always support each other’s things, but once we identified the particular property, she got it and liked it, too, it was just that that wasn’t her area.
ANDELMAN: You said that the partnership goes back twenty years. How did the two of you meet?
DEL PRETE: I was producing and directing a travel documentary show called “Journey to Adventure” on NBC in New York. Gigi had graduated from documentary film school. She had gone for her master’s in documentary filmmaking in, of all places, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She went to Stanford, but then she ended up as an anthropology major, and then she went into documentary filmmaking, and she came to work for me as basically a PA. But Gigi and I had a charismatic friendship like in two weeks. It’s like we must have known each other in another life. I had been planning to start my own company for a while, and we just clicked in a way, and it seemed like we would be good partners. About six months later, we started our own company.
ANDELMAN: I recognize the Pitzker name from the Hyatt connection, so that doesn’t hurt. Are you in the market to acquire other properties in this genre, or are you going to get this one done and then see what happens?
DEL PRETE: We are always looking for stuff. No, I am not just going to do this one and see what happens. If we find something else we like, we would take it now, too. We are constantly developing, so we are constantly looking at new material from all genres, from books, from scripts, from comics, from wherever. It is just a question of finding something that we love and that we think we can figure out a way to make, two sides to every point. We are always looking.
ANDELMAN: Let’s go back to where we started the conversation. Tell me about your comic book collection. What was the first comic that you read? What do you really like? What do you not like?
DEL PRETE: What was the first comic I read? Superboy. Supergirl. I was a very DC-oriented superhero fan.
ANDELMAN: What period of time would this have been when you started reading?
DEL PRETE: It was the Silver Age, late ‘50s. I remember as a very little kid, I read early, I read very early, and I was a big reader, and I started by reading comic books. I was just in love with comic books from the first day but mostly superhero comic books. I remember getting the Superboy that had the Legion of Super-Heroes in it the first time, the first time they ever appeared. And, of course, I don’t have it now, because my mother made me throw out my comics. She didn’t keep them. So it took me many years to get that first issue back again, being able to afford it, even though at that time, I paid 12 cents or 10 cents or whatever. I was enamored with anything that had female superheroes in it, so that’s why the Legion was so appealing to me. I was a huge Superman fan, Superman and Lois Lane, and every single part of the Superman mythos was an area I was way into as a kid. And then Supergirl… that was really cool. Then there was Legion. I liked Lois Lane. As a kid, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter because of Lois Lane. Actually in fifth grade, I started a class newspaper because I was going to be the next Lois Lane.
ANDELMAN: In the ‘60s especially, it would have been unusual for, I hate to say it, but I think it’s true, for a lot of girls to be reading comics.
DEL PRETE: Absolutely. You are completely correct. Being a female comics fan and a collector is still rare. Not like it was, but it was super rare, yeah.
ANDELMAN: How did you find your way…. Did you have older siblings?
DEL PRETE: No. I have no idea. Honestly, I am just one of those unusual people. A lot of film directors start out being comic fans, because in a way, what we have been doing, what we were doing was learning how to tell the story in storyboard form. I don’t know who gave me my first comic. I can’t honestly tell you that I remember that. I just think I was at a grocery store and I saw something and was attracted to it. Well, maybe my older cousins had some comics in the house and I first saw them, something like that, but it wasn’t like it was handed down to me from my parents or a brother or sister. No, it was just me.
ANDELMAN: Interesting. Do you remember the first time you encountered any of Eisner’s work?
DEL PRETE: Yeah, it was when I was much older. It was when I was starting to go to Comic-Cons and stuff. I went to my first comic convention when I was in New York City. I was an East Coast girl. It was way smaller there than anything like Comic-Con.
ANDELMAN: When would that have been?
DEL PRETE: Oh, I would say that was about twenty years ago, maybe eighteen years ago.
ANDELMAN: Early to mid ‘80s.
DEL PRETE: Yeah. That’s when I would say I became more interested in all of the historical comic issues, etc., and that’s when I think I started to know about and read The Spirit. I had to track down some of those. As a little kid, I was a Supergirl fan, but then I became a Batman fan and the whole Justice League, so when Frank did The Dark Knight and all of those things, I had been reading all those during that period.
ANDELMAN: On the professional side, with Odd Lot, had you looked at any other characters before this?
DEL PRETE: You know, it’s funny. All the years Gigi and I had the company, first of all, to be honest, we are a female company, so the odds of us getting superhero projects we are highly unlikely, to be honest. But I used to always be really jealous about them, to tell you the truth. When Superman was made, when Batman was made again, I thought, “Man, I could have taken any of those. I need to be making superhero comics,” but it was like unattainable at that point. DC and Warner’s had the rights, and you aren’t going to just walk in, especially a female-oriented company, it was easier for us to do romantic comedies and have people take that seriously. Gigi and I made our first feature in 1986. It was a revenge/action picture. I have never had just kind of what you would classically call female taste. I have pop taste, and I don’t necessarily just like what’s the typical girl movie.
ANDELMAN: What was that movie, by the way?
DEL PRETE: It was called Simple Justice. It was with Doris Roberts and John Spencer and Cesar Romero. It was a great cast, and I directed that movie, as well. So my taste has never been straight what you would call female taste. It’s kind of funny, because I am a pretty feminine girl in many ways, but I just always, taste-wise — comics, books, everything — always have had pretty much kind of what is normally considered male taste, I guess. I don’t think The Spirit is particularly an un-female taste character, although there are lots of great females in The Spirit.
ANDELMAN: Oh sure, great characters.
DEL PRETE: Femme fatales, you know. I just think my personal taste has always been sort of more gender non-specific.
ANDELMAN: Do you anticipate that you will bring on another company to co-produce The Spirit at some point?
DEL PRETE: No.
ANDELMAN: Okay. Odd Lot will do the whole thing.
DEL PRETE: Yeah. We will probably make a distribution deal with a studio.
ANDELMAN: One of the things that has been successful for Marvel and DC in making movies of their characters is that they have this whole infrastructure. There is Marvel Comics, Marvel Enterprises, Marvel Studios. DC is part of Warner, Warner Books, etc. The Spirit and Will always has been an independent, but a lot of the money to be generated from these kinds of movies comes from those ancillary projects, the toys, the lunchboxes, the books. It would seem, at least for me on the outside, that there is a lot of legwork that will have to be done to bring The Spirit into that kind of realm, or am I wrong?
DEL PRETE: No. You are not wrong, but those things are not as hard to do as you might think. There are plenty of companies willing and able and wanting to do deals for these things, so it’s just a question of our staff. I have a staff of people, business affairs and legal affairs, making deals for the various things. We are well aware of all of it, and it is not really as complicated as you think. There are plenty of companies out there who want to do the game and we will be putting all those deals together. But you know, we have the major companies interested, too, and of course, DC is interested in being involved.
ANDELMAN: I figured DC. Dark Horse, too. Mike Richardson is a huge Eisner fan.
DEL PRETE: I know Mike, too. We will all discuss it and figure out what the best thing is, but it won’t be that difficult.
ANDELMAN: Okay, so there may be some other involvement in other ways.
DEL PRETE: Oh yeah. I mean as far as ancillary stuff goes and the toys and things like that, yeah, of course. It won’t be the movie itself, but all the other stuff….
ANDELMAN: I have to ask you, having been a comic fan, how did it feel to be up on stage at Comic-Con with Denis Kitchen and Frank Miller.
DEL PRETE: You can imagine how cool that was. Think about this: I started to go to Comic-Con in San Diego about thirteen years. My husband and I would take my son, who at the time was seven. The first time we went, we went for a day, and then we were like, this is really cool, next year, we will take him for the weekend, and we did. We took him for the weekend, and we went to the costume thing and all that, and my son was a little kid, and it was like a big deal, and we loved it, and it was so cool and all that fun. So just think about being that kind of person, going and watching and fast-forwarding thirteen years and being not only on the stage but on the big stage in this gigantic room on the panel with, of all people, Frank Miller, who I think is probably at this point about the biggest star of comicdom or certainly up there in the top five. It was thrilling. There is no other way to put it. It was thrilling. I had done it the year before with Jeph Loeb, so I had done a comics panel already, and that was great, and then to do this one with Frank on the stage dealing with Will’s work, it was extraordinarily thrilling. It’s kind of hard to get much better than that.
ANDELMAN: I was a little surprised that the news, technically I guess leaked, but not really, it wasn’t a leak, it was in Variety on Wednesday before Comic-Con started.
DEL PRETE: There was a big discussion, believe me. We all went back and forth a hundred times on what exactly to do, and Frank actually kind of felt like he would want people to know that he was going to be there so that his fans would get to come. Otherwise, they may not have known he would be there on the panel.
ANDELMAN: And it ultimately wound up being, I think, probably one of the biggest stories out of there because it came out before the show started.
DEL PRETE: Well, you know, we do have PR people who kind of advised that that was the way to do it. Believe me, the decision wasn’t made until the week before to do it that way. We all went back and forth a hundred times on exactly what to do. Ultimately, everybody weighed in, and we made that decision.
ANDELMAN: It was really interesting to wake up that morning and, of course, I track all the stories related to Will and The Spirit, and to see that pop up in the morning news. I thought, wow, how smart to get the word out right before the convention starts. Because what Comic-Con really needed was something else to make people show up, right?
DEL PRETE: It was insane. If we weren’t speakers, we wouldn’t have been able to get in the building, I don’t think. That’s how bad it was. Afterward, I was on the floor after the panel to buy a piece of Will’s work..
ANDELMAN: I have to ask: what was the piece you bought?
DEL PRETE: I bought a page from August 28, 1948, from the strip, an actual page, an original page for the original strip.
ANDELMAN: Going forward now, what roles will Michael Uslan and Denis Kitchen play in all this?
DEL PRETE: We look to Denis to be sort of a guiding light just because of his long-term relationship with Will. Denis doesn’t have an official position with the movie, we just all have a good close relationship with Denis, and so we look to Denis as sort of technical advisor. Michael is a producer. He will be my producing partner on the movie. Michael will be involved with all aspects of it with me.
ANDELMAN: Where do you think it will shoot, or do you know that yet?
DEL PRETE: We are talking, honestly, about shooting in Austin at Robert Rodriguez’s facility. They don’t usually give it out to other people, but because of their relationship with Frank, they have indicated some early willingness to possibly do that. I am going to go meet with Elizabeth and Robert Rodriguez and talk to them about the possibility of using what they have in Austin to do it.
ANDELMAN: I somehow thought you were going to say that.
DEL PRETE: It makes sense.
ANDELMAN: Frank will have done two films there by that time.
DEL PRETE: And I am a fan of Austin, because not last year but the year before, my movie Hooligans screened at South by Southwest (SXSW), and I love Austin, so no kidding, that would be a fun place to film. So yeah, you are right, he has done two movies there, and he would be comfortable there, and he knows everybody, so that would be good. Again, our goal always is to try to support artists, to give them the best possible ability to tell their story and paint their palette. Not necessarily the most money, because studios can definitely do that, but I don’t think the studio necessarily gives them the best of other stuff that we can try to do. We try to support them, so if Frank would prefer working there and it’s not going to make that big a difference to us economically in some way, which I doubt it will, why not do it where it will be good for him? That’s how we try to work.