Cover of Cover via AmazonDecember 12, 2008

Q&A: The Spirit‘s Macht

The Spirit‘s Gabriel Macht isn’t a comic-book hero; he just plays one in the movies.

In fact, Macht–who stars as Denny Colt/The Spirit, the dead rookie cop turn masked crimefighter, in Frank Miller‘s upcoming big-screen adaptation of the Will Eisner comic book–was entirely unfamiliar with the story, its history or Eisner when the film came up.

In an exclusive interview with SCI FI Wire, Macht revealed that his agents introduced him to the material, that Miller didn’t want him to rely too much on the book The Best of The Spirit and that dealing with green screens didn’t leave him the slightest bit blue. Following are edited excerpts of the interview with Macht; look for part two of this Q&A on Monday.

Did you know thing one about The Spirit before this project arrived on your doorstep?

Macht: No. I was told about the film from my agents. They said, “Frank Miller is doing a comic-book film from an adaptation of an insert in the newspapers from the ’40s called Will Eisner’s The Spirit.” So I read the sides [script pages], and I jumped online and on Wikipedia and I looked up Will Eisner’s The Spirit. And I found the old version of it. And then I saw Frank Miller’s drawing. I think it was first presented at Comic-Con in 2007, and it was a very violent-looking, tough-guy Spirit. When I went into the audition I said to Frank, “I saw the poster that you drew, and I thought, ‘I look like that guy. Why not come in?'” The guy looks nothing like me! Frank’s drawing looks nothing like me. But I was not familiar with the comic. I was not familiar with Will Eisner, but as soon as I did my research I found that he is a legend in the world of comic books and graphic novels, and I think it was he who invented the term “graphic novel.” He was one of the great innovators of the genre.

How much did Frank Miller want you to immerse yourself in the Eisner universe? Or did he ask you to go by his script?

Macht: When I finally got the job, there was some time between sitting down with Frank and traveling to Albuquerque to shoot on the soundstages out there. In that time I went out and bought The Best of the Spirit, which has the color versions of the old comics. When I came to visit with Frank, he said, “So, what have you done?” And I said, “Well, I’ve immersed myself in The Best of … ” He goes, “No, no, no, no. I’m not a fan of the coloring that they did for those comics. Let me give you my picks.” So he gave me a massive binder of his favorite Will Eisner work, but all in black and white. He did absolutely want me to familiarize myself with Will Eisner’s vision of Central City, of Denny, of the femme fatales. I looked pages and pages, and when I got to set on my first day, I ended up taking all of the comics, and I had a bunch of Frank’s storyboards of the film, and I pasted them all over my trailer. You couldn’t see one piece of fake wood in my trailer. It was all Will Eisner and Frank Miller drawings. So I really tried to absorb as much as I could from Eisner’s take to influence the work that we created together, Frank and I.

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