Comic book legend Frank Miller didn’t have the best luck with Hollywood first time out. To quote the man himself, “I learned that writing a screenplay is much like making a very pretty fire hydrant with a lot of dogs waiting for it.” Miller returned to the world of comics in the early ’90s and penned Sin City – a pulpy slice of noir set in a world of booze, broads and bullets. Cult director Robert Rodriguez became a huge fan of his work and felt it was perfect for a movie. He eventually convinced Frank and their combined efforts produced the first Sin City in 2005– a super-stylized and hyper-violent feature length collection of Miller’s original yarns.
The belated sequel, A Dame To Kill For, was released in 2014, but to not nearly the same amount of critical praise or financial success. Despite the disappointing Dame To Kill For, we could be in for another visit to Basin City sooner than we think, with the already-announced Sin City TV series in active development. Taking that into account, we decided to collect some of the awesome and little-known behind the scenes facts in a handy list. Here are the 15 Mind Blowing Things You Didn’t Know About Sin City.
15. The opening of Sin City was shot as Rodriguez’s audition for director
In the memorable opening for Sin City, a mysterious man approaches a women in a red dress. After some noir-soaked flirty banter and a passionate kiss, the man shoots the woman with a silenced pistol, setting the tone for the action to follow. Rodriguez shot this scene, a live-action recreation of Miller’s story The Customer is Always Right, as a proof of concept, roping in actors Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton to play the roles.
Knowing that Miller had soured on the movie-making business as a whole, Rodriguez invited Miller to Texas to watch the scene being shot.
His pitch was simple: if you like what you see, it will be the opening to the movie. If not, you’ll have your own short film to keep. Miller accepted and oversaw the filming on a large green screen stage. Rodriguez shot, edited, added the special effects and music in a single day, leaving the stunned Miller no choice but to sign on the dotted line.
14. There’s no credited screenwriter on the first movie
If you pay close attention to Sin City‘s opening credits, you’ll notice that, rather unusually, the movie doesn’t have a screenwriter credit. All it says is “based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller.” Despite slightly changing certain scenes and trimming some of the graphic novel’s dialogue to better fit a movie, Rodriguez declined to have a writer credit as he considered the movie to be more of a “translation” of Miller’s work than an actual adaptation.
Miller got two credits in A Dame to Kill For as both the sole writer and the creator of the graphic novels. The poster for the movie earned some online mockery as it featured his name no less than three times in large white font. Rodriguez definitely wanted people to know that these movies were Frank Miller’s babies and that apparently extended to the poster itself.
13. Robert Rodriguez quit the Directors’ Guild of America over the movie
A week before Sin City was scheduled to shoot, the Directors’ Guild of America contacted Robert Rodriguez to inform him that their rules prevented Frank Miller from being listed as a co-director. The DGA threatened to shut down production of the movie until the matter was resolved, but Rodriguez wasn’t having any of it.
He quit the DGA over their decision and as a non-union director, he could credit his movie however he pleased.
The decision wasn’t without repercussions, however. Rodriguez had been previously signed on to direct Paramount’s version of A Princess of Mars, the first John Carter story. As Paramount didn’t hire non-union directors, so he was booted off the project. It’s a shame as Rodriguez had planned to use the same tech he used on Sin City for the fantasy epic. Paramount eventually abandoned the rights which were then promptly snapped up by Disney and we all know what happened there.
12. The original comic panels were used as storyboards
You may have gathered by now that Robert Rodriguez was pretty committed to ensuring that the movie was as close as possible to Frank Miller’s original work. This came down to the development itself. Director George Miller (no relation) famously drew out his vision for Mad Max: Fury Road years before he ever filmed it, but Miller and Rodriguez had the original art from the graphic novels laid out as a guideline to plan out all the required shots.
The various comparison shots between the panels and the shots in the movie speak for themselves. Sin City is arguably one of the most faithful adaptations of a comic book ever made and it’s cool to know that a love and respect for the material was baked into the movie from the earliest stages of development.
11. Miho’s swords were previously seen in Kill Bill
Aside from his guest director credit, Quentin Tarantino had another, more subtle contribution to the movie. Deadly assassin Miho, protector of Old Town, wields twin katanas in the film. These were actual props from Kill Bill: Vol. 1, more specifically the same blades used by members of the Crazy 88 gang.
Tarantino apparently had them lying around in his garage and donated them to the movie as Miho’s signature swords.
According to the commentary for the Sin City DVD, Miller is such a fan of Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies, he has now retconned Miho’s swords to have been made by the legendary swordmaker Hattori Hanzo. As Hattori Hanzo swords are considered the finest in Japanese steel, it would certainly explain the ease with which Miho cuts down her targets with terrifying surgical precision.
10. Tarantino guest directed his scene for $1
Robert Rodriguez can lend his hand to many things. His IMDB page is ridiculously varied, with credits for (among many other things) writing, directing, composing, editing, acting, special effects, production design, cinematography and animation. Friend and collaborator Quentin Tarantino wanted Rodriguez to score Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Rodriguez agreed and only accepted a single dollar as payment.
In return, Tarantino directed the segment in which Dwight drives Jackie Boy’s corpse to dump it in the tar pits. Tarantino’s official directing fee? $1, obviously. The sequence sees Clive Owen’s Dwight hallucinating that the corpse of Benicio del Toro’s Jackie Boy is talking to him. Apparently one of Quentin’s suggestions for the scene was to have Jackie Boy’s voice change when his head moves back and forth. This decision proved to be a sound one and it made the already creepy, tense and darkly funny scene even more memorable in the process.
9. The character of Shellie was retired out of respect for Brittany Murphy
Bartender Shellie is the common link between the three main storylines in the first movie. She knows everyone and, more importantly, everyone’s business. She was played by Brittany Murphy, who apparently shot all of her scenes in a single day. Murphy died suddenly and tragically in 2009, leaving a huge question mark over the future of the character.
Shellie has a supporting role in the A Dame to Kill For novel, but Rodriguez and Miller decided to officially retire the character out of respect for the late Murphy and her previous performance.
When interviewed, Miller said “Brittany was one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever encountered …When she passed, it broke my heart. I called Robert and said, ‘Let’s not bring this character back. Only Brittany can play her.’ And we let go of her.”
8. The movies have in-universe connections to Rodriguez and Tarantino’s films
If viewers are able to tear their eyes away from the spectacle of Jessica Alba as a stripper in Kadie’s Club House, they’ll notice that the beer Shellie is serving has a familiar name. It’s Chango beer – the fictional brand that has also appeared in earlier Rodriguez movies such as Desperado. If you’re having trouble remembering it, it’s the beer that Tom Savini whips out of a patron’s hand in From Dusk Till Dawn.
In A Dame to Kill For, Josh Brolin’s Dwight is seen smoking Red Apple cigarettes, Tarantino’s hallmark fake brand, seen in many of his movies like Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. As many of Rodriguez and Tarantino’s movies have connections between them, this makes the Sin City movies an interesting offshoot in the grand Tarantino/Rodriguez alternate universe which includes films like Django Unchained, Kill Bill, Machete, the Shaft features and the Spy Kids franchise as movies-within-movies.
7. The MPAA banned one of A Dame To Kill For’s posters for being too risqué
Considering the adult themes prevalent in the Sin City movies, it should serve as no surprise that the posters tried to convey those themes. Like with the first movie, A Dame To Kill For released individual posters showcasing its impressive cast as the movie’s characters. The clothing-averse femme fatale Eva Lord, played by Eva Green, had her own poster. The image featured the actress holding a gun and wearing a sheer shirt.
This was deemed too racy for the MPAA, who banned it. When talking about the incident Eva Green was quick to defend the poster, saying “I find it a bit odd. It seems like it’s all just publicity—a lot of noise for nothing. You have so many more violent things in the movie business and this is kind of soft. I’m not [in the buff]. It’s suggested.” Many people suggested the whole thing was a publicity stunt, but, if it was, it definitely didn’t drum up much business for the movie itself.
6. Joseph Gordon-Levitt turned down Marvel Studios to star in A Dame To Kill For
After appearances in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stock went way up and he was being offered blockbusters left and right. He passed on many big movies, including Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla before finally settling on A Dame To Kill For, playing new character Johnny, a cocky gambler with a questionable past.
While JGL could have been a worthy addition to Godzilla, the biggest opportunity Gordon-Levitt turned down was playing Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
It’s very difficult to imagine anyone other than Chris Pratt in the role, but Gordon-Levitt could have been a good choice for the part. Guardians obviously went on to become a mega-hit whereas A Dame To Kill For severely underperformed. It’s worth noting that despite the tepid reviews that A Dame To Kill For received Joseph Gordon-Levitt was frequently singled out as a movie highlight, even if critics found little else to like.
5. Robert Rodriguez wanted Johnny Depp to play Jackie Boy
Robert Rodriguez clearly had a grand vision when it came to casting Sin City. He reportedly used his already filmed short to convince actors like Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke to sign on, but he originally courted Johnny Depp to play the role of seedy cop Jack “Jackie Boy” Rafferty.
Depp was apparently interested, but scheduling conflicts prevented Depp from being cast.
Rodriguez went back to the drawing board. His mind was made up when he saw Benicio del Toro walking around with long hair at the Academy Awards. He told the actor not to get a haircut and sent him the script and the short which convinced Del Toro to come on board. Rumor has it that Rodriguez still wants Depp to join the Sin City universe as Wallace, the lead character from the story Hell and Back. Whether this will actually happen now the TV series is in the works remains to be seen, but Rodriguez has made no secret about his intentions that to eventually film all of Miller’s Sin City yarns at some point.
4. Herr Wallenquist’s name is a Daredevil reference
Herr Wallenquist, aka “The Kraut,” is a powerful German-American mob boss with some interesting ideas about morality. The character’s name is revealed to be Alarich Wallenquist, which seems to be a direct reference to an obscure Daredevil villain of the same name. It’s not exactly a common moniker.
In case you were curious, the Marvel Alarich Wallenquist first appeared in Daredevil #168, the same issue that contained the debut of Elektra Natchios. Wallenquist is presented as a cowardly thief who hires Eric Slaughter to protect him. At the end of the issue, the desperate Wallenquist holds Elektra at gunpoint, stopping Matt Murdock in his tracks. The stand-off doesn’t last long as a well-aimed billy club knocks him out cold. Alarich Wallenquist has only made three appearances in the Miller drawn and written Daredevil stories, but it’s cool that Miller gives him a shout-out.
3. The character of Manute practices voodoo
As Michael Clarke Duncan sadly passed away between movies, actor Dennis Haysbert was brought in to fill the actor’s big shoes. Haysbert apparently had lengthy conversations with Frank Miller about Manute and his background.
One of the things that they decided together was that Manute drew his immense strength and power from voodoo magic.
This isn’t referenced in the graphic novels or the movies, but in an interview with CBR, Haysbert stated it was his way in to the character and gave him something to draw on. It wouldn’t be the series’ first brush with the occult either. Frank Miller has described the characters of Kevin and Miho as the two “supernatural demons” of Sin City, one representing good and one symbolizing evil. No prizes for guessing which one’s which.
2. One Marv sequence was acted out backwards and then shown forwards
There’s a small scene in the first Sin City in which Marv exits the sewer via a manhole and staggers against a wall. It’s a rather nondescript moment in the movie, just serving as a functional scene to get Marv from A to B. However, a lot more work went into it than you might think.
Rodriguez apparently wanted to give Marv an “otherworldly” vibe and had the actor perform the scene’s actions backwards.
In the final film, the footage is shown forwards. Knowing this information, it is possible to see a vaguely unnatural lurch to Marv’s moments, but it’s still a subtle effect. One thing is very clear; Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller put in a lot of thought into bringing Sin City to life, right down to the smallest details that would go unnoticed by 99% of the audience.
1. Elijah Wood and Mickey Rourke didn’t meet until the premiere, despite their characters sharing a fight scene
Sin City was one of the first films to primarily shoot on a digital backlot. This gave Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller a ton of freedom when it came to staging the scenes. Not only that, but actors didn’t need to film on the same day in order to interact with each other.
Thanks to the digital process, actors could be seamlessly composited into scenes they weren’t there for previously.
One of the most surprising things about this is that Mickey Rourke and Elijah Wood never met each other on set. This is particularly brain-bending when you consider that the two have a fight scene together. Marv even handcuffs himself to Kevin at one point, so the fact that the two actors never shared the same physical space makes the whole thing a genuinely impressive technical feat.
Which of these did you find most surprising? Let us know in the comments!
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