Director Frank Miller rewrote the Spirit script to accommodate ScarJo and let Samuel Jackson improvise — and even reinvent his character's look. We met the director and cast, and learned just how much they collaborated.
Letting Frank Miller gallop across The Spirit film set unedited opened the doors for the actors to do so as well. In a press conference for his newly released film The Spirit Miller described how one should adapt a comic to film:
As far as what translates from comics to film, I find that they are the better source material, and would cite marvel's recent Iron Man and Incredible Hulk as wonderful witty jobs at adapting them. I think if they get too presumptuous, comic book movies tend to fall apart.
That's all fine and dandy to say, Mr. Miller, but revelations throughout the conference revealed that you and your cast went a little willy nilly with changes and additions. Case in point: the lovely Scarlett Johansson's part, Silken Floss, was completely rewritten and expanded once the gorgeous ScarJo wanted in on the project. And that was only the beginning of the actors dictating changes to the movie.
Take the Spirit's nemesis, the Octopus — an evil character brought to the flesh by Samuel L. Jackson. Despite Miller's many rewrites and expansions, after meeting a few actors, he ended up giving Jackson free rein.
At the presser Samuel L. Jackson was asked about if he was cautious about bringing to life a character that had never before been seen on film or in the panel. In the comics, the Octopus was always just a pair of ominous gloves. He explained that he created most of his character's look himself, in the makeup chair.
It's quite an honor to actually be able to walk into a situation and put flesh and blood into a character that's only been a pair of gloves. And I thank Frank for that opportunity. He gave me license to be as demented and as genius and as goddamn funny as I wanted to. So I kinda took that as my license to do all the things that I ever wanted to do in a film, chew as much scenery as I felt like chewing, and not be criticized for it....."
Also, the Octopus' notorious smeary makeup? All Jackson.
The big discovery for me was, Scarlett and I shared a makeup trailer. So when I would go in in the morning and they'd be making her up and I'd look at her and those beautiful colors of eye shadow on her and I'd go "Wow, I should try some of that." So I got my makeup artist to start experimenting with eye shadow and I would put it on then I would run in there and go "Frank!" and he'd go "I love it!" so then I'd go back to the trailer and go, if I'm wearing a Nazi outfit I should have lightning bolt eyebrows! And I'd go "Frank!" and he'd go "I love it!". And from that point on it was all just a matter of me just kinda me running in and doing as much as I can to myself, even down to the little ermine eyebrows, which I thought was kinda cool.
You just said a mouthful, Sam. While Jackson as a Nazi cat-killer in an SS Uniform may be full of win, seeing him leaking makeup just takes away from the character. There should have been someone on set saying, "Whoa, now we're getting ahead of ourselves let's all just think about what we're doing here for a moment."
Jackson said he also found a lot of inspiration in the wardrobe closet, and if you've seen any pictures from the film you'll agree it's got a pretty crazed assembly of ensembles. But at The Spirit's heart the story was really a romantic comedy, he said:
But other than [a moment where he kills a cat], there's no real mean spirited moment in the film. I don't even conceive that as a mean spirited moment, it's an example of what we do. Just one of those things. But having fun and creating a spirit of adventure in the middle of what we finally discovered was a romantic comedy was kinda great.
At the end, Jackson did truly seem to care about the character. He read all of The Spiritworks provided by Frank Miller. Plus, Miller and Jackson met constantly, trying to discover the reality of the Octopus and gave birth to a Lucy and Ricky type relationship between Silken Floss and Octopus (Sam is the Lucy).
The Spirit hits theaters on December 25.