Wonderland catches up with comic book legend and Hollywood giant Frank Miller, author of Sin City and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns to talk film, Gucci and superheroes vs Al-Qaeda.

Feeling Guilty with Frank Miller

When Gucci first released its Gucci Guilty fragrance, the heart-racing, sci-fi tinged campaign gave us plenty of things to be excited about. There was the sultry Evan Rachel Wood. There was swoonsome, all-American beefcake Chris Evans. But we were most thrilled about the short’s director, Frank Miller, who talks here to Wonderland’s editor Adam Welch.

I’m interested in how you went about putting together the story for the Gucci Guilty campaign. It seems like a short blast from a longer narrative – is this the case? What was the brief and how did you work with it?

I storyboarded the entire thing. Then I talked to Ricardo [Ruini, the art director of the video] and Frida [Giannini, Gucci’s creative director] and they very much let me have my head in which way I wanted to take things. Frida was very valuable . She gave me many notes along the way, about what Gucci’s particular needs were was, as did Ricardo. This, and my own sense of what the Gucci brand means – the sensibility of it, of sexy romanticism, of a collision of the classic and the chic,  informed the story and its visuals. Starting with a longer, more textured narrative, a main challenge, as well as a delight, was compressing that narrative into a string of visual signals chosen to create a richer story for the viewer. Much as in making comics, I left many scenes to to the viewer’s imagination.

I did my best to come up with a sweet, sexy love story for Gucci.

The story is a very short bit of business about a pair of young, sexy people who have a tryst that is unexpected to both of them. It is a little bit poignant, a bit bittersweet,  in that they will never meet again. But it is one of those memories that one keeps for a lifetime. 

What happens next. Or, perhaps, more importantly, what happened before? And where are we?

I’d rather leave that a mystery. I could ramble on about who these two people are, where they came from, and so on, but I’d rather let the viewer’s own imagination fill in the blanks.

Do you think it’s possible to tell a story in one minute? Or is that just enough time to grab someone’s attention?

FM: A story can be told in four words. Here’s one I wrote in six words, for another client: “With bloody hands, I said goodbye”. The excitement of reading a comic book or viewing a film lies greatly in what is evoked, rather than outright stated. Much of my job is to stimulate the audience to create context, to create past and future. Fiction is the art of the unseen.

How important is the city to you in your work? Are there any real-world cities that you draw upon for inspiration?

Like everything else, the city is meant to be a reflection of Gucci and the sensibility. I draw mostly from New York and Los Angeles, but also from fictional visions, like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. My desire in the “Guilty” films was to make everything on the screen beautiful, every last inch of it, so that the cars and buildings and actors would be in tune with what the Gucci name embodies.

Do you have any favourite architects, or ones that are so awful that they inspire you in another way?

Many favorites, particularly the giants of Art Deco, the then-revolutionary works of Frank Lloyd Wright. The imagining of Syd Meade also inspires. The bad stuff, I largely ignore. An ugly subject makes for an ugly picture.

What for you are the benefits and limitations of working in film?

Film has been a whole new box of toys for me. Working with other talents, with designers, animators, cinematographers, has been a storyteller’s dream.

And what came first for you, film or comics – the two seem to have heavily influenced each other in your work. 

I treat my work in film like I do in a comic book. I start with a story line and my pictures flow from it. I love drawing, so I draw every shot and work out several different versions off of each shot. There are times though, where the shots just leap out of my head. When I’m really on a roll, they come to mind so quickly I barely have time to scribble them down.

In the Gucci ad, you’ve used color in a very specific way – can you explain the rationale?

Storytelling. Color not only attracts the eye, in provokes it as well. I’m sparing in its use because color is quite powerful.

What other projects have you got on the go at the moment?

Right now I’m doing two graphic novels, one is called Xerxes, which is another story about Ancient Greece’s war with he Persian Empire. The other is called Holy Terror, which is a superhero-type story with a character I made up who battles Al-Qaeda. After that, I hope to be shooting Sin City 2.

What would be your dream project, movie-wise. Or are you increasingly tired of Hollywood?

FM: I love writing and directing. I’m having a better time each time out. Film is a wonderful form. And yes, I have a dream project or two, but I’d feel foolish talking in public about them until they become more than dreams. And no, I don’t feel the least bit tired.

What are your guilty pleasures?

That would be telling.

The new Gucci Guilty Intense fragrance is released today. You can watch the director’s cut of Frank Miller’s Gucci Guilty campaign here