Samuel L. Jackson told SCI FI Wire that he couldn't wait to wrap his tentacles around the role of the Octopus in Frank Miller's upcoming big-screen adaptation of Will Eisner's comic series The Spirit.
The genre veteran's Octopus is the gun-toting, maniacal, seemingly indestructible nemesis of the story's masked hero, the Spirit (Gabriel Macht), a rookie cop who rises from the dead, determined to protect his beloved Central City and unaware of just how closely connected to the Octopus he really is.
SCI FI Wire recently sat down with Jackson in New York to discuss The Spirit. Click to read the edited excerpts of our exclusive interview. The Spirit opens on Christmas Day.
How closely is Miller sticking to the source material? After all, we see the Octopus rather than just his gloves.
Jackson: Well, that's the biggest difference, I think, because the Octopus was always just a pair of gloves [in the comic]. So it's an enormous honor and joy to be able to put flesh and blood to something that was just a voice balloon and a pair of gloves. Thankfully, Frank was open enough and ego-less enough to listen and kind of let us experiment and try things that work in the spirit of who Eisner was. I'd listen to him to find out who Eisner was and what his idea of this character is, and "How would he feel about seeing me do this?" or "How would he feel about seeing me dressed this way or taking the character to this place?"
How would you described the Octopus?
Jackson: He's a megalomaniacal, crazy guy. He's brilliant, and he doesn't have a moral compass at all. And he also has to be sort of ridiculous in a very interesting way, because it's a cartoon. You've got two guys who are basically indestructible, who do Wile E. Coyote-Bugs Bunny things to each other in the middle of a gangster movie. So there have to be some sort of rules that you create that allow these characters to exist and to exist in the reality of that particular world. So we had to set those rules kind of early, and we had to follow them pretty strictly once we set them. Thankfully, Frank allowed us to do that and allowed me to create this character that runs this world in a very interesting, sick, demented way that's brilliant on one hand and cockamamy on the the other hand, at times dealing with the clones he's created. He's created these very imperfect clones, and he can't figure out why [they're imperfect].
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Take us through the knock-down, drag-out fight scene between the Octopus and the Spirit.
Jackson: It's all hilarious to do. Like I said, it's like you're doing doing a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. You're hitting each other with toilets. I hit him with a toilet. I hit him with a wrench that's, like, 12 feet long, this huge-ass wrench. He smashes me in the head with cinder blocks. And we were in a big mud flat doing this stuff. The only thing missing is birds flying around our heads tweeting when we hit each other. But everything else is there.
And how about the guns?
Jackson: The guns get bigger and bigger. I kept saying to Frank, "I need a bigger gun. I need a bigger gun." So the guns just got bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger. So the guns got bigger and bigger until we got to the point where Frank was just wiring guns together. I actually created an urban myth at Comic-Con. I was making a joke, and now it's become part of The Spirit fact. I read it the other day, that Frank had so many guns wired together that they had to put wires on them to hold them up so I could hold them up. They were extremely heavy, but we never put wires on them.
Have you seen the finished film?
Jackson: I have seen it. I love it. I talked to people in Europe who have seen it. I guess a lot of people expect it to look like Sin City, but it doesn't. It has its own look. I think once you accept the convention of what it is, it's an amazing ride. Plus, the women are so gorgeous. The women look amazing. And the movie looks amazing. It's got its own look, its own feel. I think people are really going to like it.