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February 2006
An Interview with Director Sylvain White

An Interview with Director Sylvain White
By Wilson Morales

February 14, 2007
Note: Blackfilm.com had misquoted Mr. White's statement regarding Mr. Aronsky.

Fact: Mr. White had no knowledge that the project was in turnaround with New Line Cinema or that Aronsky was attached to the film at the time of this interview.

On the heels of IESB.net reporting that Sylvain White will be directing Frank Miller's Ronin , blackfilm.com caught up with Sylvain for this exclusive interview regarding this project.

Ronin tells the tale of a dishonored 13th-century samurai who is reborn in a corrupt and computerized 21st century New York with one last chance for redemption. His quest takes him through the violent Manhatten netherworld, and brings him face-to-face with passion, betrayal, murder... and the reincarnation of his sworn enemy, the ancient demon Agat. On a bleak and decaying battleground, the two foes wage a final war: to settle past debts, and for the soul of a dying civilization. With Frank Miller's 300 coming to the big screen on March 9th, and fans eager awaiting that film since the glowing reaction received at last summer's San Diego Comic Con, Ronin could be the next big wave.

How were you contacted to direct Frank Miller's Ronin?

SW: Producer Gianni Nunnari had contact me years ago before I had done "I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer" and recently brought up the project back again. He had seen some of my short films. It was a combination of the music video work and the commercial work and the short films that I had done at that time and there was something in my work that he really liked and we met and he brought up this project, and I'm a huge Frank Miller fan and I'm a huge graphic novel fan. I grew up in France and we have lots of graphic novels there. Frank Miller is one of the few Americans whose graphic novels I really like; and so of course, Ronin is the best possible project I thought I could ever have. I jumped on it and now is the right time to go with it.

Had you read all the comics on Ronin?

SW: Oh yeah!

Frank Miller is known to be a hands-on consultant on films based on his novels. Had you spoken to him about directing this film?

SW: I haven't spoken to him in person yet, but we have had some preliminary exchanges and so far so good. The Ronin comic book has less of a strong identifiable status than "300". It's a different visual approach which is more based on the production design, more than the way it is shot. The world is so dense and so different and dark and intracit. It's going to be a lot of work but I'm really looking forward to it.

Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) and now Zack Snyder (300) have basically faithfully adapted two of Frank Miller's novels to the big screen, Sin City and 300 respectively. Will you be doing the same?

SW: The idea will be to stay close to the graphic novel. Ronin is very dense and very long so of course we are going to have to streamline the story to fit it within a movie time frame.

At what stage is the film at now? Is there a script in place and if so, who wrote it?

SW: It's putting these elements together. We are working off different scripts and trying to polish them. We are working off different versions that we got a couple of different authors. There's a really nice presentation that goes with it. It's basically saving the world back and forth and looking to develop it further once we set it up with Warner Bros. Warner Bros. has a first look deal on the film.

Who do you see playing the lead in the film?

SW: That's an interesting question. I can't even tell you because, depending how the story is going to shape and how the metamorphois happens between the Ronin and the character of Billy Challas, it's going to heavily tax physically who we cast in the movie and we're trying to see how to do that basically the best way right now.

Are you prepared to work behind the blue screen?

SW: I've had experience dealing with that when I did commercials. I've done green screen and motion control and all that.

When any one is assigned to direct a film based on a novel, comic, or anything that has an existing fan base, that person will be scrutinzed left and right by that base to make sure he/she is the right perosn for the job. Are you ready for that?

SW: It's funny how the film business works and people want to see the same thing that you have done before. They only evaluate you on a certain type of work and if you haven't done sci-fi or any other different genre, then how can you be right for the job. Well, I hadn't done a dance movie before "Stomp The Yard". My work has always been very eclectic. The one thing that does hold me based is that I have been a fan of graphic novels before graphic novel were even called that in the U.S. and when it was more about comic books. I grew with that in the early '80s and I've been a fan ever since. I was introduced to Frank Miller's relatively young.

What other comic books do you like to see come to the big screen?

SW: I can't give you my ideas yet, but there are a few. There's three French comic books specifically that I'm interested in setting up. One of them is like an adventure sci-fi, another is a police drama, and the third one is just straight sci-fi, more like "Contact". I think it's a new resource for ideas and titles.

Is "Ronin" your next project?

SW: Right now, I'm just setting things up. I'm basically breathing a little bit in terms of production, making sure my project is as good as possible, and hopefully it's Ronin. I really want to spend time and preparation, and making sure this project is good.

How many characters from the comic book do we expect to see on film?

SW: I would probably say all of them. We are condensing very little characters. We have to condense the plot a little bit because it goes back and forth a lot between different time periods and there's not enough time in the movie. It would have to be a five hour film to get everything in, but in terms of characters, all of key ones are there.

How has the success of "Stomp The Yard" changed your career?

SW: Well, it's put me on the map in terms of making people aware of me as a feature director. It was my first theatrical release. I had done a couple of small movies before which were more like trial movies. I was showing the studios that I can tell a story on budget with very small resources. After doing "Stomp The Yard", a nice commercial dance drama and for what it is, it's excellent and that's why it's doing well with the public. Now I have another project which is very different. Certainly there's a lot more ahead of me now. A lot more projects are coming to me. People see that when you have to do a certain type of film, it's a big challenge, and finding the right way to illustrate it, and make it successful in itself.

February 14, 2007
Note: Blackfilm.com had misquoted Mr. White's statement regarding Mr. Aronsky.

Fact: Mr. White had no knowledge that the project was in turnaround with New Line Cinema or that Aronsky was attached to the film at the time of this interview.



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