Rodriguez turns in card to co-direct 'Sin City' with Miller

Robert Rodriguez is one filmmaker who doesn’t see himself as an auteur. In fact, he likes company when directing a movie, even if it means having to resign from the Directors Guild.

Days before beginning production on the Dimension drama “Sin City,” Rodriguez resigned his DGA membership so that he could co-direct with Frank Miller, a film neophyte who created, wrote and illustrated the three-book graphic novel series on which the movie is based.

DGA rules dictate that there be only one director assigned to direct a motion picture at any given time, although the guild occasionally grants a waiver to that policy. On Thursday, a DGA spokesman said, “The guild regrets Mr. Rodriguez’s resignation, however, we stand firmly behind the principle of one director-one film.”

Rodriguez portrayed his ankling as hardly acrimonious; he asserted that since his movie is so unorthodox, he decided it would be easier both for him and the DGA if they’re not shackled together when production begins Monday on his soundstages in Austin, Texas, beginning Monday.

For one thing, Rodriguez plans to have Quentin Tarantino direct part of the film, along with Miller and him. Tarantino may be billed as a “special guest director” or whatever title Rodriguez wants to bestow, now that he’s no longer under strict DGA guidelines about who gets behind-the-camera credit.

It’s not the first time that Rodriguez has quit the DGA. He did so a decade ago so he could take part in the Tarantino-orchestrated film “Four Rooms,” released in 1995.

Rodriguez said it would be easier to turn his card in again than test the rigorous DGA rulebook.

“I didn’t want Frank to be treated as just a writer, because he is the only one who has actually been to ‘Sin City,’ ” Rodriguez said. “I am making such a literal interpretation of his book that I’d have felt weird taking directing credit without him. It was easier for me to quietly resign before shooting because otherwise I’d have been forced to make compromises I was unwilling to make. Or set a precedent that might hurt the guild later on.”

Rodriguez often agrees with the spirit of DGA policies, but they “make it very hard to do something that is exciting and different, which is exactly how I sold this project from the beginning,” he added.

Rodriguez, who partly financed “El Mariachi” by volunteering himself for medical experiments, has always been comfortable making films by the seat of his pants, even though he has built studios in Austin grand enough to accommodate both “Sin City” and the pic he’ll direct right after, the $100 million Paramount sci-fi blockbuster “A Princess Of Mars.”

He hardly seemed rattled, for instance, that aside from his DGA defection and welcoming a new baby, he was in the thick of assembling cast for a film that begins shooting in four days. Rodriguez has been talking with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, Brittany Murphy, Christopher Walken and Michael Douglas.

All that’s certain is that Mickey Rourke will anchor the story segment that will begin shooting Monday. The remaining cast will draw from those who are available for a reasonable price to work a short shift in a cool film.

None of this would have been possible if Rodriguez hadn’t pledged to make Miller a major part of the creative process.

Though Miller has done acclaimed graphic novels on Batman and Daredevil and created the Elektra character that will be reprised by Jennifer Garner in the Rob Bowman-directed “Daredevil” spinoff film, the author refused to sell “Sin City” to any filmmaker. Rodriguez wanted it badly enough to write a feature script on spec and shoot the first scene on his own dime with Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton. That and a promise to make Miller his co-director won Rodriguez the property.

Rodriguez also said that quitting for the second time was hardly traumatic. He was persuaded to rejoin the DGA before directing “The Faculty” because DGA brass told him he was about the only significant working director who wasn’t a member.

The helmer also asserted that the DGA needs to do a better job of judging individual cases rather than working from a rulebook.

“I’m fine with leaving and they’re fine with my leaving,” he said. “Someone in my position doesn’t need the protection of the guild as much as a newcomer who might get strong-armed by a film company. In my case, the obstacles I face come from the guild. Studios are only too happy when I suggest shooting something in digital, or when I try to do 20 jobs at the same time on my movies. I don’t consider this a negative thing, and perhaps it’s better that I resign and come back later than have someone use my precedent as an example to strong-arm a directing credit they don’t deserve on some future film.”

Other directors who are not members of the DGA include George Lucas and Tarantino.

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