As the world-weary monster of a man Marv first cautioned movie audiences this past April: walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything. When three uniquely talented artists set out to chronicle the filth and desperation of that godforsaken town, however, they uncovered something that their characters find hard to come by — fellowship.
"I call them my brothers," Frank Miller said of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, his co-directors on the groundbreaking action film, which is released today on DVD.
When Miller published his graphic novel, "The Hard Goodbye," in 1993, those haunting tales of a dark city where innocence was all but extinct slapped the faces of comic book fans like a hardened dame knocking around the lout who betrayed her. More than a decade later, Miller found himself making his directorial debut alongside two of the most inventive filmmakers in Hollywood, all while being assured that they would treat every clench-toothed vulgarity, cigarette-smoke ring and unapologetic blood splatter with the reverence due a contemporary classic.
"I told Frank, 'Let's just do three stories,'" Rodriguez said, recalling the intensive process of whittling down Miller's noir comic masterworks into a workable yet representative script. " 'We'll shoot the full books, but in editing I'll just figure out what stuff needs to come out to make it flow as a feature.' "
"You've got to understand, he's the P.T. Barnum of movies," Miller said of Rodriguez. "He knows how to put on a show."
For this particular circus, however, the man who once famously directed "El Mariachi" for $7,000 insisted on working with the one person that most movie productions try to avoid: the writer of the source material.
"He loves it now," Rodriguez laughed when asked about how Miller reacted to the opportunity to step behind the camera. "He loves that job. He says, 'Oh, I can see why you want to do this all the time!' He can't wait to get back on the set."
Now that the film has ended its financially (and, for the most part, critically) successful theatrical run, it's easy for the "Sin City" team to look back on it as a triumph. As Miller and Rodriguez readily admit, however, their risk-taking sometimes made the film's shoot scarier than the story's surreal, sinister Yellow Bastard.
The "Sin City" team arranged shoots with actors who very rarely met each other, worked for extremely brief periods of time, and often had little idea of what they were shooting. While the filmmakers appreciated their efforts, they frequently found themselves reassuring the actors that the part-film shoot, part-lab experiment was going to work.
"When they all saw it, they were all like, 'Oh, when did that happen? When were we there?'" Rodriguez said. "We shot it so fast they hardly even remember doing it. Benicio [Del Toro] was there four days, Brittany [Murphy] was there one day. Jaime King was there a day-and-a-half and Bruce [Willis] was there for ten days."
For that particular week-and-a-half, Miller recalled, he was barely able to carry out his newfound duties as director.
"When Bruce Willis was showing up, I was kind of itchy. I was going to be Bruce Willis' director, and that's kind of weird, because I regard Bruce Willis as my generation's Humphrey Bogart. [He had this scene] where the lovely Carla Gugino comes in to see him, and he hasn't seen a woman in eight years because he's been in prison.
"There was a funny line from the comic book that had the crew giggling a bit," Miller continued, "and I got a little nervous because you don't want the crew laughing; then the actors might just play to the crew instead of to the camera -- simple psychology tells you that. I went over to Bruce, and was like, 'Bruce, this is not a funny scene. This is very, very sad. When you see beautiful Carla show up, you are seeing everything you're giving up for dear Nancy.'
"All of a sudden, I got that glare, those laser beam eyes of his. And he's looking at me, and I'm going, 'Okay, I'm toast. I'm toast, but I mean what I say.'
"And he stabs a finger at me and he says, 'You keep telling me that sh--, man. You keep telling me that sh--, I need it.' From then on, we were gold. That's what a pro that guy is."
Rodriguez, however, saw his own professional status being transformed into something a bit less official.
"It's harder to do studio pictures now that I'm out of the [Directors Guild of America]," he said, referencing his controversial decision to leave the Guild after an argument about Miller's directing credit. "[If the studios] develop a project or control a project, I couldn't do it, because I'm not in the DGA."
"They said they won't give me a director's credit," Miller fumed. "[Rodriguez] said, 'Yeah, Frank, I was thinking -- how about I just give you full [directorial] credit?'
"I said, 'Every morning I have to get up and look in the mirror,'" Miller continued, "'and how am I going to take credit that I don't deserve? I'm a co-director. We're partners here.' And then he just shook his head and he said, 'Well Frank, I just quit the Directors Guild.'
"I went back to my trailer and I sat down," Miller concluded, "and I realized that I just had as honorable an exchange with a man as I'd ever had in my life. That's how classy he is."
Rodriguez's falling-out with the DGA then liberated the two men to give proper credit to the third man in their unholy trinity, "Special Guest Director" Quentin Tarantino.
"I really liked him," Miller said. "It was in looking through Tarantino's eyes that I finally understood what a director really did. Robert does so many things, he wears so many cowboy hats that it was hard for me to actually figure out what he's doing. I was running around and doing everything I could until I saw Quentin at work and I went, 'Oh, that's it.' [Watching Quentin] was one of the steps that made me want to be a director."
Miller and Rodriguez are currently hard at work on two upcoming "Sin City" sequels, although Tarantino's involvement remains up in the air.
"I think Robert's going to find another guest director," Miller revealed while speaking about the next "Sin City" installment. "Knowing Robert, I think he will."
Most of us would never want to go looking for trouble in a dark alley. But when these equally twisted innovators go searching for another candidate to join them on the journey, at least they'll already know precisely which trashcans to overturn.
Check out everything we've got on "Sin City."
Visit Movies on MTV.com for Hollywood news, interviews, trailers and more.