Today’s Guest: Steven Paul Leiva, filmmaker, “Will Eisner’s The Spirit” cartoon; author, Searching for Ray Bradbury
I know a thing or two about comic book artist and American master Will Eisner and his best known character, “The Spirit.”
I spent almost three years researching and writing the only biography of the man – Will Eisner: A Spirited Life. And in the course of that, I spent a great deal of time with Will, in person and by phone.
Because of that time and intimate knowledge, I’ve been dreading the Frank Miller-directed movie, The Spirit, which opens on Christmas Day, December 25. Will’s attitude toward the many attempts at making a movie based on “The Spirit” was simple; he loved collecting the annual rights option checks but hated the idea of anyone actually making a movie on his beloved character.
He described the first effort, an ABC television movie of the week, as “cardboard.”
STEVEN PAUL LEIVA podcast excerpt: “Will Eisner was, as I remember it, intrigued, but reluctant. He definitely wanted to see this animation. We arranged a meeting; Brad Bird and I flew to New York and took a train to White Plains and met Will at his house — ver Cheever. We showed him the trailer; he was very impressed. Brad talked about the kind of story he wanted to do. Will had maybe some minor criticisms of the trailer; they were all drawing issues. But he really liked it.”
And I don’t think he would ever have approved Frank Miller as a director for The Spirit if it were up to him. Read the book Eisner/Miller and see if you get the impression he would want Frank doing the creative for his pride and joy.
Anyway, I tell you all that as way of introduction to tonight’s guest, Steven Paul Leiva. Several years ago, Leiva worked with Brad Bird in the early stages of development for a Spirit animated film. Bird, of course, is best known for creating and directing The Incredibles.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get an interview with Bird in time for my Eisner biography so I never learned much about the never finished Spirit animated film. Until early December 2008, that is, when Steven Paul Leiva wrote about the project for the Los Angeles Times. It’s a great story and fills in a major gap in the Eisner cinematic story.