“The Amazing Spider-Man” hits DVD and Blu-ray today; to celebrate the sticky coming’s of the lounge-room premiere of the pic, we caught up with director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) to ask all the important questions concerning the Marvel reboot – like, erm, when’s the next one dude?
Was it a shock to go from directing a small feature like 500 Days of Summer to this?
500 Days of Summer was all about little human details; minute intimacies between two people. Spider-Man has this layer of massive effects and people fighting and beautiful, crazy violence but it also has these same details, a lot of the same interpersonal moments that make you care about the action.
How did you prepare to shoot all of the big action sequences?
People like to separate action from drama but the truth is they’re really quite similar. You want the action to come from a character’s point of view. Usually it’s Spider-Man, but not always. That was my way for unlocking that. You get to experience all the velocity and the action from a more personal position, literally and physically. That was the philosophy by which I tried to stage the action: making it more grounded rather than shooting it from a million different angles and just cutting it together, like a staccato assault. I wanted to find the emotion within the action.
Was it a challenge coming up with a fresh approach to the story while honoring the touchstones of the comic book series?
This Peter Parker is a little bit different than the Peter Parker we’ve seen on screen before and I thought it was important for the audience to understand that character from the ground up, so we started with Peter Parker and his parents and getting the emotion that emerges from that moment. Once that was unraveled, I wanted to find out what the spider’s connection was to his parents, how that unfolded while honoring the very important mythos and origin story that we all know but understanding it in a deeper, more meaningful way.
How does the costume differ from the one in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films?
We changed the costume a little bit. I was trying to create a costume that a kid could make. I spent some time with the costume designer thinking about materials that he could find somewhere. For example, his eyes. Where’s he going to get lenses? He’s going to get them from sunglasses so we went around trying to find sunglasses at stores that could make sense for that. He doesn’t have a lens factory in the back of his house. That went for the web-shooters, too. There’s an origin of the web-shooters that we invented a little bit of. His shoes and all that came from this idea of, hey, what’s the reality of this? How’s this kid going to come up with this?
Did you receive any do’s and don’t’s from Marvel about what you could do with the character?
Marvel’s very protective of the origin story in particular: there’s the spider bite and Uncle Ben’s death that transforms him and there are certain elements of the suit and the web-shooters that they’re very, very protective of. Really, they were consultants. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of the universe. They were always really interested in helping us find all the little details we needed to find.
Was it a challenge finding your “Peter Parker”?
Peter was tricky because you have to ask so much of that actor. I wanted somebody who had emotional depth but could also do humor and that had a capacity for intense physicality, all while feeling like a teenager. Andrew’s a little bit older than a teenager but there was something when he came in that felt so uniquely adolescent about him. He embodied that spirit in a way that nobody else did. He cold do funny, which is crucial for Spider-Man, but he could also do depth. There are these great scenes with Sally Field and with Emma that are really intense and really demanding emotionally. They’re really beautiful and textured and dramatic and authentic and real feeling but there’s also this humor that you’ve seen in the trailers. There’s a great sense of levity and humor and sort of punk-rock vibe that he needed to embody as well. That was really difficult but he came in and I remember looking at his screen test over and over again one night and I was like, “This is the guy.” And it was such a relief because when we first started looking, I was like, “We’re never going to find this guy. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” There were panic modes before that. Then he showed up and it was a good feeling.
How did you end up casting Emma?
I knew her work. The opportunity to get to work with her was extraordinary. Andrew is a really intense and very talented, intellectual actor. He’s a horse that wants to run. That guy can act. Emma could go head-to-head with him. She’s got to be one step ahead of him a lot of the times but she’s so funny and so beautiful and has such dimension as an actress that I think people are just now starting to discover understand. That was a real easy decision because there’s just no one like her.
How did you decide on “The Lizard” as the villain?
There are certain things that are still fresh in audiences’ minds so I couldn’t do those things, like “The Green Goblin” or “Venom.” I was thinking about the movie and what the underpinnings of it are. It’s about missing pieces. Peter is missing this piece of him that he’s never going to get back. Curt Connors is a literal embodiment of that theme. He has a missing arm and he’s trying to get that back. How we fill those voids is how we define ourselves. The divergent methods of Curt Connors and Peter Parker reveal their characters. There was symmetry in that I could lock into. I think all audiences have been interested in Curt Connors and he’s one of the classic villains. And I wanted to create a CG character. That was an adventure.
As you get down to the wire, are you anxious about the unfinished CG work?
It’s scary. It’s tough. But the level of control you have is pretty extraordinary. In the comics, you can put a thought bubble over the character’s head but with this you need that visage to express some kind of emotion. His mouth has to move and you’ve got to feel like there are words coming out so that dictates a certain kind of design. We’ve had a lot of conversations about how the lab coat would fit around him in a realistic way. So there’s a little bit of that in the movie. But the challenge of it was really exciting. At some level, you’re just a kid with a big toy chest. It’s like, “Yeah! The Lizard!” A lot of my friends’ kids just love the Lizard. They’re so fascinated by him. Jackson, [Producer] Matt Tolmach’s son, saw the movie and we were talking about which villains he likes and he’s like, “The Lizard fights more.” He’s not just throwing something at Spider-Man. He gets into it. There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat. When you’re choreographing hand-to-hand combat between a spider and a lizard, there are a lot of fun adventures to be had.
Do you read the online comments and gossip about the film?
I try to avoid it. Occasionally somebody sends me something, for better or for worse. Andrew said something recently that I thought was so smart about trolls and people on the internet. It’s kind of like what Spider-Man gets to do: you wear a mask and you can say whatever you want to say. God knows, we all understand it and appreciate it and have done it. I appreciate the enthusiasm and the curiosity but you’ve got to stay away from that a little bit in order to maintain some creative clarity.
Is it true you’re working on a remake of Jesus Christ Superstar?
Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my favorite musicals. I think it’s dynamite. I’m not officially involved but some day that would be fun to do.
What can we expect from the next Spider-Man film?
That it’ll be a massive quantity of effort. This one has been my life for a couple of years. It’s very hard to think about doing anything else but it’s coming.
The Amazing Spider-Man is on DVD and Blu-ray today