You’ve got a fantastic cast. What can you say about working with them?
“They made my job so easy. [For Spider-Man], you need to find an actor who can find a genuine sense of emotional authenticity and depth, who can do some of the heavier stuff, but can also be really funny and light on his feet and improvise.
“And then on top of that, the incredible physical demands of the role are pretty extraordinary, and to find all of that is incredibly rare, especially when you start actually looking.
“There was a moment when I was like, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.’ And [Andrew Garfield] came in late in the game and it was a pretty stunning moment. We screen-tested him, and it was just fascinating to watch him do his work, and then I went back into the edit room and we started cutting through things and I just watched his takes over and over again
“And what was fascinating about Andrew is the lines were only a part of it. He behaves in such a way that he communicates the subtext or the text of a scene in such a profound way. You can watch it without the sound and you know what he’s feeling.
“He does everything with a level of detail and specificity that means you’re just stimulated; there’s always little things that you’re evaluating. That was great. And it’s incredibly rare.
“And then we were casting for Gwen and Gwen is a very smart, very assertive young woman who has a scientific mind. And Emma came in and – boy! – she is so on top of it, and she can rat-tat-tat, and she’s just fun. And there was a lightness to her that was really great.
“And, I remember putting her and Andrew together in a scene and they could just… they were dancing around each other, they were great. It was so much fun to watch these two incredibly intelligent, profoundly talented actors early on in their careers. You know they’re going to go on to have these amazing careers.”
Did they know each other?
“I don’t think they’d ever met.”
So you never thought about having Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the leads?
“[Laughs] Next time! I hope I get to make more movies with Joe and Zooey.”
Sam Raimi’s movies are pretty fresh in our minds. How do you deal with the pressure of following them?
“It’s different [to other franchises]… With Harry Potter, there’s a handful of books, and with Spider-Man there’s 50 year’s worth of material.
“Every month there’s something new, and sometimes there’s two versions going on at the same time with different inflections, different stories, different characters… there are stories that are told in different ways.
“And there’s so much complexity there, that I stopped really feeling the pressure. I mean, there’s pressure certainly, those movies are beloved. They’re fantastic and it’s hard to really compare, though it’s the obvious thing to do.
“So I just tried to divorce myself from that and only think about the movie that I wanted to make and was curious about. And there are enough things that are new – with the parents, with Gwen Stacy, with The Lizard, with the attitude of Spider-Man – that I wanted to explore, and it gave me something to go on.”
But at the same time, the origin’s a remake, right?
“It was really important to honour the iconography of Spider-Man, and there are certain things that we were vigilant in protecting.
“But if we’ve seen the origin of Spider-Man, we haven’t really seen the origin of Peter Parker. And so I wanted to dig a little bit deeper into what was happening with the parents.
“Really the story is about a boy who goes out looking for his father and finds himself, and along the way we see some of the iconic mythos. But I wanted to arrive at it from different angles, and expand on the details of it.”
When you were contacted to direct it, were you asked if you had a new take on the story?
“There was a version really, really early on that a writer had put together, and I’d read it, but I wanted to do something quite different so we went in and had a few discussions and I went back to some of my old Spider-Mancomic books and really thought about what was worthwhile to explore, and I came back with a few notations about what we could do.
“And I also feel like it’s because this Peter Parker is a little bit different to what we’ve seen before in terms of his attitude, and in terms of the environment that he’s created.
“I felt it was really important to understand him from the ground up because there’s new inflections of that character, which if you didn’t understand about his parents you wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the context and the internal clocks of the character.”
Can you talk about the new camera technology you used, and any other advancements?
“We shot on RED cameras with 3ality rigs, which is a stereo camera rig which allowed us to generate 3D on-set. And these cameras, suddenly in the last few years, are small enough that you can put was in an incredibly oppressive rig usually, became incredibly nimble and we could move the camera a lot and also get into really intimate scenes.
“With Spider-Man, you have to have these small little details, these domestic dramas, which are so specific and so unique to Spider-Man. I mean, we’re doing a scene between Sally [Field] and Andrew, Aunt May and Peter Parker, in a kitchen, and it’s handheld, and its intimate, and there’s very little light around, and you’re shooting it in 3D. It’s like it’s hard to get that very intimate attitude with the big massive cameras.
“So these little cameras allowed us to not only get the massive scope, which was so crucial, but the minute little details, and the domestic drama that really makes Spider-Man Spider-Man.”
And what about on the CG front…
“They’re always writing new code, and we have a really crack team, SPI, who I think are doing a level of character animation that is pretty staggering. I think the photo-reality of it is great.
“And then there’s a lot of performance capture… that really helped define this Lizard thing. The eyebrow works in a certain way, and he has a tick, and the lip trembles, and all those details, which again is all about the non-verbal communication and you start to understand the character not by what they say but by their behaviour. And the language is far more complex than words.
“And the technology’s getting so good that it allows us to engage with computer-generated characters in a way that you haven’t been able to. I mean Avatar’s an example of that, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was asuperb example of computer generated character animation. And there are shots of Spider-Man where I forget if it’s a CG shot or a live action shot.”
When you were younger did you relate to the character of Peter Parker?
“Who doesn’t relate to Peter Parker? That’s the thing about Peter Parker, he’s not a billionaire, he’s not an alien. He’s a kid from Queens, and he has trouble talking to girls… my exposure to him was probably before I was interested in girls… but there are these really simple details that make Spider-Man so relatable. Of course I fantasised about swinging through the streets…”
Were there economic reasons behind the reboot? Had the franchise become too expensive?
“I think that we had just the right amount of resources to make the movie that I wanted to make. Certainly there are expectations for the film which are daunting, but I don’t really engage in that.
“All I’ve gotta do is make sure I’ve got enough days, and enough gaffer and enough grips and having enough render time to get the work done. Those are the things that matter, and to quantify that is a little out of my depth.”
Did you have to set it up as a franchise, or three-picture thing?
“There was certainly an idea that there was an expansive universe, and there were certain moments were we planted seeds for ongoing stories, but I wanted the movie to function in its own right, just as a film itself.”
Have you got any plans for sequels?
“Not really. I’ve gotta finish this first!”
Is the pressure from the fans present in the back of your mind, because so many generations feel that the character belongs to them?
“Absolutely. As Andrew said, it’s so much bigger than any of us, and there will be directors that come after me.
“And again, I look to the comics and think about all the creators who’ve come on board along the way, and the different incarnations of it, and I think that’s such a cool thing, that the character is complex and nuanced enough that you can reinvent, and there’s different fists and hands and minds that are at work on it, and I really found that comforting.
“And then there’s certainly an enthusiasm and curiosity [from fans], but it’s a reminder you’ve got to try your best to make it worthwhile. It’s not always about pleasing. It’s about being loyal to the idea that you had at the beginning.”
Can we say that your Spider-Man is a little bit darker?
“I wouldn’t say it’s darker. I think it’s a little more grounded. [The taunting of the car thief] comes from a character moment where he’s having fun while he’s got a little bit of vengeance in his heart.”
Did you get in touch with Sam Raimi?
“I met Sam Raimi a couple of times. He was incredibly generous and really kind about the whole thing. He had finished his stories and is, I think, anxious and eager to hand it off.
“I’ve seen Tobey Maguire round too, and they’ve just been so wonderful and so kind. It’s pretty great.”
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