Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man 2

Marc Webb wasn’t the obvious choice when he was tapped to direct the first Amazing Spider-Man. His only previous feature directorial effort at that point was (500) Days of Summer, an offbeat not-quite-romcom that — on the surface at least — had little in common with an action-packed comic book franchise like Spider-Man.

But he pulled it off well enough that he was asked back to direct The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and this time he was able to bring a wealth of new knowledge and experience with him. At a recent junket, Webb sat down with me and talked a little bit about, among other things, his involvement in Venom and Sinister Six, his upcoming non-Spidey projects, and why he signed up for so many Amazing Spider-Man movies to begin with.

You guys have talked a little bit about how Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a little bit less rushed than Amazing Spider-Man 1. So in retrospect, is there anything you would do differently?

About Amazing Spider-Man 2?

About the first one.

Oh god, sure.

What were you able to do because you had more time?

Well I think, you know, it’s hard to — I don’t like to think about that. Every movie has lessons. I think that we try to take the mistakes that I feel like I made on the first one… Well, mistakes is a strong word. It’s just the approaches were different. I was wondering how to do that kind of visual effects, and dealing with the iconography of those characters, and what people valued and resonated with and try to protect those things. And this time around I think we were able to indulge and respond to the things that are fundamentally Spider-Man that people really value, like the humor, the character, the costume on an aesthetic level. Certainly some very specific iconic elements of the comic book that just hadn’t been explored thematically before. One of the tough things about the first one was the origin story thing, but to me, I believe that an audience — and I feel like we made the right decision, because an audience, in order for them to have emotional resonance with the character, I think they have to follow each of the steps. And because the inflection of this character was different from what we had seen before, and probably more importantly because it happened so recently, we had to redefine him. And there were differences along the way that adjusted — for example, his humor — that was built up from some different foundation. If you just jumped into it, I don’t know if people would have been as quick to embrace it. So this time around we just wanted to build on that foundation and really explore and have fun making a Spider-Man movie.

Well, it was fun to watch.

Yeah? Did you like it?

I did. I liked the last one, but I actually liked this one even more.

Oh yeah? Cool, alright, thank you.

Well, you were talking a little bit about the difficulties of having to reboot this character. Especially because the Sam Raimi trilogy wasn’t that long ago. Did you run into that with the Green Goblin, because he was — Harry Osborn was also in the last one. Was that something you had to think a lot about?

I think it was the Hobgoblin in the last one.

Yeah, you’re right.

I mean, we didn’t really refer to that third one. I think it was such a different palate, and Dane DeHaan is such a different version of Harry Osborn, that we kind of just built up from a different foundation. Such a catastrohpically different character.

So you’re doing Amazing Spider-Man 3 now.

Not right now.

Not right now.

Right now, I’m talking to Angie.

It’s way better.

Yeah.

When does it start shooting?

I don’t know. We’re just finishing this movie and I think we’ll take a little bit of time off and talk about what’s going to happen with the Sinister Six, and what’s going to happen with Venom, and see how all those films overlap and integrate, and then we’ll have a better idea of what the schedule will be.

Okay. So, is it just, you guys are just figuring out the story, the script’s not written yet or anything?

Yeah, no, no. Give me a break!

I know, but they come out so frequently.

Uh-huh.

So you said that Amazing Spider-Man 3 is going to be your last Spider-Man film as a director, right? How much involvement do you have with 4 and Venom and Sinister Six?

Who knows? I mean, Venom and Sinister Six, I know Drew [Goddard] really well, and Alex [Kurtzman] of course because he wrote this movie. To me, my job is really to protect Peter Parker and protect him as Spider-Man. And inasmuch as he’s involved in those movies, I’ll be kind of his advocate and lawyer.

What made you even decide to do three installments of Spider-Man? You don’t strike me as the kind of director who just wants to do the same thing over and over…

I was curious about the possibility of it, because there’s something interesting about serialized filmmaking. It’s a very different kind of thing. I also, when I talked about it, I could imagine the inflections of, or the broad storylines of, three movies. And it’s not the same. It’s the same character, but it’s a character that evolves in really different ways. And there’s something kind of cool and exciting about it. These movies are based on a canon of books, but it’s not like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter where the storyline is all plotted out. You get to discover that and write as you go, and work with great writers. So there’s something really fun about the world creation of it. You wake up and you remember that 14-year-old version of yourself that fantasized about what would you do if this was your job. So you gotta stay in touch with that. And it’s kind of fun. It’s an adventure. You’re also, I think at this point, there’s a lot of people that we’re very close to and we’re really having a good time doing it, and that makes it exciting and fun. I mean, it’s tiring, it really is. At this point, we’re like [sighs].

I know, every single person in the interviews and the roundtables just looks exhausted.

Well, you have to understand, we’ve been on a world tour. I mean, it’s great. It’s so wonderful. And we’re all really, really grateful for you guys coming here and talking about it and to go out to the world with it. But you know, it is like, ugh… You know, it takes a long time.

I know, and I’m sitting here asking you questions like ‘When are you going to get started on the next one?’ which must just be…

Yeah. It’s all right.

I want to talk really briefly about some of the non Spider-Man projects that you’re doing. Are you still attached to that thriller Cold Comfort?

Yeah, well, that’s a memoir — it was a pitch, a book pitch, that hasn’t actually been finshed yet. So the writers are working on that right now. I spoke to those guys and I thought the idea and the world that they were describing was so fascinating. I thought the character — it’s such an interesting idea that I wanted to attach myself and kind of take it off the market. So yes, but that’s in the very early stages of development. There’s no screenplay. There’s not even a book yet.

So you’re still going to do that, but later on.

Yeah.

Do you have any other projects coming up besides Spider-Man?

I’m attached to — there’s a script called Accidentally Yours which I’m working on with a guy named Terry Rossio.

You’re writing it?

I’m working on it. Well, he’s writing it, and we’re collaborating on it, and that’s a movie at Fox that’s being produced by Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping. That’s about the clumsiest guy in the world who falls in love with a woman who works in a china shop. It’s kind of a physical comedy thing. I love those old Buster Keaton movies, you know, and Charlie Chaplin. There’s a little bit of that in this movie [The Amazing Spider-Man 2], a little bit of an exploration. So that’s one of those things. I don’t know what the timeline of it is, but I love that idea, and it’s been really fun to work with him on that.

And then there’s another script called Only Living Boy in New York which was written by Allan Loeb. There’s a draft that was written ten years ago that I went back and there’s something beautiful in it. There’s a lot of incarnations in it but I really love the first thing that he put out so many years ago. That’s something that I’d love to do at some point.

Sounds good. So going back to Spider-Man, how much do you worry about spoilers getting out?

A lot!

Do you have any control over what the marketing people show? 

I mean, do we have control… We have an effort towards control. I don’t have all the control in the world. I don’t have control over every living, breathing piece of it. But yeah, I worry about it. I want people, when they go into the theater, it would be great if they didn’t see a trailer at all and there was no pre-conceived notions of what it was except for it’s a Spider-Man movie. But you know, that doesn’t happen. The marketing department has a really tricky job because they have to enthuse people and they have to reach out to so many different outlets and markets and people. And then there’s these people who are at the center of it, who are at the intersection of all these things, who go and cultivate and try to grab as much information as possible and are so interested that they want access to everything. And then they don’t want that information.

I mean, I write for one of those sites. Our readers love any kind of news on Spider-Man, so they love looking at that stuff. But at the same time, even I feel sometimes like, I wish I saw a little bit less of that.

Yeah, sure, I completely understand that. But I think for me, the really big important spoiler is about Gwen. And there’s only so much control you can have when the movie comes out. But I think people have been pretty good about that. People at the screenings I’ve been at so far have been appropriately shocked by it. But I think you guys are very protective of that sort of thing. And I think there’s a point after the movies are released where you can engage in a conversation about it. But it drives me crazy when I see things on Facebook, like about Game of Thrones, you know. I totally get it. But, you know, it’s part of the world that we live in.

I read all of the Game of Thrones books right after the first season so that people couldn’t spoil it for me.

[Laughs] So how accurate is it, do you think?

It’s deviating more and more, but they still hit all the really big points. Are you caught up?

No, I’m one episode back.

Oh, okay, so stuff like the Red Wedding, the way that they got there in the show is a little bit different, but we knew that was going to happen.

Such great television, such great television.

That’s my plan for after I talk to you. I’m going to go home and watch that.

Yeah, me too.

So I love your casting of — I thought Dane DeHann and Jamie Foxx were really great additions to the cast. I thought they were both really good. But it’s interesting because Jamie Foxx’s character isn’t black in the comics. So I was wondering, is diversity something that you were consciously thinking about when you cast him?

Hmm… No.

I feel like comic book movies have been a lot of white men, mostly, and I was kind of glad to see a little bit more diversity coming in.

Maybe… No, it really wasn’t. Jamie’s just such a fucking good actor. Part of that character — I wanted the kind of bombastic theatricality, like the fun, cartoonish version of the character. I was like Ray, Django, this guy’s as good a dramatic actor as is out there. But then you remember him from what he did in In Living Color, and the characters and the caricatures that he invented. He’s like, I’m going to be the first African-American man with a combover. He invented somebody. There’s that goofiness, but there’s also that pathos, that feeling, like when Spider-Man [sees him] and he’s like, ‘I’m a nobody, how do you know my name?’ But you feel that character in the midst of that behind those big glasses and that crazy characterization. He just has something very specific and very special that very few people can do. So that’s why I cast Jamie Foxx.

It was really interesting to me that the two villains in the movie were both people where you kind of understood… It seemed like they got to a point where they decided to go evil. They didn’t start out that way. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Well, it’s something I really like about this universe, and something that happened in the first movie and something that I think is really interesting in terms of characterization. There’s something that we’re all bound by and something that we all can experience and identify with. And it is that we all feel like outsiders. There is this idea — I think everybody, weirdly, understands feelings of shame and unworthiness, and you feel awkward at times, and that’s a commonality between Peter Parker, between Harry, between Max Dillon, and there’s different inflections of that. Feelings of shame and unworthiness, when you’re dealing with heroes and villains, they’re a universal precursor to one of two things: an act of heroism, or an act of destruction. And it’s how you channel that that defines who you are. I think that’s something really relevant to all of us. Max Dillon and Harry, Max Dillon has to sort of repress, he’s forced to push all that stuff back, he’s got so much inside of him, so much anger inside of him, but he has no outlet for it. He has no way to express it. He has no one to care and tend to him, the way Aunt May did with Peter. I think it helps kind of remind us that there is some human part in bad guys, often.

It felt to me like the biggest difference between those two villains and Peter was that Peter had May and Gwen and people like that helping him out.

Yeah.

Because there were some points in the movie where his life gets pretty dark. And at those points, I could almost see this becoming a villain origin story, like if he made his choices a little bit differently.

Absolutely. I think Peter has always had some heroic impulse that predated even Uncle Ben’s death. I think there was some empathy he had for being — you know, it was just a part of his character. He felt the wound of being an orphan, of being left behind, that there’s some compassion that was alive in him for some reason. But along the way, he sort of fumbled and made mistakes and became, at moments, gave into his anger. We’re all imperfect and Peter is imperfect in that way, and that’s what makes him relatable.

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