Interview: Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal Talk 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

A couple weeks back, I was lucky to jump on the phone with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Sony studio head turned producer Amy Pascal to talk about their new film Spider-Man: Homecoming. I ask the duo about the lessons they learned from the last Amazing Spider-Man franchise failure, the influence of Back to the Future, was the Trump campaign an influence on the film's villain, why they watched an Akira Kurosawa movie in prep for the film, and we discuss what the end credits scene means. All this and more. Read the full Spider-Man: Homecoming Interview, after the jump.

Kevin Feige: Hi, Peter, how are you?

Peter Sciretta: Good.  How are you?

Kevin: I can't remember the last time we did a phoner together.  I don't like it.

Peter: I don't think we've actually done a phoner before. Yeah, I don't like it either.  I hate phoners. Would rather do this in person but couldn't travel to New York.

Amy Pascal: Hi, Peter.

Peter: Hi Amy.  Congratulations on the movie, I love it.  

Amy: Oh that's wonderful.

amazing spider-man questions

Peter: It, I'll start off with the hard question.  

Amy: Oh good.

Peter: It seems like fans didn't connect with the last version of Spider-Man.  What lessons did you both take from that and apply to this?

Kevin: For me it was yes, you take lessons from every movie you see really, but it was less about that and more about... and this is what Amy and I talked about in her office and in her house when we were initially discussing this.

Amy: Figuring it out.

Kevin: This is the first time Spidey can interact with all the characters that he's been with in the comics his entire existence.  And it was always about the first, the first time he actually is in our universe.  The first time you could see him go and yearn to be part of a superhero team, which he did, I think maybe, in his very first issue.  The first time that he was age appropriate for the entire film.  Which added to the dichotomy of him versus the other heroes that we've established.  So from my point of view it was really it was less about avoid this or avoid that, it was more about hey, for the first time if we make the movie together, we could do these things.  And that is always what inspired our conversations.

Amy: It was always about that opportunity to put him in the world that he was meant to be in.

Kevin: Yeah.  And that being said, I do think it's fair to say that when we were doing the first Spider-Man film the notion of seeing a Spider-Man soar through the skyscrapers of New York City in a single camera shot was unbelievably amazing and exciting and had never been done before.  It's now been done.

Amy: Yeah, but now we have to see something else.

Kevin: Yeah, so that, so the notion of a field trip to D.C., a chase sequence through the suburbs, I think that probably informed the desire to showcase different things.  And again, that came from the comics too.  Great issue in the comics where he's stuck in the suburbs and has to ride the bus, top of a bus to get home when he doesn't have the buildings around.  As you see in Homecoming, he leaps off the roof of a house, shoots his web and then you get behind him and it keeps going and doesn't connect to anything because he's in a big golf course and he just has to run.

Back to the Future Part II

Peter: I love that aspect of the film.  I know you have a basis in the comics, but it almost seems like this film is more influenced by like 1980's high school movies than the comics.  And I know Kevin is a big Back to the Future fan.  I saw a lot of Marty McFly in there I think.  

Kevin: I love that you say that and people say high school movie and of course John Hughes was a touch point for us.  How could it not be?  We grew up with it.  But Back to the Future, yes, he's a high school kid, nobody would call Back to the Future a high school movie, they call it a great time travel adventure.  This is a great superhero adventure with that backdrop.  But you're right the moment and that was not intentional necessarily, but if you look at... a bunch of Star Wars action figures in Peter's and some vintage action figures too that I think he got when he was dumpster diving in the background of Peter's room in there now.  And also there's that moment where Ned has discovered his secret, he's got no shirt on, May is banging at the door, he turns around and he goes, Aunt May, just a minute and I went oh my God, he's Marty. He's Marty.  And that's just part of the charm of Tom Holland.  I don't think that was intentionally channeling that for him.  I think he just shares in common with Michael J. Fox at that time.  The sort of exuberant, youthful exuberance of the position he's in.

Peter: Totally.  And even in his suit and how it wraps around him reminded me of Back to the Future Part II.  But enough about that.  

Amy: Isn't it great, that scene?

Kevin: I clearly never thought about that until now, but that's awesome.  Yeah.

jennifer connelly

Peter: Can you talk about Jennifer Connelly as the Suit Lady, because I don't think I heard you talk about casting her yet anywhere.

Kevin: Peter, well done.  I've been doing this for two days–

Amy: We haven't heard one person say that. Whoa.  That's a little nitwit.

Kevin: They had this conceit and it actually grew in post that he would interact with his suit and we liked the idea of it being a female voice that Peter, that Tony's programmed into it.  And it actually came about pretty quickly.  We were talking about who could do it.  And she popped up for two, for three reasons.  One, she's a great actress, can do anything she wants.  Two, she inhabits some of the classic '80s films that helped to inspire us behind the scenes.  And three and most meta, she's married to Jarvis.

Amy: Right.  So that is pretty great.

Peter: That is great.  I didn't even think about that.

Amy: Nobody's picked up on it.

Kevin: Yup.

michael keaton as the vulture in spiderman homecoming

Peter: The villain in this film is not your typical villain.  The first scene we see sets him up as a hard working guy that can't get a break because of bureaucracy.  Was this written in the shadow of the Trump campaign?  

Amy: It was no.  What it comes out of is that it is a movie about Peter Parker living in Queens being on the periphery of Manhattan on the tourist, wanting to be an Avenger, wanting to be part of that world.  And having the villain come from the same background as him, so that they both have their own obsession with Tony Stark.

Kevin: And it's funny, you're also the first person to ask about that.  And I think it's gonna come up a lot, not just in this film, but in a lot of our upcoming movies as well that people will assume that there's commentary going on.  And I think that happens naturally.  I think it happened in the comic, all of these movies were shot before that.  And much like The Winter Soldier coinciding with Edward Snowden, even though we'd shot the movie before the Snowden, or at least written it before that even happened.  And so I do think that we're into a lot.  I will tell you, I haven't brought it up before, is we wanted a ground level villain.  We wanted a villain to parallel Peter's journey of what's it like to be a normal person in this world.  And an example that Amy used and it became a touch point and only sort of a cinephile as yourself and your readers would appreciate was a film by Akira Kurosawa called High Low.

high low movie

Peter: Oh that's great.

Kevin: Which I hadn't seen before.  And that we watched a number of times.  And other than just exposing me to a great movie I'd never seen, which I appreciated, it was a bit of a touch point for somebody who felt, and again, of course, it's not an exact parallel.  But it was a great touch point of inspiration from Amy about somebody who looks up at a wealthy person almost in a tower every day in their life and feels the need to respond to that in a villainous way.

Amy: One more thing about the those '80s movies, they have kind of fallen out of popular movies, they're about socioeconomics.  And that they're about the state of the world and all those movies. Some people have money, some people don't have money.  And what it's like to not have money when other people have money.  That is something that seems to have fallen out of a lot of these movies.  And that was something that was really important to us that the movie be about that too, because it's the world that we live in.

Peter: Yeah.  I love that the high school looks like a modern day high school with many shades of colors of in diversity.  

Kevin: Yeah.

michael keaton spiderman homecoming

(SPOILER WARNING: The following is a discussion of the film's end credits scenes, please don't read unless you've seen the movie.)

Peter: Kevin, every time I talk to you, I have to talk to you about an end credits sequence.  And the end credits sequence, well the last end credits sequence in this is the most hilarious I've ever seen in any of the Marvel Movies.  But I want to–

Amy: It's the most, it is pretty hilarious, isn't it?

Peter: Yes.  But the one with Vulture, I'm a little curious because I'm not quite sure if I'm picking up on what's being hinted at there.  

Amy: What do you think it means?

Peter: I mean, it seems like Toomes doesn't want to kill Peter Parker for some reason.  Is that because he's hoping to get out and kill him himself or...

Amy: Does that seem like what his smile is saying?

Peter: I don't know.  Or is it because he respects him for saving his life? I feel like it wasn't as obvious as some of the other end credits sequences.

Kevin: Yeah, I think it is different from the other credits sequences.  And I think people are conditioned to look for a forward facing tease about what's to come.  But that's not always, maybe not even half the time, what our gags are about.  Certainly, the one at the very end of the movie is clearly not that.  But this was basically just meant to show that Toomes was not a horrible guy, had found himself in this position, and realized this kid saved his daughter, this kid saved his own life.  He wouldn't even be alive if it wasn't for this kid.  And in that moment where he had the opportunity to rat him out and have a guy go after him, he decides to keep the secret, because he appreciated ultimately what Peter did for him.  And he is one of the few villains to survive a movie.  And I think you appreciate it.

Peter: Yeah, I love that by the way.  I love that we didn't kill off the villain and especially in high school.  It would have been weird I think.

Amy: Yeah.

Peter: Anyways, I think my time is up with you guys, so I wanna thank you very much.

Kevin: Great, good talking to you.  Thanks so much.

Amy: Bye Peter.