You Can Probably Guess Which Spider-Man: No Way Home Actor Never Actually Went To The Set

Spoilers for "Spider-Man: No Way Home" follow, proceed at your own risk!

Even setting aside the (possible) appearances of certain unnamed characters that we're probably not supposed to talk about openly just yet (assuming they're actually in the film, of course), "Spider-Man: No Way Home" still comes jam-packed with no shortage of Marvel Cinematic Universe crossovers and multiverse mischief. As befits a blockbuster of this magnitude, the vast majority of the high-flying action was brought to life thanks to the tireless efforts of the VFX team. This included all the many villains in the film, spanning Electro's energy-based powers, Doc Ock's mechanical arms, the Green Goblin's pumpkin bombs and flying sequences on his glider, the Lizard's visual design, and Sandman's, well, sand. 

Though we get to see significant amounts of screen time dedicated to the actual actors behind those first three villains — Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, and Willem Dafoe — Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church are mostly left with voice performances.

Taking things even further, however, Church apparently never even stepped foot on set while the film continued production during the pandemic. According to the visual effects supervisor of "No Way Home," the behind-the-scenes crew had to conjure up some VFX magic to fully bring Sandman to life.

Working With What They Had

Eagle-eyed viewers likely noticed that we never actually saw any new footage of Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman in "Spider-Man: No Way Home." Compared to his wealth of screen time in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 3" in 2007, "No Way Home" largely gets by with computer-generated visuals of either Marko in his sand-covered appearance or as enormous, sentient sand clouds. The question on everybody's minds is how the digital wizards managed to put all this together, despite having very little in the way of new references. Church provided his voice for new dialogue in the film, but otherwise? Much of the credit for his performance in the film goes to talent like Kelly Port.

In an interview with befores & afters (via Comic Book Resources), the visual effects supervisor for "No Way Home" shares her perspective on bringing Sandman to the big screen. By all accounts, all this was done without Church physically appearing on set. When asked if they at least had motion capture of the actor's face to work with, Port offered this answer:

"Well, we had his voice. We weren't able to get a lot of visuals on him, but we were able to get his voice for sure and we got scans and textures and things like that."

Port also explains that they were well aware of the challenges posed by Sandman.

"Then Imageworks, for the end battle, they did the much bigger Sandman with big FX sims. There were a lot of big sims in the end battle, not only with Sandman, but for the shield falling and crashing through all the scaffolding and millions and millions of pieces all interacting with each other, the crane falling through Sandman's head and all that good stuff. I remember when we were first interviewing companies, there's a little bit of collective post-traumatic stress disorder with anyone who had previously worked on Sandman. And so I knew that going in, I had a feeling this was going to be challenging both technically and creatively, just to get that character looking right and behaving right. But I think we were successful in the end. I think it looked pretty cool."

Personally, I'll never tire of reading about the miracle-workers who craft the images we take for granted in our entertainment. 

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" is currently playing in theaters.