lord and miller interview

Bonnie and Clyde. Beavis and Butthead. Lord and Miller. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the guys who brought us The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, are often mentioned in the same breath and referred to as a creative pair. So it was somewhat surprising when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the excellent new movie from Sony Animation, only credits one of them as a writer on the film (they’re both credited as producers).

I asked the duo about that when I sat down with them to chat about the new movie, and during the course of our conversation, we also talked about how they decided which Spider-People were going to make it into this inter-dimensional story, which ones appeared in earlier drafts, finding the right actors to voice the movie’s characters, and how the final film looks even weirder than they originally envisioned. Check out our Lord and Miller interview below.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller Directing The Flash

Lord and Miller Interview

Phil Lord: I’m sorry to eat this breakfast burrito at the start of this.

Chris Miller: I will answer the first question while Phil has mouth full.

First of all, congratulations on this movie. I loved it. And my first question is for you, actually. You guys typically write together, so Chris, why do you hate Spider-Man?

Miller: (laughs) I so do not hate Spider-Man. It was a situation where we were really busy with a lot of things and it was a bit of a divide and conquer situation. But I was heavily involved –

Lord (mouth full): Chris was a big part of this.

Miller: – from the genesis of it, and developing the story and contributing to the script as well. But we have a lot of things going on.

How did you decide which Spider-People were going to be in this movie?

Lord: We just wanted to have them be as different from each other as we possibly could. And we did include all characters that we loved already. We loved Ham from growing up, and Spider-Gwen was such a cool new addition to the Marvel universe and the book is so great, so that was obvious.

Miller: At the end of the day, it all started with Miles. The whole thing that got us excited about doing this movie in the first place was to tell Miles Morales’ story. And then the idea of taking an older version of Peter Parker that you haven’t seen before, like the kind that we grew up with that now has aged as we have, having him having to be a mentor, that’s sort of the main Spider-dynamic in the movie.

Lord: This started as a Miles movie, and then we got a little carried away.

Miller: Pretty much. And then when we got to the rest of the sort of Greek chorus after Miles, Peter, and Gwen, it became about which characters would feel the most different and have completely different animation styles and looks and points of view on the universe that we could have everybody feel as different as possible on the screen together and say something universal about what it means to be a hero.

That’s great. Were there any other familiar characters that were in earlier drafts but didn’t make it all the way through?

Lord: Yes. I’m trying to remember. There’s been so many drafts of this film.

Miller: These were the ones we were all gravitating towards, and at certain various times, we tried to bring in another one or another one, but ultimately –

Lord: You know who didn’t make the cut who’s a pretty big regret of mine? Australian Spider-Man.

Miller: There are a bunch of ones we considered at a certain point, but this ended up being as much as this movie could hold and still be a Miles Morales movie.

Lord: There was a point in the draft where Spider-People kept showing up and just being there. “Sorry guys, I’m late.” And then Australian Spider-Man showed up at one point and was immediately killed. (laughs)

Miller: Thankfully that version is lost to time. (laughs)

Spiderverse 6

How much of this film’s unique visual look did you envision in the early days of coming up with this story?

Lord: Our first call was to our production designer Justin Thompson. It was like, “Do you think we could pull this off? Would you be down to be involved?”

Is what ultimately ended up on screen close to what you had in your head?

Lord: It’s weirder.

Miller: It’s even more than we thought was possible. The idea was, you always see these amazing “art of” books that have these very stylistic, impressionistic paintings that are so beautiful, and then they go through a pipeline and become a CG movie that looks similar to other CG movies. And we were like, “Why can’t we make it look more like the actual concept art, but actually like that concept art?” And drawing on all the many years of comics and the various different artist styles of comic books and try to make it look like you’re walking into a living, breathing comic book. To everyone’s credit at Sony, they were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” They would say, “You know, this is really hard and it’s not going to be easy and I’m not even sure we can accomplish it, but let’s try.” And we weren’t even sure, even a year ago, if we were going to be able to pull it off. There was so much new groundbreaking technology that had to be made to make this movie, and so much labor. Because not only is it a CG movie, but it’s also a hand-made, hand-drawn, hand-painted movie. It ended up being four times the work of a regular movie. It took four times as long just to produce a frame as a regular CG movie. I think it was worth it.

Lord: It didn’t cost four times as much. So we got a tremendous value. (laughs)

Miller: We just made everybody’s lives impossible for a few years.

Lord: Some family members were upset at us.

Spider-Verse cast

I was at a Q&A with you guys earlier in the year where you talked about how Shameik Moore was cast, but tell me about the casting process for everyone else.

Lord: The lucky thing about voice casting is you get to audition everybody without them knowing it.

Miller: You just take their voice and put it on an image of the character and see if it fits. With Jake [Johnson], we’ve worked with Jake many times. We’ve done a bunch of movies and TV together, so he was our first choice and only idea that we had for Peter.

Lord: It’s a good thing he said yes. (laughs)

Miller: The other ones, we’d sort of huddle up with the directors and people would spitball ideas, and it’d be this type of thing where someone would say, “What about John Mulaney?” and we’d be like, “Yeah!” You’d listen to his voice and it’s like, “I can’t believe we thought it could be anything but this.”

Lord: But that was a real outlier. He was outside the bell curve of the kinds of folks that we were listening to. We just felt like, “We don’t want to do a stock choice. What would feel refreshing?”

Miller: Right. Same thing when someone said Nic Cage, and we were like, “That’s crazy, but I love it.” We’d all look at each other and go, “Yeah, that’s the one.” And it was a really cool collaborative process on that.

***

At this point we jumped into spoiler territory, so I’m going to wait to publish the rest of our interview until after the movie comes out and everyone has a chance to experience the film’s surprises for themselves. Stay tuned for that after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hits theaters on December 14, 2018.

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