spider-man far from home set visit

Tom Holland sprints around a Venice street corner, skids to a stop, and turns to shield himself as a blast of water slams into a nearby bridge, blowing it into pieces which whiz past him. Peter Parker is facing off against a villain made of water, and our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man isn’t exactly in familiar territory – the streets of Italy are a far cry from Queens, New York.

It’s August 2018, and I’m on the set of Sony and Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Far From Home. The production will be heading to the real Venice shortly, but in the meantime, they’ve rebuilt a massive section of the city above a water tank on the Warner Bros. lot just outside of London where they can safely control stunts like this one, in which the famous Rialto Bridge explodes. Keep reading to discover everything I learned on the set of the new sequel, including the level of involvement for characters like Nick Fury and Maria Hill, the surprising truth about Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, details about Spidey’s new costume, and much more.

spider-man far from home

A Post-Endgame Spidey Adventure

Sony sent us a new official synopsis for the film to accompany our coverage today:

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

But our set visit was conducted long before the movie’s time period was confirmed, and though we tried to find out back in August, the filmmakers were all extremely tight-lipped about the answer. Before we knew how Endgame concluded, our group asked executive producer Eric Hauserman Carroll if Tony Stark is going to appear in this sequel:

“Obviously, Tony is a big part of Peter’s life. He’s not actually in this film, but yeah, his presence is very much felt. He still obviously references the fact that this is the suit that Tony gave him. Tony and [Jon Favreau’s] Happy [Hogan] sort of help him out in ways along this movie, so he’s very present, he’s just not in the movie.”

Thanks to the new trailer that debuted earlier this week, we now know exactly what he’s talking about: it’s instantly clear that Tony’s legacy looms large in Far From Home.

Spider-Man Far From Home - Elemental

What Subgenre Are We Dealing With?

Marvel Studios has experimented with specific genre riffs in several of their superhero films (The Winter Soldier is a ‘70s-style conspiracy thriller, etc.), and Spider-Man: Far From Home is a European road trip movie. The word “home” in Far From Home creates a subtle connection to Spider-Man: Homecoming for audiences, but that subtitle is literal, too. “We’re not just going to take Spider-Man out of New York City like we did last time, but we’re going to take him out of the States altogether,” says Carroll. “So this is an adventure that takes place totally outside of New York as far as the main plot is concerned. We wanted to make it feel like one of those great spy movies where they hop from cool location to cool location, and you can tell they actually went there.”

At the beginning of the movie, Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is trying to get Peter hyped about going to Europe – he “thinks this is going to be some raunchy ‘80s comedy,” Carroll laughs, with Peter and Ned as American bachelors looking for ladies in foreign countries. But Peter already has his eye on one specific girl (Zendaya’s MJ), and despite Ned’s early ideas about the trip, Ned finds himself with a girlfriend by the time they all land in Venice – reflecting a relationship that was originally laid out in the comics, Ned is now with Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), who “has a much larger role in this movie.” That relationship puts Ned in the middle of a triangle that causes him some headaches throughout the film: does he stick with his first major girlfriend, or slip away to help Spider-Man when the going gets tough?

Weirdly, I thought there were going to be more ‘high school European trip’ movies,” director Jon Watts told me in a phone interview several weeks later. “There aren’t. There wasn’t as rich of a world to draw from, so I sort of drew from everything for this one. I guess [we are creating our own subgenre]: sort of a young, James Bond, globetrotting – I think the closest thing would be If Looks Could Kill with Richard Greico,” he laughed, “but I’m not going to say that that was a huge reference for this movie.”

A trip across Europe may sound glamorous, but these students won’t be living the high life. “This is a group of high school students on a trip being paid for by the New York City public school department, so this is not Tony Stark flying private,” Carroll explains, showing us concept art of a sinking hostel in Venice with feral cats in the lobby and a sketchy barber shop in the corner. But he says spending time with these kids is the “heart of the movie,” and despite their sub-optimal accommodations, “they’re not jaded, and they think this is awesome.”

Mysterio Spider-Man Far From Home

Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and…Mysterio?

During a scene set in that crappy hotel room, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) emerges from the shadows and says to Peter, “You’re a hard man to get a hold of, Spider-Man.” In Far From Home, Fury, a special agent who oozes cool, is juxtaposed with Peter Parker, a teenager who never looks cool no matter how hard he tries. Case in point: when Fury shows up in the hotel room, Peter’s dressed in his pajamas and is holding his toothbrush.

While we never got a straight answer out of anyone on the set about exactly when this movie takes place, producer Amy Pascal has previously said it begins “a few minutes” after the conclusion of Endgame and Watts confirmed in a separate interview that this begins “almost immediately after” that movie ends. So Fury and fellow agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) have been brought back to life thanks to the Hulk’s snap in Endgame, but they don’t just pop up for a quick cameo here: Jackson and Smulders worked on this movie for more than a month. And the two agents have a new member on their team: Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio. Marvel has been wanting to bring this character to the big screen for a long time (we even learned there were discussions to potentially bring him in during Spider-Man: Homecoming), and now he’s being brought to life by Jake Gyllenhaal, an actor who himself nearly played Spider-Man in the early 2000s.

In the comics, Mysterio is a stunt man and special effects whiz who uses his expertise with illusions to commit low-level crimes and psychologically toy with Spider-Man. In this film, Mysterio has more of a super-powered angle and is seen working alongside Fury. Remember the scene I mentioned with Tom Holland running around on that Venice set? The one with water flying everywhere? We’ll get to the reason things were all wet in a second, but suffice it to say there’s a new villain who’s making trouble. We saw some pre-visualization footage that showed Peter pole vaulting across a water taxi and doing everything he could to stop the villain, but he’s too outmatched to save everyone by himself. Luckily, Mysterio swoops in and takes on the villain while Peter gets innocent bystanders to safety.

Far From Home Spider-Man BTS jump

But while Mysterio is an ally this time around, it sounds like Sony and Marvel are already thinking ahead to a potential turn to villainy. “We wanted to find our ‘in,’ and similar to what we did with Mordo in Doctor Strange, we wanted to give them kind of a relationship so that when, if we get to do something different with Mysterio, it really feels like a betrayal,” Carroll tells us. “Not unlike Chiwetel [Ejiofor], we got this amazing actor, we really want to do something interesting with it, we think we have this fun new ‘in’ for it, and we’re hopefully setting the stage for something really spectacular and it feels really Spider-Man…if we get to do something else with this character, they’ve already got this really personal relationship by that time.”

We got to examine Mysterio’s costume up close, and it’s gorgeous: it has tech aspects like Iron Man’s suit (there are over 400 practical LED lights on the front of the suit alone), but also aspects of Vision, Thor, and Black Panther’s costumes mixed in, with ancient runes sewn into the fabric and tiny statues emblazoned in gold inlays. It’s a far more high-tech version of the suit than his traditional comic outfit,  but the filmmakers plan to carry over at least one aspect of that old look to the new design: the fishbowl helmet, which will be created using visual effects. In fact, at one point the entire costume was going to be created in VFX because they didn’t want to force a star like Gyllenhaal to wear an uncomfortable costume all day. But the actor told them he actually preferred to be in the suit because it allowed him to get more into the character, so he ended up wearing it all the time – even going as far as to do some of his own stunts in it.

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