This round-table interview was tons of fun. I got a minute to share a table with Andrew Garfield, Spider-Man and Marc Webb, director of Spider-Man and a gentleman I am very much in favor of.
Why do you like Marc Webb so much, Da7e? Good question, reader. He was my first one-on-one interview ever for this site during his (500) Days of Summer press tour. We shared a container of blueberries and even though our site has changed hands a few times since then, The Way-Way Back Machine has archived the discussion I had with web about music video reality, back in 2009.
I wasn't given access to Webb during The Amazing Spider-Man, which was probably for the best as I was chasing another story about the interactions between Columbia and Webb concerning lots of stuff that I couldn't care about less now that Webb gets his Spider-Man trilogy with Andrew Garfield.
Because Marc Webb and I shared blueberries and because Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man and Spider-Man is my best friend somewhere in the back of my delusional mind (HE'D BETTER REMEMBER MY NAME OR I'M GOING TO THE EEL ROOM!), I began to pitch my crazy therories and talk in paragraphs. Other journalists' questions are represented below, but I don't think you'll need any help pin-pointing exactly when I'm running my mouth.
Andrew Garfield: It’s nice doing print, because you don’t have to worry about any visual bullshit. What your face may or may not be doing.
Q: Don’t have to shave or anything like that?
Garfield: No. You don’t even have to...have a face. What’s going on?...any questions?
[Marc Webb goes around the table and asks where we’re all from. I’m from Brooklyn.]
Q: Congratulations, first off. I’m curious what your take is on this movie, it ends on a tragic thing that everyone has sort of been building towards, how do you feel now that all that’s behind you?
Webb: Well, it’s not quite behind us, I mean we’re still engaging in it at events like this, so...I obviously want to issue the standard disclaimer about spoilers, I think it really makes a huge difference about how people feel towards the movie. That event was really the foundation of the film, it’s what the whole film was built around. When we were bulding the script up, we were trying to find meaning in that. It was really difficult to think about how Spider-Man or how does Peter Parker deal with this event and how you set it up in a way you can find some significance in...that specific incident. And what we came up with was the idea about time and valuing the time you have with the ones you love, and that’s why the first shot of the movie is inside a clock as the gears go by, and the first line of the movie was “I wish I had more time,” from Richard Parker and Gwen’s speech...she talks about time as luck. And the final battle takes place in a clock tower, you get it by this point. It was a very intentional exploration or that motif, because...dealing with that event was really important, and I didn’t understand why it was important. I understood it was a provocative moment in comics, but we tried to find our own meaning in that, and that was the real fun adventure of making this film, because you also wanted to have that humor, that comic book bombast. Or I did - I think we all did. How do you merge that with such a significant event? That was the adventure. How does it feel? There’s all sorts of feelings. It feels terrible and exciting all at once.
Q: How do you feel both Peter and Spider-Man have grown since the first film?
Garfield: I think it was important for us, myself and Marc, for Spider-Man and Peter as Spider-Man in this movie to be releasing himself into the symbol he’s created, and really enjoying himself. Relishing the opportunity to protect his city, to give back to his community and serve something greater. And relishing the opportunity to enjoy the hell out of it when he’s doing it. We didn’t really have an opportunity to do that in the first movie, and that’s what Spider-Man has been to both of us growing up, it was like: 'My God!'
Garfield: The colors and the agility and the physicality, the comic panels, and the cartoony quipping, the attempt at a stand up routine before he goes to the Comedy Store, he’s just trying out new material on the bad guys and sometimes it falls flat and sometimes ‘oh, there’s a zinger there, that’s kind of good.” And to really experience that, the Spider-Man that we know and love, we didn’t have an opportunity to do that in the context of the first movie because it was Peter coming to terms with what he’d been given as a young person. We were trying to figure out what is going on…”Did I just kill my Uncle accidentally? I’m supposed to take revenge? I’ll revenge my uncle, but then I don’t feel good, and my aunt…” So, the reality of that first story, we were kind of hemmed in allowing Peter to feel the sunshine of the spirit, if you will, or the joy of serving something purely and cleanly. So that was the goal with that, but in terms of how Peter’s developing, he’s still a mess. Always will be. And he’s always in an existential dilemma, and hopefully he can laugh himself out of most situations, the are obviously some situations where he can’t.
Q: Picking up off of that, as someone who grew up with Spider-Man comic books, The Raimi films were great, but they weren’t my Spider-Man, this is the first one where he’s quipping, he’s smart, he makes his own web-fluid, he’s in love with Gwen, it makes great sense. And Andrew said “color,” so tell me if I’m doing this too crazy: Are the forces of good the warm colors? We have this really bright red Spider-Man this time as opposed to the first one’s pinkish shine and Gwen’s in a lot of yellow, and when their in Union Square and on the High Line, there are these little yellow lights behind her and behind him are the cool colors of the villains in the blue and green of Forever 21 and the Whole Foods, and Oscorp is blue and the Lizard was green…
Webb: We built Union Square.
Garfield: This sounds kind of cool.
Q: With your (500) Days of Summer Background, you got the relationship stuff down and your music video background made you explode it...in the Marvel Universe where they keep everything unified by keeping it well lit, have you just stamped the Amazing Spider-Man Universe with your color palette?
Webb: It’s really great that you observed that. Like in (500) Days of Summer, it was about isolating colors. The color blue was only associated with Summer and it had to do with her eyes, right, and so we took out all the blue from anywhere else in the film and just applied it to that character. It had an impact, hopefully a subliminal thing, and with this movie we took out red...well as much as you could shooting in the street, I wanted to have control over the palette and tonality. I wanted to keep it associated with that suit, and avoid seeing it anywhere but that suit, and in terms of warmth, yes. Color, daylight, those things are associated often with positivity, but when you walk into OsCorp, it’s an obsidian spire. We built it based on the tower of Babel, we even gave it a spiral top. The Tower of Babel is a biblical story where it’s a testament to man’s hubris, and him trying to build a tower to reach heaven.
Q: And that leads to human’s inability to communicate with each other-
Webb: Exactly. And that’s very much what OsCorp is about, you know?
Q: Do you want to pull on that metaphor anymore?
Webb: Listen, there’s a lot of things you can dig into that, but I’ll tell you what: it’s more important what you think and what you bring to that then my intention. Because intention is a very tricky business where you’re often doing things, great things, in a subconscious way that reveal things about yourself, and in a way that’s the best part of an artistic performance or creation is subconscious, you know? The time motif is something we discovered along the way and decided to emphasize and play, but the color palette is a really interesting thing. There was very much a design with the characters in OsCorp in particular. To me it was as much about light and shadow as it was about anything else. You know, the first time he sees Harry in that foyer, he starts off in the shadow. I remember one of the executives was like “He’s under lit!” And I was, like, “no,” because at the end of it, he changes when he steps into the light, then they go spend time out in the light, and that’s to develop a sense of warmth and honesty in those characters, in that relationship.
Q: What were your guys’ favorite moments of these films so far and what were your favorite moments that got cut?
Webb: We can’t go there.
Garfield: It’s the same moment, right?
Webb: Definitely, for sure. Sorry guys. Next year! We’ll tell you like next year maybe.
Garfield: It should be on the DVD.
Webb: You think so?
Webb: Maybe it should be.
Q: Let me try another angle on that question…
Webb: For me, it’s the part where he’s...chasing...after Gwen and the web comes out and it looks like a hand. That was something that emerged in an interesting way. That shot is all CG. That part of the web is called the Eiffel Tower, the thing that opens up and the surface area spreads out so you get some traction on the object being...I remember I was talking to the animator, and we were talking about that moment, when the camera goes by it, and he had Pre-Viz’d it out and done storyboards, but I wanted the thing to move in a very specific way, because it’s in slow motion, it’s a Spider-Sense moment. I was like: “It’s gotta be like this (slowly opens hand as if it’s reaching out)! And what I meant was just trying to describe the web opening, but I was using my hand to describe it and the artist thought that I meant to do that literally. So when it came up as a rough animation, it came up and it looked like a hand because there was that thumb, the opposable thumb, and I was like: ‘That’s f*cking great!’ It was not intended that way, it was just miscommunication. Or maybe not miscommunication, just deep communication.
Q: How much do you shoot around those sort of happy mistakes? Obviously a lot of deleted scenes in the first one, sounds like a lot here…
Webb: All the time.
Garfield: I make a lot of mistakes they have to incorporate. My whole performance is one big mistake.
Q: We heard earlier, though, that you brought in a choreographer or clown performer?
Webb: Cal McCrystal, yeah. It wasn’t just for one scene but all through the movie. We wanted, as Andrew says, milk that trickster part of Peter Parker and how he would exploit those things. We’re all such fans of old Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin things, and it’s a real lost Art form. Andrew had seen a show Cal had done, and knew him from work in the UK, right?
Garfield: “One Man, Two Governors” he was the physical comedy director on the show that came her from London, and it was just a really cool thing where we brought him in as a consultant or expert. He was so delighted to be able to play on this kind of stage. I went through the script with him and Marc and Andy Armstrong, the stunt coordinator, who is also a Buster Keaton fanatic, so there was a real energy all of a sudden. It was “if we love this idea so much, I’m sure people in the audience are going to respond to it.” So we literally peeled through the script and stopping and being like: “Well, maybe here we have a moment where-” There was a great scene we didn’t get to shoot, we storyboarded it out-
Webb: The cat one?
Garfield: Yeah, where Peter is accused of being a vigilante - that little part was taken out as well - and Aunt May gives him the idea and’s like, ‘If you’re so upset Spider-Man is being misunderstood, take pictures of him, maybe you can sell them to the Bugle.” Then there’s this scene we developed where I’m in the suit, I’m in Central Park, and I’ve got this cat under my arm, and I’m coming out of the bushes and I like, put the cat in a tree and go to set up the camera.
Webb: Basset Hound
Garfield: Well, that was the final joke, I put the cat in the tree, and I set the camera up and I put it on a timer, then I’m attempting to (strikes needlessly heroic pose, reaching up to an imaginary cat) look like I’m rescuing the cat and the cat is, like, peeing on my arm, so I have to re-set it to re-do it, but then he’s clawing at my face, and there was one more little vignette, then you just cut to a picture of me saving a Basset Hound from a tree.
Webb: Oh, I stepped on your punchline.