Even though The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits theaters on May 2, people are already looking forward to future sequels and spinoffs like Venom and Sinister Six. It's all part of Sony's plan to expand their own cinematic universe in the way that Disney has done so brilliantly with Marvel. And why not? Director Marc Webb's 2012 reboot was highly successful, critically and commercially. It makes sense for the team to want to establish their own set of dimensional characters in Peter Parker's world.
While we're looking toward the future, I was able to talk to longtime Spider-Man producer Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach in New York City this past weekend about the present, in anticipation of [The Amazing Spider-Man 2](movie:508593)'s release date, and why exactly villain origin stories are so popular right now. Jamie Foxx had his own thoughts on the issue that you can read here. Let me know what you think below.
Is there a danger of creating an unending story by making movies about villains in the Spider-Man universe? Is Spider-Man going to have to show up in a Venom movie?
Avi Arad: Actually, Spider-Man doesn't have to be. Obviously, you're very familiar with the comics. Venom can be on his own. He can be with Spider-Man. All of our movies will be around the spirit of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. So, whatever universe we pick within the Spider-Man universe - the aura, the issues, all the issues come out from Spider-Man. The greatness. The sadness. Everything comes out of Peter Parker. It will always be in the air. The execution is... If I tell you anymore, it will be a major spoiler way too early.
Matt Tolmach: But that's also some of the fun of it. We woke up and decided to jump into - we can do what we want. If we decide that Spider-Man should be in one of these movies, he's going to be in it. That's the whole idea of expanding the universe and the ability to crossover.
Avi Arad: It's a very similar plan to Avengers. Avengers was in the blueprint forever, but it would've been very difficult to get there without some awareness of each of the characters. We now have enough villains and establishing us as the source of new technology and what used to be science fiction is now science. All of the sudden, it's very well organized. I think Spider-Man villains have something very unique over most villains. They're victims of circumstance. It's not just like they're waking up as a baby and didn't get a bottle and they're pissed off. Something happened and it changes their lives and it helps us make the difference between a villain and a hero.
Matt Tolmach: It's funny - the question people ask all the time is how you make a movie with just villains. I sort of smile and say, "That sounds so appealing." The truth is we're drawn to villains in movies and literature. They're so fascinating. The complexity of them. They're willing to cross a line that all of us are so wary of. There's a weird vicarious thrill in that because specifically these characters are so tragically flawed in some way.
Avi: It's the yin and the yang of Peter in a way.
Matt Tolmach: My sister doesn't know much about the universe, but she came to the premiere the other night and it's all she could talk about: The tragedy of Max Dillon. She was like, "But he was a really sweet guy."
Avi Arad: She's very liberal.
Matt Tolmach: Thank God, because I have Avi for the rest.
Avi Arad: One of the things that's unique to Spider-Man which I think is thanks to the genius of Stan (Lee) when he started this was that Spider-Man cannot destroy a villain. He cannot kill a villain. We'll never cross that line.
Matt Tolmach: Venom doesn't have that problem.
Avi Arad: It's not like we're all in a yard where we have to put away the other or he'll get up again. Spider-Man can never do that. Therefore, they remember him for the worst of it. One of the things is all of them blame him because he stands for law enforcement after he tries to help them. That's a consistent thing that makes our villains really interesting and human. So, Sinister Six, we know some of the characters, we don't know others, and they all have great origins.
What are the challenges of making these villains stand out from what has come before?
Avi Arad: The most natural thing is to find a counterpart. Harry is his friend. The great Dane DeHaan was able to create the best of friends that were the least likely to be the best of friends. His line in the movie is great: "We were both dumped." They have a lot in common there. They have Oscorp, they have the science, they have been dumped, and they both have very few friends in the world. You start over in a way that fits into the new world we're going into. The whole argument of whether it was a reboot - of course it was a reboot and it was successful. It was tough to do. This movie we had the freedom. A lot of you asked, "Why?" The answer is, "Why not?"
Matt Tolmach: Also, the thing that we've never done before with Electro and Max with this idea of someone who truly admires Spider-Man. We love that idea that he was his biggest fan. You hear in the reportage in all of the news reports all of the people dissing Spider-Man, but he's someone who is a supporter. He's a believer. Max Dillon is exactly the kind of person that Spider-Man doesn't overlook in a world of people that overlook him. The irony is that becomes distorted. In pursuit of doing the right thing, Spider-Man ends up on the wrong side of a guy who so loved him is a really interesting spin on that dynamic. The other thing that was amazing to see was the casting component to it. It's one thing to create characters in a screenplay. If you don't cast them properly, it's just an idea on the page. What happened with Dane was actually unexpected. We had a list of guys for that role and he was on that list. He knows this by now - he wasn't at the top of the list because we didn't know him that well. We loved him in Chronicle, but there were other people whose work we'd seen more of. You naturally start talking about those people. When we screen tested a handful of these guys, Dane was on that list. What happened - the way Avi is describing the friendship - where they seemed to have nothing in common, but that bond was very genuine. Here are two actors who didn't know each other that started improving the day we were doing the screen test. It's that thing that happens when you meet up with a friend of yours that you haven't seen in 20 years, but you don't miss a beat. They did that. And that dynamic we felt was perfect for Harry and Peter, two guys that the audience hadn't seen together, so we had to overcome that because we were telling the audience they'd been best friends even though it wasn't in the first movie and it just worked. The process kind of brought it to life.
What was the process with Jamie Foxx?
Avi Arad: Why Jamie? Probably the best answer will be: Academy Award-winner who has the range to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. With his accomplishments as an actor, he had the courage to do his comb over.
Matt Tolmach: That was his move. The comb over. He came up with it.
Avi Arad: He has the strength to carry it. As a villain, he's terrifying. We get this reaction: "Wow, he's really scary." Marvel and DC are attracting the best of talent and everyone wants to play a villain. Jamie really wanted to do it, his daughter wanted him to do it, and his friends wanted him to do it. And he just came in and said, "I want to do it." That was it.
Matt Tolmach: He's actually the only actor we talked about and the only actor we went to.
Avi Arad: And Paul (Giamatti). He declared it in public.
Matt Tolmach: It was one of the late night shows and he said he wanted to play the Rhino years ago. He showed up with this image of who Aleksei was with the tattoo around his head and the sweatsuit.
Avi Arad: We didn't think he could jump off a truck. He doesn't look like the kind of guy who can jump off a chair.
Matt Tolmach: He was fully committed. It was amazing. It was a really important thing for us to bring the fun back into Spider-Man and go back to the spirit of the comics where it was possible for Spider-Man to be funny and for the whole world to be funny. There's obviously plenty of sadness and heartache in Spider-Man, but the comedy was really important. Paul was on the set - all of that stuff he does in the armored car chase - that was just Paul.
Avi Arad: Also, you want that pedigree. It took years for the non-believers to understand comics as the best source for film, the best source for filmmakers. Comic books are incredibly detailed storyboards where you can see where you are going. Initially, people didn't know how to read it. Comics were for kids. Not today. It rules the box office and amazing actors want to come on board.
Matt Tolmach: A lot of that is the complexity of the characters. We're not asking for one-dimensional portrayals. These are really layered characters. Jamie gets to go from being totally pathetic to much larger than life. You don't get that opportunity with every movie. There's a lot for them to play with.
After five Spider-Man movies, what's been fresh about this outing?
Avi Arad: I think there's a lot more comedy. Usually movies like this, the comedy is difficult because it's about timing versus a serious story and then you have the old days when Stan wrote the books - self-deprecation, most of the humor came in the middle of fights. It's really a testament to Andrew. First, he's a funny guy and he totally adopted - he is now Peter Parker. He is Spider-Man. It gave us the comfort and gave the director the comfort. And by the way, he creates his own comedy. Probably the funniest scene in the movie - he brought in a choreographer who he knew who does great physical comedy. That was genius.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be released on May 2.