By Danny Peary
The Amazing Spiderman 2, in 2-D and 3-D, will definitely be the top attraction this weekend at the cinemas in both Southampton and East Hampton. It’s pretty hard not to be lured into the sticky web of this sequel that is doing tremendous box office throughout the country. So I think it’s a good time to take a brief break from posting my interviews from the recent TriBeCa Film Festival and give a nod to a film that I admit I haven’t seen yet. However, for the Australian magazine FilmInk I visited the set in New York last summer on the day they were shooting the early graduation scene and got to have some quick back-and-forths with Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen), and director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). There were other international journalists present but what follows are my questions only and the responses.
Danny Peary: Emma, in Gwen’s speech, she tells the graduating students how precious time has been and will be. Is that a theme of the movie?
Emma Stone: Yes, time and timing are probably the most definitive themes of this second movie. Gwen’s speech, makes a lot of sense because her father died in the past year. So a lot has happened and a lot has changed for her. This past year she’s had a lot of realizations and is trying to impart that in her speech. She’s grown up in a very major way. I love Gwen and her story. It’s very cool.
DP: You’re back working with Andrew and Marc. Is it easier this time because you have a communication that really works and it’s not necessary to talk everything through?
ES: Yeah, I think we all feel really comfortable together. It’s really nice getting to work with the same people again, because making movies is like being in a traveling circus and you have a new work family every three months. So it’s really nice to come back to work with people that I know and trust.
DP: Were you a fan of the superhero comics?
ES: I didn’t grow up reading comics, I kind of just learned about the comic book superheroes through movies. I grew up with Michael Keaton in the Tim Burton Batman movies. They were my favorite, and then I saw the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy when I was a little bit older. I was struck by its passion. Spider-Man has such a legacy and that’s something that most movies can’t really replicate. As actors, you don’t travel around the world with most movies and have every person who speaks to you know who you character is and know the other characters and storylines. With other movies you’re just hoping that people like it. With this, you’re just hoping we’re all doing it justice!
Danny Peary: Has it been easy to slip back into playing Peter Parker and Spider-Man?
Andrew Garfield: I never slip in. I always have to crowbar myself into whatever I’m doing. Maybe that’s a personal problem I should take a closer look at. It’s a different chapter, so it’s a different person. There’s been major growth within Peter, there’ve been major changes. There’s been lots of experience, so every day I feel like I’m starting from scratch.
DP: Of course, Peter Parker will always have a major issue regarding who he is.
AG: Really, in Peter, in the story there is the sense of identity crisis. It’s exciting to play, but also what it means is that you need to have a certain amount of trust. Peter doesn’t know who he is at this point. He’s losing himself as Spider-Man, he’s losing himself as Peter. Peter’s relationship to Spider-Man is so complicated. On the one hand, it’s like two people: Spider-Man’s the older brother and Peter is the younger brother in the shadows. But as the older brother is getting all the approval, the praise, adoration, and has all this amazing skill he has been given this great gift, Peter can’t be part of any of that. He’s not allowed that in his daily life. He also has to be alone because of the power that he has.
DP: He tries to push Gwen away to protect her but what would his life be like without Gwen if she really stayed away? He’s destined to be alone, but it’s easier to be alone if there’s no one tempting you to be together.
AG: If he’s without Gwen? I don’t know how to answer that. Of course we don’t know what could be until we’ve experienced it.
DP: I think he’d be miserable because he’d be missing a part of himself. But even with her, can he be happy ever?
AG: That’s a great question, and that’s a question that we explore in this film. That’s always been explored with this character. I think it would feel very weird to him to be happy. I don’t think he’d feel very comfortable with it for too long. If a problem didn’t come along he’d create one.
DP: In Gwen’s speech, she talks about time being precious. Did Marc Webb tell you that theme was important to the film?
AG: Yeah, but I think it’s self-explanatory. Her “time is luck” line is important for Gwen to say. Because of what happened to her father, I think it’s a beautiful sentiment.
DP: The other thing Gwen says is that everyone thinks they’re immortal. I know at that age, kids think they are immortal and invincible, but I don’t think Peter or Spider-Man does. So he’s the exception.
AG: Yeah, I guess…I think he feels pretty secure that he can get himself out of most situations, but does have a great awareness of people being vulnerable from the first film because of his experience with his parents, his uncle, and Captain Stacy. People around him have died.
Marc Webb, director
Danny Peary: You’re from Madison, Wisconsin and I went to college there and felt the Madison vibe in 500 Days of Summer. Does this film have that vibe too, particularly the relationships?
Marc Webb: I don’t know that that’s from Madison, I’ll tell you though, I think sometimes there’s a little bit of a separation between what we think about in New York and Los Angeles vs. what happens and what people value in the rest of the country. I think there’s a little bit of a gap there. I think one of the things I really value, having grown up in the Midwest, is an understanding and an appreciation for what that part of the country appreciates and loves. And it’s not that we’re all sort of the same, we’re all human and we all like these big mythological films. I don’t know, there’s something about the down-home nature of Wisconsin that I think I appreciate. You’d have to ask my mom.
Q: I mentioned the relationship, particularly the sweet but complicated love story of Gwen and Peter. I’d think there is danger of losing that in the action.
MW: Action the first time around for me was a new thing. I’d done a little bit of action in music videos, but I’d done very little. This time around we had a lot more time to set those action set pieces up. There is a lot more fun, a lot more humor, a lot more really volatile, intense action beats. So we spent a lot of time thinking about, preparing, and orchestrating those. But there’s also the great love story. What I think separates Spider-Man from many of the other comic book movies is that central relationship. I hope people will relate to Peter Parker in the simple domestic dramas he has to endure and go through. That’s still fundamental Spider-Man, I think that will still exist, those small little moments that make him who is.
DP: Does he still search for himself? Is that part of what Peter Parker does?
MW: There’s always the internal quest. I think it’s harder to think about as an actor and a director when you’re doing a big tent-pole movie, where there’s always the external conflict—stop the bad guy! But what I think people relate to the most–and are more difficult to express because you need nuances–are the internal conflicts that people have. With Peter, it’s about it means to be Spider-Man, and what the nature of sacrifice is, and how he has to sacrifice in order to live what is his destiny. That is very much at work in the second movie.
DP: Along with Peter’s sense of responsibility.
MW: Yes. I think the writing and the performance are really very sophisticated in handling that material. You know, he’s still a kid, and he’s got that punk rock attitude, which you can even see today when he’s near the podium and getting his diploma. That’s a very important part of Spider-Man.