When I visited the set of Spider-Man: Homecoming last summer, I was certainly excited to see how the film was progressing, and to see Tom Holland in the Spider-Man costume, and to speak with Michael Keaton and director Jon Watts. But if I’m being honest, there was one person I was most looking forward to talking to, and that’s producer Amy Pascal. Pascal is not only one of the main people who made Spider-Man: Homecoming a possibility in the first place, but as a veteran of the industry and former head of Sony Pictures, she’s spearheaded films like The Social Network, Casino Royale, and Zero Dark Thirty and of course the ever-evolving Spider-Man franchise.
Before Pascal’s exit from Sony, a pipe dream of hers finally came true—after years of talking with Kevin Feige about the possibility of Marvel Studios having some involvement with the Sony-owned Spider-Man franchise, a deal was finally struck that saw the studios sharing the character in an effort to reboot the series once more. It’s a Hollywood miracle, truly, that it happened, and when we spoke to Pascal on set she was more than happy to share how it all went down.
Moreover, during the course of our interview, Pascal also talked about the day-to-day production process on this three-studio venture, the experience of casting Spider-Man again, why they hired Jon Watts to direct, and she spoke briefly about Sony’s non-Marvel Spider-Man movies like Venom and the animated feature focusing on Miles Morales. Though keep in mind this interview was conducted in August 2016, so we didn’t yet know what we know now about those projects.
How exactly did Sony and Marvel come together to make this movie?
AMY PASCAL: We made five Spider-Man movies, and we needed to do something different. And we tried doing a lot of different things as you all know and documented. But the thing that we hadn’t done was put him in the Marvel universe, and put him in a world where there are other superheroes. Because he was always the only superhero. And there’s only so many times that you can tell the story of, “I really want everyone to love me and if I tell them I’m Spider-Man, they’ll love me, but I can’t tell them!” We’ve told that story as many ways as I could figure out, and Kevin [Feige] and I had been working together since the very first movie, because he used to get coffee for [producer] Avi [Arad], if you can believe it. He was very good at getting coffee, though. He’s an even better producer, but he’s also good at coffee. So it felt like we needed to do something else and this felt like the right thing to do. And Kevin and I had been talking for a very long time about that, and here’s the thing that I wanted, I emphasize for all of you, because I think this is really important and I don’t think it will ever happen again in the history of the movie business: You have three studios that came together to have this movie being made. No studio likes to share anything with anyone, let alone three studios. And truthfully—there is nothing cynical I can find in this statement—everybody did it because they wanted Spider-Man to be great. Truly, it was because Spider-Man is great, the character is great and people love him. That’s good for Disney. That’s good for Marvel. And that is certainly good for Sony. So, the fact that all these companies were willing to work together to make that happen—believing that everybody needed each other in order to have that happen. I think that’s pretty miraculous.
What was it about Jon Watts that made him the right choice for you?
PASCAL: Well I loved Cop Car, and so did Kevin. We both did. And one of the things I loved about Cop Car was that with very little money, he was able to tell a story through action. There are a lot of directors who are very, you know—successful action directors—that don’t always tell the story through action, and action having a beginning, middle and end. You don’t have like a movie and then an action scene and then a movie and then an action scene. What we saw in Jon was somebody who actually knew the whole thing. Plus, the performances that he got from those little boys I thought was really something. And he, like, scared you and he made you feel hopeful and he surprised you when that lady gets shot and he did all these things with like $8,000 that people can’t do with $80.
How important was it to get Tom into Civil War to introduce the character?
PASCAL: That was always the idea, from the very start. From the very start, it was always about putting him in Civil War. And it was always about the suit. That’s what the movie was always about.
How did casting Tom for this movie, with Marvel and Sony and Disney, differ from the previous times you were casting this character?
PASCAL: Well there’s more people (laughs). It wasn’t dissimilar because you’re looking at a bunch of boys who are really hopeful and wanted desperately to be chosen, and you’re whittling them down and whittling them down and feeling bad about it, trying to find some quality that you haven’t seen before. We just did it together. It’s been a miraculously smooth partnership between the studios.
Can you talk about the choice for this film, surrounding Peter with this big supporting cast, as opposed to the other movies where it’s usually just him and one other character?
PASCAL: Well that was one of the points of putting him in the Marvel universe. He lives in a world where—you know, New York City—where you have the Avengers and the shiny tower and all the gods, and he lives in Queens. He sort of lives off the scraps of what they’re doing in Manhattan. And so the idea was to populate the movie with enough of both, but also just about getting really good actors. Our director came in and said, “I want the world to look like high school. I don’t want it to look like a Hollywood high school movie. Because, we’ve all seen those. I want it to look like what a high school would look like today, with a lot of nerdy kids. Because it’s a school for smart kids.” He wanted it to reflect the world that we live in. You know, he’s younger than we are—well, maybe not like Kevin, he’s like four, to me—and he said things like “cliques are not the same as they used to be” and “you can’t have the rich kid clique and this clique”—kids hang out in gangs. He brought a whole other modern sensibility to it that I think is really fresh.
One of the things I noticed from the Comic-Con clip was that Michelle’s relationship with Peter was really, really interesting. She was sort of like, picking on him. In high school, when you like someone, you sort of give them a hard time. Can you tell me about Michelle’s relationship with him?
PASCAL: Well, Peter has lots of girls around him in this movie, and in this movie, the story is about him and Liz. But Michelle and Ned are like his two friends who are similar and come from similar backgrounds. But obviously Zendaya is something great. Actually, can I tell you something really embarrassing? When Kevin and I looked at her screen test, we didn’t know who she was! There was this girl, she was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen and we were like looking at it and she was so fine and so smart and savvy and poised and she had no make-up on, and we just looked at it after we shot it and we were like, “She’s really fine.” And they were like, “She’s really famous.” But she’s been blowing us away every day.