A few weeks ago, Sony Pictures invited us to attend the press junket The Amazing Spider-Man. The reboot takes a grittier, more realistic approach to Peter Parker’s journey to becoming your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and sees the wall-crawler struggling to come to grips with the mysterious disappearance of his parents. For more on the film, click here for all of our previous coverage.
During my interview with producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, we talked about rebooting the franchise, the decision to pass on Spider-Man 4, potential crossovers with other superhero movies, the crowded superhero movie marketplace, and more. Hit the jump to check out the interview, and click on the corresponding links for my interviews with co-stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, and Martin Sheen.
AVI ARAD: I’ll start?
MATT TOLMACH: I love it when you start.
ARAD: It was a great thing with Tobey [Maguire] and Sam [Rami], and we made three movies together and we became a family, and we’re still a family, there’s great fondness among us. Sam had a story to tell for the first Spider-Man, so it was one form of origin of Spider-Man, versus origin of Peter Parker, more origin of Spider-Man. Then it was the theme of “Spidey-no-more,” and then the darkside, how do deal with your new power, your responsibility and how do you deal with your powers. And at the end of it, because of this, between us and the studio, we all wanted to stay together and do one more, and what was happening, the one more was not a natural version of where we want to go, especially coming from Sam. Sam is not only the most honorable, terrific man but he’s very honest, honest with himself first, and for us as producers, I mean you’re literally putting it on the table, it also represents, if you don’t have your conviction you have to put your money where your mouth is. But we didn’t have a natural story, and this is Spider-Man, this is the coup de gras, you cannot break this thing ever. And it was a mutual decision, with Sam and Tobey and us, we had this story—
TOLMACH: And Sam, people always ask about this, Sam— We tried really hard, we developed a script. What Avi was saying, I was at the studio at the time, believe me, everybody is singularly incentivized to make that movie, because the franchise had been so profitable and so beloved. Sam said, “My version of this has been told. I told these three,” as Avi said, “three installments of the character were a trilogy for me. And I realize it now, that I’ve completed that, and someone else needs to take this on. ” And was very, very clear about that. When your leader tells you that you listen.
ARAD: And supportive of the change.
TOLMACH: Wildly supportive, and to this day. And at the same time, we always had lived knowing that eventually we’re going to tell another version of the Spider-Man story, because the comic books have. People talk about it like it was some crazy idea, the truth is, it’s been happening over and over and over again. And so one of the things we always talk about, one of the things Sam came to realize is that the ripest moment in the life of Peter Parker happens when he’s in high school, when he’s just out of it, when he’s young and everything is so extreme, and we wanted to get back to that a little bit. We wanted to get back to it in a way that was completely different.
TOLMACH: “I just want to be like everybody else?”
ARAD: So it’s like sitting with a shrink in a session and the shrink asks you, “So what do you think? ” And that’s just the filmmaking of Spider-Man, is that session, and when you ask all these questions in a room and every time we looked at the script we had one question, what Peter would do, because it was easy to build around it.
TOLMACH: This was for Spidey 4.
ARAD: Right. What is he going to do?
TOLMACH: We had built this very extraordinary story around a character that we couldn’t quite find in that story.
ARAD: That’s the problem.
TOLMACH: And again, the mantra has always been, “What’s Peter’s problem? ” What’s Peter’s problem?
ARAD: He has to live to movie.
TOLMACH: Peter— We needed to start over.
ARAD: We also had a direction for this one, the movie you saw, that is fresh. For some of us it’s incredibly interesting because it’s a worldwide issue; kids of divorce, kids of adoption, orphans, and so on. “Who am I? ” is usually defined by your background. Who are your parents? There are so many kids of divorce, they think, until they grow up a little bit, that their parents divorced because of them. They say, “I promise to be a good boy,” and it breaks your heart because you’d nothing to do with it. With Peter Parker we need to put in real sentiments. So I can sit in the audience and say to myself, “I’m not alone, he’s been through that, too. Look at him, he chose the right direction. ” And this movie is very unique from all other superhero movies. Peter carves his own destiny; he gets a hint about something that is inside him. “What happened to my parents? Where they good people? Bad people? Why did they leave me behind? Why didn’t they come back? ” Yeah the airplane, he’s an intelligent kid, yeah he can have a picture of the crashed airplane. “Are they the Rosenbergs? Are they—“ And in his quest to find out “Who am I,” the clues to it, who were his parents, what did they do?
ARAD: He’s like the spider bite is something he’s brought upon himself.
When you decided to pass on Spider-Man 4 and do a reboot, had James Vanderbilt already completed a script for you on The Amazing Spider-Man? [I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase this]
ARAD: It was a draft.
When did the development of that draft come into being? How far back did you have the idea to maybe push Peter Parker in a new direction?
TOLMACH: We tried really hard with Spidey 4.
ARAD: But we started having meetings . . .
TOLMACH: About half way through it, Sam feeling, trying to find his way, and it wasn’t clear, the way it had been in the past when everybody sort of knew . . . Sam, it’s like on Spider-Man 2, he started storyboarding the train sequence before we had a script, you knew he was going down a road. And we were struggling, and so this idea came to all of us, eventually we’re all going to be living here, lets be smart and get in front of it. So James did a draft of that script for us. It wasn’t, I don’t know when things were announced, but it wasn’t until we all collectively decided, “That one is over, lets really lean into this thing, and talk about a filmmaker, and talk about how we’re going to do it. ” And the most daunting thing of all, “Who’s Peter Parker? ” And how do you do that? And so that conversation happened right after we disassembled the other one.
What’s interesting about this film is that is does come ten years after the first Spider-Man film in 2002, and the superhero movie marketplace has changed so much. What do you feel has been the big difference between releasing Spider-Man in ’02, where is basically had the summer to itself, and how where there are like 3 or 4 superhero movies every summer? What is that environment like now?
ARAD: This environment started 10 years ago. Once Spider-Man, X-Men, Blade started the run basically, you know that you have the competition, but you also know that unlike other excellent superhero movies, Spider-Man will always been this boy. He will always have this carve out of the most emotionally appealing young person on one had, and on the other hand, the action that he brings about the flying, the web-shooting, is magical. And with technology, the better . . . well you saw, the animation in mid-air, the physical effects, Andrew [Garfield] is quite an able athlete, and he was able to bring things, and people can tell when it’s visually real.
TOLMACH: And the truth is, audiences have increased. Look at Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man 3 did better business than any of the other movies, so I really think that it’s, yeah, a different world we live in.
ARAD: There are multiplexes.
TOLMACH: There are! But the onus is on . . . You don’t hear people say, “I’m not going to go to that movie because I’ve seen too many. I’m not going to go to that comedy because I’ve seen too many comedies. ” They want to go to a good comedy. And so the responsibility we feel . . . we just got to make it good. You’ve got to make a great version of a movie, and that’s how you get people to go to movies. Forgetting the superhero genre, that’s the thing that all of us in the film business are faced with. In a world where it’s easier sometimes for people to stay home, how do you win?
ARAD: It was nice and gutsy, they changed the tone of it, and made a much bigger franchise out of it.
TOLMACH: But that gave people a reason to go. So that’s what you’ve got to look at, it’s not, “Is Warner doing one? Is FOX doing one? ” I hope they all do good ones! Good ones are good for everybody. You’ve just got to have one. If you don’t, people cry bullshit.
Because The Avengers was so huge, and people now like seeing there superheroes now in one film, is there any sort of plan for studios to combine their efforts and allow Spider-Man to join up with the larger Marvel universe?
ARAD: Creatively, it would be a trip, it would be wonderful. We had Avengers in out slate in Marvel six years ago, so it’s really . . . Unfortunately the thing is, at the end of the day our relationship with Disney and Marvel is really wonderful, and it’s a matter of sitting in a room and carving out . . . This is the mother of all superheroes, and I believe after this movie, no one will ask us any questions again because we believe we’ve made something really special. And if Disney and Sony meet and say, “Let’s do this. ” Because it all comes back to the comics, and usually in the comics we do team-ups, even DC.
ARAD: Right, absolutely. And usually you make these team-ups to sell some covers. It’s true.
TOLMACH: It’s the same thing as to sell some movie tickets.
ARAD: Who is going to win this one? Is Batman going to defeat the Hullk? Yeah, okay, let’s do this series. And in the next one Superman is going to lose to Spider-Man, let’s say. In the movies, we have a bigger opportunity to have them talk to each other. I think we’re having a great time right now.
TOLMACH: In the immediate future we have big plans for Spider-Man, and other characters.
ARAD: And other superhero stars.