Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far from Home and Avengers: Endgame follow below.
Following in the footsteps of a movie as massively popular as Avengers: Endgame is a tough enough task on its own, but Spider-Man: Far from Home also had the unenviable challenge of telling another Peter Parker story directly after said teenager—and the entire MCU world, frankly—has just suffered an incredible personal loss. Those were the chips handed to Far from Home screenwriters Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna when they started writing the Spider-Man sequel, which marks their third MCU film after co-writing Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp.
With Far from Home, Sommers and McKenna were able to craft a Spider-Man story from the ground up—albeit with the knowledge that their film would be opening in theaters mere months after the Infinity War sequel Avengers: Endgame. So the two set about creating a fun, engaging, and compelling Spider-Man story that also acknowledges a post-Thanos world and also deals directly with the loss of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), mentor to Far from Home protagonist Peter Parker (Tom Holland). The result? A genuinely fun, consistently surprising, and heartfelt follow-up that serves as both a palate cleanser and something of an epilogue to Avengers: Endgame. A peek at a post-Tony Stark world, if you will.
I recently had the chance to speak with Spider-Man: Far from Home screenwriters Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna about their work on the movie, and since Far from Home has been in theaters for a couple weeks now, I decided to go into full spoiler territory. The two discussed how they set about choosing Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) as the villain, how they then went about crafting a con artist story that kept the audience engaged without spoiling Mysterio’s secret, the film’s structural challenges, and the “eureka!” moment from director Jon Watts that led to MJ (Zendaya) revealing she knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man at the precise moment he’s trying to confess his feelings. The two also talked about that Skrulls twist, and how an early iteration of Far from Home featured Mysterio as a Skrull.
Check out the full interview below. Spider-Man: Far from Home is in theaters everywhere now.
I’m curious what the conversation was like when you guys were first hired to write this script. Were there kind of tentpoles that you had to hit, or did you really just kind of have carte blanche to take the story wherever you wanted?
ERIK SOMMERS: Typically, when we start on a Marvel movie—and we’ve done three now—they’ll have a document that they have put together with ideas for the movie based on source material, their own internal conversations, things from the overall MCU that might be pulled in, things that need to be addressed based on other movies. That’s always a really useful starting point, and we’ll all look at that document and that’ll be sort of a source for conversations. And then we’ll take it from there, but things can change a lot. It’s just a set of ideas to sort of get the whole conversation started.
When you guys were hired, did you know that you were coming out right after Endgame? Was this kind of always set up to be the next Marvel story being told after that big Avengers movie?
SOMMERS: Yes it was. It seemed to make perfect sense too because, obviously, over several movies, the relationship between Peter and Tony has been built. And now with what’s happened in Endgame, it seems very natural that the next Spider-Man movie would be dealing with that.
So were you guys brought in on what was going to happen in Endgame when you were first hired, or did you kind of get to work on a Spider-Man sequel, and then at some point someone knocked on the door and said, “Hey, guess what?”.
CHRIS MCKENNA: We knew. It’s all laid out. Marvel, they have a plan. So, they knew it was going to be coming out a couple of months after Endgame and it was already plotted, obviously. So, we knew that we were going to have to deal with everything that happened in Endgame, as the first Marvel MCU movie following Endgame.
Obviously Tony’s death is kind of the big holdover from Endgame that really kind of looms large over this movie, but I was curious if there were any other plot threads from Endgame that you guys had considered maybe earlier versions of the script that didn’t make it in?
MCKENNA: We had to deal with the Blip, and we had to deal with Tony. Those were the two big plot points that we were handed. Knowing that we had to deal with this time transition, which I think everyone had kind of questions about, and we ran towards it in a fun way. Like what’s the nitty-gritty of half the world disappearing and half the world staying? It all worked pretty well, particularly in high school because high school is embarrassing and humiliating and weird enough without having half your class disappearing and then coming back, and you’ve moved on to college, and half your friends are still now in high school. Or in, specifically from the movie, an eleven-year-old elementary school student is now the class hunk.
That was funny. But I think one of the things that really kind of caught fans off-guard, a little bit, was that Mysterio was in this film, but he was not positioned as the villain in the marketing. I was curious if you guys can talk a little bit about kind of why you selected Mysterio for the film, and then how you went about handling him, and positioning him as kind of a “good guy”, until that turn.
SOMMERS: Mysterio is just an iconic villain, and we discussed various villains, but we kept coming back to Mysterio. He really seemed like the next logical choice, but the challenge was how to update the Mysterio from the source material, the comics, into someone that we would see in the MCU. So, it just came down to a lot of conversations with the creative team about how we would update Mysterio, how we would make someone who in the comics is a stuntman, special effects guy with strings on his shoes, into someone that we would see coming up against Spider-Man in an MCU movie.
MCKENNA: It just seemed like, particularly with, yeah, iconic, top tier Spider-Man villain that really hadn’t been done yet, and then thematically it seemed like coming off of some of the chaos of the world, it really seemed to work with a character who thrives off of chaos, and being able to deceive people in that chaos.
SOMMERS: The world is sort of traumatized by what happened, and confused, and vulnerable to someone like Mysterio. So is Peter. He is traumatized, confused and vulnerable by what happened to him personally. So, Mysterio is the perfect villain to take advantage of that, to get what he wants.
That’s one of my favorite aspects of the film, is that his plan and his plot ties thematically into this idea of, for lack of a better term, fake news. Selling the lie, because that’s what people want. Was that kind of exciting for you guys to really kind of dig thematically into Mysterio, in addition to, obviously, kind of the visual aspects of him? Really kind of hitting upon something that speaks to the world we live in today.
SOMMERS: Obviously we live in a world of fractured reality. Everyone is living in their own bubble of what they see as the truth. We follow social media that just confirms our own biases. We can’t even agree on what’s fact and what’s fiction. Yeah, so all that plays into this character who’s able to manipulate reality, and get everyone to believe something and even though it’s so clearly, by the end, a lie that he’s been telling, half the world still believes it.
For the first act of the movie, Mysterio is set up as the good guy. Was there ever a version where he was an ally to Peter Parker, or where he was actually from another dimension, or even where you just kind of held on to that façade until later on in the film?