Interview: Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx, and More Talk ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ at SDCC ’13

By July 25, 2013
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When The Amazing Spider-Man was announced for release in 2012, fans bristled at the possibility of watching another origin story for the world’s most famous web-swinger. But the film went on to earn more than $752 million, and fully revived the character, particularly with actor Andrew Garfield beneath his iconic mask. In 2014, Garfield reunites with director Marc Webb for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which further develops the story of young Peter Parker, this time facing the (literally) electrifying villainy of Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, and the complicated friendship of Harry Osborne, this time around played by Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines).

Comic-Con wouldn’t be Comic-Con without an appearance from ol’ web-head, and Garfield and company more then delivered, showing up in Hall H with footage and plenty of fan-friendly interactions. Afterwards, they trekked over to San Diego’s Hilton Bayfront for a press conference in which Garfield, Webb, Foxx, DeHaan and producer Avi Arad talked about the evolution of this particular Spider-Man, his most formidable foe yet, and the challenges of creating a timeline for the superhero’s adventures that manages to satisfy standalone adventures and a narrative for an entire franchise.

Coming back to this sequel the second time around, is it still hard to be Peter Parker and easier to be Spider-Man, or has it gotten difficult to be Spider-Man as well?

Garfield: What a question. I like that question. I think what I discovered on this one is that it’s just a mess. Peter’s a mess. Spider-Man’s a mess. But what’s important to know is that when we meet Spider-Man, at the beginning of this film, he’s taking great pleasure in his power, and he’s in full control of it. A little bit like Usain Bolt, his 25 minutes before he runs the 100 meters, his preparation is play because he has the ability to do that, that he accesses a relaxed, free, playful state of mind. So what I love about this Spider-Man now is that he has the confidence to not only be heroic, but it’s not boring heroism. He’s able to mess with people as he’s being heroic. He’s Bugs Bunny to a certain degree. And also, what I discovered is that Peter is his little brother in a way. He’s in the shadow. Spider-Man gets all the power, the attention, and he gets to live out this fantasy life, but when he gets home, Peter has the bangs and the bruises and the aches and the pains when the adrenaline has left his body. He has to look in the mirror, and he has to see a real boy in the mirror as opposed to this symbol that’s greater than any human being. So that dynamic was really, really interesting. This inner dynamic between the older brother and the younger brother. It’s complicated as it should be. Peter Parker has historically been complicated. The more complicated, the better. The more guilt, the better. The more pain, the better for Peter, and the more joy and pleasure for Spider-Man, the better. So those two things were really fun to play.

What was the most important lesson that you learned coming out of the first movie as an actor, that’s helped you now in the second film?

Garfield: Thank you for the question. Gosh, I learned so much from that first movie. I didn’t really sleep on the first movie. I really took the responsibility to heart. I took Stan Lee’s words to heart, and I still do. So I guess what I tried to do on this one is make sure that I could show up every day and give all of myself to it because there were certain days, on the first one, where I felt like I couldn’t get to the place I wanted to get to emotionally, or I couldn’t get to the place I wanted to get to physically or I just felt burnt out. So on this one, I really wanted to treat myself like an athlete and take rest when I could. And luckily, in this one, I could because Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, with the help of Marc, Matt and the whole team and Avi, had crafted a story that didn’t solely rest upon Peter’s shoulders, or Spider-Man’s shoulders. Alex and Bob, they wrote incredibly well-crafted characters across the board, a real ensemble and enough to attract talent like this and Paul Giamatti. It’s a real testament to the writing, and I got to sleep a little bit more thankfully.

How do you like wearing the new costume? Which one do you like more?

Garfield: The eyes are much bigger and better. You can see more. It still as tight as it was before. I was able to urinate in this one easier. That was a very friendly adjustment from the costume designer, Deb Scott. Aesthetically, I prefer it. To be honest, I dig it more. I just dig it more. I loved the first one, don’t get me wrong. I actually really did, but it’s mostly my ability to urinate which I’m happy about. It was just very generous of them to set it up in that way.

Marc, the second time around, what were the elements of Spider-Man’s character and story, some of the conditions that you couldn’t get to in the first one that you were really excited to be able to get to the second time around?

Webb: Well, I think, there’s a level of virtuosity in his physical capabilities that we really had fun playing around with. And there was the foundation of playfulness in this movie. There were hints of it in the first movie, but like fun. Fun is crucial. The first movie, we had a lot of obligations. It was a little darker, and this one was, from the outset, has that level of play that I loved in Spider-Man growing up. And there’s a lot of things that we did, for example, just the physical comedy elements which are very technical, very difficult. We had a guy that Andrew had suggested that came in and consulted with us in creating these sort of elaborate, simple, but elegant sequences where Peter Parker as Spider-Man is just having fun being Spider-Man. I think physical comedy is something that’s sort of a lost art. You know what I mean? And Andy Armstrong, Cal and I, we all in fact looked back and looked at a lot of Buster Keaton movies, a lot of Charlie Chaplin, a lot of Harold Lloyd, and you look at these incredibly gifted artists, and see how difficult the physical tasks of comedy like that was. It was something that we didn’t want to mess around with. There were a few scenes where we had to do sort of long takes. There was that one we did in the hallway, was like, I think, I don’t know how many takes we did, but it was just like incredibly demanding of Andrew. But also intensely pleasurable as a filmmaker to appreciate that. Whether they notice the level of detail or the work we put into it, I don’t know. That was something that was really fun to play around with that we didn’t get to play around with in the first one.

We really love the design of Electro. Can you go into how you came up with it, and Jamie, do you have any input?

Webb: Well, there’s a lot of different incarnations of Electro in the comics, and I tried to think about how to do it with a yellow and green suit, and I couldn’t make any logical sense of that. But I wanted to keep this – there are certain elements of his creation that I wanted to protect, but I will say when you look at a storm cloud coming out over the horizon, I remember growing up in Wisconsin seeing these terrifying storms coming over the plains, and the electricity on the inside of them would explode, and you would see these flashes of billowing light. And that is a cue that we used to develop these internal workings of Electro. And the other thing that I really felt was important to understand the visage, the face, the emotion, and preserve Jamie’s performance within the character itself, so I really sort of stepped away from doing a mask. Instead I created this creature that felt human but also felt god-like, and that was something that was really important to present to Spider-Man as an antagonist, something terrifying, and a little bit creepy and immensely powerful.

For Jamie, you’ve played a lot of iconic roles. How do you feel taking on this role considering it’s completely different, and what did you do to prepare for it?

Foxx: Well, first of all, I think the nailing of Max is the main thing. I know people like Max. There was a guy named Rashad who lived with his mom in the 40s. And if you know the history of Max, his father left him. He was actually married at one point. We don’t go into that. He was actually married at one point, and so the reason being for that is we couldn’t get going. And so for an actor, that’s perfect for guys like us. There’s a building block right there. If you know that this guy’s lost his father, immediately, there’s something about his character that’s different. If you know that his mother dotes on him all the time, he’s always seeking his mom’s approval which is a little bit like mine. I was adopted at seven months. My mother, I knew though at the time, so I would always wait for her to come into town. ‘I’m playing quarterback,’ and I’m this, and I’m that. I was waiting for her to say, ‘I like that.’ And she was a very tough, tough woman. She now lives with me, and now everything’s worked out. But at the time, it was tough for me because I wanted her approval. So the same for Max. If we could grab that for us as actors, and what was great about Marc was once we set that platform of Max being from that – the Electro part was not easy, but it makes sense – but what was great was that Marc would not allow us to move until he actually got it right. He pushed. I don’t know about what you guys experienced, but he really pushed me. I don’t know if he pushed me a little harder than everybody else, but he pushed. And I really appreciated that. So that when we look back on what we shot, that’s the main ingredient from all the characters that we played. Whether it’s Ray, whether it’s Django, or Willy Beaman, that’s the same DNA or the same process that we use in all of our character work.

In your interpretation of Electro, would you say this was a character that was sort of a counterpoint to Spider-Man’s wisecracking?

Foxx: Well, we wanted Electro to be serious. I wanted him to be a formidable opponent even when I would see Andrew out. I saw him at Chelsea Pier, and I said, ‘Somebody really doesn’t like you.’ He said, ‘Who’s that? Who really doesn’t like me?’

Garfield: I don’t speak like that.

Foxx: So I told him. I really want Electro to be angry. And I actually got the character from something that happened to me. When I was in LA as a young comedian, I had a little situation. There was this gangster dude that said,’ If you ever need some help, let me know.’ And I needed his help one day, and I took the help. But then I was indebted to him, so every club I went to, it was like, ‘You got me right?’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ ‘Yeah, I need to get in the club with you.’ I said, ‘I can only get one in.’ ‘I got nine with me.’ And so it was just this constant thing going through the city, and so finally, I had to stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to deal with you anymore.’ And it turned into this venom. So I took this character as Electro that when Spider-Man says to Max, ‘You know, we’re partners’ – and he said it passing, but I took it to heart – so when I turn into Electro, I don’t want to let him off the hook. And I think that’s what works. It makes the fight more epic, the fact that Electro is not talking a lot. He’s just down to business. He wants to burn the city down, and he wants to get rid of Spider-Man.

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A lot of actors who play iconic villains, sometimes they say it was fun for them or very disturbing for them. How did it affect you?

Foxx: Well, what I wanted to do, and what we wanted to do was we wanted to do three things as Max. We wanted to have three things happen. He needed to be betrayed by love. He needed to be betrayed by family, and he needed to be betrayed by his work. So that when you see the set up, when you see him as Max – is it okay to say what happens to him when they forget his birthday? No. Well, what happens is that we came up with the fact that Max Dillon, it’s his birthday, and even his mom doesn’t remember his birthday. So you see? See how you feel? But that sets it up the fact that he says, ‘Mom, it’s a very special day today. You got anything you want to say?’ And she says, ‘I don’t want to say anything to you.’ So what that does is that sets it up that when Electro does turn into this guy, there’s a little bit of you saying, “I understand where it’s coming from.” So it wasn’t disturbing, but it was great to see that journey, the fact that we gave it more than one side. It’s three to four dimensional that when he turns into this person, you understand where he’s coming from.

We’re a little bit sad that Shailene is not going to appear as we heard, but excited about a longer term plan. Does Shailene still have a part for Spider-Man 3, and would the scenes she was in have to be completely reworked?

Arad: We miss Shailene. I know you were all upset. But we all felt the story got just too big to have the two girls. So it was the right thing to wait. The next movie will be in three years, more or less.

Garfield: When I’m 45.

Arad: We love this girl, and time will tell.

Andrew, have you made any headway on finding Peter Parker a boyfriend?

Garfield: Very good question. Listen, what I said in that Entertainment Weekly interview was a question. It was just a simple, philosophical question about sexual orientation, about prejudice. I obviously long for the time where sexual orientation, skin color, is a small thread in the fabric of a human being, and all men are created equal – and women, sorry, women as well. To speak to the idea of me and Michael B. Jordan getting together, it was tongue in cheek, absolutely tongue in cheek. It would be illogical for me in the third movie to be like, you know what? I’m kind of attracted to guys. That’s just not going to work. That’s clear. It was just more a philosophical question, and what I believe about Spider-Man is that he does stand for everybody, black, white, Chinese, Malaysian, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. He will put himself in harm’s way for anyone. He is colorblind. He’s blind to sexual orientation, and that is what he has always represented to me. He represents the everyman, but he represents the underdog and those marginalized who come up against great prejudice which I, as I middle class straight, white man, don’t really understand so much. And when Stan Lee first wrote and created this character, the outcast was the computer nerd, was the science nerd, was the guy that couldn’t get the girl. Those guys now run the world. So how much of an outcast is that version of Peter Parker anymore? That’s my question. And just love for the underdog, protecting those that need protection. There’s not, in terms of teenagers nowadays, there’s more and more horror stories that you hear about young, gay men and women not feeling accepted by society, attempting suicide, committing suicide in some cases, and who else is there to stand up for more importantly than them, you know? Equally to everyone else, but we’re all the same is my point.

It may be a long time before there is a gay super hero, but thank you for even mentioning it. Can you talk a little bit about how Peter and Gwen’s relationship evolves?

Garfield: It’s kind of linked to what I said earlier. It’s tough to have a life as Peter. It’s tough. It’s like being an emergency aid worker. It’s 24/7, his job. There’s no breaks. You’re always on call, and it’s not that you can switch your beeper off. Who has a beeper anymore? Jesus Christ. I’m like the original Stan Lee Spider-Man in 1962. I can’t switch it off. It’s a physical impulse that Peter gets. It’s like, ‘I have to go, I’m sorry.’ So I could be in the middle of something incred – I could be in the middle of a proposal. I could be proposing to Gwen. I could be on one knee, and suddenly I’m like, ‘I’ve really got to go. I’m really, really sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry, don’t hate me. I love you. I love you. I love you.’ And I have to go save a cat from a tree. It’s that small, and because of his over-developed sense of responsibility, it’s like . . . he’s human. He’s not super human, ultimately. He’s just a dude, and relationships are hard anyway as we all know, but it’s especially hard for someone who has to be so dedicated to his work. And that’s part of the struggle that Peter has with Gwen in this story.

Dane, what’s it like working with the Marvel family for the first time?

DeHaan: Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect going into it because I had never made a movie this big. But I definitely wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did and walk away being as fulfilled as I was. I mean, I knew going into it that I was a big fan of Andrew and the first movie and Andrew as an actor. I mean, Jamie, obviously, and what Marc Webb had done with his first two movies, but I guess I thought because of the magnitude of this movie, something artistically would be compromised. But actually, it was a great luxury to have that much time, and for the sets to be that amazing. And then with the script being as great as it was, I walked away fully satisfied.

Dane, in the previous incarnation, we had James Franco playing the same character. A lot of what drove him was what happened to his father. Can you talk a little bit about how you interacted with Peter Parker?

DeHaan: Well, first of all, in this version, Peter and Harry were childhood friends, and then Harry was sent off to a boarding school at kind of a young age. And he inherently has a complicated relationship with Norman still, he never really went home, and he kind of stopped. He kind of just ignored his home life and stayed at school and partied, and probably got into a lot of things he shouldn’t have gotten into. And really tried to buy his happiness because he had a kind of trust fund. And now, he’s graduated high school, and he’s decided to go home for the first time. And he has to confront Peter, and he hasn’t seen Peter in a really long time. And they are trying to reconcile their friendship, and I think a lot of what they find that they had in common is their complicated relationships with their fathers, still.

Question: Do you interact more with Max?

Dehane: We had some interactions.

What’s it like to see yourself as an action figure?

Garfield: I tried not to look, but then I went into Toys R Us before Christmas time, last Christmas, shopping for my nephews. And I was like, ‘I’ll meet you guys in the car.’ I needed just a half an hour to just kind of absorb one particular aisle. And it was humbling, just really, really humbling, not something that I really identify with. It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like me, but it’s really cool. It’s just cool. Like it’s just as simple as that really, but also, it doesn’t really mean anything weirdly. It’s the suit. You know, kids are going to be excited to buy the Spider-Man figure when he’s got his mask on, you know what I’m saying? Yes, people identify with Peter Parker, but it’s not about the actor playing the role. It’s about the everyman nature of Peter, and the everyman nature of Spider-Man and what he stands for and who he protects, all creatures great and small. And that’s what’s exciting, the fact that I get to try to embody it and try to bring it to life for five, six-year-olds, that’s just an honor for me and one that I don’t take lightly or that personally actually.

Marc, with more sequels announced, how hard was it to make this film work by itself and yet connect to the next films?

Webb: I think it was just a different thing to me. The universe that we had conceived of began before we started shooting the first movie. So there were plans and plants the seeds that sort of developed all around us, but the primary focus was executing this movie as best as we all could. Contain is an interesting word. This is operatic. There is a hugeness of scale to this movie, and as Andrew was saying, the ensemble is pretty extraordinary, but it is cohesive. And it is direct. And there is a simple, unifying theme that is the heart of the film, I think will be very impactful. But it was fun. It’s fun to like tease out little bits and pieces of other characters. And if you pay attention to this next movie, you’ll see other things that might be in store for us in the future.

For those sequels, what are your plans?

Webb: You’ll have to wait and see. Just to address that. We really want to be protective of the plot of the movie, one to protect the enjoyment that people should have when they walk into a theater and experience it for the first time. And that’s a really fun thing to do. So rather than being coy and dodgy, like that’s what really our intention is. There is a lot of thought, a lot of consideration, a lot of detail work, a lot of meetings behind closed doors about how the universe unfolds. But we’re very protective about how we reveal everything.

Marc, what do you feel like you learned from the first movie and how that affected you personally, not necessarily artistically?

Webb: The movie this size is all consuming. And I met Alfonso Cuarón today, who’s a brilliant filmmaker. I had been a long time fan of his, and he said something. He was talking about doing Harry Potter which I thought was really profound and very helpful to me as a filmmaker. And with (500) Days of Summer was very much a personal story with me and my friends, but when he was talking about Harry Potter. He’s like, ‘You come. You’re the director, and you have to have a vision. And it’s about you.’ And he said something about Harry Potter that I thought was very helpful. He said, ‘You have to surrender the material.’ I’m at the service of something much bigger than myself. It’s not about me. It’s not about my vision necessarily. It’s about supporting a character that we all know and love that’s so much bigger than all of us. And learning how to surrender that is very difficult thing when your job is to be in control. And to negotiate with that is, I had many, many life lessons that I won’t get into.

Garfield: Tell us.

Webb: Well, doctor . . . But that was a really wonderful thing because what you learn is that when people feel a sense of ownership, whether it’s Andrew, Dane or Jamie or Matt or Avi, you get a level of commitment that is much deeper than you could do if they’re servicing something else. So to me, it was like – I think you learned the power of surrender of that.

Garfield: Beautiful.

Webb: Thank you. I appreciate it.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swings into theaters on May 2nd, 2014.

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Todd Gilchrist is a film critic with more than ten years of experience working in Los Angeles. A member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Todd has contributed to a wide variety of print and online outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Variety, The Playlist, MTV Movies, and IGN.