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Sunday, July 20, 2003

COMIC-CON: SPIDER-MAN SEQUEL PANEL

SAN DIEGO -- The look of Doctor Octopus in the Spider-Man sequel was debuted in a big way on Saturday at Comic-Con International, with a reveal of the character in poster and clip format, as well as an appearance by actor Alfred Molina.

An overflow crowd of nearly 5,000 attended Sony's presentation on Saturday, which included Underworld and Hellboy before finishing up with Spider-Man 2.

Producers Avi Arad of Marvel Studios and Laura Ziskin oversaw the presentation. Director Sam Raimi was unable to attend because of a 102-degree temperature - Ziskin said "his doctor refused to let him come" -- but Ziskin wore Raimi's trademark tie in his honor.

"We have a bigger and better movie," Arad said in opening remarks. "It feels like the family continues. The voices are now so natural for Peter and MJ and Harry. We are so proud because Sony pulled out all the stops. And what you're going to see today is a just little bit of a window into the future of an amazing, fun-filled movie."

A huge banner of Doctor Octopus was then unfurled behind Arad and Ziskin. "Is this awesome or what?" Arad asked as the crowd roared.

"Because Sam can't be here, he did agree to let us show a little bit of film," Ziskin said, then introducing special effects supervisor John Dykstra.

"Great villain, huh?" Dykstra asked. "You guys are getting to see this character come to life today. You're the very first ones, aside from those within the sacred walls. One of the things that we asked you to remember, like all characters, Doc Ock and his tentacles are learning their personality over the course of the film.

"We think that he's gorgeous and he's coming along beautifully. Just remember that this is a work in process and I think you'll be very excited and you'll be very surprised how effective this character is when he comes to life on screen."

"I just want to reiterate that we're about two-thirds of the way through a very long shoot, which is probably why Sam is sick in bed with a fever, so these are early visual effects. What you're going to see is the birth of Doc Ock."

The clip presentation then began with a montaged title screen and theme music from the first film.

Enter a laboratory/operating room where doctors are describing how the metal arms have grafted themselves and what must be done in the operation. One doctor has a surgical saw and jokes, "Anybody take shop class?" Otto Octavius is lying face down on the operation table, with a bandage over his eyes.

As he prepares to saw into a tentacle, there's slight movement of the tentacles. The doctor hesitates but then begins to ready the saw.

Then all hell breaks loose as Otto's four long tentacles start independently attacking the dozen or so in the room. It's a violent scene, with a lot of screaming. At one time, the point of view is from the end of tentacle, which apparently has a lens.

After the attack, one tentacle gingerly removes the bandage and Otto slowly rises and screams. Doctor Octopus is born.

Ziskin then introduced Molina, who was an unannounced guest.

"It is absolutely amazing to be here," Molina. "It's fantastic that there is so much enthusiasm and love for not only these characters but also the whole world of comic books and these fantastic stories.

"We're having a ball, frankly, we're just having a great time. I'm only sorry I couldn't bring the tentacles with me. They're all divas, all four of them, and they refused to make the trip to San Diego."

The floor was then opened up for questions.

* The first question was why the filmmakers chose Doc Ock. "I think Doc Ock is one of our most famous and interesting (villains)," Arad said. "What's most interesting about Doc Ock is that you can see his face at all times, which is something as a director you'd love to have. Doc Ock is a complicated character to compose physically, cinematically.

"And because the first movie was successful, they said, 'Yeah, we can do Doc Ock. It's a combination of CGI and puppeteering and effects. It's a movie all by himself to create this character.

"And actually, for movie one, had we known where it was going with the studio and they were comfortable with the money, we probably would have started with Doc Ock. So it was the natural choice."

"We did play around with Doc Ock as part of the first movie, so we had done some R&D and we all fell in love with the character and the potential of the character," Ziskin said. "And I think we all knew if there was going to be a Spider-Man 2, that Ock was going to be our character. And then we found Fred, we knew it all came together."

* In response to the next question about the film's characters, Ziskin said, "Peter Parker and Mary Jane and Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson and Hoffman are back. All the characters are back. If anything, we probably have more action, more humor and more romance. And I think Sam is probably at the top of his game. These characters are just in his soul, and, knock on wood, we feel we're making an even better movie than the first one."

* Asked if Venom or Carnage might be used in future installments, Arad said, "Venom is a very interesting character. It brings the movie to a darker corner, if you will. And we've been in discussions for a while now on how to use them without taking away from the fun and history. It's definitely a possibility. It would be fascinating to see John Dykstra create symbiotes. So we'll see. Give it time."

* Molina was asked how he dealt with the departure of Spider-Man 2 from his previous dramatic roles.

* "I think the whole thing is in a way to surrender to the joy of doing something like this. It's not like anything most of us do in the course of our work," he said. "It's such a strange and clearly, it's its own world and has its own rules, its own conventions. The one thing you never hear from actors who are in a movie like this, whether you're playing a villain or a super-hero, 'Well, I don't know anybody who could do this.' Because, the thing is, it's a whole different universe. And you have to embrace that. And be as authentic as you can.

"I'm having the time of my life. Playing villains is the perfect job, really because you get to be outrageous as you want to be. All bets are off.

"I think the main thing is surrender to what it is. I'm not trying to rise above it or so of make excuses for it. Just enjoy the heck out of it. And when I put my tentacles on in the morning - and believe me, it's a very erotic experience (laughs). Those of you who have tentacles, I'm sure will agree with me.

"Personally, I feel part of this great tradition and I'm very happy to be so."

* The next question was about how much CGI will be used with Doc Ock.

"I don't think that in this one there won't be any more CGI tentacles than are necessary," Dykstra said. "In the first film, Spider-Man was computer-generated when he needed to be. The great thing about this movie with Alfred creating the persona of this character, it gives us an opportunity to animate with personality these tentacles.

"So what you're going to see is combination of puppeteering, which means practical tentacles operated by individuals who are on set the same time Alfred is wearing the tentacles, and CGI tentacle where we'll add the tentacles after the fact.

"The mix is impossible to tell at this point. We're still making the film and learning what these tentacles want to do."

Said Molina: "In an ideal world, the more that we can create the scene with the tentacles strapped on to me, the better. The tentacles are such an important part of the character, obviously, so that whenever we can shoot the scene, integrally as it were, with me and the tentacles interacting, the better it is. There are always going to be technical or physical limitations to that.

"It's a combination of the two, but I think we always try to go with the real deal whenever possible because it pays off dramatically, it pays off visually and it pays off in every way. It just kind of makes it a much better experience all around."

(Look for The Continuum's back-stage interview with Avi Arad soon.)



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