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Sunday, March 21, 2004


LONG BEACH, Calif. -- James Franco, who is returning as Harry Osborn in Spider-Man 2, said that his role in the sequel is bigger than in the first movie.

"I think I have as great of an arc in this as you could ask for in any movie," Franco said Sunday afternoon during the Spider-Man 2 panel at Wizard World Los Angeles.

Franco was a surprise guest at the convention, appearing with producer Avi Arad of Marvel Studios and then signing for fans on the convention floor.

As a treat, a clip was shown in public for the first time. The clip showed Franco's Harry dismissing his butler, going out on a balcony, looking around and suddenly being snared by one of Doc Ock's tentacles. Doc Ock makes his demands, dangling Harry over the edge of the building by his foot.

The sequel continues Harry's journey from the end of the first film, where he swears to get revenge on Spider-Man, whom he blames for the death of his father, Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin.

"The first one there was a wonderful set-up," Franco said. "Harry's whole life is to get his father's approval and before he achieves that, his father was taken from him. After that he's kind of, I don't know, half a man. He's troubled. Even if he succeeds in life, he'll never have pure satisfaction because his father will never be there, So he's a troubled man.

"Now, he has two places to go: still try to please the ghost of his father by succeeding in business or whatever, also by trying to avenge his death. I guess he goes to some dark places."

"And we won't say any more," Arad added, smiling.

Franco said he was pleased with the depth of characterization in the Spider-Man films.

"Sometimes people ask me, 'Is this movie easier to do because it's an action film and it's a coasting kind of job?' It's really not. Anybody watches the first one, you see what these characters go through. You see what Peter goes through, you see what I go through.

" I treat this as seriously as I treat any job. And it's material as deep any movie I've done, especially the second one. That's why I'm so happy the writer gave me so much.

"On the first one, especially, Sam (Raimi, director) was dealing with a huge movie, and he's got responsibilities to Marvel and he's got responsibilities to the studio and he's got people that know the comic. And he's juggling all of this. And in the midst of all that, he really took time with the actors and the writers to look at the scenes in between Spider-Man swinging and fighting villains, to flesh out these characters, to give people something to hook into and understand.

"Like Avi said, that's the secret to these comics. You have characters that are well-rounded and make sense and are relatable."

In other tidbits from the panel:

* John Singleton, who is directing the Cage movie, attended the panel and even asked a question. Look for The Continuum's interview with Singleton on Tuesday.

* Asked who the next villain will be, Arad said, "Of course I can't tell you that."

He said the key to good Spider-Man villains, or even villains in general, is to have an emotional connection to the hero. In Doc Ock's case, he is a mentor to Peter Parker.

"The villains are never pure villains," Arad said. "They're victims of circumstances."

Another key is to have someone whose powers match up against Spider-Man's. Arad pointed out the fact that the Green Goblin could fly on his glider made his battles more interesting and that Doc Ock's tentatacles would mesh with Spider-Man.

Arad said a villain hasn't been finalized for a third film. "You'll have to see movie 2 and help us decide," he said.

* Franco said he enjoyed working with Willem Dafoe on the first film.

"He's a very energetic and enthusiastic person and actor," Franco said. "Right before we did Spider-Man 1, I did a film with (Robert) DeNiro. And I consider those two very great actors. And DeNiro was very quiet and kept to himself. And then I did Spider-Man, and they both played my father, and Dafoe was extremely sociable and I could go to him for advice and questions. He was a very nice man."

* Arad described the production of Spider-Man 2 as "a joyride."

"It's by far one of the biggest movies ever put together," Arad said. "We have a director who is not only incredible accomplished but he's a unique soul. The reason Sam got this movie is because Spider-Man the movie is a responsibility. You have to ooze goodness to direct this movie.

"Sam is a Spider-Man fan and lover and wanted to make sure you could take the kids to the movie. He then took panels out of the comics and took respect for this great form of art."

Arad said Raimi is a "rehearsal fanatic."

"It's like an English Lit class," Arad said. "It's fun how he goes in and tears the material to pieces and puts it back together. From that standpoint, it's poetry in motion."

* Arad said that the Internet could be a blessing and a curse in revealing information about films. "Secrecy is important," he said. "We want to share information, but let us do it in the right way and protect the secrecy and the privacy."

* Talking about other Marvel films, Arad said he hopes to announce a director for Fantastic Four within seven days and that with the rights cleared, a script can be developed for Captain America.

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