Wednesday, June 30, 2004
SPIDER-MAN 2'S AVI ARAD
CULVER CITY, Calif. -- The Continuum today concludes it series of question-and-answer interviews from the Spider-Man 2 press junket with producer Avi Arad of Marvel Stuidos.
Following is an edited transcription of a roundtable interview conducted recently on the Sony lot.
Question: Why does Spider-Man succeed where some comic-book movies have failed?
Arad: Maybe it's a better movie. There are a couple of elements. I think Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a unique character that appeals to everybody. I just think I have to give a lot of credit to Sam (Raimi) and Sony. Movies like that today ... believe me there are a lot of filmmakers -- and you should see some of the scripts -- are trying to make the other movies as good as this one. There is a lot of fear out there of emotional investment. I think in some ways they are underestimating the audience. And being afraid to make speeches like, "There is a hero in all of us." This is probably the thing that we fight the most. We try to tell the studios, "Don't be afraid of decency and emotion." You can have all the action, but the action better be driving the story and emotional commitment to something. But it's difficult. You've seen a lot of movies this summer, and I don't know if you've see emotion.
I have to give the studio, Amy (Pascal) and Matt Tolmach, a lot credit. They're very courageous people. This day and age, you hear Spider-Man and you think wall-to-wall action. Who would have taken 80-year-old Aunt May, a widow, and play her in the way we did?
It's an incredible team. Alvin Sargent is probably the greatest writer today; his words are unique. Sam is really interested in the emotional makeup, and the studio trusts him, as they should. So we were able to make a better movie.
We all want to make -- especially with our movies -- (films) that are emotional and personal. Some people are afraid. They're afraid to make a movie that deals with simples issues, like "Who are you?" and say the kinds of things are true to life. But it seems like, "It's too emotional. Don't gush over anything." It's an ongoing fight between filmmakers and studios.
Question: Can you talk about the lawsuit between Marvel and Sony?
Arad: That's Hollywood, you fight and make love on the same afternoon. When you deal with a studio, every studio has two major components. One is production, which is where we live. ... These guys we deal with every day, and it's a lovefest.
Then you have the business end. And in this business, as you know, there are walls between these two worlds. For me, it was a challenge because I have a public company. The thing that made it possible is look at it as a legal separation, but we both love the child. So you do what's right for the child.
And I knew it was just a matter of time. Lawyers do what lawyers do, God bless 'em.
And I can tell you for not one second -- forget what you read, forget what the Internet says -- the child was in jeopardy or treated different. Spider-Man was on all our minds at all times. Again, with the production side of the studio, and not for one second could I feel animosity, hostility. And it's tough. This was a public fight, but we all had on thing on our minds: to deliver this movie the way we did.
Question: What were the issues of this lawsuit? Was it money?
Arad: What else? You know what, it's not as simple as that. "What else" is the easy answer. There are issues. There are contracts, life is what it is. There are disputes, there are issues. It's normal. Because it's Marvel, Sony and Spider-Man, you heard about it. If it was any other character or anything less than that, it wouldn't have been an issue.
Question: What was the budget? Can you talk about that?
Question: Rumor is it was $200 million.
Arad: Well, that's why we call it rumors and we leave it like that. We don't talk about budgets. It's the wrong focus. The question is, whatever it costs, did we make a good movie? That's the question.
Question: Was this movie harder than the first one?
Arad: Physically, it was harder because we have very little time to make a movie this size. Physically, it was a tough movie. We were in the coldest days of New York and just as cold days in Chicago. So that was difficult.
But it was easier to make the story. Easier because Tobey (Maguire) is now Peter and Kirsten (Dunst) is now Mary Jane, so the voices were in place. I think the comrdaerie between Laura and Alvin and Sam and myself with the studio, the team was in place. Over the years, you either hate each other or become a family. We are a family. Even in between the movies, we stayed a family. That part made it much easier to deal with the incredible challenges of this movie.
Question: If Tobey Maguire was physically unable to be in the movie, would you have supported recasting? Would you have held up the movie?
Arad: No, we would have supported the recasting. It would have been a tragedy because Tobey is Peter and Peter is Tobey. It was scary. We have to move a little bit, but with the right harnesses and so on, it was actually for him an easier movie.
When you look at the kid, you think what can a harness do? I don't know if any of you ever sat in a harness. It's the opposite of a chiropractor. What he tries to do, the harness does the opposite. And he just came off a big action movie. It didn't look like a big action movie, but there's a lot of action riding a horse like that. It's tough. And he's had a bad back for years.
Question: Why did you call the film Spider-Man 2 when you had talked about Amazing Spider-Man?
Arad: Yeah, we did talk about Amazing Spider-Man. And then we talked about Spidey: No More and then we talked about Spidey: Unmasked. And then we decided that it's really Spider-Man, the story continued, the real definition of this movie. We added the numeral two to it. That was a long debate, but somehow you had to say to people, "Hey, this is the next one."
Amazing ... I don't know. What happens if it's not amazing. I can see the headlines, "It ain't amazing!" Let you tell us how amazing it is and instead of we tell you.
Question: The violence is up a notch. Were you worried it might be too intense for young children?
Arad: No, actually, what we did get here is much better action. As we all got confidence in the franchise, Sam could really do his storyboards in a very ambitious way. I think there are a couple of intense moments, but I don't think it's more violent. I rather look at it as action.
Question: Is the action diminished if an audience knows it's special effects?
Arad: I don't know, do we have any animated stuff in this movie? It's mostly physical. I am kidding.
It's about the total experience. It's like a good meal. If you end up the train scene, and you feel how can he shoot the webs this way or how did the building fall apart ... It didn't matter if you were going emotionally with him trying to save these people and the people's reaction was right. Especially at the end, to see that he was vulnerable.
Question: Sam said he can't imagine going beyond a third film. Do you see this like a Batman franchise, where you could have different Peter Parkers?
Arad: I really think that the Spider-Man movies are better than the Batman movies. I hope that Sam will have the energy to continue. And if he doesn't, we'll have to think about it.
This movie now has a very clear voice. When you see this movie, the same guys we fell in love it, they continue to grow together. Let's put it this way: I can sleep better knowing we have Sam for the next one. And then we will see if we can twist his arm and get him. Again, it depends, if the story is great, if the script is great and he's still in love and the team is together, I don't know ... I don't think today he would commit to movie six, but I think Sam genuinely loves this character and this movie, even more than the first, shows a total understanding of that.
Question: And what about the actors?
Arad: As long as they look young and in shape, why not?
Question: Are they signed?
Arad: For the third one? Yes. For a fourth one? Not yet.
E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com
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