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SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2006

COMIC-CON: SPIDER-MAN 3 PRESS ROUNDTABLE -- SAM RAIMI, TOBEY MAGUIRE AND KIRSTEN DUNST

SAN DIEGO -- They've been around for all three Spider-Man movies, so it seemed only right that director Sam Raimi and actors Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) and Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson) were the first group from Spider-Man 3 to be interviewed by some 40 journalists on Sunday before the film's panel at Comic-Con International.

Following is an edited transcription of the interview, after Raimi confirmed that Venom will be the villain along with

Dunst: I thought I let that out of the bag awhile ago.

Raimi: You hinted at it.

Question: What made you want to bring in Vemon?

Raimi: Avi Arad -- who really has got his (finger on) the pulse of the Marvel fans better than head of a corporation has ever understood those people who are inerested in a corporation's products; he really knows what those kids want -- he said, "You've had two Spider-Man films, this third one, there are so many kids, so many fans of Spider-Man that want to see Venom. Even if you didn't grow up with him, they want to see him. You've got the Sandman, that's one of your favorite ones, why don't you bring in Venom and make those kids, fans of Venom happy?"

So I thought that's what I should do.

Question: So how do you feel about Venom?

Raimi: Now that I've seen Topher Grace perform him and saw what Alvin Sargent did with the script, he created a great character, really filled out Eddie Brock into a great character. And Tobey has great energy with him in the few scenes they play together as competitors. I really like him now.

Question: How different will Venom be than he's been before?

Raimi: We had a great design team, led by James Acheson, our costume designer, working with a brilliant team of sculptors, artists and painters. We studied all the different looks of Venom. We tried to take the ones that would work best for us but also the ones that Avi felt were the most classic elements -- and base it on that.

Question: Story-wise, how do you make it work in the world of Spider-Man?

Raimi: That's a good question. There are a lot of fantastic elements about Venom that you could say are in conflict with the realism that we wanted to have in the picture. We just say to ourselves, "Kirsten and Tobey, you're just going to have to do the heavy lifting here to bring it back down to Earth because he's this wild goof from outer space."

Question: Tobey, talk about the new costume. Is it a lot different for you?

Maguire: No really. Pretty much the same. What it feels like, the materials, is similar. It's probably a little sleekier and sexier -- kind of more like me in real life. (laughs)

Question: There's been some speculation about Harry Osborne as the third villain. The Batman films faltered when they had too many villians. How do you pull that off?

Raimi: Well, Spider-Man comic books had all these characters and successfully interwove their stories. A lot of what we're doing is not introducing elements. Like if Harry Osborn does decided to seek vengeance upon Peter Parker for the death of his father, it's certainly something that has been set up in the first and the second picture. This is more the conclusion of that. We have less work to do in that sense of not just introducing all these people.

What of the other villains we've tried to weave the story into Peter Parker's important personal life in as important of a way as we could -- in a way that hopefully will make more of the first two pictures and give us insights into what we've seen before.

I think probably only with the Brock character is there a complete new introduction of elements into Peter's life. But that's OK, I think, because he can meet new people, too.

Question: Kirsten and Tobey, talk about where your characters are.

Dunst: For Mary Jane, basically she's still an actress and you could see where it was heading towards in the last film with Peter. Emotionally, it's much more adult and mature and there's a lot more at stake because of their relationship -- they're together. Emotionally, there's a lot more at stake for all the characters.

With their relationship, they're older and developed more and become complicated. Emotionally, it's a much heavier film.

Maguire: There's obviously a continuity of character that you have to keep up. Peter Parker is Peter Parker, so it's imporant to not just to try to create new kind of things for Peter just for the sake of that. But I don't necessarily want to see the same kinds of scenes played out and Peter go through the same kinds of things that he's gone through.

So I think that Alvin (Sargent) and the other people who had input into Peter's story and what Peter's going through in this movie did a fantastic job. As an actor, for me, there was nothing stale about it. I got to approach it and I got to do new, fun interesting things for myself.

In terms of the specifics of what that are, you'll see when you see the movie.

Question: What was it like to be sink your teeth dark?

Maguire: It was, again, because we've gone into some interesting areas, it was new and fun for me without losing touch of who Peter is, so I really enjoyed the things I got to do in the movie.

Question: Whether or not there are more Spider-Man films, does this kind of bring the whole story to a close?

Dunst: There's definitely a culmination. It definitely ties up some story lines. If there are more stories to tell, there are things that are unresolved and people tell them. If everyone's game and there's a good story, I'll be back.

Question: Talk about the new cast, Topher and Thomas, and also casting Grew Stacy.

Dunst: They had to cast someone with red hair to make up for it.

Raimi: We didn't know. We just cast the best actress for the part. Tobey, our producer Laura Ziskin, myself, Grant Curtis just tried the best actress for the role. Best actress. Best actress. Not someone who looked Gwen Stacy in the comic books.

Although once the actress would have been cast, that would have been our immediate job: how can we make her look like the image the kids had grown up with. Casting, we were just trying to find the right person who could make it real, take the dialogue and make it to life, read it in a most unexpected way, bring some life to it, make it interesting and exciting for me who, was watching, for Tobey, who was acting in it, and for Laura, who was watching with us. That's what really the casting was about.

The moment came when Bryce read one particular scene and it came to life for us suddenly. And we all look at each and felt energized. It was a different thing than with Kirsten and Tobey, because we were after a different relationship there.

Here, we were looking for a great actress and that seemed to jump out at us.

Question: I always look at Spider-Man as anti-hero. Have you made a conscious effort to portray him as more of a dark character?

Maguire: That is sort of part of our storyline. In terms of my perspective of my perception of it historically... you're like trying to frame the history your experience of Spider-Man into how I portrayed the character.

Question: I read the 60s version of Spider-Man, where he was very cynical.

Maguire: I don't know. I haven't thought it about like that. I didn't really read those comics. I read a few of years of them from 60s and I didn't read them quite like that. So I'm not sure. I'll have to think about that.

Question: Talk about shooting in Cleveland. Was that just for economic reasons?

Raimi: Cleveland was wonderful to us. They really put out the red carpet for us and allowed us to do a tremendous amount of shooting. So we're very thankfor to that city.

What happened was that the soundstages are in Los Angeles, because we're at Columbia Pictures, so we shot right in the backlot at Columbia Pictures in Los Angeles. All the stage work was done there, or 90 pecent of it. And then, New York has always been the city of Spider-Man, so went to New York to shoot all the location photography.

Now there's a car action sequence in the story. We couldn't ask Manhattan, Manhattan couldn't give us 10 straight blocks of city dedicated to our car chase, but Cleveland could.

We sent a second unit there under the direction of dan Bradley, a great stunt coordinator and second-unit director I've worked with before, to shoot the car action stunt there. So for like 10 days were able to monopolize these streets. That's why we shot in Cleveland.

Question: How does it feel to be turned into action figures?

Dunst: It doesn't really look like me. For me, I don't have a weird connection, like, "Oh, that looks like me." It's nice if girls want to buy the Mary Jane doll, but I don't really feel like any connection, to speak of.

Maguire: I guess it's a little surreal. I haven't actually gone to the store and seen them on the shelves or anything. I think that might be an interesting experience.

Raimi: I'm still waiting for my action figure, by the way.

Question: Is Bruce Campbell in the film?

Raimi: He plays a cameo, yeah. He's got a new character?

Question: Mysterio?

Raimi: We can't say.

Question: The special effects in the second film were beyond the first. How do you do something different this time?

Raimi: I think what's different is we have new challenges this time. We have to bring about the Sandman. We've got a great special effects designer, Scott Stokdyk, who was one of the two fellas who did the first two Spider-Man pictures, along with John Dykstra.

Now he's got the job alone. We've got a lot of the same animators. We've replaced a lot of them; others have moved on. But the core team is there and we've tried to build upon it.

We've become better at working with animation. I've learned a lot over the last five years. Directing animated picture after animated picture you start to understand what's working, what's not and why.

But as far as the technical aspects and what the new hurdles are, it's really about bringing about Sandman to the screen. How can we make it believable to the audience? Not just fantastic, but believable that this fella could turn into sand and become this substance and still be a human being -- without the audience feeling the hand of manipulation of the artist and getting into the dream of it.

It's about the technical expertise and artistic expertise. And they've made a lot of new techniques available to themselves, they've developed some new programs, written some new programs and taken some existing software and combined it in new ways we haven't seen, new applications.

And a lot of ideas that they've done some ground breaking on and are still ground breaking on. We're still not sure we can do it, actually.

Question: What about Venom?

Raimi: Venom is less than of a technical challenge and more of an artistic challenge in trying to catch the spirt of this very powerful, somewhat spider-ized, graceful-but-animal, not Spider-man style of movement. That's more about trying to catch a dance form on the screen.

Question: Will you be using Danny Elfman's them?

Raimi: Right now, I haven't even spoken to Danny. But right now, I hope it will be Danny Elfman, working with Chris Young.

Question: Nic Cage said that Ghost Rider could beat Spider-Man. What do you think about that?

Maguire: I don't think that deserves an answer. (laughs)

Question: How about the physical aspects. How's your back?

Maguire: My back's fine, thanks. I enjoy doing the stuff and I do the stuff that I can do. It's an interesting part of the job. When I watch the stuntmen do the really, really crazy stuff, my mind gets blown and I can't believe they do that. It's really amazing.

Me saying this is a little ill-advised. I don't understand how they do this, actors come in and say, "I do all my own stunts." By the way, I just want to tell guys that any actor who tells you they do all their own stunts is not telling you the truth. Unless they jump over a little gate or something.

Question: You're bringing Gwen into the film. Are you going to kill either her or Mary Jane.

Raimi: I wouldn't dream of it, sir. The villains may have something else in mind. (laughs)

Raimi: What's been easier each time is getting to know the family we work with to the point where they become complete collaborators, from Laura Ziskin to Alvin Sargent, Tobey, Kirsten, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, the directors of photography, the animators I was speakng of, the editors.




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