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SAN DIEGO -- Ask Thomas Haden Church about Spider-Man 3, and he can be as elusive as the sand that makes up his character.

Questions about plot points, certain moments in the film or Sandman's role are often greeted with a deadpanned and laugh-generating, "I don't even know if I'm in Spider-Man 3." It's a nice way to have fun with the press because both parties know he can't reveal the top-secret goods of the film.

So following the recent press roundtable with the cast of the film at Comic-Con International, The Continuum's quickly arranged, one-on-one interview with Church was short but sweet, avoiding those hot-button topics but providing some insight into his work on Spider-Man 3.

The Continuum: Were you aware of the reaction when the first image of you in character was released?

Church: Yeah, there was a gigantic stack of printouts from all the downloads and stuff -- all the Internet chatter.

The Continuum: In the trailer, there's an image of you that looks just like the original comic book.

Church: Yes..(Gleefully laughs) There were a number of guys that drew him over the years, and it always kind of changed.

I mean, I have the very first one. Sam (Raimi, director) gave me an original, the very first Sandman.

The Continuum: That was like the third issue?

Church: It was the fourth. I have it on the wall at my ranch.

The Continuum: Was it fun bringing that to life?

Church: It's a pretty gigantic challenge. You just want to do what's requested because it's a giant machine and there's so much at stake, so much money and Sony marketing and how the movie ultimately opens next year. It starts here. This is really the big publicity launch.

The Continuum: What's it like working with Sam?

Church: He's very specific, demanding but in a very positive, very collaborative way. I've said in other interviews that Sam pushes you to deliver what he knows ultimately and he will be the happiest with. Not just him. It's not about what the director demands.

He pushed me hard, particularly in the emotional stuff, but it's because he knows once it's in the camera, it's there forever and you just can't, on a movie like this, go back and redo a bunch of stuff. It's just too gigantic, with all the special effects stuff that goes.

And that's where I think he's absolutely masterful at nailing the emotional content, each moment. He's unrelenting in his pursuit of that. But every single day I worked with him, I ended the day by hugging him and thanking him for pushing me as hard as he did.

A lot of directors just kind of leave it up to you. It's not that they're lazy. They just think that a lot of the job is how the camera helps tell the story and all the of the pre-production stuff and post-production stuff and the people they've hired to execute the vision. A lot of directors think that the actor has to bring most of the game and then he's just there to tweak it. Where Sam is really in there and he's collaborative.

The Continuum: He seems to have worked that way for quite some time. I remember seeing him with Tobey (Maguire) on the first film.

Church: Yeah. Tobey's terrific, though. For such a young guy, he has an excellent grasp and understanding of dramatic story-telling.

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