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Emma Stone and 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' producers share stories

Emma Stone in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
Emma Stone in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
Columbia Pictures

In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Peter Parker/Spider-Man (played by Andrew Garfield) battles three villains: Electro (played by Jamie Foxx, who also plays Electro's alter ego Max Dillon), the Green Goblin (played by Dane DeHaan, who also plays Green Goblin’s alter ego Harry Osborn) and the Rhino (played by Paul Giamatti, who also plays the Rhino's alter ego Aleksei Sytsevich). There is also turmoil for web-slinging superhero in his personal life: Peter has an on-again/off-again relationship with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone), and he finds out some family secrets that involve his missing parents. Here is what Stone and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach said when I caught up with them at the New York City press junket for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

Emma Stone, Avi Arad and Matt Tolamach at the New York City press junket for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."
Emma Stone, Avi Arad and Matt Tolamach at the New York City press junket for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."
Carla Hay

There are some spoilers in "The Amazing Spider-Man" that I won't reveal. Has it become more and more difficult to keep storylines a secret in this Internet age? And what do you to prevent spoilers from leaking?

Arad: You cannot do it. What you can do is not spill things out and leave it up to speculation. People really know the comics, and they make an assumption. In this case, no one believed [the fate of a major character] could happen, which was a fun thing, so it became even more speculation. That's the love of the character and the speculation of the big moments in the various books.

Tomalch: But we did kind of keep it [a major spoiler] a secret. And the truth is, we came out of the premiere the other night, and my family (I lie to them all the time), they were like, "Wow! We didn't know you were doing that!"

It's very interesting in the world we live in, where there are so few secrets. I think there's also a healthy amount of respect that audiences have for the process. They want that experience that you have in the theater.

Arad: The biggest national sport among comic-book movies is speculation and trying to figure out what are these guys going to do next.

Some filmmakers create fake scripts in case any might get leaked. Did you ever go to those extremes?

Avad: No.

Tolmach: What you do is you really, really guard the screenplay. And that's what we did.

In some ways, Gwen Stacy is braver than Spider-Man because she helps Spider-Man take on the villains without using any weapons or superpowers. Can you talk about her bravery?

Stone: I love that. We ended up reshooting that scene at the end, where she says, "This is my choice. This is what I want." In that moment, she becomes the very opposite of the damsel in distress.

She's helped Peter so many times before. She helped him in the first movie with serum. Everyone's evacuating from the building, and she decides to stay behind. She was raised by the chief of police, so she has this heroic impulse to serve something greater than herself, in the same way that Peter does.

And that's why she understands Peter and is so insanely frustrated that he won't just accept that she's OK with him being Spider-Man and she doesn't need to be protected. And ultimately, that gets her in a little bit of a sticky situation.

Gwen Stacy's father, George Stacy (played by Denis Leary), died in "The Amazing Spider-Man" movie, but he is shown as hallucinatory visions of Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." Was Denis Leary on the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" set or were that footage from the first "Amazing Spider-Man" movie?

Tolmach: He was [on "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" set].

Arad: No one ever goes away forever. That's the beauty of it. That's the building block: the memories, the thing that turned Peter stronger. This movie makes him stronger and builds more character. So if anybody has a dream of a [dead character] coming back to the movies, it's not a difficult thing to do.

What had the most influence in the new Spider-Man costume that is in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"?

Arad: I'll tell you what really changed the costume here: online reactions. It's as simple as that. If you're in this business, especially particular franchises, you listen to the fans. They come back and tell you, "We weren't crazy about the first costume."

Especially when they are right, you correct it. That's the whole idea behind the social network. You take your shots, and if you get punched in the face, if you react, they acknowledge it too.

What if you think the fans are wrong?

Arad: We wouldn't do it if we didn't think they were right. We agreed with them, and we made the change. I think the second costume is much better than the first one.

Tolmach: That's always the dilemma when you make a movie like this. The good news is that everybody cares. There's a huge audience of people that deeply care, and they're really smart about it.

But we'd be abdicating our jobs and our responsibility if at a certain point we didn't say, "We've heard from everybody. Now here's the story we want to tell" or "Here's the costume we want to design."

That's our job. Sometimes we do it well. Sometimes the best we can do is to say, "You know what? We can do it better." And that's what came out of the last movie.

The same is true of the story you tell. At a certain point, you have to decide, "This is the story we're going to commit to. We're going to go down that road with these characters."

And there are always going to be people saying, "Well, you've got to tell this story, you've got to use this villain, there's got to be this girl." But it's up to us to decide what we think is best.

Arad: When you make a movie out of a comic, you enhance it, you develop it, you bring it to today's time, so it's relatable. Peter Parker now is relatable to multiple generations. But if you would've made him in 1965, he would've been a little old-fashioned. That's the whole idea behind these characters.

Tolmach: And to what Emma was saying, to me, it turns the whole superhero/damsel thing on its ear. She's the one calling the shots in this relationship. She's the one with an actual plan in her life. She's the one with genuine conviction, and he's chasing a little bit. And I love that. That's empowering and that's an interpretation of the comic.

Why did you decide the Rhino costume in the "Spider-Man" comics wasn't right for "The Amazing Spider-Man" movie?

Arad: The real inspiration for it was Oscorp. We made the decision, which was a hood decision, that Oscorp is a common denominator for Peter and Harry, for the villains, for everything that is happening. Even in ["The Amazing Spider-Man"], when Uncle Ben says, "I never liked this place or this people."

So, for us to take him and put [the Rhino] and put him in the most advanced technology, which was inspired by Ultimate, was the right thing to do. When you see at the end of the movie, you see the future, we set up a certain tone that will go in, and we have to move technology forward.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" was filmed entirely in New York state and mostly in New York City. What's gotten easier or harder about filming in New York. And Emma, as someone who lives in New York, what struck you as the most authentic New York thing about the movie?

Stone: All of it. We shot all over the city. We shot in Union Square and Chinatown and Queen and Harlem and Brooklyn. We were everywhere. It's so great to see that brought to life, not only in this universe, but also in 3-D. You really feel New York throughout this entire movie.

Tolmach: We have an dynamic. It's not easy to shoot in the city. There are a lot of limitations; the weather is the biggest one. But I think we found a rhythm with the city. I think there's a love of this character and with these movies. I think there was a lot of press about how we were the biggest movie shoot ever entirely in New York City.

I think even if people were annoyed one day that the traffic might have been held up, there was sort of an appreciation for what we were doing. We were hiring tons of people locally. We found a rhythm. Even on days were there were crowds or would have been issues, we managed to integrate people in the process.

Arad: It had a real effect on the local economy. I've seen it give a real boost to the mood in the city ... People notice it. They know it's the biggest movie ever brought here, and nothing came from out-of-state. It all came from here.

The city had great technical services, great actors, and the population was incredible. They were helpful. In the back of your mind, there were nightmares from 20 years ago from shooting here. Now, on the contrary, they were helping us. They were cheering.

In the comic books, Spider-Man is connected to several Marvel universes, including "X-Men" and "The Avengers." Do you think it's possible that the movie studios behind "Spider-Man" (Sony), "X-Men" (20th Century Fox), "The Avengers" (Disney) could collaborate to bring Spider-Man into other Marvel movie franchises?

Avad: [He says jokingly] Studios are usually very friendly with each other. [He says seriously] I think there are some stories that would fit beautifully into a crossover, but I think if we want to do the crossovers, it has to be a story that is absolutely centered on Spider-Man. We cannot become a second banana to anything out there, because [Spider-Man] is the king. This is the one that influenced young people from birth.

I'm not preaching, but Spider-Man/Peter Parker is too important to go in and use it as a side piece for promotional purposes. That's my opinion. The studio may disagree with me. Some fans may disagree with me, but I don't care. There are certain stories about Spider-Man that are incredible when mixed up with another universe.

Have you seen all the other Marvel Comics movies?

Arad: Of course. I see all of them. I view them all as my children. "The Avengers" was in a plan for a long time. When we did "Iron Man," people thought we were all nuts. No one really knew Iron Man, unless you were a comic-book fan. They thought it was a documentary about some competition in Hawaii.

So it's about dedication. The great thing is that today, our movies are meaningful. You leave a movie like "Spider-Man," I think you feel better about yourself. You want to do the right things, and you're inspired.

I think women around the world are so inspired by Emma as the [Gwen Stacy] character as an actress and by her grace and wisdom. That's what's important to us. To me, all these movies are good and they tell you something. I feel great. I feel like it's like watching the grandchildren play.

Emma, what has doing the "Spider-Man" movies meant to you?

Stone: It's been enormous. It's been three-and-a-half years of my life. It's the longest I ever worked on something creatively. I'm still in the thick of it right now.

I think the hindsight is going to be more valuable a year from now, when I'll be able to tell you all of the ways it's changed and affected my life. It's meant so much to me. It's been a hugely meaningful experience. It's huge.

Emma, what surprised you the most when you saw the final cut of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in terms of what translated from the script to the big screen?

Stone: I think it captured the script in a great way. The script was so beautifully done for this movie. The visual effects were what blew me away.

I saw it in IMAX 3-D, and the ripples on [Spider-Man's] suit, you feel like you are Spider-Man flying through the city. I had motion sickness, in the best way. I had positive "go see the movie" motion sickness.

For more info: "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" website