The Bloomington, Ind. native says it’s important to present a Spider-Man that is not stoic, but a kid. He says it’s important for heroes to express their emotions and allow them to flow in a way that is true and authentic. He wants to see characters crack open, when life is at its must brutal but also at its most joyful.
Of course, filming the sequel on location in New York was a challenge in keeping secrets in the story under wraps.
Webb recently spoke about returning to helm the sequel, reuniting with Garfield and Stone and bringing on board new characters to the franchise.
Q: How hard it is to keep secrets about the film from getting leaked while you’re making it, especially filming in New York with paparazzi everywhere?
Webb: It’s tricky. We have to be very careful. The crew did a pretty good job of protecting a lot of the secrets and there are so many indicators and so much interest and enthusiasm for the character. It’s funny because we’ll be careful to shoot certain specific scenes on stages and protect the identities and the evolutions of the characters as we’re shooting. Then, of course, the marketing department is trying to reveal those things as carefully as they can. It is tricky. We wanted to shoot it all in New York and we wanted to get out there and integrate with the world around you. That, of course, invites a certain amount of scrutiny. It’s tricky, but ultimately the real important thing for us is to try to make the best movie possible. That’s always the priority.
Q: You are now two movies in. How does this storyline set itself apart from the first Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” films?
Webb: First and foremost, it’s the Gwen Stacy saga. The Gwen Stacy storyline in the comic book was very specific. It hadn’t been rendered before and this was a culmination and obviously a huge part of it. It was something that was intended from the beginning, and built up from the get-go. Thematically, there are ideas and notions that emerged from that storyline that I don’t think had been explored before … and we have Emma and Andrew.
Q: There are a lot of great scenes between those two in the film. How much of that is written and how much is improvised?
Webb: We would rehearse it and those ideas would come out and they would be put into script. There was a work-shopping component to it, and then on-set we would do a couple takes, and then, like in the closet. Emma has a great experience with this working with Judd and all those guys. You’re trying to create a sort of naturalism, and anytime you’re just reading a line you’ve got to be in touch with something else real underneath it. That’s what’s so great about those guys is they’re really flexible and they can build on each other’s quips and nuances and that creates a different kind of feeling than you normally get in a movie. So there is improvisation— it’s not just lines, it’s attitudes and movements. That sense of authenticity and realness is a really great thing to see in a movie. It’s sort of a secret-weapon and just makes you feel something you don’t normally get to feel.
Q: What was it like to direct Jamie Foxx, who plays Electro?
Webb: He’s amazing. It’s unfair that all that exists in just one person because he’s got an emotional intelligence that is just profound. He understands the character in such a deep way. If you spend 10 minutes with him, he’ll do five minutes of stand-up, then he’ll do his deejay set and then he’ll talk to you about your mother and what’s happening with your mother and how that is going to impact you in the future. There’s a thoughtfulness in him, and then he’ll sit down and invent a song for you. He’s a genius in a very real sense of the word. Even when we went on the road, he get’s everybody riled up and excited and he’s very connected with what people want. It’s a very uncynical embrasure of what it is to be a performer, an entertainer. It comes from a deep deep place of love. He’s an inspiring guy, he really is.
Q: Was there was any real-life inspiration for the labs in the movie? Did you visit anything or see anything like that?
Webb: Yeah, we looked a lot at real laboratories. My mom worked in a lab for her entire career. I grew up in Wisconsin next to a university, and my brother is an engineer, I’ve spent so much of my life at lunchtime sitting while my mom is drawing blood or studying, just being in a laboratory. The very specific smells that come from laboratories and the incinerators that come from that, I’m familiar with, so yeah, there’s always some foundation in reality, though science and technology in this universe is what allows you to access the subconscious. It’s a little bit absurd and a little bit surreal, but it’s not meant to be realistic. It’s meant as a way to crack the world open and reveal parts of ourselves and the surreal, mystical parts of storytelling that you need to access.
Q: I saw a couple of space suits in the background of one of the scenes.
In terms of the laboratories, we looked a lot at real laboratories.
Webb: It was my Halloween costume. Yes, I was an astronaut for Halloween last year. It was a ploy to get in with the costume house to do that. There was a back-story in terms of Oscorp. Norman (Osborn) had worked on some of the suits as a young man; that was one of our little stories that we told to ourselves. Mark Friedberg, our production designer, came up with that history.
Q: Are there going to be any Sinister Six members (a group of supervillains from the Marvel universe) in your films that changes similar to that?
Webb: We’ll see. We still have to develop those costumes, don’t we? And Drew Goddard, who I think is working on them at Sinister 6 as we speak, he’ll have those answers. We always want to be loyal to the spirit of the characters.
Q: What did you see in Dane DeHaan in terms of casting him for the role of Harry Osborn/Green Goblin?
Webb: Well, he was kind of an outlier. I had seen him in “Chronicle” and thought he was great. It was Andrew who was an advocate of him. We brought him in kind of at the last minute. There are so many great actors in the world, but it’s really about dynamics and it happens when you’re casting romantic relationships or parental relationships. You have to cast a dynamic, a chemistry, right? Andrew and Dane felt there was a brotherly relationship that was very specific in terms of their dynamic that emerged during the screen testing. It was an even playing field, which is a different from James Franco and Toby Maguire (who played the characters in the previous film series), for example, but it felt appropriate to the comic books.