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Spinning The Spidey Franchise


By Paul Fischer - Posted on 16 June 2004

Los Angeles

Paul Fischer: What was the added challenge of doing Spider-Man 2?
Sam Raimi: Well, it was in trying to figure out what the audience wanted to see... I tried to concentrate the story and the writers on focusing on the relationships between Tobey Maguire's character and Kirsten Dunst's character and James Franco's character. And Peter's relationship with his aunt. These are the things that I thought the audience would be interested in most.

P.F.: Did you feel you had more freedom to make this a typical "Sam Raimi Film"?
Sam Raimi: I had a tremendous amount of freedom, a little bit unearned, on the first movie. But I didn't want to say anything. When I got the job, I really thought that the studio clamps were going to come down. 'Oh, you have to make it like this. You have to make it work like this.' But they really let me have anything that I wanted which was really surprising and fantastic. So I just kept my mouth shut and enjoyed myself trying to make the best picture that I could. Yes, I even had more freedom on this picture if that's possible; to construct the story, to create any visuals that I wanted, to really do anything that I wanted.

P.F.: Can you talk about some of the cameo spots?
Sam Raimi: I've always worked with a team of actors and filmmakers ever since I was a kid in Michigan making Super 8 movies. We'd make our movies and sometimes Bruce Campbell would be in front of the camera, sometimes Scott Spiegel would be in front of the camera. We would switch off directing and shooting the pictures. Then Bruce became the star of the movies because he was the good-looking one. He wasn't necessarily talented in front of the camera, but that's just how it worked out. So we still make those choices. You know, I put my little brother in the movies and he's still in the pictures. My mother makes me put him in the pictures. He's JK's assistant.

P.F. I see that Alfred Gough and Miles Millar are still credited on the project. Is that because they were the first writers on the project? And why did it take so many drafts?
Sam Raimi: Well, a lot of people worked on the screenplay. Spider-Man is really the property of all of these different writers for Marvel for forty years, and all the kids of America who have created their own Spider-Man stories in their heads. So I didn't think that it had to necessarily be the domain of one writer or the property of one writer. Spider-Man is everyone's. Because the source material came from so many sources, I just wanted to get a lot of ideas from a lot of people and put them together into the best picture that I could.

P.F.: And the final credit?
Sam Raimi: On the writing? Well, not all the writers are credited. Dave Koeppe wrote a very good draft. My brother Ivan Raimi contributed a lot. But the Writers' Guild has its own system. I can't say that I know what it is of determining credit, and that's how they assign the credit.

P.F.: Can you talk about working with Alfred Molina (the mad scientist villain, Dr. Octopus)?
Sam Raimi: I was looking for someone who could perform the part. My wife said, 'You've got to look at this guy, he's in Frida". I watched the movie. It was a brilliant movie and he was outrageously good in it. So good, I only realized later that I had seen him in many other pictures, but he's such a chameleon that I didn't know it at the time. When I met him, I expected him to have a Spanish accent. I was completely bowled over when I found out that he was a Brit. He's very funny. Why he was chosen was because we needed a really solid actor. Someone... who had the ability to project real warmth, so that Peter could connect with him... He was someone who became tragic because of what they had lost as a human being and someone who could become noble at the end by finding it again. So to be able to do that, I think that someone has to have a good soul. They have to be a good actor and have a good soul. I think that the audience can see right through someone who is trying to do that... And he had to have a physical element to him, because this character in the comics was always illustrated as a large man... I needed a large man to put these arms on otherwise they may dwarf a small man. It had to have a visual symmetry. It had to work as a visual, I mean. So he was a larger man, a great actor, seemed to be a good person, had a good sense of humour and my wife said so.

P.F.: How worried that you weren't going to get Tobey back because of his injury (sustained while filming Seabiscuit)?
Sam Raimi: His back was in such a state I was told by someone, I don't know who, some manager or agent or representative, but I was told that his back was in such a state that if it got injured anymore, it could maybe lead to paralysis. So at that moment, I said to myself, 'I can't be irresponsible. I can't make a movie about responsibility and then grab this kid and make him do stunts where he's going to be paralyzed. And I can't compromise the movie either." This whole movie that I'd been working with the writers on was all about Peter Parker. He's got to be on wires. He's got to be jerked up into the air super fast. He's got to tackle people. He's got to jump. He's got to take falls. He's got to run. There's just a tremendous amount of physical stunts that Tobey would have to do. So I couldn't ask him to do something that would endanger him. Nor did I want to be in a position where I kept shorting the movie where I was afraid to ask him to do it because I have a great responsibility towards the picture. So at that point, I guess that I realised we'd have to recast the role. As much as I love Tobey, and as much as I had to fight for him on the first film, I didn't think that it was any longer feasible, period, to work with him. So that's really what it was. The doctors came to us and said, 'Look, he is okay. Yes, he can bend his back more. It's more about pain. He won't be paralyzed.' I like causing actors pain. So if it wasn't about the paralysis that became a whole different issue. So at that point, I thought that Tobey was responsible enough to take the choice onto himself, and I felt okay with that.

P.F.: Will he back in number three?
Sam Raimi: He'll be back in number three, yes.

P.F.: Do you want to get back to your roots?
Sam Raimi: Well, my interests have changed. When I started to break into the business 24 or 25 years ago and I was shooting that movie in '79, I was trying to make the picture as visually interesting as possible. Since I knew that I didn't have a good story and I didn't have movie stars and it was only sixteen millimetre, it was going to be really grainy, I was just trying to make it interesting and exciting for the audience in some way through sound design and lighting design. That's the great thing about a supernatural horror film. If you're breaking into the business, you can really experiment with those elements because your job is to create an unseen world, a world that doesn't exist. So for a young filmmaker, it's a great learning ground, a great world to explore your craft. That's what interested me the most really, exploring the craft of film. But as I grew older and I matured and became a married man and had children, my interests lay in stories more and characters and people and life itself. I'm still fascinated by the technical aspects of film, but now only as a device to tell these stories.

P.F.: How did you look at the first Spider-Man film and go, "We can do this better?"
Sam Raimi: I didn't really look at the first film like that. I was just so interested in what would become of Peter. I was looking forward more. I wondered if he could really live without Mary Jane Watson. I wondered if I could. I wondered what would happen to him after two years of being Spider-Man. And what poor Harry must be thinking. But I didn't really look back and say, 'How can this be better?' I did in some respect as far as personal... like when we were organizing the offices. I said, 'Hey, lets get an office where we don't hear that stereo coming through the wall like last time.' There was some horrible noise coming through the wall, I remember. 'That was really a good actress, let's use her again.' That's more how I looked back...It's really, unlike a small movie, the success or failure of a big picture really depends on the team that makes it. I mean from the production designer to the costumer to the visual FX designer to the editor to the sound designer, the mixers. These guys are generals that really make the movie in the trenches. And they surround themselves with really fine artists and craftsmen. That's really how these pictures are made and it's so big. It's such a humongous task that really no individual could make a movie this big. It finally boils down to how good of a team you have to make a picture like this.

P.F.: Is the third one set to open two years from now?
Sam Raimi: I think that Sony has a release date.

P.F.: So three years from now?
Sam Raimi: Yes.

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