A few weeks ago I posted some cool comments from Rhys Ifans about being cast as one of the villains in the new Spider-Man reboot. But Ifans isn’t the only cast member excited about digging into the Spider-Man legacy, and there are some really great interviews out there where leads Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) talk about how they feel about being a part of what I hope will be a worthy reinvention of one of my favorite childhood heroes.
We’ll begin with Garfield, whose enthusiasm for the role bodes spectacularly well. He told BANG Showbiz that he hasn’t met his predecessor Tobey Maguire yet but heaped plenty of praise on Maguire’s turn as Peter Parker.
“No, I haven’t met with Tobey Maguire, no. But I am a massive fan of his and I loved his and Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ movies. They are equally as much a part of the importance to me as the old comics and cartoons. We’re going to work hard to get this right.”
Answering a fan’s question at Total Film about which villain he’d most like to fight, he excitedly named nearly all of them.
MTV Splash Page posted a really great interview with him that really sums up why I think he’s perfect for this. He talks about everything from how cool it’s going to be for his nephews to have Spider-Man for an uncle to working with Heath Ledger to honoring the character he loved so much as a kid himself::
MTV NEWS: Has there been a surreal moment from 2010 that kind of encapsulates what a crazy year it’s been for you?
ANDREW GARFIELD: I did have a strange moment when I was told I was going to play this role. I was like, “Oh, wow, this is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid.” There was a moment of total boyish excitement. It was this cosmic convergence where I was in the past, present and future all at once. In the future, I was thinking about my nephews that are going to have an uncle who’s Spider-Man, but then I thought that could be bad because kids can bully you for any reason, and it’s like, “Where’s your uncle now when I’m beating the sh– out of you?” I’ll have to go to their school a lot, but by that time I’ll be really old and fat and no one will believe I was Spider-Man. Then I was thinking about the past and when I was first shown a “Spider-Man” comic. It inspired me because I was one of those people who felt stronger on the inside than they looked on the outside. And then in the present moment, I was thinking this moment is something I’ll never forget.
MTV: There was so much competition to play Peter Parker. Do you ever think, “Why me?” In your own mind, what is it that you think won you the role?
GARFIELD: I have no idea! I’m glad I didn’t have to make the decision. I have no idea why they cast me. If I started thinking about that, I think I’d sabotage myself and have to pull myself out of the movie and be like, “I think you made the wrong decision.”
MTV: Don’t do that! We spoke to Kirsten Dunst recently and she said that two things the new cast has to get used to are swinging around a lot and acting to nothing? Can you handle that?
GARFIELD: I’m OK with swinging. I’ve been swinging since I was four. Wait, no, that can be misinterpreted!
MTV: That’d be a very different movie.
GARFIELD: My goodness.
MTV: Where do we go from here? Tennis balls?
GARFIELD: Yes, tennis balls. Acting with tennis balls and green screen and all that, I love that idea. I did “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” with Terry Gilliam and that was the first time I did green screen stuff. I actually loved it. Sure, I love being in a real environment, but on the flipside, to step back into your childhood imagination that you have to employ, I love that. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun and playful and childish. It’s another skill to try and hone.
MTV: It’s interesting you bring up “Doctor Parnassus.” You shot that with Heath Ledger right after he filmed “The Dark Knight.” Did the two of you ever talk about his experience bringing an iconic comic book character to the screen?
GARFIELD: We never really talked about that. The movie wasn’t out, but I knew how excited he was. I was talking to his friends about it, who had been involved in the process, and they were so jazzed about how people were going to react to him. What I learned from watching him in that movie was that it was so honest and specific. Somehow he made this very broad character incredibly honest and human. There’s so much to be learned from that, because otherwise during the big fight sequences, who cares, unless you have a good understanding of who the characters fighting are? I’m really excited for Marc Webb, because he’s a real stickler for that sort of stuff. He wants everything to come from Peter Parker’s dilemma, Gwen Stacy’s dilemma, Uncle Ben’s dilemma — everyone’s struggles, so that in those bigger sequences, it’s actually not just a cool fight, but there’s heart and specificity.
MTV: I would imagine at this point everyone is giving you advice, mostly unsolicited, about the best way to bring Spider-Man to life. Is there one piece of advice that really sticks out for you as being spot-on?
GARFIELD: I was told by someone who should be listened to — I’m not going to say who it was — he said, “Don’t try and live up to it. Don’t think you have to live up to what that image and that symbol means to people.” And first I thought that was really reassuring. But then you go, “No, I really want to live up to that symbol.” When I was 12-years-old I saw the struggle Peter Parker was going through to be of use to society, I wanted to live up to that. And I realized that even Peter Parker is trying to live up to that symbol of Spider-Man he’s created. That’s what makes him so special: he’s undeniably human and going through the same struggles as everyone else. So you try to live up to that symbol and then you have to be OK not living up to it, because not even Peter Parker can do it.
MTV: We spoke to Stan Lee recently, who said the thing to remember is that for all his superpowers, Peter Parker is just a very simple, everyday kid who’s good at science and wishes he were more than he is. That sound like good advice to you?
GARFIELD: It’s so universal. That’s what keeps us getting out of bed in the morning. That’s fantastic advice. And coming from Stan Lee, this character is his child and I want to do his vision justice. I want to do him proud. I want to access all of the intentions he had when developing this character. I care very deeply.
Fantastic stuff, and MTV goes out of their way to mention how nice a guy Garfield is.
Meanwhile, Hero Complex has one of my favorite Garfield bits so far:
“This is a beloved character and, you know, ironically, I’m gonna be the person in the audience going … ‘Who cast this English fool?’” he joked last week at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, although he added a few salty words for emphasis. He was sitting with peers Jesse Eisenberg and Carey Mulligan on a Young Hollywood panel hosted by the Los Angeles Times and AFI Fest.
Garfield, who was born in L.A. but raised in Britain, said he views the “Spider-Man” story like one of William Shakespeare’s plays, with new actors continually given the opportunity to play the same characters year after year. The 27-year-old also seems to be channeling some of Peter Parker’s self-esteem issues, even if only for comedy.
“That is something that I tell myself every night before I go to sleep: ‘It’s OK. It’s OK. Even though Tobey Maguire is genius, you are OK,’” the self-deprecating actor said. “I think that it’s just another step in the legacy. And then after I do it and mess it up, someone else will come and save the day and do a fantastic job and I’ll be old and fat and bearded and smoking and upset that he’s so good.”
I’ve long said that Superman and Batman and Spider-Man are our modern American myths, and Garfield agrees in his chat with Hollywood News:
As Spider-Man, Garfield’s going to find it near impossible to avoid seeing himself everywhere. Yet when asked about his approach to taking on such a massive task, Garfield says he’s attempting to view it as just another role in just another movie.
“That may be naïve of me, but that’s how I’m treating it,” Garfield said. “I’m honestly treating it like this is a role that has meant a lot to me since I was four years old. And I have been waiting for the call since then to be given the opportunity to play with a bunch of awesome cameras and effects and to feel like I’m swinging through New York City. It’s a childhood fantasy come to life. But I’m just treating it like an extension of my seven-year-old self jumping for joy and climbing up doorframes. I’m just going to play to like I always have played it in my living room! It’s just an extension of that, with a bigger set, a bit more money, and a better costume. Although my mum’s homemade costume was pretty wicked.”
As for the challenge of playing a superhero from an actor’s standpoint, Garfield contends, “Its mythology. Comic books are derived from mythology. It’s ancient storytelling. It’s Shakespearean and Greek. It speaks to the same themes of what it means to be alive that a film like ‘Never Let Me Go’ deals with. [Spider-Man’s] struggle is the same as every young boy’s struggle. Who am I? What’s the best way to live? How can I serve something greater than what I am? Is there a purpose in this life? All of these themes … I find it just as rich. I’m so excited.”
While talking with Parade, he invokes Indiana Jones …
“Spider-Man has his own conflicts, tortured but also having fun with what he can do. It’s that attitude towards life like, ‘Today’s a good day to die. You gotta go out with a with a bang.’ I think that’s definitely an Indiana Jones quality, that fearlessness, throwing caution to the wind. I’m very excited to jump into that.”
… and talks about playing a teenager at 27:
“I still look 18 years old, and I can convince people that I’m a teenager still. I have my teen side. I’m still very insecure and I can get rebellious and act out and kick and scream and mope around like teenagers do. So the majority of me is still a teenager.”
I think he’s really tapped into something vital here, because we can all relate to Peter Parker in the sense that we all know what it’s like to feel that our best is never enough, or that our best intentions still seem to go astray sometimes, even when we never intended for them to.
The Hollywood Reporter got some classic gems from him, too:
I have been waiting for this phone call for 24 years, for someone to call me up and say, “Hey, we want you to pretend to be a character that you’ve always wanted to be all your life, and we’re going to do it with cool cameras and cool effects and you’re going to feel like you’re swinging through New York City. Do you want to do that?” [laughs] “Let me just consult with my seven-year old self and see what he thinks…” So my seven-year-old self started screaming in my soul and saying, This is what we’ve been waiting for. Like every young boy who feels stronger on the inside than they look on the outside, any skinny boy basically who wishes their muscles matched their sense of injustice, God, it’s just the stuff that dreams are made of, for sure. It’s a true fucking honor to be part of this symbol that I actually think is a very important symbol and it’s meant a great deal to me, and it continues to mean something to people. So yeah, I feel like I’ve been preparing for it for a while. Ever since Halloween when I was four years old and I wore my first Spider-Man costume.
Also from THR, on how he wraps his brain around how the role will change his life:
Not to give it credence, not to give it any of my energy. Just approach it like any other job that I care about deeply. That may be naive of me to think that I can just get away with that. But if you give focus to something, it will grow. I just want to be an actor, really. And of course all those things came into consideration when I was making the decision. But at the end of the day, I had faith that I would be able to not be defined by it. And I still have faith that I will be able to get lost in roles and just keep doing what I love to do.
I’ve witnessed other friends go through it, so I’m aware of the pitfalls, for sure. So I already feel as prepared as I can be, and also no advice can really prepare you for something so visceral.
On the physical preparation:
I’m sure there will be a bunch of that, yeah. Flexibility is my main focus right now. Making sure that I can be as flexible as possible.
And I think that’s really important. Spider-Man is meant to be lean and agile like an acrobat rather than a mountain of muscle.
So taking all of this into consideration, I think there’s no doubt at all we’ve got the perfect man for the job. Garfield is a capable combination of talent and whiz-bang enthusiasm bolstered by an intellectual understanding of comics as modern mythology.
I’m the first to admit that I couldn’t have cared less when he was initially cast, and I even said so. But it had nothing to do with Garfield himself. I was just so bitter about Spider-Man 3 that I couldn’t imagine ever getting excited about this character on the big screen again.
Garfield has changed that. He feels the way I’d feel if I ever got a job like this (though I’d rather be writing it than acting it, even though I spent more hours than Garfield did playing superheroes as a kid), and he speaks the language, and all of those things point to a very different kind of Spider-Man movie.
And then we’ve got the lovely, talented, and hilarious Emma Stone, who’s playing Peter’s first true (and ultimately tragic) love from the comics, Gwen Stacy, previously (and relatively briefly) seen (via Bryce Dallas Howard) in Spider-Man 3.
I love Emma Stone. And since I’ve always seen her as a Mary Jane Watson rather than a Gwen Stacy, I can’t wait to see what she does with the role.
Neither can she.
Once again, MTV Splash Page lands a whopper of an interview:
MTV: Which raises the question, are you ready for something as big as “Spider-Man”? Can you ever be ready for something like that?
STONE: The way I have to approach it, and I think Andrew would agree, is just like any other movie. You’re going to put the same amount of focus into this that you would with anything. It just happens to be an exponentially bigger budget. So there’s that. It’ll probably feel different when we start to do press, but we won’t have to deal with that for another year and a half. And there are harnesses I’m going to have to use in this one. That’s the only difference. Just the harnesses.
MTV: So you guys are in rehearsals, right? What is that process like at this point?
STONE: Today I went and did hair tests, because I have blonde hair now since Gwen has blonde hair. My natural hair is blonde, so it’s kind of nice. I looked in the mirror and said, “Oh my god, it’s me again, it’s been so long!” We’re finalizing the visual stuff. And I think we’ll start actually rehearsing, because we start shooting in two weeks. Andrew and I went and learned about science yesterday. Gwen really likes science, so we learned about science. I was home-schooled, so I never went to chemistry class in a traditional setting like Gwen is into. That was really beneficial.
MTV: We spoke to Kirsten Dunst recently and she said that two things you guys have to get used to are swinging around a lot and acting to nothing.
STONE: That makes total sense. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t know how it’ll go. I don’t get motion-sickness, so I hope that doesn’t change.
MTV: What have you conversations with Marc been like? Has he encouraged you to go back and read the comics or just concentrate on what’s on the page?
STONE: There are a lot of changes happening on a day to day basis. There’s a lot of open dialogue about where we’re going with this and how Peter and Gwen are going to come together and what makes the most sense for the story we’re telling. It’s an ever-changing thing. We’re still in that development period. It’s so fantastic. My background is in improv and things like that, so this kind of ever-changing nature is ideal for me.
MTV: We got to see you kick a little bit of ass in “Zombieland”? Is Gwen gonna get to do some fighting or is she more of a damsel in distress?
STONE: I wouldn’t call Gwen a damsel in distress. But who know what’s going to happen? It’s so early.
MTV: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about stepping in a franchise this big?
STONE: I’m sure it’s a different story for Andrew, because Spider-Man is so iconic, which is not to take anything away from Gwen, but for the most part, the approach I’m trying to take so I won’t psych myself out is to approach it like anything else. Put in the same amount of work and don’t worry so much. Even though it’s different than anything else I’ve ever done and it’ll be weird if my face is ever on a Burger King cup, that’s not what you have to think about. Maybe it helps other people think about the size of it, but it only makes me nervous.
MTV: People are fiercely protective of “Spider-Man.” Do you ever worry about how you’re going to be received by fans?
STONE: I have such respect for the world of comic book fans. I’ve been to Comic-Con for “Zombieland,” and zombie fans are a very specific kind of fan base. And my absolute favorite kind of people in the world are people that are passionate about something. And if there’s protective of something they’re passionate about it, I can completely relate because there and things I’m passionate about and protective of. There’s a part of me that really wants to please people that love Spider-Man or Gwen Stacy and want her to be done justice. I hope they’ll give me license to interpret her my way. But that fan base, I’m one of them, so I completely understand why they would be judgmental of certain things. I try not to look [at stories on the Internet] because I do care and I don’t want to psych myself out. I kinda half to stay off the Internet. I’m not thick-skinned enough. I get too sensitive. I don’t want it to effect what I’m doing.
(Speaking of “whoppers,” I can’t wait to own an Emma Stone Burger King cup, which I will fill with Coke and enjoy with a Whopper with cheese, no pickles. Possibly a Double Whopper, depending on much I’ve exercised that week. Probably a Double Whopper regardless of how much I’ve exercised that week. Because that’s how I roll. It’s also why I’m a better writer than an actor.)
With filming beginning imminently and new casting news breaking all the time, we should be hearing all kinds of exciting things about this movie in the days to come. It’s really nice to be able to feel exhilaration about a Spider-Man movie again, isn’t it?