An Acting Film: Denis Leary on The Amazing Spider-Man

Playing the authority figure after decades of rebellion, and the big difference between Amazing Spider-Man and Demolition Man.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


I grew up watching Denis Leary’s rants on MTV and listening to “No Cure for Cancer” on CD. I even saw all his movies, and some of the names I dropped surprised Leary himself. Nowadays he’s best known for the acclaimed FX series “Rescue Me.” From a firefighter to a police captain, Leary plays Captain Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man. If you don’t know the comic books, you can imagine the police have some thoughts about a masked vigilante like Spider-Man, let alone one who has eyes for his daughter Gwen. We spoke with Leary in New York, the very scene of Spider-Man’s greatest exploits.


CraveOnline: Of course we respect our heroes, the policemen and the firefighters, but is it unusual for you to be playing these types of authority figures?

Yeah, I’ve been playing Tommy Gavin for seven years who really hates authority, who’s a really damaged guy. So I was kind of surprised when Marc called me about doing this. I was like, “All right, if you think I can be an authority figure I’ll give it a shot.” Which we did. I don't know where in Tommy Gavin’s seven year journey he saw that possibility but he might’ve been looking back to like Thomas Crown Affair or something else.


Thinking about the rebellious standup guy, that didn’t seem like a guy who’d be the authority.

I know. I know.


Then there’s the fatherly authority. How do you feel about that?

Well, I have to do that in real life so that was kind of easy.


Do your kids ever throw your old standup back at you?

No, no. The second special I did for HBO I had a lot of kid material in it. I think my son made a remark about that once, once he got old enough to watch it, and I said, “Hey man, I’m paying for your clothes and your food and your education, so if I can get material out of it, it’s a vicious circle but it works.”


Did you follow your parents’ rules?

You know, I didn’t as a teenager. I was kind of a wild man. So was my older brother. But ultimately the rules that your parents teach you about how to be a good person and what that entails and what family means and all that stuff, that’s intrinsic. Not just what they say but how they live their lives, so you can’t really get away from that because that’s in your head and that’s all inside me. My mom’s still alive so you have to answer to that.


Are you prepared for all the fanboy minutiae about Captain Stacy?

No, I haven’t paid any attention to it whatsoever so I’m sure it’s going to be a shock now if this movie works, how much of that I’m going to get.


Can you handle them just like hecklers at a standup show?

I guess we’ll find out once I start to hear them.


How different is doing a big movie now than when you were on Demolition Man?

Listen, Demolition Man was what an action movie is supposed to be, which is a little tiny bit of acting and then a lot of run and gun and blow things up and fight choreography and things like that. To Marc’s credit, he did that here but this movie was always an acting movie. Even in the action sequences, he was always talking about, “Now I’ve got to get that emotional moment between you and Andrew, and I have to get this moment with Rhys and his character.” So we were always aware of that part of the film which is unheard of on a big budget like this.


NBC’s doing a show now “Chicago Fire.”

Yeah, I heard about this.


Any thoughts on that?

I heard about it. I haven’t seen it. Somebody else mentioned that today. I’m sure it’s not “Rescue Me” just because it’s network television but it’ll be interesting to see what it is.


I wonder what took them so long. They had seven years to copy “Rescue Me.”

Well, it’s network so they’re generally behind the cable networks now. It’s like they watch the trend happen and then they kind of feed into it. I remember when we did “The Job” on ABC which was in 2001/2002, we were the only single camera show except for “Arrested Development” on television. Now everything’s single camera, so they’re generally behind the trend.


Is it just good to keep honoring firefighters anyway?

Yeah, man. I don't think we can do that often enough. Them and the military. I just think we pay short stops and football players and basketball players millions and millions of dollars, and people like me to do these movies. That’s all good but I think we should always keep the firefighters and our military in mind.


You were a big Whitney Cummings fan.



I actually first heard about her from you. How does it feel to see her blow up and get her own show?

I love Whitney and Whitney was really discovered by Chelsea Handler who used her as a writer first and everything. So it couldn’t make me happier. Whenever somebody like her or Patrice O’Neal or Dane Cook who I met when he was young, Louis C.K., all those guys were guys I used on my charity event up in Boston, “Comics Come Home” that we’ve been doing for 19 years now. That was one of the first gigs all those guys did. That’s a big arena concert that we do for the Cam Neely Cancer Foundation. So I love when I see those guys actually turn into big stars. It’s great.


What do you think of the smoking tax for cancer research proposition?

It’s a great idea. Booze, cigarettes, cocaine, whatever they can put taxed on that people are going to ingest is a good idea.