Martin Sheen and Sally Field on The Amazing Spider-Man

What comics they read as kids, why they never watch dailies, and why Martin Sheen doesn't even know who he played in Mass Effect.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

 

Technically, Martin Sheen and Sally Field are supporting characters in The Amazing Spider-Man, but in a lot of ways they were the most exciting people in the film. I mean, the young cast is doing wonderful things on their way up, but these are Hollywood legends. At a press conference for The Amazing Spider-Man, Sheen got political and Field got emotional, and we were there to report it.

 

Martin Sheen greets the press.

Martin Sheen: Did you fly in for this? Cleveland, my wife grew up in Cleveland, went to South High School. It closed down now. She couldn’t go to her reunion. They closed the joint. There was that awful shooting there. She grew up on Euclid. I was over there just last week working for Senator Brown in Ohio. Good man. When are they going to stop picking on unions in the Midwest. What is that about? You know who’s working that crowd, what’s that fascist’s name? Karl Rove, exactly. When I say fascist, you say Rove. Man, and they reward that kind of fascism. Give me a break, Wisconsin. Keep walkin’.

 

Sally Field and Martin Sheen’s comic book obsessions.

Sally Field: I read Little Lulu and I haven’t seen them make that into anything yet. Little Lulu was my girl. I’m sorry. I did sing that song. “Little Lulu, Little Lulu.” Never mind, I’m not going to do it. No, I loved comic books. I was a real comic book freak when I was a kid except they were the girl ones. Archie, I read those but my brother read all the Spider-Mans. My brother who is a world-renowned physicist, who’s one of the finest physicists in the world, was a few years older than I, he’s so excited about this movie that finally I’ve arrived. I’m in this movie because my brother used to read all of those. So I’m familiar with the movies somewhat but I never read, and never have, still to this day.

Martin Sheen: And the same is for me. I was a big movie fan. I didn’t read Little Lulu but I did read Sluggo and Nancy and Archie comics but my passion was movies. So on Saturday afternoon was always the series, whether it was a western or sports or whatever. As far as Spider-Man is concerned specifically, I’m 21 years older than he so I missed him totally and I do recall the afternoon cartoon. “Spider-man, Spider-man, da da da da” and my kid would rush to the TV to see that, but that was as close as I ever got.

 

We ask Martin Sheen if working on a big Hollywood movie makes him miss running around the jungle with a rebel director.

Martin Sheen: Whatever are you referencing? I don't know how to answer that.

Sally Field: Say you don’t remember any of it.

Martin Sheen: I don’t remember any of that. You know, at my age, at this time in my career, I’m delighted to be living, let alone working. So I give thanks and praise each day that I’m able to get up and walk around and still be able to work and to make my living doing the thing that I love the most, I’m delighted. So whether it’s a big budget or a small budget, I’m just delighted to still be on the team.

Sally Field: And we’re delighted to have you here.

Martin Sheen: Well, thank you very much.

 

Sally Field and Martin Sheen don’t watch dailies.

Sally Field: I don’t like watching myself at all. I never liked watching myself. I know a lot of actors have, most actors have difficulty watching themselves at all. Now as I’ve reached an age, it’s really hard to look at yourself so I really may not ever see this. Don’t tell anybody. It’s a very selfish reason. It’s 3D for God’s sakes. I wasn’t good with myself on a television screen, now I’m going to be like… So I don't know. I grapple with it because part of me says, “Oh, Sally, come on. Get over it. You want to see Andrew. You want to see Marc’s work.” It’s such a small vain little thing but that’s true, I do have that. I admit it. There it is. It’s out there. Also about watching dailies, Marc didn’t have anybody watching dailies. You know, it’s really not a good idea for actors to watch dailies, and that’s on an acting level, ever. Because the whole task of an actor is to not have any actual mental vision of yourself outside of yourself, because then you start imitating yourself and that is the difficult thing about ever even watching a film that you’ve done, because you become aware of your own physicality in a way that isn’t good for you to have in your mind. And you see young actors who start out and they seem so free and easy and natural. All of a sudden, third, fourth movie down the line they look posey. They’re all very careful in what they’re doing. Marty for instance.

Martin Sheen: I was so good until I got successful.

Sally Field: Marty will answer this question but I’m sure he feels similar things about watching dailies. I don't think it’s ever helpful.

Martin Sheen: No, I agree. It’s a mistake. In this case it was interesting because they would run a scene almost immediately for technical reasons. You do a take and they say, “Well, something was in the frame.” They go down and there’d be a row of guys working computers. Computer geniuses, and they’re wearing glasses. So in order to see a playback, let alone the rushes, which I never saw and I agree with Sally. I don't think it’s a good idea for an actor to see themselves because one of the problems is you fall in love with one take and that’s the one that’s not in the film, so you’ve already foreclosed any hope of being satisfied. I once heard an artist say they did not display their own paintings in their home because they didn’t want to be influenced by themselves. Interesting take. Watching myself on television for example, I’d always warn the family what was coming. We’d gather to watch a “West Wing” episode or some movie of the week that I’d done and I’d say, “Now this is going to happen and you’re going to feel this way about it.” I’m can control the audience on television. With a movie, I tell you the truth, I’d prefer to go to a movie that I was in after it had opened, for good or ill, and I would see it with an audience to get an honest reaction.

 

When Martin Sheen watched Major League.

Martin Sheen: I remember one time I was driving someone up to Bakersfield on the middle of a hot summer day, and on the way back I was passing a shopping center and they had the movies listed. Major League was playing. This was about two weeks after it opened. I’d never seen it. So I thought oh, this is an opportune time. It was so hot, I pulled over, I went and the air conditioning was on in the theater and there were two other people besides me. I watched Major League which I loved and in the moment when Charlie comes out of the bullpen, Charlie comes in in the big game out of the bullpen and they start playing “Wild Thing” and I started to weep. I said, “Go get ‘em, kid.” And I wanted to tell the whole audience, all two of them, that that was my son coming in the pitch at the end of the film. It’s not a good idea to get so personally involved.

 

Sally Field on the theme of Spider-Man.

Sally Field: The interesting thing about doing this Spider-Man is that it is more contemporary since it is a metaphor for how hard it is any time, but especially today, the coming of age. And the darkness that this young man carries with him and the troubling soul, troubled soul that he is. It certainly is different than any of the ones before and we, Marty and I knew, our task is that family. I really think in a way it is a metaphor for how difficult the world is. I mean, when you look at what’s happening to the world and you use it metaphorically, these villains. It offers Peter the possibility to step up and push his own envelope to fight for the right thing. And threaten your own existence in doing it. In other words, lose every safe place you ever thought you had to do the right thing. And boy oh boy, if the younger generation, my children’s, even younger than that generation, can have the feeling that we have to step up and make things right, no matter how much it cost me, it would be a different world. You see a lot of other countries, lord knows, grappling with this. How do you make change? How do you make enormous change? Well, obviously it doesn’t come easily. In some entertaining way, I think that’s what the metaphor is. It’s a really, really difficult world right now.

 

It’s Gidget, in 3D!

Sally Field: That it was a 3D movie was odd because some of the scenes Andrew and I had together where Uncle Ben is no longer there, and Andrew and I get really heated, it’s very troubling what’s going on. As far as we knew, we were shooting a little kitchen drama in a way and what was bizarre for me because I’ve been doing this a long time is that we were shooting a little kitchen scene in a very confined atmosphere with a handheld 3D camera. First of all, it is enormous and it is being held up on a bungee chord by guys above that are helping so that the handheld camera, notoriously why it’s used is so that it has the freedom to move around with the actors. It’s not on a dolly, it’s not stationary. And it moves where we go. If we decide to go this direction instead of that direction, it can go right there with you and you learn as an actor how to work with that. But I’ve never worked with a 3D handheld camera. First of all, the lens is halfway across the room and it was bizarre to be doing that. There was, yes, I think a little part of me going, “Oh, sweet mother of God. This is a 3D camera this far away from my face. I am never going to see this movie as long as I live.” It’s kind of amazing. Andrew and I having to do the fight scenes that we had, not losing your focus when we’re really maneuvering around this huge piece of equipment that this phenomenal operator is also trying to maneuver around us and the furniture, it was technically a fascinating experience. And in a lot of other ways too but that was one.

 

Martin Sheen doesn’t know what he played in Mass Effect.

Martin Sheen: Well, I’m drawn to characters. If I can relate to them personally, all the better, because for an artist, if something is not personal it’s impersonal. If it’s impersonal, nobody cares. I’m challenged by playing villains which I think Mass Effect is what I’m playing. I’ve never seen it because I don’t have a computer and I’m not computer savvy. I’m very sorry. I have not seen them. I don’t have a clue what it is. And there was a guy who came to fix my wife’s computer who said that I was the guy in Mass Effect and he was just over the moon. And I said, “I’m doing another one. Would you like to come?” And he ended up as an advisor for it.

 

Martin Sheen accepts responsibility for Charlie.

Martin Sheen: I got to play a character that I’m a father, I’m a husband and a grandfather so I have some familiarity with raising kids and grandkids, albeit not always successfully. Never mind. I’ll take a rap for it. But I think one of the things that really fascinated me about Spider-Man the character is that he is dealing with what all young people today, particularly in our society, are just absolutely fractured by, and that is peer pressure. He’s saying, bottom line, is when you hear that voice inside that’s calling you to step up, to be your better self, it’s going to cost you. But that’s the only way you can become free and that’s the only way you can become yourself. But anything worthwhile has got to cost you. If it doesn’t, then you’re left to question its value.

 

Sally Field remembers the late producer Laura Ziskin.

Sally Field: For me the reason that I absolutely had to do it was that my first producing partner was Laura Ziskin and we produced Murphy’s Romance together. It was her first film and my first film that I produced. She was a good friend. She is, was a spectacular hero. Really a spectacular hero. She is Spider-Man. She really is. I say is because the work that she started is really continuing the fight against cancer. She asked me to do the movie, would I come in and do it, and I said absolutely before I read it, before I knew who was involved in it, before I met Marc, before I knew Marty was there. Because my instinct was she wasn’t going to do another one after this, so I would have done it no matter what so I am very proud to have been a part of her first film and her last film. She was a hero.

 

Keeping Laura Ziskin’s fight alive.

Sally Field: I’m involved in her charity because of Laura which is Stand Up to Cancer. I’ve done some radio announcements and stuff like that, especially when the proposition in California to have smokers pay a smoking tax that goes to cancer research.