Marc Webb Talks Amazing Spider-Man

Why Spider-Man always takes off his mask, Stan Lee's Oscar dreams and the practical problems of web-swinging.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


Whenever I meet Marc Webb I thank him for helping me through my 500 days of Diane. I think he remembers that, at least there seems to be a look of recognition in his eyes. A lot of people liked (500) Days of Summer but no one else specifically applied it to Diane. I think I stood out in a press conference for Amazing Spider-Man, and got to ask my questions and report his thoughts on other topics. Some SPOILERS, but probably all covered in the 25 minutes of trailers and clips already available.


We ask about the epic crane swinging shot, and editing an action movie.

Well, I’ll take the second part first. One of the big things in terms of the language of the film was we did it in 3D. Shooting it in 3D means you have to conceive of the sequences in a certain way and the pace of the edit, you want to hold on those shots for a little longer. The crane sequence is sort of his aria swinging show. Everybody wants to see that swinging shot and I wanted to hold off a little bit, make people wait for the big epic swinging sensations. I remember early on when we were working on the script a couple years ago, I was thinking, “How logically would Spider-Man swing through a city?” I sat there, I was in New York and I looked up and I was like, “Where would I? A web there but it would curl around so that wouldn’t really work. I wouldn’t be able to go straight.” I was just really trying to think about the physics of it. Then I saw a crane down in the distance. Well, that’s how you would go straight as fast as possible. That’s where you’re going to get the maximum velocity. So that was the beginning of that sequence. I remember I was listening to some music at the time and I just thought it would be really cool to have these cranes connect over a canyon in the city, with the effort of people extending a hand to help Spider-man. I always loved those moments in the Spider-Man movies where the city comes to his aid, and that was just something that came from that idea.


Why Spider-Man removes his mask.

You try to keep the rational for that organic. There’s the scene with the boy. I felt like the mask is a symbol and I wanted to endow that with a certain power. I just liked what it said and that scene with the boy in the car, he’s really helping himself. He’s saving the little child in himself and I thought that was an interesting thing. It just felt right. So that’s where that came from. Then there’s times when you want to express certain kinds of emotion. You want to connect to that character and there’s that as well.


Stan Lee’s cameo demands.

The first time I met Stan, who is a fantastic human being and an incredibly creative guy, when I got hired to do Spider-Man the first thing I did was got Stan’s phone number from Avi [Arad.] I was like, “Hey, let’s go out to lunch.” He was like, all right. So we sat down to lunch and he’s like, “So, Marc, let’s talk about my cameo.” I was like oh, great. After we talked about it and he made his demands, he talked a little bit about getting a category at the Academy Awards for best cameo so I’m really excited about rooting for that. In all honesty, before we started shooting the movie, I was going through and thinking about places to add a little levity and humor and that library scene came up. I had prevised it out with just the librarian, it just made sense to put him in there. He kept on trying to add lines to the scene. The line that he had there was he was checking the books and he’s like, “Oh, Dostoyevsky, he’s like the Russian Stan Lee.” That’s a pretty genius line. I should have kept it, clearly by your reaction.


Making The Lizard sounds.

Randy Cook who is one of our animation supervisors is a huge Harryhausen fanatic. We talked a lot about that. I spent a while figuring out how to make that Lizard talk. I wanted to maintain Rhys’s voice in that so we pitched it lower. Originally we had a lot of clicking and clacking, kind of like Pan’s Labyrinth, like the insect guy in Pan’s Labyrinth. I think Guillermo del Toro does monsters in such a fantastic and interesting way. I love that character. Then I stripped that down because I wanted to give it a little bit more humanity or make it a little more realistic and less ethereal. So we pitched his voice down and then delayed, so we actually had his voice playing twice with like a two frame delay and then added a bassier tone to it and then some deeper breathing sounds to create a sound that felt like it was a really big sonorous sort of sound that came from the Lizard. Then there’s all sorts of little details like lips smacking and eyelids closing.


The Lizard roar.

Oh, the roar. I don't know. Actually Shannon Mills our sound designer came up with that. I don't know where that actually came from. It was probably a guy roaring into a garbage can. That’s probably what happened. That’s a good question. I’ll ask Shannon.


The origin of Peter Parker.

You know, we’ve seen the story of the origin of Spider-Man. We haven’t always seen the story of the origin of Peter Parker. I think there was details that surrounded, say, the spider bite and his reason for getting bitten that I thought were important in a story, in a backstory, in an ongoing world that I had thought of early on. So I felt like it was important to expand, understand those details and for the audience to understand those details and that connection to Oscorp. While honoring the iconic elements of the Spider-Man origin, I wanted to redefine it in a way that made sense for the larger newer story that we were telling. I mean, when I think about the Spider-Man comic books, I’m a huge Spider-Man fan and an even bigger fan of Peter Parker. I love this idea that there’s this kid who has the same problems that we do. Those little domestic dramas I think are what makes my connection to the character that much more profound. I wanted to spend time at the beginning of the movie in particular developing those relationships. I find that very stimulating but I also feel like once you have established that connection, hopefully the action will be that much more exciting that you care about the person behind the mask.


The reboot question.

I think Spider-Man is a perennial character. It’s not like Harry Potter that has a closed canon. There’s a 50-year canon of Spider-Man comics. There’s a lot of stories to tell from that. So yeah, I remember thinking about it, the 17-year-old version of myself was like, “Are you F’ing kidding? Of course. Let’s do this.”


We slip in a webshooter question: mechanical webshooters make fans happy, but do they essentially function in the same way as organics in the story?

A similar way. They make different sounds. They have a little mist coming out of them. There’s, you know, some vulnerabilities.


The obligatory casting question.

It was a really terrifying prospect to cast such an iconic personality. People already have many associations with Peter Parker. So I need to find somebody that – – it was daunting. I remember those mornings when I woke up when we were starting the casting process, like I don't know how we’re going to do this. Then Andrew Garfield walked in the door. I had known his work from Boy A and Red Riding Hood. If you look at Boy A, yes, there’s a childlike quality in the way he moves and behaves in that film is pretty extraordinary versus in Red Riding, he had this incredible intensity and focus. Very different kind of character. And then when he was auditioning and we were watching him, he had a rare combination. He can do the emotional gravitas that’s required. Peter Parker has a lot of tragedy in his life but he’s also got whimsy. He’s also funny and alive and light and sarcastic. Those are the kind of attributes that I really wanted to explore in the film. So you have that and then he has an incredible physical stamina. When you’re doing a movie that requires this level of physical intensity, we tried to especially at the beginning part of the movie, do a lot of the stunts a more practical way. That requires a very, very significant amount of effort on the part of the actor and for someone to have that kind of maturity and focus is really, really tricky. All abiding in somebody who can convincingly behave like a teenager. So he came in, I remember we screen tested him. I was in the editing room later that night just going through the dailies and putting these things together. We looked at a lot of really talented actors. He came in and I was watching his take and I just kept on going back and looking at it and looking at it and looking at it and looking at it. It was fascinating because he had a level of detail and nuance that’s really pretty extraordinary. I could go on and on.


And Emma Stone.

So then we brought in Emma and I think everybody was more familiar frankly with Emma. Everybody thinks of her as a really incredible funny actress and she is hilarious. It is a talent like you don’t get very often. She’s so fast and so alive but she can also do emotional depth. In a movie like this, (500) Days of Summer was quite similar, you can’t cast actors independently when you’re relying on the romance or a significant relationship’s developed that drives the story or marks the story in a certain way. So you have to cast the chemistry. I remember seeing them together. We were all there behind the monitors and just watching them have fun and open up and be spontaneous. There was just some magic that was happening between them that was really fantastic and just fun to watch. Again, to go deeper into that, (500) Days of Summer was built all around tiny little moments, private personal moments between two people. I wanted to build the foundation of The Amazing Spider-Man on those little details, the minute details between the characters.