Producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach are no strangers to the Spider-Man mythos — they’ve worked in the universe for 12 years, starting with the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films. Now, they’re ushering in a new era of Spider-Man on the silver screen courtesy of a new cast and director who will delve into Peter Parker’s origins as a hero when the film franchise is rebooted with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” in theaters July 3.
CBR News sat down with Arad and Tolmach to talk about Maguire’s replacement, Andrew Garfield (especially the searing chemistry he has with Emma Stone’a Gwen Stacy), the biggest Spider-Man geek on set (hint: it wasn’t director Marc Webb), Tolmach’s son slipping movie spoilers to Tobey Maguire and the unlikely possibility of Superhero Fatigue.
CBR News: I love the scenes between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in this movie. They have ridiculous chemistry. Also, I’m a huge Peter Parker fan, and Andrew’s Peter possesses so much emotional maturity. I kind of had a crush on Peter, which felt sort of inappropriate since he’s 17.
Avi Arad: So you hate Emma now?
No way, I can’t hate Emma! She’s adorable! But I’m insanely jealous of her in this movie.
Arad: I’m kidding! [Laughs] We called her “sunshine.” She walks in the room and it’s like someone turned on the lights.
Both of them are ridiculously talented. And at such a young age!
Arad: They’re going to act as long as they want.
Matt Tolmach: Also, when you put the two of them — this is that thing that happens. You know, chemistry. And there’s just magic that happens when they’re together.
Someone in today’s press conference asked Emma to describe “chemistry” and she said, “It’s just some soul thing,” which I thought was beautiful.
Tolmach: That’s exactly what it is! And you look at the scene in the movie, in the hallway. With the two of them. You know, that was a scripted scene…
Arad: My favorite scene still is “cramps” because my daughter used to do that to me.
I’m talking to Denis Leary later and I’m going to get the skinny on improvising that with Emma. It’s a great moment.
Arad: Denis is actually quite conservative this way. And my daughters, when they had something in their rooms where I was not supposed to be there, they wouldn’t even open the door — “Not now, dad! I’m not really feeling well. It’s this time of the month.” And I’d stand there like, “Too much information!”
So you’re not the dad who sees through it and goes, “All right, what are you hiding?”
Arad: I knew it, but I wouldn’t challenge it — in case I’m wrong! I don’t want to know what time of the month it is!
Andrew Garfield has been a Spider-Man fan since he was a kid, but aside from him — and obviously you, Ari — who on set had the biggest knowledge base, or was the biggest fanatic?
Arad: I think the whole crew. These people live, drink, eat Spider-Man.
Was that a prerequisite of the job? “Sure, you’re a great grip — but I’m going to need you to take this Spider-Man fact quiz!”
Arad: It does help! You cannot have enough eyes on a movie this size. And we’ve been doing Spider-Man for 12 years together. And Marc [Webb] is a fan of what I’d call modern-day Spider-Man, in some ways. Andrew sent us a picture, as a 3-year-old, in a Spider-Man costume. He was so adorable!
Tolmach: Before he had the job!
Even at Comic-Con last year, when he walked out in that Spider-Man costume and gave that earnest speech, it was so obvious that he had this really deep-seated, personal love for the character.
Tolmach: Do you know, the day before Comic-Con — true story — we were prepping to go down there and we knew what we were showing and we had a meeting, me and Avi and Andrew. To go over, “Okay, this is what you’re going to be introducing” and he goes, “You know, if it’s okay with you guys, I wrote something. Can I run it by you? Because if you think it’s cool I’d love to read it.” And we were like, “Whaddya got?” And he read this thing to us, and we were like — we felt the same way everyone in the room did!
Arad: It was really from the heart!
Tolmach: Because with Andrew there’s an emotional authenticity that is undeniable. You just know when somebody comes from the heart and when they don’t, and they can’t fake it. And his connection to this character was so genuine. And we were like, “Of course you gotta say that — because it’s real!” I would say Andrew and Avi are the two biggest geeks on the set. And you need that. You have to know where home is. And home, for me, is Avi as the source of all this stuff. And for Avi it’s Stan Lee and comics.
Arad: I think of Joey, our music editor. Obsessed! He’s The Lizard! He’d come to work with a covered green arm and a white coat!
Tolmach: We had scoring sessions with James Horner and he looked — you’ve seen the finished movie, but for the last year we watched the movie with Rhys Ifans and a green arm.
Arad: And Joey, a serious music editor…
Tolmach: …he showed up with a green arm! Every day for the scoring sessions! Commitment! Like, character actor!
That’s really above and beyond. I hope you gave him a raise!
Tolmach: [Laughs] You know who the other biggest fan is on the set? My son. He’s five and a half and he would ask me questions. I mean — he sends me notes on the next movie Avi and I talk about and I’m like, “Oh, yeah — we gotta think about that in the next movie!”
Speaking of notes, Tobey Maguire e-mailed you, Matt, to give his blessing when Andrew was cast, right?
Tolmach: I showed Andrew the e-mail the night we were all in Cancun because — he’s just a great person. For him, it meant so much that Tobey bless the passing of the baton. And Tobey’s just the coolest guy in the world.
Have you talked to Tobey throughout the filming of “The Amazing Spider-Man?” Has he seen the movie?
Tolmach: He hasn’t seen the movie, but I talk to him all the time. We’re very close to Tobey and his family — my son goes to school with Tobey’s daughter. My son has seen the movie and talks to Tobey all the time. [Laughs] It’s surreal! He literally will talk about Andrew’s version of him versus his! And you know kids, they are honest! And I just — I’m like [shrugs] “Sorry, dude.”
Avi, you’re a pioneer in this comic book genre in that you were one of the first to fight to make them into movies. Now comic book movies are everywhere. Do you think there’s going to be a saturation point? That Superhero Fatigue is a real possibility?
Arad: No. Here’s the reason it will never stop: one, and I take sides on it — DC Comics don’t have the heart, because they never had Stan Lee. Stan Lee wrote about real characters with real issues, and his metaphors were just brilliant. Two, we all enjoy one thing very unique, that the new generation — it’s normal to have a new generation, of course — kids that loved comics and fantasy, literature. And these kids became writers, producers, directors, cinematographers. They got into CGI. Technology moved up very fast, to facilitate movies like that. And all of a sudden it became — a comic book or a video game are storyboards. They’re actually incredibly detailed storyboards. So if I’m a director, and I want to be smart about it, the more visuals, the more material I have. The character is written, I can read the comic and see if I’m attracted to it, but together with it comes production materials. From costumes to haircuts to backgrounds to the city. The city is a character. So it will not end if dumb movies don’t make their way into it. The only way to screw it up — we almost all screwed up 3D…
Tolmach: …well, it was a marketing tool, it wasn’t a storytelling technique. It’s gotta be about the storytelling!
Arad: It has to be natural! Spider-Man is a 3D character.
Tolmach: People are going to keep going to these movies when they’re good. They’re going to do what they do. People always say, “Oh, there’s been too many R-rated comedies.” Are those going to go away?” No, because then somebody makes “Bridesmaids” and you’re like, “Oh, I love that!” And then it reinvigorates.
Arad: But then everybody goes in and makes “Bridesmaids.”
Tolmach: Right, and it gets bad. And it just keeps being cyclical. It’s like the formula for anything else.
Well how do you ensure that you’re not making one of the bad movies, then? What’s the formula?
Arad: Think of it as a tiny story.
Tolmach: You have to think of it like a movie. It’s not a superhero movie, it’s a movie! You have to adhere to the same rules — drama, conflict, emotion. All that stuff. And then you blow it out.
Arad: The ride is the metaphor. The core is the heart. And at the end of the day we go to the movies to share something. Sometimes we just want to have fun, and that’s “The Avengers.” But Spider-Man has a unique responsibility. It better be a nine-course meal that you walk out of there thinking, “Maybe I could do things better now.” Andrew in our movie is really a hero before his powers.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” opens nationwide on July 2.