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SPIDER-MAN

Spider-Man enjoyed a red carpet premiere last night at Mann Village Theater in Westwood. The event was covered live on E!

Comics2Film reader and pro-photographer LaughRaven took up a position in the bleachers to snaps photos of the movie’s principals as they walked the red carpet.

Among the attendees were director Sam Raimi, stars Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe and Kirsten Dunst. C2F journo Dave Richards tells us that Dunst was enjoying a little pre-birthday celebration. She turns 20 today. Richards knows because it’s his birthday too!

Also photographed by LaughRaven’s camera were Aerosmith front-man Steven Tyler (who sings the redo of the Spider-Man theme for the movie) and Kiss demon Gene Simmons. Jon Favreau, who plays Foggy Nelson in the currently filming Daredevil was spotted. Hollywood cuties Jennifer Love Hewitt and Amy Smart were caught on film. Finally, Friends friend Matthew Perry is seen with a friend. Click the images on this page for a closer look.

Although his greatest villain may be the Green Goblin, Spider-Man’s longest running nemesis has got to be that blowhard editor with the poison pen, J. Jonah Jameson. When fans sit down for the Spider-Man movie they’ll find J.K. Simmons barking his way through a spot-on performance of the irritable journalist. Comics2Film talked with Simmons about his experiences working on the film.

Spider-Man is the third movie the actor has done with director Sam Raimi, continuing a relationship that began with the baseball movie For Love of the Game. “I was born in Detroit and I didn’t know at the time that Sam was also. I’ve been a big Tigers fan all my life and when I saw that I would have an opportunity to play a Detroit Tiger I was like a nine-year-old kid,” Simmons told us. He read for the part of the team manager and immediately hit it off with Raimi.

Simmons tells us his first love was baseball, but he also enjoyed a comic book hear and there. “I did read comics, the big three, Superman, Batman and Spider-Man,” Simmons said. “Spider-Man was always my favorite.”

When Simmons heard Raimi was directing Spider-Man he immediately knew which part he hoped the director would hire him for. “I sort of knew the Spider-Man comics, but I hadn’t kept up on it since I was a kid. The guys that I was working with at the time said, ‘Oh…if the bad guy is Doc Ock you should play the bad guy,'” Simmons told C2F. “I was thinking, ‘Well, I guess, but I can sort of see myself as J.J.J.'”

Raimi saw it too and the actor was quickly hired on for the part.

From there Simmons went about the task of becoming Jameson. “I actually did a little research, as silly as it sounds. I went and spent a couple of days over at the New York Post to get an idea about the reality of a big-city newspaper,” Simmons told us.

Of course, there real point of reference is the comics. Simmons said he read any comics having to do with his character that he could find.

Soon, the transformation was complete. “Once we got the suit and the hair and the cigar and all that stuff going it felt like a very natural thing,” Simmons said.

In the offices of The Daily Bugle, J.J.J. barks orders in rapid-fire succession and lords over several staffers simultaneously. “[Sam] pretty much wanted that frenetic, big-city pace in those scenes,” the actor told C2F. “It was kind of a challenge to keep your brain caught up with your mouth and your ears at that pace, but it was fun.”

While some of the Bugle business was concocted beforehand, other parts were improvised. “Some of it we just came up with, myself and Sam and his brother Ted who plays one of the assistants at the newspaper.”

The Bugle scenes are full of subtle references directed at fans, including an allusion to a possible future villain. “I don’t think I knew about that character going in, but in one version of the script there was possibility that that character was going to appear even more, as a setup for a potential appearance in sequels,” Simmons said. “That’s one of those things that I think was big fun for Sam. Obviously you need to have a movie that’s going to have great mainstream appeal, because they’re spending a lot of money on it, but it’s nice to have a few references in there for the real aficionados of the comic to be the only ones in the theater that get that reference.”

Jameson isn’t all talk either. The character is involved with one action sequence. “That was really fun too, in the same way that the baseball movie was a childhood fantasy, to be in a big action scene and have stuff blowing up and have the bad guy come in and attack me,” Simmons told C2F.

The scene wasn’t all fun and games. “It was a little bit hard. We had smoke and glass shards flying everywhere and I was suspended by my groin for about twelve hours.”

Simmons said that, as far as he knows, Jameson will be back for the sequel. Fans can also keep their fingers crossed for more Jameson on the DVD. “There was actually an additional scene that we added that Sam, at the time, was intending on playing as a little bonus scene under the credits,” Simmons told us.

However, the scene did not make the final cut. “It was a very funny scene and a funny idea, but he decided, rightly so, that the movie is called Spider-Man and the last scene of the movie should really be Spider-Man and not J. Jonah Jameson.”

After Spider-Man fans can look for Simmons in the HBO movie Path To War. Presently the actor is filming the sixth season of the cable net’s prison drama Oz.

In the upcoming Spider-Man Willem Dafoe is almost charged with the task of playing two villains. On the one hand he is Norman Osborn, a driven businessman who unconsciously inflicts cruelty on those around him. When his sanity crumbles he becomes the Green Goblin, a high-tech nightmare hurling revenge in the form of bizarre gadgets.

Dafoe said at a recent press event that he relishes both roles. “In Green Goblin mode there’s lots of toys to play with and in Norman Osborn mode it’s an interesting character,” the actor commented.

Of course the most famous Goblin toy is the glider, a bad-ass rocket sled that Osborn Industries develops as a military weapon. “I was on the glider a lot. The stuff that was CG was all the big shots, but any other time that was me,” Dafoe said.

Mastering the device was no easy feat. It’s off-screen counterparts were rigged for a variety of shots and angles. “The glider was configured lots of different ways. Sometimes it was on an insert card, sometimes it was on wires, sometimes it was on a gimble,” The actor said. “Sometimes it was high up in the air. Sometimes it was mocked up.

“It took some practice, particularly when it’s on a gimble because it’s computerized how it moves and the moves are quite extreme. You’ve got a wire, when you’re high up so you don’t fall off the thing. So you have to balance.”

Dafoe was essentially charged with playing two roles in one. In one scene he even performs a monologue that is a dialog between the two. The actor dove into the challenge.

“[Director Sam Raimi] was like, ‘How’re we going to do this?’ and I was like, ‘Well, we’ll just do it,'” Dafoe said.

“We all know this feeling of talking to ourselves. We know the cartoons, as kids, the devil on the shoulder, the angle on the shoulder. It’s basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I said, ‘why don’t I do both?'”

Although they filmed alternate versions where the characters were separated, the one that worked for the final cut has Dafoe doing both parts at once. “I suppose the biggest trick was, have the voices distinct. Make sure they didn’t slide into each other,” the actor said. “At the same time make sure they could come from the same person.”

If the Green Goblin is a creature of frenzied violence, Norman is a man of a subtler cruelty. “I’m kind of tickled by Norman Osborn’s misogyny. I love how, after leering at Mary Jane Watson and then later saying, ‘One word to the wise about your little girlfriend: do whatever you need to with her and broom her fast.’ It’s like so down,” Dafoe said. “He’s a bad guy, at that moment.”

Dafoe admits that it’s the bad guy he prefers to play. “Virtuous people are not that much fun to play because they basically uphold what we already know,” he said. “Bad guys usually test the world. Sometimes I don’t even think about villains so much as outsiders. People who have a perspective outside the mainstream that aren’t upholding things as we know them but are sort of challenging things. It’s a very romantic view but if you’re gonna pretend you might as well have the juicy character rather than the responsible one.”

Kirsten Dunst plays Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming Spider-Man, a character whose flirtation with the titular superhero puts her in harms way. However, Watson is no mere damsel in distress.

“I really felt [Mary Jane] was an important part and not just the girly girl flying around helplessly,” Dunst said at a recent press outing. “She had a good journey of her own.”

Of course being a strong heroine means lots of action, which includes working with wires, blue screens and missing components that are added later by the F/X team. “It was definitely difficult,” the actress said. “You have to commit fully to what you’re doing because you’re up there, you’re hanging there, you’re looking at nothing. So it can really be a weird circumstance and if you’re not committing completely you’re going to look silly.”

In spite of her experience on special effects flicks, the actress did find herself feeling silly at times. “Sometimes you’re like, ‘I feel like a prop, just hanging here.’ [It’s] just like, ‘scream now’ or ‘do this.’ You’re like a little dog or something,” Dunst said. “There was this one scene…I actually cracked up laughing during one of the takes. I was sitting down and lying back and I would just flail my arms and legs and screen and the camera was coming down towards me. I just felt very weird.”

The actress said that some of the wire work could be unnerving. “I would be at the top of the sound stages, and there were high sound stages, and I’m looking down at the floor and they’d count me down which feels scary: ‘4…3…2… and they’d drop me,” Dunst said. “That countdown was creepy in the beginning. I don’t think I ever really, really got used to that.”

Of course, months of work with wires on soundstages results in minutes of actual screen time. “You’re like, ‘Great. All that work for that.'”

At the beginning of the film Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker tells the audience that his story is about “a girl.” The actress agrees that the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane is essential to the movie. “It makes you relate to the characters,” Dunst said, adding, “I think that Spider-Man’s a very relatable superhero. I think that that’s why he’s probably one of the most beloved superheroes. He’s a normal guy and people can relate to him. He has humanistic qualities and you feel for him. I think you feel a lot for Spider-Man and Mary Jane.”

Those qualities should help the movie appeal to more than just hardcore comic book readers. “I don’t think you have to be a comic book fan. I think a lot of girls actually might be like, ‘Oh, it’s Spider-Man. It’s some dumb action movie,'” Dunst said, “but it really has a lot of heart and depth. More so than most superhero movies, and more grounded in reality than most superhero movies.”

Dunst sees the relationship developing over the course of the sequels. “I think I’ll have a new boyfriend and Tobey will have a new girlfriend and it’ll be awkward and weird,” the actress said of Spider-Man 2, which begins filming next year. “I think it’ll be interesting to see Spider-man as more of an adult in the next film.”

Dunst reports that Mary Jane may have some competition in the sequels. “They’re going to bring in another girl, I think too, in the next one, which I’m really happy about,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Alright Sam. You can have her doing the action. I don’t need to be saved. Have some other chick be saved or something.’ I think they might bring in the Black Cat.”

Whether or not the actress enjoys the stunt work, Dunst said the Mary Jane’s strength helped draw her to the part. “I think it was that I could make a superhero that the girls could look up to.”

Never the less, Dunst reports she has no aspirations to play a a full-blown superhero. “It’s too much work. I’m not a stunt woman,” she said. However, she concedes she is drawn to other comic book material. “I like this japanimation Sailor Moon. That would be a fun movie, I think.”

When James Franco first read for Spider-Man he was up for the starring role as Peter Parker. However, fans know well that that part went to Tobey Maguire.

“[Director Sam Raimi] said he wanted more of a sensitive kind of guy and I think Tobey is perfect,” Franco explained. Instead Raimi brought Franco back for the supporting role of Norman Osborn, Parker’s best friend and the son of the Green Goblin.

Playing second banana typically isn’t a glamorous part, and this movie is no exception. While Maguire’s action scenes have him swinging around saving the day, Franco’s was a bit different. “The one action scene I did is probably going to be 3 minutes in the film. It took a week,” Franco said. “It’s not the best time for an actor, especially if you’re knocked out in the scene and you come in to work so you can lie on the ground.”

Harry’s not one to get the girl either. Although he dates Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, we know from the comics that the romance doesn’t last. “I think it’d be hard to be around somebody like Harry. I think he’s so ruled by his father and by his situation,” Franco said. “Maybe that’s fun at first…the flash, the money and all that, but Peter’s the rock. He’s honorable, nice and probably a better guy to be around.”

At least Franco had the good fortune to be cast as the son of Willem Dafoe, an actor he resembles in this movie. “I think he’s an incredibly striking man. If I bear a resemblance to him, that’s a compliment,” Franco said. However, he adds that the family resemblance was a bit manufactured. “We just died the hair a similar color so we looked more like father and son.”

The actor said he’s aware that Harry inherits more than just money from his father. “In the comic books Harry does find out who murdered his father and vows vengeance on Spider-Man,” the actor commented on his character’s fate. Does this mean he’ll take on the villain role in a sequel? “It’s always been on my mind, but there’s been no official talk about it.”

Part of Franco’s preparation for the movie was attending prep school. “I wanted to find out [about] a guy like Harry’s upbringing. I had a modest upbringing but I’d never been at private schools or anything. So I stayed at Andover and I stayed at Choate and I hung out with those kids for a couple weeks,” Franco said.

“It was nice. I was surprised,” the actor said of his prep school research. “I went there dressed extremely preppy. I thought that they’d all be in uniforms with their loafers. But none of them were.

“They were great. I maybe didn’t hang out with the right kids all the time. I hung out with the kids who would sneak off campus,” Franco reported.

The actor also got ramped up for his part by reading the comics. Although he’d studied the art of Spider-Man in art school, he’d never actually read the books prior to getting the role. “This movie spans I think the first, maybe, 120 or so books,” Franco said. “I read all those.”

Although Franco isn’t a comic fan he expressed appreciation for fandom. “I think there’s something nice about people coming together and appreciating a quasi-artistic kind of thing,” Franco said. “You don’t find a lot that in some of the other arts, at least nowadays.”

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