Movies based on comic books are the biggest thing going at the box office these days. So if you’re an actor, getting the call that you’ve landed a part in a comic book movie is a big deal. And it’s an even bigger deal if you were a fan of comic books in the bad old days before they went mainstream, like actors J.B Smoove and Martin Starr.
During a recent interview in support of the home media release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Smoove and Starr, two of the film’s stars, told CBR about their love of comic books. The actors play a pair of hapless teachers and field trip chaperones, Mr. Dell and Mr. Harrington, in the movie and acknowledged that appearing in a Spider-Man film was anything but another day at the office.
Both actors happen to have a long history with comic books. Starr mentioned that from an early age, Spider-Man was one of his favorite characters, making his appearance in the movie even more personally meaningful.
“I read a number of different comic books,” Starr said. “X-Men and Spider-Man were the two that I read the most. But Spider-Man I had a subscription to so it actually came to my house. And so this was very cool to become a part of this particular [movie].”
Smoove was also a comic book fan growing up with favorites that included everything from the Defenders to the Avengers to the New Mutants to the fan-favorite Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. He recalled that when he was a kid he would take the train from his home in Mount Vernon to a comic book store in the Bronx. He would spend hours reading comics there.
[I would read] until the guy would tell you to stop reading and buy it,” he said. “We were so into it that we would open the first page to see who the artist was because we loved a certain style of art.”
The actor also talked about the ways reading comics sparked his imagination. While he’s amazed by the special effects achieved by comic book movies today, he explained that back then he would imagine the moments we’re treated to today on the big screen in his mind.
“You had to animate the movements in your head,” he noted. “It was different. Kids still collect comic books but I think now they have something to lean on, which is the actual movies, the actual TV shows.”
In fact, Smoove spent so much time with comics that he said that “in my brain I started casting” the actors he thought would best represent each comic book character. On the top of his wish list? Angela Bassett as the X-Men’s Storm. A choice that became so solidified in his mind’s eye that he was hoping she would get the role in the first X-Men movie in 2000.
He also confessed that now he gets so involved in comic book movies that he experiences a significant amount of cognitive dissonance when an actor plays more than one comic book character. “When Ben Affleck got to be Daredevil and Batman it drove me crazy… cause I’m so into it! That’s how deep it goes with me.”
When asked about their favorite Avengers, Smoove was quick to choose Captain America. Then he quickly added, “But how could you not love Tony Stark?”
Smoove was specifically paying tribute to Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “I cannot think of anybody else who could have played this dude,” Smoove marveled, as Starr voiced his agreement. “[Robert Downey Jr.] is Tony Stark.”
The actor’s passion for comic books and comic book movies was evident as he noted that fans’ involvement with particular characters and the actors who play them is part of the fun of the MCU. “That’s how deep I think it runs when you start investing in [comic book] characters,” he summed up.
Helmed by Jon Watts, Spider-Man: Far from Home stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon and Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal. Spider-Man: Far From Home is currently available on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray™ and DVD on October 1.