500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb made quite the jump from the emotionally driven film to the blockbuster franchise that is his The Amazing Spider-Man. Speaking to the cast, one theme emerged: This is an action film created by emphasizing, not minimizing, their gifts of generating an emotional connection with an audience that produces a powerful film on a multitude of levels.
“For me, that’s the only access point -- to find that depth of emotion in the characters. It’s crucial,” Webb said.
With a cast that includes Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Denis Leary doing Captain Stacy, Martin Sheen and Sally Field portraying Aunt Mae and Uncle Ben and of course Rhys Ifans as The Lizard… Webb was ready to put them through the performing ringer.
“I was lucky to be able to work with the caliber of actor I have on this film. When you have actors of that caliber, I like the idea of letting them loose because they’re immensely talented and can add color and dimension that I can’t conceive of,” the director added.
“I like to have Peter Parker go through as many emotions as possible -- laughter, sadness, sarcasm and terror. The more our protagonist does that, the more exciting and varied the experience will be for the audience. I adore actors. I admire them deeply. They do something incredibly difficult.”
The key to rebooting the entire Spider-Man franchise is casting its lead. When Garfield walked in the room and read for Webb, the search was over. “That was the single biggest challenge to the film was finding Peter Parker. When I was reading Andrew, he had the ability to manifest the emotional gravitas that is required of someone like Peter Parker, who suffers a lot. His parents are taken away and what happens with Uncle Ben. There’s that gravity which really can be faked. He does it for real.”
Webb appreciated Garfield’s thespian flexibility, as displayed in The Amazing Spider-Man trailer.
“He can even do funny! In that scene with Gwen and Peter in the hallway, how can you be so spontaneously funny and still go deep in those other scenes? That emotional dimension is incredibly rare -- all combined with someone who can withstand the physical demands of being Spider-Man.”
Given the actor’s resume, even short as it is, Webb actually thought Garfield was up for the task, long before he auditioned. “I knew him from Boy A and in that film he had a boyish innocence. He plays a really troubled kid. His performance was so consistent, but so believable, soft and warm for how dark the role was in Boy A. Then in Red Riding, there is this focused, incredible emotional intensity and rage that gets unleashed. He goes so deep, those two dimensions of his characters, was pretty spectacular.”
The director let us in on why he thinks the mythology of Spider-Man has been so resonant for decades and even has fans clamoring for The Amazing Spider-Man, merely years after Tobey Maguire hung up the suit.
“He’s like all of us. He’s not a billionaire. He’s not an alien. He grew up in a middle class household. He has to do chores and he gets nervous when he talks to girls. He has an infinite level of relatability. Then, he’s an outsider. All of us feel like that,” Webb said.
Peter Parker is just a regular kid who has greatness thrust upon him. “The spider just happens to bite him.”
The lifelong Spidey fan also believes there’s something intangible that millions of kids relate to. “There’s this friendly, symmetrical, colorful character that is there to help you. It’s profound how children react to that,” he added. “The amount of times you see kids in a Spider-Man costume, pretending to be him, and they’ve never read a comic book in their lives! There’s something about the symbol of it.”
The move from small indie in 500 Days of Summer to the franchise picture that is The Amazing Spider-Man has taught Webb many lessons.
“I learned how important it is to collaborate -- to find the best in the people that are around you because there is a lot of moving pieces in a movie like this. There are a lot of wrong paths that could have been gone down,” Webb said. “Getting the best out of people allows me to create a more layered, more complicated, interesting product. I had a blast.”