He's just Marvel-ous!
Earlier this year, we got the chance to meet with Marvel uber Producer Avi Arad to talk about The Amazing Spider-Man. The 63 year old American born filmmaker has been the godfather of comic book adaptations for more than two decades – shepherding the productions of everything from the X-Men TV show to Ghost Rider. In person, he’s an avuncular gent, with a strong handshake aided by fingers adorned with heavy rings featuring his biggest characters – X-Men, Iron Man and, of course, Spidey himself.
CLICK: This movie has been called so many things – a reboot, refresh – what would you call it?
AA: I’ll call it whatever you want to call it! You know, from a marketing standpoint people develop sensitivity to words. To me its semantics. If you have a story that works for Peter Parker – who is probably the only hero movie vs. a superhero movie. I know I’ve been doing the superhero thing but Peter Parker was always more the hero than the superhero – the powers were almost the metaphor that helped his need to do the right thing and gives him more power so he can fight crazy villains. But at the end of the day, it’s a new series. You have Andrew Garfield, that is a very different flavour. You have Emma Stone… we’re moving everything to the future, which is what we expected Marc (Webb – Director) to do, to make Parker realistic.
There’s a love story, life choices, the city is real, and its a character in Spider-Man, New York. And unlike many movies, this is totally driven by Peter. So, he is actually really responsible for everything that is happening. So once he goes into this emotional spin for the first time he thinks he might not be able to find out about his parents. So that part sends him into Oscorp and into the Connor’s. It makes his relationship with Gwen more interesting because she, unlike the comics in the 60s where girls had to be pretty and maybe troubled or not. Now here’s a really intellectual partner and even competitor.CLICK: It’s been 10 years since Spider-Man - is it easier to make a blockbuster now or is it still hard?
AA: It’s very hard! Because the studios have to look at it differently. And for us we know we have to make it better. In Spider-Man, we don’t want to do these giant action scenes that have nothing to do with the scene itself. We have action that is totally story based. What’s happening, without going into detail, is just stunning in terms of the emotion, the rollercoaster that is taking place there. Spider-Man is unique in the fact that we always design the villains to have an emotional intellectual commitment, someone one would look up to. Peter doesn’t kill anybody so subduing someone vs. killing someone is not easy. Being a controversial character, how does it affect your soul? You have to be pretty strong.
We deal with bullying which is something we are all very interested in – as a parent and a grandfather. It’s pretty crazy. I mean kids were always kind of tough on each other but now the internet opened up a whole other way to terrorise people. So our Peter is not taking it, not for himself and even more so not for someone else. Before his powers kick in – it’s just his upbringing, it’s the way his uncle is. He feels this responsibility without being ordained to be a hero. He’s just a decent guy and he’s willing to get punched for that. And he has to give up the toughest thing, to give up a future. The complexity, as bright as he is its interfering with his ambition.CLICK: With a refresh comes a new Peter Parker – how did you choose Andrew?
AA: Both Tobey and Andrew have a nice complicated… outlook. They’re both well-read. I think Andrew is one of the great actors of the time. It’s really very difficult to find accomplished character actors at this age group. Unless they actually have real life experience to draw from. We saw his movies and I think Andrew always wanted to be an arthouse guy. And the formula of the best superhero movies is that the heart of the movie has to be a small story. So we felt we could almost have done a small arthouse movie about the kid who has no parents, without villains or anything. Just a kid on a journey to find our who he is. So we could have done that movie and it’s a movie Andrew would have chosen to do.CLICK: You chose to set it in high school this time but Andrew is in his late 20’s can he still play a teenager?
AA: We were very interested in teenagers today. 10 years ago teenagers were different and also 10 years ago the love stories were different. There’s more maturity, more edge to this relationship. We also have a Spider-Man who smiles a lot, even when the moment is difficult. And we got him a partner that is witty, she is witty anyhow but again she’s a kid, she’s 22 years old and looks what she has. She’s one of these actresses who will be around forever. And the chemistry, it’s magnetic between the two of them. Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach Enlarge CLICK: And was Garfield cast first, did you audition them together?
AA: Oh yea. We saw 200 girls, you can imagine! And less boys actually, it’s harder to find a boy. And then you pair them and there was a very clear chemistry and they are today’s kids and the world doesn’t allow you to be as emotional as the 50s and 60s. You see it in movies, you see it in art – we are tougher. And it was a perfect relationship because she’s brilliant – in the movie she introduces him to someone as ‘second in his class’. It’s a great moment for the two of them, the scene you saw in the hallway, and it’s fantastic. You can write it a million ways but if these two didn’t have this thing going, it wouldn’t have worked. We got lucky! So we paired them for the screen-test. But they are different people. She comes big, loving family with brothers and a father who is sort of a Peter Parker but a legal one [laughs]! And probably the thing he dislikes most in the world is do-gooders who interfere with police work. So every step of the way, at least for me, this movie is more complex. And very real.CLICK: You’ve been working with Marvel intensely for around 20 years now – why are you so drawn to those stories.
AA: Well I’m 60 so when I was growing up in Israel we had the radio with one station and it played religious music! And thankfully some classical music. But you have to entertain yourself. And I found all mythology – Greek mythology, Roman mythology, Nordic and then in the 60s Marvel came into the picture and I found that, unlike many comic books, Stan Lee brilliantly was more concerned with the character. And I could totally relate to Peter Parker, as an only child myself – I looked at him and thought ‘oh my god it’s me!’ And it doesn’t look good [laughs]! He’s not going to conquer the world! But he’s going to help someone right around the corner. And I always related back to that… you save the world a person at a time.
That’s also why I loved X-Men, it was about discrimination at a time when people didn’t want to talk about it. And when we did the animated show with my friend Haim Saban, Fox was scared of touching it. BBC didn’t want the show when I talked to them they asked ‘Can we do it without the guy with the claws?!’ And I made them watch the episode and he’s been in it forever! So it’s about human value and the movies that work on the smaller level but then you can make them incredible rollercoaster rides. And if the rides are still about the person sitting on the ride, it’s as simple as that. So that’s why I was drawn and am still drawn to it.The Amazing Spider-Man is in cinemas from the 3rd of July, for more interviews, previews, news and competitions, head to our content hub! Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man Enlarge