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June 2004
Spiderman 2 : An Interview with Sam Raimi

By Wilson Morales

Spiderman 2 : An Interview with Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi has done numerous films in his career but nothing has ever as grandstanding as the two Spiderman films. In both films, you can see that he injects lots of passion for the avid fans of comics and also for newcomers to come back for more. He also had to weather the storm for "Spiderman 2" when its lead actor, Tobey Maguire, almost lost the role to due a back injury. While in LA at the Sony lot to promote the film, Sam spoke about his passion for the Spiderman franchise as well as almost choosing actor Jake Gyllenhaal to take over the role.

Avi Arad let slip that there will be chapter 3 and that you were going to be involved in it, does that make a difference when you approach this film if you know that you will be able to continue the story or how do you view it when its part of a franchise?

Sam: When I worked on this film, Spider-Man 2 I did not know that I'd be directing the third one. I did know there be a third picture and I tried to put in the film along with the writers, and the producers Avi (Arad), and Laura Ziskin, elements that will make it seem like the audience had to buy the next issue. I love that feeling at the end of a good Spider-Man comic book where it says TO BE CONTINUED. You say DAMN THEM I NEED THAT OTHER ISSUE, WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO, THERE DRIVING ME CRAZY. I had to go back to the comic book store driving my father crazy, please take me back their father, sure the comic books will be in today. I had to be there when those comics arrived. So I really liked the serialized nature of the comic books and so we put that into part 2 knowing there'll be a part 3, I didn't know I'd be directing it. But it didn't really change anything for me and to answer your question as far as knowing that there was 3 parts to this movie 1 the Spider-Man comics has always been in parts but 2 the movie itself is incomplete to me. In my mind when I was working on the story I knew how I wanted it to end. It's the story of a life out of balance, first lopsided in one way as he (Peter Parker) tries to be this responsible young man and then lopsided in another way as he decides the hell with it I'm living my life damn everybody else. And then that leads to such moral decay that he finally has to say to himself I would go back to my lopsided life of being Spider-Man and just down this road of responsibility unfortunately its like a prison sentence to him. What he doesn't know is that be the end of the piece he learns through Mary Jane Watson that he not need to go down that road alone. And so I felt he had a sense of balance by the end. So it seemed to me complete as a complete story, also the story of some young man who is on the road to responsibility learns the sacrifices that are necessary to be responsible. I felt that he had learned a lesson, so it's incomplete in a few different ways and I didn't really think of it as a franchise sort of speak.

When you say that you didn't know you'd be directing number 3, was that because you hadn't been asked or there hadn't been a deal made or you were having personal consideration about that much time being tied up, What was the hesitation?

Sam: Well the hesitation in not knowing if I would direct part 3 was that they hadn't asked me. Maybe they wouldn't like the second one, even had they asked me I would have to really have a great desire to do it, I think in order for the movie to be worth while. That's what I felt about the second one, as the first movie ended I thought I really know this character, Peter Parker, I really understand him, something's I don't know and I'm still figuring out. And I have this great curiosity as to what will happen to him in his life. Will he get back with Mary Jane Watson? What about his friend Harry? How will they resolve this dark secret of Harry's fathers' death that Peter hasn't told him? And then I realized that I have to direct this movie because I'm so curios about it, I need to see it, I'd love to tell that story, I want to discover it, I want to discover what happens in the writing of it and the directing of it and I didn't know if that would happen at the end of this film. But at this time I find myself again incredibly curious, I realize that Peter Pan there is so much more to learn than I ever thought, I may never know who he is no more than you know who your own husband or wife is, but the more time you spend time with them the more you love them, the more complexity are revealed to you, and often times when I'm directing a picture I'm trying to figure out who the character is so I can direct the movie. It usually happens at some moment I realize who it is, and I know what to do, so I just feel like I'm at a great advantage and I know who he is I know how to direct him then, now I just have to really work on the story and everything else.

I'm assuming that it's not conceivable that you would work on another project in between Spider-Man movies, have we lost you to the Spider-Man franchise?

Sam: Yes, I'm so busy working on the Spider-Man 3 story right now, I can't possibly think of anything else.

Sam you know from comics that it's extremely rare to have a superhero lose his powers in the second episode, and I wondered why you thought you would have that sort of dimension early?

Sam: Well, I think that happens in Superman 2 right? Superman 2 he loses his powers.

But usually in comic books it that never happens till way into the franchise.

Sam: Right that's true. Well I wasn't really thinking in terms of how they usually do it, although everything has really been done before.

Question: couldn't get it to far away.

Sam: You know what I was thinking about? I was thinking about a great issue of Stan Lee's Spider-Man comic book where he gets the flu. For a time he is really weak as Spider-Man and it was so human to me I thought it was great. This superhero has got the bug like all of us and just like we all have to go to work when were sick and we really don't know why we're doing this and how we are going to do our job today, he had to fight criminals when he had the flu. I thought it was incredibly human, a humanizing thing to have happened to this superhero. It was a combination of that and a desire to put that into the picture, so we can identify with him, I thought it was a unique thing that happened in Stan Lee's comics but also there was also another issue of Stan Lee's comic I elaborated with, were he decided to throw the suit away. Issue number 50 perhaps. His life's problems has just become too great, so I think what happened is there was synthesizes of those two ideas along with other elements that I was interested in telling in this story. That's were the genesis of the lost of powers came from.

What do you think was expected of you when you were first hired giving your filmography with horror films etc. What do you think you'd actually brought to the Spider-Man story thus far?

Sam: What was expected of me? What I had pitched them to get the job, I wanted to make a story not about Spider-Man but about Peter Parker and I really told the studio when they interviewed me for about my love of the character, I would focus on the relationships, I thought that was the right way to tell this particular movie. I would make it into a soap opera and that I love soap operas like Melrose Place. That's what Peter Parkers story always was to me, so I'd just bring out my favorite elements of the comic book. So I assumed they'd expected me to do that.

Did you really go out of your way to beat up Tobey in this movie like you did with Bruce Campbell in your Evil Dead movies. And how did that affect Tobey's back problem?

Sam: I didn't' go out of my way to beat up Tobey physically, I think Bruce Campbell is better for that. I did want to beat him up emotionally and mentally I wanted him to suffer and make the audiences suffer. So they can come out of it, cause I wanted them to realize that to be responsible you have to pay a price it's not easy. It's not easy to do the right thing, you always have to give something of yourself, your time, you have to make a personal sacrifice, you've got to maybe risk personal injury, you've got to say something you maybe ashamed to say. So I wanted to show to be this hero had a great cost to Tobey, it wasn't going to be easy. I wanted to him to suffer, suffer to be that hero, so I beat him up as much as I could in the story.

But what about those wall slamming scenes, I know he wasn't hitting them but he hit like 12 walls.

Sam: Oh yeah, he took some of those hits. Not the real tough ones, but some of them he did take.

Wasn't there a problem with his injury?

Sam: Well they have a special back protector, kind of a shell that he wears on his back when we do that. And the wall is pre-scored, pre-cut from the back and its made out dry wall material. So it's not terribly impact full, that particular piece. There's other things that when we yanked him out of frame, that his back does endure quite a jolt, but I think he's healthier than even he thought.

Did you have a DVD crew actually on the set to shoot the DVD for the film?

Sam: Yes there was a DVD crew that was there all the time, it's was just like 3 rowdy looking guys with a video camera. I didn't like the idea at all at first cause I really like to be private making the movies. The more I think about it now that you asked me I really don't like the idea at all. (Laughs) I don't like shows, I don't like to put on a show, I just really want to work intimately with my actors. But they say "Oh don't worry if you don't want that stuff in there it doesn't have to be in" but there always there and after a while I don't think about them. Long pause I 'm starting to think about them now. (Laughs)

Was there any shoot that didn't make it on the screen that will be on the DVD? What plans have you made for the DVD?

Sam: Most of what was shot in the movie made it into the movie, there's a scene in a shoe store its about a 2 minute scene. There's a scene with JJ Jameson about a 1-minute scene. And then there's like 10 seconds here where something was too slow or a 15 second clip here where some piece of information was made clear by a visual, which I didn't realize when we were working on the script so I realize that the audience didn't need that or some entrances was too slow, I'd start the scene in mid-dialogue. But pretty much what we plan was in the picture, I don't really have a lot of stuff to put in.

What about the DVD in general, have you made any plans?

Sam: Sony Pictures has this whole DVD Dept now that does nothing but make these special featurettes, so they've got this incredible amount of behind the scenes making of the costume, the effects behind Spider-Man, special this and that I couldn't say everything but I know they've got a really big plan for that.

Going back to Tobey's back issue, there's a joke about that in the film where did that come from? Was that from you, or was it from Tobey?

Sam: My brother wrote that joke, he just thought it would be funny when we were working on the bit were Tobey is trying to regain his powers, Peter Parker is trying to regain his powers he's running over the rooftops trying to make a big leap when he says, "I'M BACK, I'M BACK" and obviously he doesn't have as much powers as he thought, then slams down and says, "MY BACK, MY BACK." He just thought that would be a great joke, and then when thought "oh now we can't do that" Tobey's had back problems, but we thought "oh lets do it anyway," it would be fun for the people that do know about those problems, and Tobey was aware of that and he has very good sense of humor about himself and he said sure lets do that gag.

How close were you to lose Tobey in this film due to his back problems, how scared were you about that?

Sam: We had to be sensitive to use Tobey we had to use him for a lot of stunts I couldn't get away from that. But if there was some stunt that would really was going to rapture him out of frame with great force, we would slowing work up to it. Each time increasing the pressure per square inch on the line that was going to take him out of frame until he felt like he was ready for it. Or if it was something that was really intense we would bring in the stuntman and just photographic from a long shot pretty much like any other picture. But it turns out his back is in really good shape because I put him in through a tremendous amount of test and riggers and he performed in an excellent fashion.

How close was Jake Gyllenhaal to being cast?

Sam: Well I thought that Jake was going to be the next Spider-Man because I asked him to do it. When I had heard that Tobey could be paralyzed from a stunt on the set, I realized that I couldn't possibly have him in the picture. I was going to ask him to anything so that tragedy can happen on the set. At the same time I couldn't compromise the movie and not have Peter Parker take such an active role in all these scenes. I had to call Tobey and say "Tobey from what I hear I can't work with you in the movie" and he was speechless. I don't think he knew what I've had heard. But I had heard that he could get paralyzed if there was an injury to his back. So I called Jake and I said, "Jake, Tobey's back is such that I can't be as irresponsible as to ask him to play the part. It breaks my heart because I really want him to be in the movie I think he's the right Spider-Man, but if I can't have Tobey, you're the man for me." I've been a great admire of his (Jake's) work, I like him personally and we planned and still plan to make a film together. He (Jake) was going to think about it and he said that he's honored that I asked, he's going to think about it but before he told me whether he would do it or not I got a call from Tobey's manager and agent saying the representative that said that is not at doctor, we want to have doctors examine him and find out. So doctors checked him out, I don't want to bore you with this story they said it turns out he does have a back injury and if he does re-injury it, it would cause a tremendous amount of pain. But we don't believe is that high likely hood of him being paralyzed, no that was not correct but he could re-injury. So I thought pain for actors is a good thing, as long as he's not going to be paralyzed then it could work out.

Was this Tobey being more demanding or was it people being over cautious?

Sam: I think it was somebody trying to protect Tobey from serious injury and hearing he had a back problem and hearing it can be damaged further. And I think they may have taken it upon themselves to say hey if it's damaged further you could be paralyzed, which might be like a logical type of thought progression for an amateur who doesn't know medicine, but we had to take it like it came from a doctor once we've have heard that.

Did you know when you were considering Jake that he had a relationship with Kristen?

Sam: I had thought, yeah. That made it a little complicated and I thought that's actually none of my business and I'm sure Jake wouldn't want that to be a consideration. So I kept that out of the equation and just approached him as one professional to another.

What was Jake's reaction when you called him up and said I take it back?

Sam: Well because I had been so straight with Jake, I said, "Jake look I love Tobey, I've fought for Tobey to get the part I like him personally I'm in this weird situation were is I can't paralyze him, I've heard this news, I don't think I have a choice but to move on so given that, you're my man." Well than I call him back and said, "Guess what? The doctor called and said he's back is okay," and so he (Jake) understood he said, "The logical thing to do is to put Tobey in the picture, you should do that" and I said "Thank you Jake." He never said he'd take the part by the way. But I had hoped that he would.

Why is Tobey right for this role?

Sam: Because Tobey has the ability to be a very real person on screen. He's a very nice person, he's a good person I think audiences can see right through someone if they're not on screen. They have a collective intelligence that is very accurate and piercing and I think because he's a good person and he's simple he doesn't pretend on screen he just is somehow. I think he becomes Peter Parker.

Once again you have New Yorkers kind of help in the battle, why did you decided to that again?

Sam: This time around Peter had lived such a baring life being this hero and this is a point were he decided he had to forsake his personal happiness, he tired that but couldn't live with the moral decay. He must put on this suit use this gift for the benefit of others these faceless people who he never receives thanks from, he's living a life for the newspaper they're smearing his name and in this moment when he's resigned to he's miserable fate I wanted to give him something back just a little bit, I still wanted him to suffer. But I wanted to give him a moment, just a little bit back from New Yorkers because when he actually met them face to face in this unique moment, he realized something that he didn't understand before, that they do appreciate him if he'd every had the time to take off his mask. So he learned that it's not as black and white as he thought. And it is a world filled with more love than he thought it's not as quite as cold as he thought even if you are Spider-Man.

Given that you like spending personal time with Peter in the movies, do you think it works out better to have just one villain each time?

Sam: I don't know the answer to that, cause I like a lot of the comic book stories where there's multiple villains, but I had so much of a personal story this time to tell of Peter and Mary Jane Watson and his friend Harry that I couldn't when I had two villains in the earlier drafts it seemed to diminish my ability to get deeper into what most interested me.

Who was the second villain in the earlier draft?

Sam: The second villain, we had Black Cat in the early drafts.

Can we assume that Black Cat is the front-runner to show up in the third one?

Sam: Not yet I don't know I'm still trying to figure out the story.

Did you have the script tweaked for Bruce Campbell's character?

Sam: No, that was a bit that Alvin Sargent wrote and we developed it a little bit more on the set with Burce but it really was what Alvin wrote that particular scene.

Are there any other Marvel characters that you secretly wished that you could direct if Avi Arad came to you and said pick one and we'll do it?

Sam: I love so many of them, I really do, I grew up reading them. Spidey's always been my favorite. Superman not a marvel comic is another favorite, Batman is another favorite, Captain America. Love Captain America and I also love Fantastic Four that's really cool. Those would be my favorites.

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