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Spider-Man 2 - Avi Arad Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You must be a very happy man, with Box Office takings and all…
A.
A very happy man.

Q. Does the scale of the success - both the first one and now this - surprise you?
A.
Actually not. I always expected Spider-Man, actually during the bankruptcy days, while we were fighting for control of the company, and I had the pleasure of fighting Wall Street (to me it was a way of life, to them it was a money thing), and the final day, I was given an opportunity to talk to the banks directly, and told them Spider-Man alone is a billion dollar business.
Thankfully, some of them believed it, because there were some geeks in the room [laughs], and it turned out that was low, because movie one - between the film and the DVD and cable and stuff - was well over a billion dollars. But it’s the kind of character that should do well.

Q. But why Spider-Man?
A.
Peter Parker is really a kid just like us. He lives in every neighbourhood, he speaks for middle class, for working class, for the kids who have all this responsibility, the metaphor of this wish-fulfilment, super-power coming with super-responsibility, it’s all relatable.
Look at his family, there’s an Aunt May in every family, or a grandmother like that; his girl problems are real, and there are so many teenagers out there who totally understand, who want to impress a girl. It’s so natural on the one hand, deep-seated feelings that rule our lives; guilt, etc. It’s easy to relate to him and to cheer for him.
There is something inherently good in Peter Parker, there always was, and I think, generally speaking, people believe that people are good, until they find out, ‘oops, maybe not’. But you hope that it’s that. To me, Peter Parker is the ultimate optimist. It doesn’t matter what happens, with this movie specifically, raises the bar about real life. If we hadn’t been through the Spider-Man no more saga, then it would have been too good to be true. How can you take all this pressure, all this not having the girl, she’s dating someone else. He knows he can have her, right? So, all these things are so real, so for him to have this massive event, with the loss of power, it’s real life. It happens all the time, and young kids just love Spider-Man, and when they grow up, they love Peter Parker. There’s something for everybody. And we have interesting villains….

Q. So where do you see Spider-Man 3 going? Any ideas?
A.
Well, this is two years after graduation, so three years from now he should be just about finishing college, so it’ll be interesting. Until now, she loved him, he loved her, but they didn’t have each other. Dating was easy. Now they’re going to be together, so let’s see how that works.
I think life pressures are going to get even more serious, because he’s becoming a young adult. There’s always these villains to screw up his life, so Aunt May is getting older, which is probably one of the biggest economic pressures in young people’s lives; elderly parents, and the fear, are they well? You pick up the phone twice a day, call your mum or dad, and they don’t pick up and you go nuts.
And Mary Jane in this movie is coming into her own, becoming the sort of woman we would all like to have, who makes her own decisions. So let’s see how they deal with life now. I feel it’s going to get more complex….

Q. I suppose the first thing that you have to rectify is that Mary Jane knows that Peter is Spider-Man, so that’s quite a tricky one to get out of?
A.
No, it’s not, it’s a good thing. It was time to do it. It was time for her, because at the end of movie one, we added a gesture; when Peter is walking away, she puts her hand to her mouth, and it’s like, ‘I think I know’. In this movie, at the end, she says ‘I always knew’, so the fact that she knows who he is now makes her life very complex. It’s sometimes what you don’t know, doesn’t hurt, but now she knows. Now she’s becoming a girl who is living with, or married to, a cop, a soldier, a fireman, to an EMS worker, it’s quite a world. So knowing that her man is going to go into the middle of trouble… if you’re a cop in a bad neighbourhood, every time you hear the siren, who knows….

Q. And do you feel that you will always have the same actor playing Spider-Man?
A.
Well, it would be very hard for me to see this movie without Tobey. For me, Tobey is Peter Parker. Even before he became Peter Parker. Right now, we’ve got movie three for 2007, so we’ll take it one at a time. They’re still young. I think, like Sam, they’ve got caught in the web, if you will. He’s such an incredible director, and he’s already doing the next movie. Usually, when you get caught on a movie of this size, it’s like ‘next’… But everybody on this team feels responsible for this movie, and for the characters, which is wonderful. It’s what kept the quality up. So I think that if we have a great story and a great script, we’ll see. We have time until 2007 to worry about that.

Q. Have you kept any memorabilia from the movie?
A
. I have to buy it! But that’s ok.

Q. Do you remember the first time, perhaps as a kid maybe, you picked up a Marvel comic and fell in love with the world it depicted?
A.
Yes, I was almost 17-years-old. Comics came to Israel in the Sixties, and Spider-Man wasn’t the first one, actually. It was Iron-Man, Hulk, Captain America; Spider-Man got me into it. But the one that was initially most influencing, while I was a teenager, was X-Men.
The message was quite deep. But when I was growing up, the radio sucked, there was no television, so you read and played soccer, and some of us read comics. But it was great stuff; great metaphors, great literature. It was easy to get into.

Q. Does the success of the first two films add more pressure to the third one? Especially since other super-hero films, such as Superman and Batman, the quality dropped. They kind of ‘jumped the shark’ a bit, to coin an American _expression…
A
. I really believe that what we have going for us, is that the people who are involved in the projects care about the material. We make movies with people who love the characters. David Goyer, who wrote Blade I and II, and who now directed Blade III, you’ll see it’s a better movie than the first two. So it’s about the passion.
Actually, I’m happy for our kind of movies to succeed, but also for DC, for a change. David wrote Batman and I know it’s going to be a good movie, because David came from the Marvel school of thinking; it’s about relationship, emotion. Today, we can make action, we can make CGI, it’s all available, but if in the core you don’t have enough of a movie, it’s not going to happen. So what we set out to do is get emotional, to drive the relationship as hard as we can. We believe that the love story is there to really complicate life. Peter really tests the hero, because being the hero is 24/7, so the pressure…
Obviously, you have the Box Office stuff, the normal thing that people measure, but I’ll tell you what, to us, was more gratifying, is that we had pretty good reviews on movie one; they were mixed, but they were ok. But the reaction to this was just unbelievable. There is a site on the Internet, that collects reviews, Rotten Tomatoes, it was amazing to be at 97 per cent.
It shows that we set out to make a better movie; that at the end of movie one, we established the things we wanted to push harder, we felt that Mary Jane needed more work; that Aunt May is a hero, so let’s make her into a hero, and it all worked.
But you need a partner. I mean Sony, it’s pretty courageous to let people make this size movie with that much emotion, it could be a scary experience for them, but they were fantastic, and they helped us with pushing the stuff that one might worry about being corny.

Q. Do you think that the success of the original movie and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, perhaps, has helped you to get that balance of emotion and special effects much better now?
A.
Absolutely, because I think there is a sense of comfort. If you look at movie one, the first 40 minutes were like, wow, incredible, it was so emotional. It was interesting to see how tough it is to be who he is, and then getting the power, and the use of the power, making mistakes. It was the best part of the movie, for us. And then we got into the villain agenda, and there was some good scenes, but we kind of let off a little, and got into the action stuff, and I felt that’s where it let off a little.
This time, we were not trying to have an action scene without an emotional conclusion, so the train - although it’s probably one of the greatest action scenes of all time - if you close your eyes and think about this scene without Tobey being taken in by the passengers, and recognising his youth, and the commitment to now protect him, done so beautifully by Freddie Molina, it once again elevates the movie.
Our villains are complex. They’re born as good men and are victims of circumstance also. Again, he didn’t do anything wrong. He believed in something and it all went wrong, and then he was taken over. It’s very hard for us not to make a villain that, in his core, stays still a good man, but with outside influences. Freddy Molina delivered all this texture.
It seems that you’re almost like the midwife, given your involvement with all these films, does it vary how much you give over to the director’s of those particular films?
A. Well, the work is being done in pre-production. If you’ve picked up the wrong director, there is nothing you can do. Making a movie is like picking up a giant rock and pushing it uphill; it’s tough and it comes back at you. But once it hits the top and it’s rolling down, there is nothing you can do, which is why we see so many bad movies out there. No one sets out to make a bad movie, there’s no reason to, and it’s all a lot of good intentions. But if the thing is right, we’re very fortunate to have attracted the best talent in the business today. Some need more work for various reasons.

Q. Is The Punisher any good?
A.
Yes, I think The Punisher is an amazing movie. It’s like Sergio Leone kind of back to Westerns. We went hard, we didn’t take any prisoners, so it’s not for everybody. You see people who’ll tell you it’s too violent.
Actually we have a violent scene in the Russian fight out of the comics, that’s probably one of the best crafted. It’s so incredible, it’s so violent, yet it’s incredibly funny. Thomas Jane is The Punisher, he did a great job. Travolta really carves out a really interesting villain. There are moments when you feel more for him, such as when he visits his son in the morgue. Rebecca Romijn plays a terrific role, although it was hard work to make her look ugly.
It’s a great movie. But it was hard. I have done a bunch of countries where people say it’s so violent and begin looking for political overtones, and I had to stop myself from getting into fist fights, because at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, if someone massacred your family, without a reason, what are you going to do? Philosophically, an eye for an eye, many people will disagree with it, until God forbid it happens to them. Once it happens to you, all this philosophy, all this nonsense, goes out the window, because you care.
I think Punisher is a fantastic movie; it was done in 52 days, as an independent production. Everybody worked… Travolta worked days and nights. There is a scene where he has to recognise his son in the morgue, and he’s a bad guy, it’s simply, you know? If you’re a bad guy, you’re putting your family in jeopardy, so don’t look somewhere else for guilt, or for innocence.
Laura Herring did a great job here. It was really a tough movie to make in the time, because there is a lot of action, violence, and we recognised we make different movies. We’re about to make Fantastic Four, which is going to be very funny, about this totally dysfunctional bunch of heroes, and that’s ok, and we have different books, and different stories, and we’re bringing them to life.

Q. Is The Punisher franchisable?
A.
Yes, absolutely, absolutely. We’re working on number two. You’ll see some blood and killing, but that’s what it’s about. It’s really very interesting, because obviously the story is about a vigilante with a cause, and at the end, the whole idea of this book, is that he wants to punish the people who did what they did, and then kill himself.

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