Compiled by: Jack Foley
SPIDER-MAN 2 villain, Afred Molina, talks to IndieLondon about
the challenges of filming the sequel - and the pleasure.
Q. So when did you begin reading Marvel comics, as I always
had you pegged for a Beano or Dandy kind of guy?
A. [laughs] I think before Marvel Comics, I’m sure I
did read the Beano and the Dandy. There used to be an English
comic that had a great character in it called Alf Tupper, Tough
of the Track. I used to love it because he used to work in a chip
shop during the day and at night and at weekends he was an athlete.
He never had any money, so he was always running in borrowed shoes
and tatty old vest and shorts, and he was always running against
some glamorous bloke who was going to be in the Olympic team and
he always won.
That’s indicative of a certain kind of English persistence,
in keeping things the way they were. I remember loving him.
I started getting into American comics, I think it was my Dad
who first introduced me to them. He used to be in the Merchant
Navy when I was very, very young, and I think he brought some
back or something.
That sparked off my interest. And then, of course, they started
selling them, but they were quite expensive, so I don’t
think I was able to get them regularly.
I guess I must have been about 12 or 13 when I started getting
pocket money on a regular basis, I started lashing out on Marvel
and DC Comics.
The Marvel Comics were always harder to find, but so much more
glamorous somehow. Not that I was aware of that at the time, but
I do remember being much more attracted to them.
I could never understand why no one ever recognised Superman.
He looked the same; Clark Kent looked like Superman, except he
had glasses on. He had the same haircut, the same build, the same
chiselled features. He just put on a pair of glasses and a suit.
I could never understand why people didn’t cotton on. And
Batman was always so dull.
But there was something about the Marvel characters, it must have
had something to do with the artwork or something, but there was
something very.....also I think it was something about the way
New York was drawn, there was something really exotic and sexy
Q. And they are all psychologically-damaged characters?
A. I realise that now, but probably, at the age of 12,
I wasn’t really thinking in those sort of sophisticated
terms. Unconsciously, there must have been something, though.
Now that I think about it, they all share that thing of being
heroes and villains in a sense, reluctantly.
Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man almost by accident.
Q. Which one did you want to be?
A. I tell you who I really wanted to be, there was a
wonderful hero called Silver Surfer. I always fancied him, because
I thought that was really cool. And Thor, I liked him.
Q. They’re going to make it as a film…
A. Are they? Oh I loved Thor.
Q. It’s not too late, perhaps?
A. I suspect it is.
Q. Let’s talk about the tentacles. What sort of
preparation did you do, and how difficult was it?
A. I had a lot of fun working with the puppeteers who
were operating them. The preparation was really just before we
started shooting, we had about two months of prep and, in those
two months, I had regular rehearsals with the puppeteer team,
because we had to work out a sort of language, a kind of vocabulary
For all the scenes where the tentacles were strapped onto me,
they didn’t afford very much movement, they were quite restricting,
because all the tentacles were strapped up onto wires so all the
movement had to choreographed.
I couldn’t suddenly improvise in the middle of a scene;
I couldn’t decide in the middle of a scene that I would
turn round or lean back or stand up.
I wasn’t able to do any of that sort of thing. So we had
a series of sequences that Sam Raimi needed that we rehearsed
basically. That was the bulk of the training, working out all
of that stuff to make it look plausible and authentic, and as
free and natural as possible.
And lots of work with various prototypes of the costume, which
went through all kinds of changes and developments as the weeks
The prep was very, very technical. When it came to actually playing
the role there was really no research to do really, it was just
about making it up and being hopefully as imaginative as possible.
But I enjoyed the technical side of it, I’ve always had
rather a fascination with film-making on that technical level.
A lot of actors find it boring, or find it gets in the way sometimes,
or it irritates them. But I’ve always found it interesting.
Q. How familiar were you with the character of Doc Ock?
A. I don’t remember him from when I used to read
the Marvel Comics. I remember other villains, like Lizard, and
Sandman and Green Goblin. But I don’t remember Doc Ock.
I found out he first appeared in 1963, went through all kinds
of different looks and changes, and, again, the design that we
had for him was very different from anything that’s in the
comic books, so I didn’t really have any childhood memories
of him or anything like that.
So I was really starting from scratch really, basing it just on
what was being created specifically for the movie. But I liked
the way it was going, and I was involved in the design at quite
an early stage.
On my first day at work, the designer said that now that they
knew who was playing the part, they could move onto the next stage.
They didn’t know who they were designing it for. Was it
going to be a short guy? A tall person? A well known actor? They
weren’t sure what their parameters were. Once I was cast,
they started working more specifically in terms of what the looks
was going to be.
But I was very aware that Doc Ock is, in his various versions,
was always one of the most popular of all the villains in that
whole Marvel world.
Why, I’m not sure. There’s something very human about
him, he’s not like a fantasy villain. He didn’t come
out of the sea, or come from another planet, or anything like
that. He’s very much one of us, I suppose. Maybe that’s
been part of the attraction over the years.
Q. Does that make him more difficult to play - the fact
that he is so normal and conflicted?
A. It makes it more interesting to play, because there’s
a development in the character. He’s not relentlessly evil.
It’s not like you hear about the bad guy for the first 20
minutes in the movie and suddenly he arrives, snarling and screaming
his way to the end of the film.
That kind of diet would be one you’d tire of very quickly.
So having the audience see the character before the transformation,
you see him in a more ordinary domestic context, it’s more
interesting for the actor, certainly because you’d got a
much broader, much wider character to play. It’s not all
twirling moustaches and looking mean. There’s a bit of heart
and some depth to it.
Q. And how do you feel about
the English always playing the villains? Are you pleased to be
continuing the tradition?
A. I find it very remunerative, and this is one particular
stereotype I’m very happy to endorse. It’s a long
tradition. I was talking about this earlier, that in the early
days of Hollywood there were actors like Basil Rathbone and Claude
Rains, and in the next generation there were people like James
But they all played their villains with English accents, so there
was clearly about the accent that appealed to American audiences.
There was a certain style of playing those bad guys, they were
always rather suave and urbane, there was some rather attractive
about them. They were often played as ladies men, or slightly
sardonic and rather witty. Cruel, in a very casual way.
But then, in more recent years, even though British actors have
still played those parts, they’ve started widening in terms
of ethnicity. Alan Rickman was German, in the Die Hard movies.
Gary Oldman has played lots of villains, and he’s been every
nationality under the sun. And Doc Ock is, to all intents and
purposes, an American.
So that’s changed. I used to joke that the reason why British
actors always played villains was because we were cheaper. They
could hire us for a quarter of what they would have to pay an
American actor. I used to say it as a joke, but like most jokes
there’s a grain of truth in it. I was very pleased to be
part of that tradition. It’s nice to be continuing it.
Q. So it must be very gratifying to have attracted such
a positive critical reaction, from both the fans and critics?
A. I’m very pleased, because the fans could have
been very mean about it, but the reaction has been very good,
certainly in the States. The real serious Spider-Man fans, the
comic book fans, will go to see the movie three, four, five times.
They’re the reason these films make so much money when they’re
successful, because they’re laying out a lot of money on
So it’s very nice for our efforts to be endorsed. They’re
really enjoyed the character, it seems, so I’m very pleased
for them. I’m very happy.
Q. How aware were you about the fans’ obsession?
And did it add any pressure?
A. I wasn’t really aware of it, though I knew there
were a lot of fans out there because I remember reading stories
about the reaction to the first movie, and how Tobey and Kirsten
were doing this world tour of publicity, being greeted by crowds
that they hadn’t seen since The Pope last visited. Stuff
So I was aware that there was going to be a lot of interest, a
big circus was about to hit town, but I wasn’t aware of
it on any personal level until a friend of mine called and told
me to check out the fan websites.
This was just when it had been announced that I was playing Doc
Ock, although the announcement came after we’d started work.
I logged on to one of these websites, and the first message was
someone saying: ‘what a good idea that Sam Raimi has stuck
to his game plan of hiring an experienced stage actor to play
the villain. It worked the first time, so it all bodes well, it’s
obviously a good idea’. You know, a very, very positive
I thought this was good, so I carried on scrolling down, and the
second message said something like: ‘who the hell’s
Alfred Molina, I’ve never heard of him’. And then
the third one was, ‘oh, he was that fat bloke in Frida’.
Then they got progressively worse, and less friendly. I quickly
logged off, so I stayed away from the fan sites after that.
But, ultimately, it’s what you end up on the screen with,
and I think it’s pretty decent. And fans are obviously enjoying
it, which is all well and good.
Q. Did you keep any memorabilia? A tentacle, perhaps?
A. I didn’t, I couldn’t get it out the studio
gates. The security was phenomenal on this movie, it really was.
We had to sign for rewrites when we got them; they were really
paranoid about the internet and stuff.
I remember I made a gift to the puppeteers, there was a team of
about 16 of them, and I had some T-shirts made up.
We began to refer to ourselves as the ‘octourage’,
that became our little in-joke. So I got some T-shirts made up
saying ‘I’m with......’ on the front, and on
the back it said ‘the octourage’, with a silhouette
drawing of Doc Ock.
It was just a little private joke, and I gave these out to the
puppeteers and a couple of the crew. About three days later, there
was a photo on the internet of one of these crew guys wearing
The photograph looks as if it was taken at ground level, so it
must have been one of the extras or another crew member who took
the photo and then slipped it onto the web. I remember the producers
asking if I took it, but I said I only got the T-shirts made as
a gesture of thanks.
They were very concerned about security and secrecy, so there
was not nearly the same level of relaxation in that regard, precisely
because of that. This is a multi-million dollar endeavour, and
they take this kind of thing very seriously. But we still had
Q. Did your involvement in the designing of the character
appeal to the ‘gadget geek’ in you, or ‘girly-man’?
A. Kind of both. I was interested in all the technical
stuff because films of this nature are, by definition, feats of
technology. The actors relationship to the material therefore
changes. It’s not like doing a movie where the bulk of the
action is talking, or having a conversation over dinner. Or walking
through parks, having intense relationship issues with each other.
So the actors relationship with the material is different, and
I’m always in those points where the actor’s creativity
meets and crosses paths with the film’s technical requirements.
Even on the most simple, banal level, like walking through a door
and having to hit a certain light because the director wants you
to be lit just so.
Gary Cooper was a brilliantly technically accomplished actor by
all accounts, he used to love that side of the movies. He’d
have to arrive and be lit just here, or just a profile, and he
would always hit it. He was always interested in that technical
I’ve always enjoyed that equation, contributing to solving
those little problems.
And on this film everything was so much more complex with green
screen work, and having to do the same movement over and over
again. It can get really tedious, but there’s something
really interesting in conquering the technology, so you find yourself
using it rather than it using you, or you being dictated to by
I took a certain amount of pride in that, because I quite enjoyed
the process from that point of view.
Q. Did you work out beforehand, to prepare for the role?
A. I worked out essentially not to get myself all built
and cut, I was actually working out to lose the last vestiges
of all the weight I put on for Frida.
I turned up for my first interview for Spider-Man carrying a good
10 or 12 pounds more than I should have. It took me two weeks
to put the weight on and two years to lose it.
I walked in, and I was still picking the last bits of quesadilla
out of my moustache. Sam said he didn’t need me to be all
buff, he didn’t need that, he just wanted me to get a bit
firmer, because I was still quite overweight from that movie.
Q. The Victor Mature look?
A. At one point when I was trying on the harness –
we called it a harness, but it was more of a girdle – he
said I looked like a 1950s bodybuilder. I wasn’t quite sure
what to make of that, but he said that was great, it was the look
they wanted. He didn’t want me to look lean and chiselled,
because that’s a terribly modern look, which was already
covered by Spider-Man.
Spidey’s got that look, he didn’t need the villain
to look like that. Thank goodness, speaking as one of nature’s