Spider-Man 3 Interviews: Director Sam Raimi

ComingSoon.net’s Superhero Hype! talked to Spider-Man 3 director Sam Raimi as well as the entire cast of the film at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. Here is the complete Sam Raimi Q&A in which he talks about the anticipated movie and where he stands on upcoming Spidey films.

Superhero Hype!: What was it like coming back to direct “Spider-Man” the third time around?

Sam Raimi: It was great working on the third one in many ways and it was difficult in many ways. The easiest thing was that the team was the same. Not just the producers who I became very familiar with, but I had the same production designer, the editor was the same, the animators were the same. They had learned how to move Spider-Man with great grace and they had learned from a lot of their mistakes. So it was definitely easier because of the shorthand of communication. But, also we had all learned a lot of lessons so we could make new mistakes and we didn’t have to repeat the same ones. But, also working with the actors, that was the biggest advantage of the third picture because what we’re always after in scenes is to try to find a moment that will reverberate with the audience. Like if someone is heartbroken, we want the audience to have felt that themselves and to get there we have to make it a real moment of truth. Something about it has to be real. However melodramatic the drama may be, there has to be truth in the actor’s performance. So because I met Tobey and Kirsten seven years ago and we worked on the first picture as professional people, but than our friendship deepened on the second picture and I had a much greater degree in trust in them. I think they trusted me perhaps more and we weren’t afraid of hurting each other’s feelings, weren’t afraid of saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sometimes when you talk about emotions, words sometimes come up short when you’re trying to describe a feeling you have or a feeling that you’re lacking from an actor. The depth of our friendship and just our closeness of our working relationship really enabled us to attempt to get at the truthful moments to a greater degree. I’m not saying that we were always successful because we weren’t. We often missed them, but at least we were really close in our relationship so that we could really speak honestly with each other about what we felt was lacking and what we felt we needed.

SHH!: Can you address the anti-organic web shooter? Have they finally let that slide and cut you some slack?

Raimi: I don’t know. Maybe not because I think what you’re referring to is in the Spider-Man comic book written by Stan Lee. He had a mechanical web shooter and there was a great objection against the fans online that I was destroying their character. But, I love Spider-Man too, I mean also. What I was trying to do was take James Cameron’s idea, which was actually in a story that he had written that idea, and I thought that’s a great idea of his because it makes the great spirit of what Stan Lee did that’s so unique is Peter Parker is a regular guy. He’s one of us and he’s a hero that we can identify with who has all the common thoughts and mishaps of any of us. So the fact that he was a mechanical engineer and could create this special substance and special gadget, I felt it was better to ignore in an attempt to be truer to the spirit of the character that Stanley had created versus an attempt to be truer to the specifics of every detail that he created. So that was my goal. But, these people are very upset with me. They probably still are and I definitely won’t say that they aren’t because they’ll even be madder.

SHH!: You came up with the story for this as well as the screenplay. You worked with your brother on this?

Raimi: Yes, I worked with my brother and Alvin Sargent, the great screenwriter contributing quite a bit.

SHH!: So what was the challenge of you coming up with this story?

Raimi: Well, this time the story was pretty much set up by the first two pictures. What wasn’t set up by the first two pictures was really influenced greatly from all the great writers and artists of the Marvel comic books of the first 45 years. It was more about sorting through the material and trying to figure out how best to conclude these story lines and where next our character Peter Parker had to grow to as a human being.

SHH!: Can you talk about bringing in the new villains?

Raimi: They came about in different ways. Here’s what we did. We first decided to approach the problem like this. Where’s Peter Parker again in the second picture as a human being? He’s a kid in all these stories. They’re kind of coming of age stories and he learns aspects of growing up. Different life lessons in each of these films and often times, the comic books. So my brother and I spoke for quite some time and we felt that the most important thing Peter right now has to learn is that this whole concept of him as the avenger or him as the hero, he wears this red and blue outfit, with each criminal he brings to justice he’s trying to pay down this debt of guilt he feels about the death of Uncle Ben. He considers himself a hero and a sinless person versus these villains that he nabs. We felt it would be a great thing for him to learn a little less black and white view of life and that’s he not above these people. He’s not just the hero and they’re not just the villains. They were all human beings and that he himself might have some sin within him and that other human beings, the ones he calls criminals, have some humanity within them and that the best we can do in this world is to not strive for vengeance, but for forgiveness. So that was what we felt would be the next broadening of his awareness as a human being

SHH!: Yes, but the theme of redemption applies to more than one character. Were you conscious that this could be the thread from the beginning?

Raimi: No, I wasn’t conscious of that at the beginning. We wanted Harry Osborn, his good friend, that relationship with Peter Parker and him to be resolved by the third picture. We had obviously set up the scenes to have some dramatic confrontation and evolution in this third one and we knew in our heart that Harry was a good boy and good person and was just acting under the mistaken belief that Peter had killed his father in cold blood and perhaps wanting to hang on to the notion that his father was a honorable man and perhaps that he could still be the son his father wanted him to be if he acted a little more strongly and avenged his death. It wasn’t as simple as that for him. The truth comes out and he finds his true self.

SHH!: It also applies to Thomas Hayden Church’s character.

Raimi: Yes, it does.

SHH!: So how did you get to the two villains?

Raimi: So we decided that’s the journey Peter Parker has to go on. As I said, what villain will best represent the conflict that can dramatize his journey? If the hero runs into this conflict how can he learn forgiveness? We’ll make the villain piece someone that is absolutely unforgivable in Peter’s eyes to really take him to a place where the audience understands his desire for vengeance and they feel it so the kids will think “yes bring the Sandman down Spider-Man.” By the end of the piece, you want his journey with Spider-Man so they’d say, “actually as my hero the best thing that you could do right now, the thing I’d rather have you do is forgive this man.” We thought that would be a worth wild summer picture and a good story for the kids if we could incorporate that. We said okay, we’re going to make it a villain that we can make Peter Parker really feel desire vengeance against him in a real heavy way so the audience has a sense of relief when he forgives Sandman so it means something to them dramatically. We chose a villain that did not have such a detailed back story that I would be in defiance with those comic book fans. What I didn’t tell you is when I changed those web shooters, they sent a petition with 2,000 signatures to the chairman of Sony to have me remove them from the picture. So I’m trying to steer clear of that this time. But, really we wanted someone we weren’t in defiance of because the fans do love the characters and so we wanted to add to the history of one that was slightly less detailed. The Sandman I always thought was a great visual character and could be a formidable foe against Spider-Man from all the great Marvel comic books and yet his background so detailed or defined that this would be in conflict. We added to the story that he in fact was the murderer of Uncle Ben. We also liked the idea of by adding this it’s all about the awareness things. Peter Parker sees things as a proud person in this picture in a very narrow way. He’s right and they’re wrong. It’s all about taking on other points of view. There are so many more truths than the simple truths of good or bad or the name as perceived. For instance, that man didn’t kill his uncle as he had thought. It was another man. This is just an example of why we felt it was right. But, we also wanted something you could look back at the first picture and turn the whole thing on its head so that by the time you got to the end it was more than some of the parts. We thought that it would be an interesting experience with the audience and what they had seen in the first part was true, but there was so much more to the story. Like with Peter Parker, they didn’t have the whole truth and they thought they did.

SHH!: There’s talk of you being interested in “The Hobbit” and if you end up directing the film, would it be part of the world that Peter Jackson created?

Raimi: I haven’t even thought about that because I don’t really know what I’m doing next. It’s so soon, my ears are still ringing from the mix on this picture.

SHH!: You’re making a lot of spiritual concepts with forgiveness and redemption, but there’s also a lot of spiritual imagery especially on these last two films. Is that intentionally and what does it all mean?

Raimi: Well that imagery from the church is really far from the story. We wanted to be true to the comic books. It’s very similar in how it was depicted in those classic Marvel comic books of the ’80s that I’ve more recently become familiar with of how Spider-Man sheds his suit and how it became onto Eddie Brock. We were tying to pay tribute to those books. But, there are a lot of literally concepts, spiritual concepts within the comic books. They reverberate and they work for me. The ones that worked for the writers, we incorporated into the story.

SHH!: You seemed to have a lot of fun with Peter Parker embracing his darker side. Can you talk about creating that aspect of the movie?

Raimi: Well, in this story, Peter Parker falls victim to his own pride. He starts to believe all the press clippings about himself, that he’s really this hero and someone great. He starts to be afraid that he isn’t that person and doesn’t want to act any other way than the person that’s right. That pride manifests itself in a much darker way. Working on those sequences with Tobey Maguire and the dark Spider-Man, that was a difficult thing for me actually. It wasn’t fun for me because I didn’t like those sequences. I didn’t like watching Spider-Man go bad. It was unpleasant and I kept worrying, “gee do I really have to do this to show how rageful and vengeful he is? Do we really have to show how pride can destroy you?” But, my brother kept telling me, “yes because he’s going to find himself again.”

SHH!: What about the choreograph sequences. Those looked like they were a lot of fun to shoot?

Raimi: That was fun. I agree. I was referring more to the sequence of Mary Jane and the Jazz club or his treatment of Harry Osborn in that sequence.

SHH!: Was that John Travolta and “Saturday Night Fever” in that sequence?

Raimi: Actually it was not an attempt to imitate that great dance sequence, but I know people have said that to me.

SHH!: Your childhood friend Josh Becker said the irony was you were a smart ass and tagged along with your old brother at the time and that you had a huge obsession with comic books. Can you talk about how accurate that description is and your early film making days in Detroit as well?

Raimi: Well, that’s where I started was Detroit and Josh was my old school buddy. We did super-8 movies together. After school we would meet with Bruce Campbell, John Cameron, my friend Bill Kirk, sometimes my brother Ivan, my other friend Rob Tapert and we would get together and make pictures. Usually back then along with my other buddy Scott Spiegel who I forgot to mention, this was before video tape, we would record on audio cassette “The Three Stooges” on TV so we had a soundtrack. For some reason, we would film ourselves in sync acting out those shorts. We did this for like 20 different pictures. I don’t know why, we just loved “The Three Stooges” so much. Then we started making original films only because we ran out of cassettes. We didn’t have a soundtrack and everyone contributed. There was really no director. There was, “you run the camera. We’ll do this guy. Can you get some pies from the store so we can have a pie fight?” They were all comedies. Then we started showing them to the kids and they would all laugh, when they were good they would laugh. So we really started focusing on desires on, “oh let’s make it with better pace. This one was too slow. Let’s have a really big stunt. A big fall here.” The audiences started determining what we’d make for the pictures and because we wanted to make people laugh they were all comedies. Then we started to show our films at school on lunch hour and the kids would see them. We’d charge them a dollar or .50 cents probably back then and we’d show our films at lunch hour and the kids would laugh and we’d love it. Every weekend we’d get together and make our movies. Then we went off to college and I just kept making films from there. But, yes, I was a tag along kid. Yeah with my brother. That’s true.

SHH!: The Venom character was not one from your comic book experience, but you found a way to integrate him. How long did it take you to get a handle on the character and figure out what to do with him?

Raimi: To finish that question and lead into yours, that’s how the Sandman came about. We tried to develop a character that would represent a conflict for our hero. Once we finished the story, Avi our producer and partner and the former head of Marvel comic books, said, “Sam listen, you are so aware of all of these ’70s villains, but you really need to incorporate Venom into this story because the fans really love Venom and don’t be so selfish with villains that you know and love.” So I said, “okay.” I didn’t understand that much about Venom because I hadn’t really read as a kid. So I went to school on Venom and Avi taught me a lot about Venom and then Alvin Sargent, our screenwriter, he really was the voice of Venom and the writing of the screenplay and he showed me who he was. Then Topher Grace brought another life to the character until finally I had to go to school on all of these people being my teacher as to who he was and trying to satisfy the comic book fans and incorporate Venom into the story.

SHH!: Sony has announced there is going to be a “Spider-Man” musical of Julie Taymor and also there will be a “Spider-Man” 4, 5 and 6. Are you going to have anything to do with either of those?

Raimi: I’m not involved in the musical. That sounds very exciting and I’d love to go see it though. I love U2 it’s going to be great and Julie Taymor’s picture was great. “Frida” is the only one I saw, but I love that picture. I saw the LA production of “Lion King” and that was staged beautifully. I don’t know if that was her staging, but that was fantastic. But, no I’m not involved in that. And yes, Sony is making 4, 5 and 6, but I haven’t even had time to think about involvement and I don’t want to assume that they are definitely going to ask me. I don’t want to be presumptuous about that. Not yet I haven’t.

SHH!: Would you like to?

Raimi: If there was a great story to tell and I had a really good take on where he could grow to now. Then I think it would be great. But, I’d have to have a tremendous passion to do it because so many people love Stan Lee’s character. If I didn’t think I could do it fantastically, then I should step aside and let a younger director come in who loves the character and said he could do it with the greatest passion on the earth.

SHH!: Would you do another movie in between like “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?”

Raimi: I was not going to be directing that picture actually. I would definitely need a break. Right now I couldn’t. I just don’t know.

SHH!: So you don’t have the feeling like you want to say goodbye to “Spider-Man”?

Raimi: It would be very hard to say goodbye to Spidey.

SHH!: What’s going on with Ghost House, your production company?

Raimi: Ghost House Pictures is a company that I have with my partners is Rob Tapert and Mandate Pictures. We make supernatural horror films.

SHH!: What projects do you have coming up?

Raimi: Right now we’re finishing up the post production on “30 Days of Night” based on a graphic novel with Steve Niles. Jeff Lynch has 2nd unit-directed this film and he’s someone that I really respect and a friend of mine. He’s going to be working on a film called “Drag Me to Hell” and that’s a nonstop low budget horror picture, so that’s in preproduction.

SHH!: How about “The Evil Dead” franchise? What’s the status on that?

Raimi: I would definitely like to make another “Evil Dead” film with Bruce one day. I don’t know when, but I would definitely like to do it and I love working with Bruce.

SHH!: When everyone is in costume are those all stunt men, or is it digital. What’s the deal?

Raimi: Usually when he’s got the full costume on it’s either a stunt man or digital. However, if it’s ever a performance issue like Spider-Man stops and stands or if he ever lands in frame and has to be in some place emotional, it’s Tobey. Even if you can’t tell, I can tell. It’s such a big difference when you put Tobey in the outfit. He’s performing the character. It comes through the outfit. Anything that’s dangerous or that wouldn’t look physically sound we go with the CG character.

SHH!: If there is a new series of “Spider-Man” trilogy, do you think it should be a new Spider-Man?

Raimi: I don’t know. I would have to make that choice based on what the story is and what the characters are. It would be very hard to be involved without Tobey and Kirsten for me at least.

SHH!: Since we’ve been talking about these franchises that you’ve been attached to, is that something you’re comfortable with?

Raimi: Well, I know that that will pass. Mostly I see myself as who I was for the 20 years of making films professionally before my Super-8 days and that was Mr. low budget slockmeister horror film guy. You know low budget crime thriller or low budget supernatural thriller. Although I have the occasional different picture, I always found that it was strange that Amy Pascal hired me to do this film. I really loved the film and I wanted it, but I thought it was a bold and unusual choice. When it had that tremendous success franchise, I realized this too will pass. This is a very strange experience and I realized how unusual it was and I know that it won’t be here long.

Spider-Man 3 opens in conventional theaters and IMAX on May 4!

Source: Heather Newgen