Sam Raimi on Returning to Spider-Man

Even after escaping some critical wounds as a result of Spider-Man 3 by returning to his horror-comedy roots, director Sam Raimi didn’t have to be dragged back to Spidey’s friendly neighborhood for a fourth outing.

Raimi, who’s wowing audiences with his bravura cinematic scares in the lean, mean and much lower-budgeted Drag Me to Hell, says it didn’t take any convincing or arm-twisting to get him to sign on to helm a fourth “Spider-Man” outing (especially as long as Tobey Maquire was along for the ride).

Although the storyline is still top-secret–and still being written–Raimi tells about returning to the wall-crawler’s world, taking criticism to heart, the lessons learned from returning to semi-guerilla filmmaking, and how with great “Spider-Man” films comes great responsibility.

CS/SHH!: Was making a fourth “Spider-Man” film an easy call for you to make? And were you and Tobey Maguire in lockstep on the decision, both eager to do it together?

Sam Raimi: I only wanted to do it with Tobey because my interest is in living the character with Tobey in a deeper way than we ever have lived it before. There comes with the familiarity a knowledge of a lot of the basics. I think it’s really going to allow us to delve deeply into him as a human being, which is really why I’m into it this time.

CS/SHH!: “Spider-Man 3” received its share of criticism even though it was successful at the box office. Are you taking that into consideration when you’re developing the fourth film?

Raimi: Do I take the criticism into consideration? Yeah, absolutely. All filmmakers want their films to be liked. I shouldn’t say that, but I definitely want my films to be liked by the audience. I don’t make an artistic type of picture that I can say to myself “Even if this crowd doesn’t like it, it stands as a work of art and will be appreciated years later or has meaning without the audience.” I simply am an entertainer and I make films for audience appreciation. When they don’t like it, I don’t have a leg to stand on. If a critic doesn’t like it, it’s like “Oh, he hates me,” or it’s bad, they don’t like it. Every time I get a bad criticism, I just try not to dwell on it but it’s very upsetting. You really want to please people.

CS/SHH!: What did you particularly take to heart? Like would you go back to a single villain?

Raimi: I’m still working on “Spider-Man 4.” More properly, the writer is writing the screenplay right now. David Lindsay-Abaire, a New York playwright, is in New York supposedly writing. We’ll see – I gotta call that guy! He should be done with his script in about four weeks, I think. I think I’d be better prepared to answer that question once I’ve read that script and know what the movie is. I wanted to work in a new way and a new direction. I had just read this great play that David Lyndsay-Abaire had written called “Rabbit Hole” and I just really wanted to work with him on Peter Parker.

CS/SHH!: Was there a significant difference between working on a major franchise and doing a smaller production like “Drag Me to Hell”?

Raimi: With those “Spider-Man” pictures, which I love making, there’s still a lot of responsibility on the director’s shoulders–and the producers, everyone’s shoulders–because you’re dealing with a character that has been around for fortysome years, is much loved by people throughout the world and people not just have a sense of ownership of Spider-Man–rightfully so–they look up to him as a hero. Generations of people do, so you have to be careful with how that portrayal takes place. You have to have a lot of respect for the ownership of everyone, which they do have over that character. And so I was using the word “responsibility” of the responsibility to present him in a proper light. And that’s a great job, but it’s much more freeing to take a break from that and work with your own characters in a place where no one has any expectation of them because they don’t know them. You’re really free to do anything you want. So there’s a lot more freedoms that come with the independent picture “Drag Me to Hell.”

CS/SHH!: Has rediscovering those freedoms got you excited to return to the world of Spider-Man?

Raimi: I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like I’ve been on vacation and I want to come back. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot, working with the time constraints without all the toys and tools I’ve been granted on the “Spider-Man” pictures. I had a lot less to work with. I remember often times in this process my assistant director Michael Moore would come up to me and say things like, “Sam you’ve got an hour left and you’ve got eight shots. What do you want to do?” And I would think. “Oh my god, we’ll just shoot it tomorrow.” And he would say “You’re not coming here tomorrow – you’re never coming back here, the budget won’t let you come back here. You now have 55 minutes. How are you going to get the shot?” First I’d panic, and then I would remember the basics are all I ever needed and I would think, “Well, what’s the point of this scene, what’s the core of what I’m after?” It’s that this character in the story is confronted with this situation, she makes this realization, and that’s where the scene ends. And I can get that with a close up of my actress and a little bit of a lighting effect. Maybe she was going to come outside and see the sun coming down and I was going to have a crane shot and she was going to realize she didn’t have much time. With a simple rose-colored gel and a lamp that’s being faded up and her coming into a close-up, she can look off into the direction of the light, suggest she’s seeing the sunset, a little bit of wind with help with the idea of the setting sun and she’ll make a realization in her eyes. At that moment the camera will move in a little bit to underline this realization, a bit of fear will come upon her as she realizes she doesn’t have much time as the light is dimming, and she exits frame. With that shot I remembered I can get everything I needed that I thought I needed eight shots to get. And it was invigorating. It never should have been those eight shots anyway.

Spider-Man 4 is scheduled to hit theaters on May 6, 2011, while Drag Me to Hell opens next week, on Friday, May 29th.

Source: Scott Huver