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WonderCon: FOG! Chats With THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Director MARC WEBB and Gwen Stacy, EMMA STONE!

Forces of Geek is proud to welcome correspondent Patrick Lee, who covered WonderCon for us this past weekend.

The upcoming superhero reboot movie The Amazing Spider-Man has some big spidey-boots to fill: It comes only five years after the last of director Sam Raimi’s three huge Spider-Man films, which established a complete mythology and provided perhaps the most well-known incarnation of Peter Parker ever in the person of actor Tobey Maguire.

But the new film–billed as the “untold story” of Peter Parker–stars relative newcomer Andrew Garfield (the English actor best known for a role in The Social Network) as Spidey and the delightful Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in a story that returns to high school and upends the mythology. Mary Jane Watson is gone from the narrative; Denis Leary is Gwen’s father, the Spider-Man-hating NYPD Capt. Stacy; and Rhys Ifans is Dr. Curt Connors, whom fans know is slated to be The Lizard.

Director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) takes over from Raimi.

Stone and Webb–speaking to reporters at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, on Saturday, March 17–had some definite opinions as to why fans should give their new movie a chance and how it will depart from the previous series of films. For one thing, Stone says Gwen’s relationship with Peter is quite different from his one with Mary Jane in the earlier movies. (Stone also reveals her geek cred by knowing that one of the comics’ unfortunate storylines had Gwen bearing Norman Osborn’s twins.)

For another, the new film reveals a twisty backstory involving Peter’s parents, about whom we got nothing in Raimi’s movies.

And The Amazing Spider-Man arrives in theaters in full 3-D for the first time, when it debuts on July 3.

Following is an edited version of our Q&A with Stone and Webb.

The Amazing Spider-Man star Emma Stone (left) and director Marc Webb at WonderCon, Anaheim, CA, on March 18, 2012. (Patrick Lee)

How did it feel to take on an iconic superhero, especially since it hasn’t been that long since audiences have seen a big-screen version of him?

Marc Webb: I think Spider-Man is a perennial character. He’s something that has existed for 50 years and he’s very consistent, and to have the opportunity to render that cinematically is terrifying – but f–k! It’s so much fun. It was like, they called and said, “Hey, we want to talk to you about Spider-Man,” and I [hung up]. I was like, are you kidding? What? What 17-year-old version of yourself, back in Madison, Wisconsin, expects to get that phone call?

Emma Stone: Not my 17-year-old version of myself in Madison, Wisconsin.

Webb: Well, it’s really fun. It’s really exciting.

When there are so many iterations of these characters, what do you draw upon – just the script, or do you familiarize yourself with the entire history of a character like Gwen Stacy?

Stone: There was a fair amount of research for me to do because I didn’t read the comic books growing up, so of course I had a lot to brush up on. But for the most part, the definitive part of Gwen Stacy, more than anything, more than the different incarnations of her personality–because she was a hippie, she had twins with Norman Osborn, there were a lot of things we didn’t really touch on quite as much, and there were some updates to Gwen as well, because it’s present day – I think that Gwen’s underlying factor remains incredibly sad, until what happens, which is incredibly tragic.

Her father faces death every single day. Her boyfriend faces death every single day. So she is constantly surrounded by an undercurrent of mortality. So she is in control, and she is valedictorian, and she is confident and smart because she has to be; she’s constantly in the face of something, so that’s why her end is so much more tragic.

Webb: You’re making me really sad (laughs).

It seems like she’s much more of Peter’s intellectual equal than maybe Mary Jane was.

Stone: Yes, because he’s second in their class. I think that’s a huge part of her attraction to Peter, that he’s a stand-up guy in this version of the movie. I mean, from the very beginning, he displays some very heroic qualities, but he’s mysterious to her–they haven’t really ever connected even though they’ve been in school for a long time. So her attraction is very clear from the very beginning; it’s not him coming after her, it’s kind of more her interest is piqued by him.

Webb: In the comics, Gwen fell for Peter Parker, and Mary Jane was always more after Spider-Man.

Stone: Gwen is in love with Peter Parker in spite of him being Spider-Man. Because, again, her father leaves every day and faces death, and … What is Oedipal when it’s a female and her father?

Elektra.

Webb: Wow! High five! Good one.

Stone: I’m going to be saying that a lot over these coming months, and you’re going to know it’s because of you! But it is! I mean, the fact that her boyfriend is in the face of danger all of the time.

[Mouths “Thank you” to FOG!]

How did you come up with the look of The Lizard, since there are different versions of him in the comics?

Webb: There’s different iterations in the comics, but what was really important to me was that I wanted Rhys’ character and humanity to show through the Lizard itself, and that meant having a visage that you could see the nuance of Rhys, and that performance quality in there.

We used a lot of performance-capture technology to let Rhys’ performance come through; I mean, literally every moment is rendered from that input. It takes a massive quantity of work, and it’s ongoing, finding the nuances, the eyebrow moves, the lip curls. And when you’re trying to create a character that speaks, you have to create a mouth armature, and a biologically working palate that can actually create words.

I mean, in a comic book you just put that thing up there, and you can say, “Oh, thought bubble,” whatever. But when you try to do that and make it look real, it’s a different challenge. I’m creating a movie, I’m not creating a comic book. That was part of the design.

How much work cinematically is done for you by the Raimi films?

Webb: It’s a totally independent universe, and we make different assumptions about certain parts of the character without subverting the iconography of Spider-Man. There are certain obligations we have, like he wears a suit, and he gets bitten by a spider. But the context surrounding that is new and different and set off by an event that happens years before. And it’s a new story in that sense.

But you’re in the unique position of taking over a franchise that was incredibly successful. Are you constantly saying, “We want to distinguish ourselves.” Are you constantly playing off of those movies?

Webb: Well, there is a certain amount of things that we wanted to do in it, like the mechanical web-shooters, for example, which was partly a way to dramatize Peter Parker as a science whiz and his science abilities. But there’s things that we felt obligated to differentiate ourselves in a certain way. But, really, to me, what was interesting is that it’s a story about a kid who grows up looking for his father and finds himself. Right? And that’s something we haven’t seen before. But everything emerges from that. And I wanted to define the movie according to those terms. And so it doesn’t rely on that universe. It doesn’t contradict it, necessarily, but it’s a different world.

How much do you worry about the comparisons?

Webb: I’m aware, but I think we’ve done a really good job of redefining ourselves. And tone is something you can only understand when you see the movie itself. But I think when people start to see the materials, they really start to appreciate it in some way.

What story arcs or eras from the comics influenced your interpretation of Spider-Man?

Webb: There’s a few different things. [To Stone:] You kind of went over everything?

Stone: Over the comics? Yeah, it was also like so much material.

Webb: To me there’s parts, like, Gwen is a little bit more like [her character in] the Amazing-Spider-Man [comics], early on, because in the Ultimates, she was more of a punk rock girl, and we never went in that direction. I looked at the Mark Bagley art for the Spider-Man body–we were very specific about body type, and I really liked that work in the Ultimates. And there’s something about the texture of the relationships, the romantic relationships, in the Ultimates as well.

But there’s also an attitude – in Spider-Man #8, in the Amazings, there is this confrontation between Flash and Peter, this boxing match, and Peter, in the Sam Raimi movies, he’s sort of unconsciously hitting this guy because he doesn’t want to hurt him. But there’s this attitude in #8 where he’s like, “F–k Flash! He’s crossed the line. I’m going to get in his face!”

And that attitude, I really liked that attitude, and there was something that was very authentic to Spider-Man that manifests itself in a sort of trickster-y way. And I think Andrew is really funny and has this kind of lippy thing, but that comes from this sort of irreverent thing, which I think is also a symptom of the orphan story; there’s a little bit of distrust towards the world, and a little bit of “I don’t need you.”

He’s an outsider by choice. And I feel like that’s something that is new.

Stone: He wants you to hit him. He wants to get hit.

How much of her knowledge that he’s Spider-Man is central to the plot, and how much is that information she learns early on and the main story has other components to it?

Stone: I think she learns, and the story has other components to it.

Webb: I think it raises the stakes of their relationship. It doesn’t happen immediately, but I think, to me, I liked the idea in terms of adolescent relationships, when you feel you can be open with somebody for the first time, it really connects people and makes that relationship more intimate. And people feel that, and I felt like it was something kids would do – it just made sense: Like, of course you’re going to want a confidante.

So it’s not the “I’m going off to fight the final battle, but first I have to tell you something” moment?

Webb: Well, you’ll just have to see. Do you want the script? I’ll just give you the script.

The Amazing Spider-Man arrives in theaters in 3D on July 3rd!
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