AUSTIN — “This is Spider-Man. You’re crazy if you don’t do it.”
Those were Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal‘s words of advice to Marc Webb when the director, with just one feature under his belt — the modestly budgeted 500 Days of Summer — was asked to helm the studio’s $200 million-plus reboot of the comic book franchise.
Webb, 39, didn’t need much convincing: “I was dying to do it,” he told The Hollywood Reporter following his South by Southwest keynote on Saturday at the Austin Convention Center. Earlier, he had joked, “I was like, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Sony collapses and everybody loses their job?’ “
But (phew) just the opposite happened, as The Amazing Spider-Man went on to become a high point for the studio in 2012, grossing $750 million worldwide. It’s that kind of magical Webb-slinging that Sony, still smarting from its disastrous summer of flops in 2013, is hoping the director will repeat when the sequel hits theaters on May 2.
In an hourlong chat throughout which the helmer brimmed with enthusiasm for the filmmaking process — he geeked out demonstrating how the show’s opera-meets-techno score came together with the help of Pharrell Williams — Webb pledged that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will deliver more than its predecessor. “There was a moment deep in the [first film’s] postproduction process where a giant lizard smashed through a wall chasing a boy-man in a unitard, and I said, ‘This is not grounded.’ ” But for the next installment, which stars Jamie Foxx as high-voltage villain Electro and Paul Giamatti as Rhino, Webb shook off the mental restraints and adopted the modern blockbuster ethos of more is more.
“I’m going to embrace the spectacle,” he said. “I’m not going to be beholden to smallness. I want it to be fantastic, to be big, to command and express that feeling when you’re a kid reading the comics. … I didn’t want to hide or shy away from that.”
During an audience question-and-answer segment, a man in his 20s reminded Webb that the third installment of Sam Raimi‘s original trilogy — 2007’s Spider-Man 3 — was undone by the inclusion of too many villains. The fan then pointed out that Webb’s sequel runs the risk of falling into the same trap, as it features not just Electro and Rhino but Harry Osbourne — the Green Goblin’s alter ego — as well. (Dane DeHaan tackles the part last played by James Franco.)
“We’re obviously familiar with the complaints people had,” Webb replied. He then explained that the key to the movie’s success lies in the writing: “We’re very careful to make sure the stories intertwine. For Peter Parker, it’s very important that you create obstacles that are difficult to overcome.”
Webb added that Giamatti’s character — a role he won before the script had even been written, after Webb heard the actor saying he’d always wanted to play Rhino on Conan O’Brien‘s talk show — is only “in the movie for four minutes.”