Sunday, May 4, 2014

Talking to Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and director Marc Webb for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

Still from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
I think much of what I have to say, I've conveyed here in my 2012 review of The Amazing Spider-Man, directed my Marc Webb, then of “(500) Days of Summer” fame. He was brought in by Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures to reboot the franchise which he successfully did with his unique Indie freshness. Making Spider-Man superhuman rather than superhero was his wisest contribution to it. This movie was as real as it was fictional. Of course, Irrfan Khan was our connection to the movie. Now, part-2 has arrived. There is Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone from the first movie and Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Paul Giamatti as new entrants, all three as foes of Spider-Man. Now the reviews are all over but when I got to see 40 minutes footage a month back, I found a certain sense of experimentation by Marc. When directors, in sequels, bow down to the studio pressures and over-add all the old masala, Marc displayed work of a liberated hand. You see longer scenes, organic scenes, acting prowess gradually coming out of the actors, fresh wit, smartly choreographed casualness in presentation and many such qualities. I don't like the Hollywood superhero franchises though, watching TAS-2 I took some amount of my cynicism back.

I happened to meet Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and Jamie Foxx recently in Singapore and ask some questions regarding TAS-2. All were nice. Marc was very understanding, Andy was eager and Jamie was lively-entertaining-wise. Here it is:-


Q. A good movie is that which helps us make wise or right decisions in life. Like, “The Amazing Spider-Man”, in parts, shows Peter parker/Spiderman being forgiving to all, even to his enemies. Can we expect the same from this sequel? Is it all violence or virtue as well?

Marc Webb: That’s a really important question. One of the things very special about Spider-Man is that he’s different than a lot of superheroes. There is a lot of fighting, there’s a lot of violence and that’s a part of what happens in these movies, but Spider-Man is a rescuer. He saves people. That’s what the webs are for. They create nets so that people can be saved and that doesn’t always require violence. Spider-Man is really special. He also empathizes – what you were saying – he empathizes with his enemies and he tries to appeal to the better part of their nature. And I think that’s a really important part of that character that I think we try to incubate and foster in these movies.

Andrew Garfield: If I could add to that, Spider-Man was one of my main heroes growing up and Mahatma Gandhi was another one of my main heroes growing up and still is; a beautifully symbolic human being. And I like the idea of Spider-Man being a pacifist. I really like the idea of him never throwing a punch and never throwing a kick and using his enemies’ weaknesses against themselves, like Charlie Chaplin might or like Buster Keaton might or how Bugs Bunny might. I really like the idea of this skinny little kid dodging and weaving and kind of ducking and diving and letting these big bad guys just beat the crap out of themselves. I think that’s a very powerful message and motif for Spider-Man.

Sally Field and Andrew Garfield in a still from the movie.
  ...to Andrew Garfield.

What is the feeling of putting on that costume? Is it very tight?
Symbolically it feels fantastic. You feel so honored on that symbolic platform. It's hard to complain about. But the practicality, the real life physical aggravation it causes is a bummer. But I guess it's kind of interesting to meet symbolic. Being in the world of opposites which we are, you get to be your own superhero, you get to wear the costume and play the character. Yeah, you’ve got to go through the very human physical problems of actually wearing the suit. It's really interesting about it which I'm thinking right now. Peter is both human and super human, and that's the exact struggle that he's in. It's the struggle between being of this earth and being of the heaven. He's a demigod. He's caught in the tension between living as human being with all his imperfection and transcending that into flight, being eagle, being this spiritual free-flying animal. It's an interesting thing. So yeah, the costume is not comfortable. You feel very human when you're in the costume.

Is there an amount of power to be Spider-Man and how do you handle the responsibility?
That's the question for Peter Parker. Obviously I'm holding the symbol of Spider-Man, of Peter, for the time being. The great thing about him is that he’s imperfect. Peter is all too human, instead of living up to some idealized symbol of a hero without any cowardice, without any blah-blah-blah. No, Peter can experience cowardice, peter can experience pain, Peter can experience suffering, Peter can fear not being enough, Peter can fear not matching up to the symbol of Spider-Man, and that's inherent for young people. We all go through self doubt and fateful moments where we get scared, we run away... that's Peter. And, it's reassuring, reassuring for me that as a kid, growing up, I didn't have to always be courageous. I could also be human and it's okay to accept my humanity. It's really empowering for young people.

Would you do any Indian superhero role? Have you been offered any such role so far?
No, I have never been. I'd love to work in India, love to be a part of Indian cinema. Superhero! Probably not. I think I'd be greedy if I play another superhero. But I'd love to work in India. I'm very interested in the culture and the spiritual history. Yeah, I've never been there but I'm excited to visit.

You've worked with Irrfan Khan in The Amazing Spider-Man. How was it?
Yes! Irrfan Khan. Fantastic actor. Brilliant actor. Kind of graceful, very poiseful and very-very cool guy. Very talented.

You were jokingly saying that you're getting older and you better get these movies made sooner.
I was saying that as an 18 year old.

So when you do get old what do you see yourself playing? What are you aiming at?
I don't really know. I hope it reveals to me. I hope that I'm open enough to be what I'm supposed to be and do what I'm supposed to do. I tend to surrender to not knowing the answers up here (mind), only answers are down there (heart). They are in there already, it's a matter of them revealing themselves or me being open enough to let them. I try not to think too much about the future. I try to let the images of my future needs and my deeper self come to me.

What do think of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” associating with The Earth Hour Campaign?
There is no greater protection needed right now than the protection we need to get to the planet. We are an endangered species and it's because we somehow somewhat forgotten. I mean look at this, we're in this great, big man made thing (Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore) with a boat on the top, and do we need it? Do we need this or do we just go and walk into the woods. You know what I mean? Like, do we get more out of this than we would in the ocean? We’ve somehow forgotten that we are of this earth and that this is not ours. We don't own the earth, we don't own the sky, we don't own the soil, we don't own the flowers, we don't own the trees and we've lost some respect, especially in western culture. There's been a brainwashing, with capitalism and with the male ego. And, I think what Spider-Man can represent and what earth hour represents is protection of feminine because the earth is female, mother earth. And, Spider-Man, Peter Parker is in touch with that feminine side inside him, that sensitivity, that passion and that nurturing energy. It's a very-very beautiful partnership in that way, because he is kind of a perfect ambassador for our need to nurture our mother earth, the thing that holds us, the thing that is holding us right now, this mysterious thing that is allowing us to live on it. It's awe inspiring. I think we all need to remember that how awesome it is that we get to be here. We don't own any of it. The whole idea of buying and selling pieces of the earth! Crazy!!!

Are you afraid of spiders?
No, I'm fine with spiders, I'm not afraid of them, Snakes freak me out. I struggle with snakes. I need to get out of there. Snake is a very big symbol of soul. You know, snake in the Garden of Eden brings Adam and Eve straight into the world of suffering, straight into the world of opposite. He is the earth bound creature sliding on his belly. So I need to figure out my relationship with snakes. I think it speaks to my wish to ascend as opposed to descend. In order to have a full life you have to be in detention between the ascending and descending because the soul wants to descend and the spirit wants to ascend. Like the eagle and the snake. And then when you combine the eagle with the snake then you have dragon and that's cool.

If you are Spider-Man for real and the world is in crisis, what problems would you solve?
Well, I think what's wonderful about Spider-Man for me is what Marc (Webb) said, that he is a rescuer. He is a negotiator. He doesn't like to fight. He likes to resolve things peacefully. So maybe I'd go to Middle East, have a chat, try and give some education, entertain people with some juggling and get the opposing forces to sit together. Then I'll mediate and we'll talk about the fact that we're fighting over the same land and it's neither of ours and neither of yours, neither of you get it, you get to share. Killing each other over a piece of land that doesn't belong to either of you is insane. And these two different religious ideologies that you're fighting for are the same ideologies. They are born of a same story. It's all just a story, a myth. It's just a metaphor. You take it literally but it's actually not. There is a misguided thing happening. The two books that they are coming from is the same book. They were born from the same book. They have the same story, the same symbol, same characters in the same struggle, just with different clothing in it. So I'd probably go and have a chat.

Do you write?
I actually write for myself, but I'd like to try that.

What film subjects are you most passionate about?
I love all stories. I'm interested in exploring all. There is a film I shot last year called '99 Homes' which is about housing crisis in Florida in 2008 and that's a really interesting and devastating story, cause it says a lot about where we are as a culture right now. And there is another film I'm going to be shooting at the end of the year called 'Silence' based on Shūsaku Endō’s book where I play a Portuguese priest struggling with the very meaning of existence which is just my life anyways. So I'm excited about those projects.
 
Jamie in a still from TAS-2

 ...to Jamie Foxx.

You had fun during the movie?
Yeah, a whole lot of. You know what, most of the time you see bullshitting around in Hollywood, but this was one of the sincerest moments. When I reached on the sets for the first time, I didn't see Andrew, I saw Spider-Man. I thought man this shit is real, crazy! When you think about growing up as a kid, you're not thinking about nothing, you're just watching Spider-Man on television and you go outside and start playing like it, crazy! And the next thing you know that you acted in one the biggest film franchises in the world. They've recreated Times Square. So I think the responsibility was to have fun but to make sure that Electro is a formidable opponent, to make sure that Electro is so bad, so evil that it allows Spider-Man to be very good.

How does music become part of your acting?
Whenever I do a character and work with somebody, I do a song for the mood. Whether you ever hear it or not, doesn't matter. When I worked with Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), I came up with a song called “The Tarantino Mix”. During TAS-2 when someone would text me, “Yo! man, where you at? And when I'd be Electro and on the set, then I'd say, “I can't talk right now, I'm chasing Spider”. So I did a song called “Chasing Spider”. It says, “I may be black but I ain't no widow, I've just been shadows in the dark - it means Electro the villain. He may be yours but he ain't my hero, I am great with malice in my heart. I've been patiently waiting but I'm angry now, you promised me the light and then the sky, I was told they will worship me yelling screaming my name, but they turned their back on me and lied, so now I'm chasing Spider...”. So every time I do a movie, there is always a theme song. I did a movie called “Any Given Sunday” and I did the theme song in my bedroom. If you interview Quentin Tarantino next time you ask him how music influences everything he does. He hears a piece of music and he writes to the song. Same is with me, I hear a piece of music or I make up the words. So write now I chasing spider, I'm getting rid of Peter Parker.

You mention Tarantino, was it necessary to show you hanging upside down in “Django Unchained”?
It was necessary for the film because people understand that in real life it is more graphic. You know in real life what they'd do? They'd snip the nuts of slaves and allow him to bleed out. The reason Quentin is so successful because he's able to give you real and rapid, something that you can understand. He did this movie with a flair of comedy. And I'd say to him, “Dude, you're the best director in the world. You were able to say the word Nigger ten times on Christmas, and black folks, white folks, Hispanic everybody enjoyed the film. People reacted in different ways, but you have got to trust your director. And because of the movie I'm in “The Amazing Spiderman-2”. Had I not had Quentin Tarantino, I wouldn't be here.

Have you ever been bullied like your character Electro in the movie?
Like, I don't like the internet, when you talk about bullying. In our times we had real bullies. A dude comes to your class and (enacts) ... you, you come out boy and I'll punch you in the face. Bullying of any kind is bad, but for me, it taught me how to dare in life. That, I'm going to deal with bullies and in intelligent ways and try to be funny at the same time. I always had bullies in my life. Even some 15 days ago a guy tried to bully me on phone. I said, what the hell is going on? So my point is bullies are going to exist, don't always run away, adjust them in a way you can, with intelligence. Say, I'll call the FBI. Like the dude on phone, I told him, I'm calling the authorities. Another aspect of this is you don't know what the other person is going through. In case of Electro, he was bullied by first. But he didn't know how to intelligently adjust them.

Do you think Electro is a villain? Because I don't think he is. He is what he is because of the situations around, the society and the bullying around.
Yeah, but even if somebody shits on your car plate, you have to abide by the rules. He may not have started as a villain but he's welcoming that anger. Electro has a choice but he chooses to embrace it. It's easier to embrace anger, easier to be angry but it's hard to be nice to those people who are not nice to you.

Marc on sets of TAS-2
 ...to Marc Webb.

Which was the hardest scene in the movie?
The Times Square one was the most difficult, technically too, because we had to shoot on the set that we’d built literally. It was not actually a lot of green, we built the first layer of Times Square. We built the whole northern section of Long Island and then we had to integrate the practical version of Times Square where the whole fight between Jamie and Andy takes place. Then we had to integrate the CG elements, music, light and many-many things. It took a year to do. Four weeks to shoot and a year to do. But it was also fun. What's important about those action sequences is that you have to have a clear intention of what's going on and Spider-Man is trying to help people out. We understand that he's trying to connect the first part of sequence with Electro. There are many scenes like that.

How Andrew and Emma were second time around? Were they more comfortable now?
Yeah, I think they knew each other in a much deeper way. Andrew had really embraced Spider-Man. He knew what Spider-Man was. He'd studied Spider-Man but also had lived in it, had lived in the suit. You know, part of Spider-Man's humanness is his wit. He uses his wit to undermine the villain. In the first movie he was discovering this all but in the second part he embraced it. Emma was really thoughtful this time around. Her character Stacy is an incredibly intelligent woman, very thoughtful woman, who's not just a girlfriend. She wants to have her own life. She's going to pursue heroism in her own way and I think in a very real way. Emma really understood this and had discovered this that she can be as heroic as Spider-Man can be. It’s just that her abilities are different.

For the kids who aspire to be Spider-Man what is the message that the movie gives?
That, With great power comes great responsibility. It’s the fundamental that we always talk about. For the movie, I think there’s an idea about time and valuing the time you have with the ones you love. That’s really important. We’ve made it a little sophisticated for the kids, but I think what the kids understand and appreciate is that being good isn’t easy, there’s a consequence to that. But it’s the right thing to do and it’s what you must do, even if you fail. It’s the effort that counts. I hope the kids pick up on that.

Yes, Kids are big fans but the same goes for adults. How do you work for both audiences?
Think about what moves you, and weirdly if you stay true to that it doesn't matter how old you are or what sex you are, or you're from Indonesia or you're from Rajasthan or you're from America, there is something fundamentally human about Peter Parker in particular as a kid. And there is something in it that you aspire to, like you want to do good, but you know it's hard. Sometime it's so complex that it makes impossible to go that lane, but there is no good way out, there is no easy answer and how you overcome this. All this stuff is underneath the surface of the movie. I don't know about you, you seem so mature and sure of yourself, but it's this global appeal that works. When I'm watching a movie or doing the big action sequences, the 12 year old kid in me says Oh! That’s cool! You know that just wakes up. Adults feel enormous empathy for different reasons, parents feel affection.

When we talk about Spider-Man movies we undermine the efforts of the CGI artists. It is amazingly toiling and hard working to create those visuals. So who were those artists and tell us something about them?
Wow! Right, a lot of our artists are in Mumbai. You know we have a whole staff of people that would do the early fundamental processes in the CG work. We’d be in connection with them in India which is a terrible time zone connection but there would be a lot of work and there are thousands of people that worked to give life to the character. Though it seems so simple but it is not. Funny, we go around as emissary to the movie and get undue credit for how nearly extra-ordinary artists there are. There are very important animators, lighters, rotomators, match move people who calibrate an enormous quantity of effort to make this thing real. It’s so ironic that we forget about them. These are the people from India, Canada, America, Germany and U.K.
 
Jamie, Andrew, Emma and Marc Webb in Singapore.

फिल्म "द अमेजिंग स्पाइडरमैन-2" के कलाकारों एंड्रयू गारफील्ड, जेमी फॉक्स और कुशल निर्देशक मार्क वेब से कुछ वक्त पहले सिंगापुर में मुलाकात हुई। प्रस्तुत थे उनसे बातचीत के कुछ अंश।

******      ******      ******