I’ve enjoyed getting to know Avi Arad over the years. On the original Spider-Man junket he was the only guy I didn’t recognize, but then over the years he would always be there to talk about every Marvel movie. He brought us all of our favorite Marvel movies, and our least favorite too, but he’s a powerful friend to have in the business. This was my first time meeting his partner Matt Tolmach to talk about The Amazing Spider-Man. Some SPOILERS follow, but they’re the spoilers that will definitely raise the same questions for you after you see the film.
CraveOnline: Avi and I go way back.
Matt Tolmach: Avi goes back with everybody we meet with.
Avi Arad: Way back, when these kinds of movies had very little coverage. People like you were into it.
Matt Tolmach: Is that right?
Avi Arad: When it wasn’t a good living.
Matt Tolmach: You’re OG?
I remember when there was talk that the second Sam Raimi Spider-Man would be called The Amazing Spider-Man and you decided not to call it that, because you said, “What if they said it wasn’t amazing?” What changed your mind on this one?
Matt Tolmach: It’s an easy answer.
Avi Arad: It was after three amazing movies.
Matt Tolmach: You knew this was amazing.
Avi Arad: We felt very comfortable that it wouldn’t be one of those. Sometimes when you do something like that, you almost ask for clever headlines. “Well, The Amazing Wasn’t Amazing.” After movie two it was amazing. There were two things to it. One was tipping your hat to a great comic title, and the subject of starting over was aided by having a name that was so iconic.
Matt Tolmach: It separates it.
Avi Arad: It separates it. It’s a marketing decision in essence.
Matt Tolmach: But also we talked about it a lot and we had a lot of fun just saying it. It’s The Amazing Spider-Man. For fans of the books obviously it has meaning. For people who don’t know, it’s a cool title.
This one was interesting in development because we saw a lot more of the prospective Spider-Mans. Josh Hutcherson’s audition got out and we followed Logan Lerman. What was it like having that aspect exposed to the public?
Matt Tolmach: It wasn’t actually a big public thing in the beginning. It leaked.
Avi Arad: It got out.
Matt Tolmach: Logan’s was very pronounced because there were a couple of actors who actually were building a little bit of a campaign themselves, which is cool.
Avi Arad: We found a way at the audition process to keep it private. They’re all great actors and sometimes you look for something. That’s how we came up with Andrew.
In the scripting, was it important that they not reuse the line specifically “With great power comes great responsibility?”
Avi Arad: Actually, believe it or not, we didn’t have a natural way to say it that didn’t feel like box one, great power, box two, no power. Whatever. As a deep, true fan if you go through the movie and you figure out where would I put it so it didn’t feel obligatory to the movie, just a natural thing someone would say, it wasn’t shying away from it. In essence we are saying it. Uncle Ben says it to him.
Matt Tolmach: He comes out and says it right in the moment where it matters to Peter, where that’s the exact thing Peter’s going through. Dramatically, like Avi said, we wanted it to feel natural. There are things in movies that sometimes pull you out of a movie where you become aware, oh my God, okay, they put in the thing that they had to put in. We were really conscious of not doing that while delivering what we thought was important which was the message.
Avi Arad: And he says it to him twice. He says it to him when they have that fight.
Matt Tolmach: “Not choice, responsibility.”
Avi Arad: So you have that, you have the message. Then after all this journey and finding out what’s really important in life and how one’s actions can affect so many people’s lives, especially the one closest to you, and listening to this phone call. This is “great power comes great responsibility” and it’s spelled out in a big way. So it didn’t feel like we had this line, like an old Bazooka thing.
Matt Tolmach: From the grave.
Who is playing the shadowy version of Norman Osborn that we see in the painting in the office?
Avi Arad: Who is the actor?
Matt Tolmach: It’s just a face.
Avi Arad: It’s a face and a voice.
Is the sound we hear later someone we may have heard before in the Spider-Man movies?
Avi Arad: I don't know.
Matt Tolmach: Which sound?
In the Easter Egg [that’s also in the trailer BTW]. Okay, is it Willem Dafoe? It sounds like Willem Dafoe.
Matt Tolmach: You’ll have to stick around. We definitely are already flirting at that moment with the next movie.
But could it be an actor from the previous movies?
Avi Arad: It could be anybody.
Matt Tolmach: It certainly could be.
Avi Arad: When you see something in our movies that comes after the credits, that was kind of a fun invention many years ago, it’s intended to be interesting enough to get fanboys. I don't think general audiences would read into it as we do in this room.
Matt Tolmach: They may not know to stay there.
Avi Arad: But it’s a nice speculation without giving away things that would actually ruin that experience.
That raises another question because “The Untold Story” is a big point of starting over and doing it again, but audiences are going to find out that they haven’t heard the whole untold story yet. Is that dangerous to do them?
Matt Tolmach: I think we’ve begun to tell that story in a very, very real way. What we feel is what this movie does, what this movie takes on is the real origin of Peter Parker. We go back to really where is a character shaped and formed? Where is a boy or a man shaped? In this case it’s by the departure of his parents.
Avi Arad: Then has the most loving family. How do you emotionally tell them I want to know why we’re not good? It’s what happens to kids when they finally say, “I love you, you’re my mom, my dad but I need to know where did I come from?”
Matt Tolmach: It also changes him. It makes him a different character in the sense that he then goes out and is proactive, because he wants to know who he is and what he’s connected to. He basically makes everything in this movie happen. He opens Pandora’s Box. The Untold Story is what creates the version of the story we’re telling. Having said that, we’re not done. We knew we weren’t done when we started this movie so that’s part of this whole saga is that untold story.
What plans do you have for the DVD and Blu-ray?
Avi Arad: One of the things that we want to spend time on is we were the first 3D RED camera. The movie shows 98% in 3D. Here and there we had to go to 2D because of rigging and things like that, so very little conversion in the movie. I think young people, what they like in DVDs a lot, the normal stuff, they’ll get backgrounds, all this sh**, that’s part of it. But I think people want to know the making of. One thing that’s new in our movie that will be fun in the DVD is to understand physical effects from CGI. For that you need Andy [Armstrong] and Andrew, Andy who is the stunt coordinator but you needed someone who is as able physically as Andrew.
At Comic-Con you said Spider-Man has enough stories on his own to keep him separate and you weren’t interested in combining him with The Avengers. Now that The Avengers movie has become such an unexpected phenomenon, is there a possible opportunity there?
Avi Arad: Everything is possible. If something like that happens, it’s great for Disney, it’s great for Sony, if the right story comes in. We are now working on Venom first. That’s our first out.
Matt Tolmach: Cousin to Spider-Man.
Avi Arad: So our thinking is in the right direction. Avengers to me was an expected success so I never looked at it as “Oh, because Avengers was successful.” Team ups can happen once you create the character, establish the CG, otherwise it’s not affordable.
So Venom as a standalone movie?
Matt Tolmach: Correct. We’re doing that.
How do you look back at some of the choices you made on Spider-Man 3?
Matt Tolmach: What do you mean?
When you hear fans complain Venom wasn’t done right or that it was because Sam Raimi didn’t like the character.
Avi Arad: Yeah, Avi made him do it, believe me, it’s okay. I’m strong.
The emo dance.
Avi Arad: The emo dance, well, don’t look at me. But I can tell you I love Venom. I always did. I made so many Venom toys as you remember, even without the show or anything, on my show “Spider-Man,” I had this series about Venom that was just awesome and became actually the best DVD we ever had, the compilation of the Venom [stories.] His five-year-old is a Spider-Man fanatic.
Matt Tolmach: I watch them all the time.
Avi Arad: He loves Venom. Venom has a visceral power.
Matt Tolmach: They’re drawn to Venom. It’s unbelievable because there’s a fear factor there. There’s something about him.
Avi Arad: Something dangerous, and as you know, Venom is defender of the innocent. The only guy he really, really hates is Peter Parker, Spider-Man. The reason you didn’t see more development on Venom in the comics is because this power that he was given made him know who Peter was, who Spider-Man was so go kill him already. So we always struggle with storylines. You see the new Venom books. It’s Flash in Iraq. We know that if we put him in a certain position and concentrate on the human, not on the creature, which I thought was a really good beginning in 3.
Matt Tolmach: But the truth is he deserves his own movie. We’ve been sitting around in a room talking about Venom stories. It’s a really full bodied complicated character, Eddie Brock and this character. Maybe people feel there wasn’t enough of a chance to unravel it [in Spider-Man 3] but we’re all in on it.
Is the plan to then merge him with Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man?
Matt Tolmach: All things are possible some day.
You have Uncharted and Mass Effect too. Will you be able to do for video games what you’ve for comic books movies?
Avi Arad: I think I’m about to prove this one too. It all takes time as you know. Studios are still skeptical as you know on video games, but I actually think Uncharted will be a big hit. Mass Effect is a tour de force. The game is a movie. I think it will work.
But you saw something in comic books that no one else did. What are they missing about video games?
Avi Arad: They cannot viscerally replace the first person. In the game, if you’re playing Nate in Uncharted, the reason a lot of these video games can be a big movie, it’s a plain simple idea in which they actually did define the character. There are games that the character is you because you are playing. He was a real character already. Mass Effect, all the characters are fascinating and the philosophy of the game is fascinating. Philosophically it’s really interesting. If you look at Metal Gear Solid, it’s like Cain and Abel. It’s a bible story. It takes the studios a little time.
Matt Tolmach: Hey now, hey now. Careful.
Avi Arad: What?
Matt Tolmach: Careful, you know. Someone at the studio bought Uncharted for you. Who was that?
Avi Arad: The elevator, it’s true. We were walking and he said, “I’ll take it.”