Visiting the set of a film in production is always fun. Visiting a Marvel set, however, where every which way you look there’s Stark (as in, Tony Stark, you know- Iron Man. NBD) gadgets, and sets like a Staten Island Ferry (more on that soon), is like stepping into a whole other universe. At least that’s how I felt the second I set foot on the Atlanta based Pinewood Studios, where Marvel has filmed movies like “Captain America: Civil War”, “Ant-Man”, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”, and now, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, the joint venture between Sony and Marvel. The fact that two major movie studios (three if you count Marvel’s parent company, Disney) decided to get together and create a blockbuster together is pretty remarkable. Even more remarkable, is getting them both to sit down to talk with our small blogger group who Sony invited out to visit the set last September.
I couldn’t wait to talk to president of Marvel studios, Kevin Feige and former head of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal, who both worked as producers to “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Feige, who Pascal remembers as fetching coffee for Avi Arad, producer of 2002’s “Spider-Man”, has moved up through the ranks at Marvel at superhero speed and Pascal, a Hollywood veteran with over three decades of experience under her belt, had a lot to say about the “first Peter Parker” movie.
This movie is different in the MCU in that it’s in partnership with Sony, so has that changed the dynamics of the filmmaking process for you?
Kevin Feige: Not really. I think Sony and Amy, is a producer here with us, has made sure that it can be just as we always want it to be, which is, frankly, that way I think every movie is, which is just about the creative, just about the movie, just about the story, just about the characters, and Sony has been unbelievably supportive.
Amy Pascal: I have to say that, and it’s an incredibly unusual thing, for three studios, because I am including Disney in it, Disney, Marvel and Sony all decided that the best thing was to make a great Spider-man movie. That was the most important thing, and you guys know a lot about studios, they are not big sharers. It is the first time that I can think of, and I have been in this business for far too long, that the studios all decided that the character was the most important thing and, if we could make a great Spider-man movie, it was good for all the companies, and all the success, all the stuff, there would be enough for everybody if we made the right movie. I think that’s an incredibly unique thing for three corporations to decide to do. Because it was done in that spirit, that spirit has been, kind of, the positive ghost on the whole movie, and it’s permeated everything.
I think what’s so interesting about working with these guys, with Marvel is, all they ever talk about is making stuff better. I learned this term called “plussing” and that just means like, Kevin would get a scene and go, ‘OK, this is pretty good, but how is it gonna better?’ I think that when that is your attitude, that’s your approach, it’s just…good.
Feige: That’s true. The other thing I like, and Amy has done this for years, but certainly on this project, we treat Spider-man like he’s a real person. Like he’s a real member of the family, a real person that we know and care about and want the best for. We feel that way about all of our characters, and, as you said, when you have three studios, and these big corporate entities, but all that goes aside to what’s best for this film.
What was behind the decision to bring Spider-man back to high school?
Pascal: The great thing about Peter Parker is that he is in high school, he is a 15 year old, and that what makes him different from every other superhero is that he’s a child. He’s fighting all these grown-ups, but he’s just a boy and that is what he is in the comics. When Kevin came and said, let’s do this, let’s do this together and let’s have Marvel produce the movie. He said ‘I want to do a really authentic high school version.’
It’s not a high school story but high school is the backdrop, and I think it’s made the movie really special. Plus, all these movies are getting really big, so it felt like a really good idea to make this movie different.
Feige: To have it stand apart, not just from some of the other Spider-man films, where he’d been in high school for a little bit of those movies, but from all the other movies that we’ve made. There isn’t one that inhabits this sort of, exuberant youth and enthusiasm. As Amy said, in those comics, that’s why he stood out, that’s why Spider-man was so unique in the comics, was in contrast to the other heroes. Now that he’s part of our cinematic universe, in this movie, you see that, and you see when he’s with Robert (Downey Jr) in ‘Civil War’ a little bit, and so we continue that in this movie.
Which relationship do you like the best between Peter Parker and the other characters in the movie?
Feige: What’s so cool is that, and this is a testament to Tom Holland, and to the script, he’s paired off in so many different ways. He and Marissa (Tomei) are great together, you saw a glimpse of that in Civil War. He and Robert, obviously, are incredible together. He and Jacob, who plays Ned in the movie, who you saw a taste of today, are hilarious together. He and Michael Keaton, have their own dynamic. And Zendaya… it’s really pretty amazing, we even shot some with Jon Favreau last week.
Pascal: They were fantastic together, it was ridiculous!
Feige: They were amazing together. Tom sort of, elevates the other performers he’s working with and matches, Amy was talking earlier, about how he matches their style. It’s fun. I’m actually not sure which of those pairings will end up being the audience favorites because right now, I think it’s a tie.
Pascal: (whispers) Iron Man. You can’t fucking believe it! I mean, the electricity! First of all, let’s be honest, Robert, when we cast Tom, Robert was there. He was the one that read with all these kids. He whispered to us right after and said, ‘that’s the one.’ I think that, he feels very responsible and he feels very paternal towards him. And their relationship in the movie mirrors their relationship (offscreen) and how they feel about each other as actors, and mentors in the way that Tom looks up to him. It’s quite astounding.
These guys have been around Robert forever, I haven’t been around Robert forever. You cannot believe this man. He’s the most electrifying, charismatic, ridiculously sweet, funny, brilliant guy. I’ve never seen anything like it.
For comic lovers, which scene do you think will be their favorite, what do you think they will gravitate to?
Feige: There are villains in this film that we’ve never seen in any movie before that are very important to his canon. So I think a lot of those images are cool, but, as she said earlier, when you see Iron Man and Spider-Man in a frame together, that is pretty exciting. It’s pretty cool.
Pascal: And, yeah, there’s a lot. It’s got a lot of really juicy stuff in it cause one of the things that was very important to Kevin, and to myself, was that the relationships were really complicated and that they were really layered, and that the characters are not archetypes, right? That they are actually people and that every single character had to seem like they were a real person. So, it’s remarkable what you get when you force yourself to make an intimate movie on a massive scale.
That’s what I think sets Marvel apart, I really do.
Feige: Well, it’s in our world. More or less it’s grounded, when you see the images on the wall, it’s hard to talk about things being grounded in reality, but that’s what we try to do. If not physical reality, emotional reality. I think that’s what the dynamic between Tom Holland and all these other actors is gonna stand apart. That’s what Amy pushes. Amy likes the fun, complex stuff, but it’s the emotion, the emotional truth and the emotional honesty, that I think has always set the best of the Spider-Man movies apart.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens July 7th.