The Amazing Spider-Man director on scepticism, Spielberg and why cinema is sacred.
Former music video Marc Webb’s first film (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as a pair of star-crossed, jangle-pop-obsessed misfits was one of the surprise hits of 2009. Webb has since taken leave of the ‘kooky indie’ scene to direct the none-more-big-time special effects megalith that is The Amazing Spider-Man. Seemingly unfazed by the transition, he talks with LWLies about risk, Top Gun and directorial schizophrenia.
LWLies: It’s slightly unusual for a studio to risk such a valuable commodity on a director of a winsome indie film. But how much of a risk was it to your own career to take on such a big responsibility?
Webb: I’m not sure if I think about in those terms,although I think by nature I’m a bit of a risk taker. It would’ve been really easy to turn this down, but I thought it was such a great opportunity because there are so many stories in the comics, and I had a different inflection of the character that I wanted to explore. Everything is a risk. Walking out of your house in the morning is a risk. But you can’t confuse anxiety for danger. I don’t think there was ever a threat to my person. Not yet, anyway…
Well, the film opens on Friday…
Indeed. Let’s see…
Did you find size and scale of the production at all daunting?
Well, there are a lot more moving parts. There’s a lot more people, there’s a lot more of a management component to it and it takes a lot of stamina. But in a way it just consumes your life. It becomes habitual. It’s kinda fun… I had a great… It’s fun. It’s terrible! It’s a lot of work, it’s mind-numbing and tedious, but then it’s also exciting and thrilling!
Did you ever have fears that this reboot was coming too hard on the heels of the Sam Raimi films?
Sure. There were moments when I wondered what people’s disposition would be, and I understand why people might be cynical or sceptical about that – about the filmmaking process in Hollywood. But it’s proving to be the case that once people see the film and see what we were trying to achieve they become more interested and willing to accept it on its own terms, and… well, we’ll see ultimately if that’s true, but at the end of the day I was curious about it. I asked myself, ‘Would I want to see this movie?’ Absolutely – I’d be the first person in line.
What do you feel The Amazing Spider-Man brings to the blockbuster?
What was fun for me – what I wanted to do – is, despite all the action, I wanted to make that small movie and I wanted to find the spontaneity. There’s so much pressure when you’re doing a big movie to get the day done on time and make everything rigid and have to do everything exactly right and plan every detail out but I wanted to have that spontaneity and looseness that I love in independent cinema and inject that into a big move. The greatest blockbusters always have really good character work. You take Jaws – JJ Abrams talks about this - and look at the father-son relationship is as good a human drama as you’re ever going to find. Same goes for Close Encounters. Those scenes where Richard Dreyfus is with his family and he’s breaking into tears – that’s just great fucking drama!
What do you love about movies?
When I was kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist and I wanted to be a fighter pilot and I wanted to be a poet. And then I realised this was after I saw Indiana Jones or Top Gun or Dead Poets Society. And after a while I put together that I was really intensely moved by going to the movies. I felt connected or awakened or able to articulate a part of myself that I couldn’t otherwise articulate. And so there are moments – though they’re not super-common – when I feel more alive at the movies or talking about the movies than I do anywhere else. I’m not a particularly religious guy, but we all need something sacred, and the idea of going into a dark room for a couple of hours and sort of praying to the screen or connecting to the screen is a profound thing for me.