“The Amazing Spider-Man” (directed by Marc Webb) is a reboot of the “Spider-Man” movie series that started with the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy of the first “Spider-Man” movies: 2002’s “Spider-Man,” 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” and 2007’s “Spider-Man 3.” For the 2012 “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot, there is a whole new cast: Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker/Spider-Man; Emma Stone is Gwen Stacy (Peter Parker’s love interest); Sally Field and Martin Sheen are Peter’s aunt and uncle May Parker and Ben Parker, who raise Peter after his parents mysteriously disappear; Denis Leary as New York City police captain George Stacy, Gwen’s father; and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, the movie’s chief villain. Here is what Stone said at a New York City press conference for “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
What first attracted you to the Gwen Stacy role?
At first I had met [producer] Laura Ziskin really early on, maybe two weeks after it was announced for Mary Jane [Watson, Peter Parker’s other main girlfriend]. I’d always wanted to play Mary Jane. I thought Mary Jane was so great. And then a couple of months went by and they called me again and said, “We’d like you to audition, but the part’s Gwen Stacy.”
I was like, “I don’t know who Gwen Stacy is,” because I hadn’t read the comic books growing up. And so I looked into the story of Gwen and I just feel in love with Gwen’s story because it is so incredibly epic and tragic and incredible in the way that it affect Peter going forward with Mary Jane, who is another character that I love.
So I took the opportunity to audition and met Andrew at the audition, and got to act with him for the first time. He is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with, and I instantly knew how much I could learn from him. That really, really drew me to that challenge. Rising to meet him every day was something really exciting and was a huge growing and learning experience for me. So it was a combination of things.
When you read “The Amazing Spider-Man” script and learned she’s not just a damsel in distress but a big part of saving the day, were you more interested in doing it?
I was cast before I read the script. I read the sides and [screenwriter] Alvin Sargent had written the sides, who is a genius, so he’s not too shabby of a writer. She felt that way in the sides. There was a heartbreaking scene, there was an exchange with them that was really sweet, there was a dinner table scene that was all in there when I read the sides.
I instantly knew it was something very different. Obviously he’s such a brilliant writer that he can [do that]. I was like, “God, this is written by him. This is a well-written scene.” I really, really liked her from the sides.
“Spider-Man” seems to be the superhero most boys idolize. From the female perspective, what do you think it is about Spider-Man that makes him such a beloved character?
Well he’s the only teenage superhero, which is major because a lot of times when people start reading comic books, you are a kid or a teenager. He’s the most identifiable instantly; you can relate to him. Not to mention that he’s bullied, which is huge for a girl or a boy, I think.
Everyone has experienced something along those lines. And the fact that he is bitten by a spider and his wish fulfillment comes true that he’s able to fight back to the bullies that he wasn’t able to before is symbolism for kids. They have so much power within them to seek out, to stand up for themselves, to stay unique and to stay true to who they are as Peter does, you know?
He finds those heroic elements within him, with or without his power — which in this movie, I think, is what instigates Gwen and Peter’s first interactions, when he’s standing up for a kid who’s being bullied and takes the fall for a kid who is being humiliated in front of a group of people. He’s displaying those heroic qualities long before he becomes an actual superhero. I think that’s probably why it’s so resonant and has been for 50 years, and will continue to be, even down to Barack Obama having him as his inspiration in pop culture.
Gwen Stacy is pretty iconic herself. You did research and looked into her story. How much of her look and the character’s motivations where yours and how much was in the script?
Well, the costumes were done by Kym Barrett, who’s fantastic. We worked together kind of to make sure that Gwen felt like Gwen, but also made sense in the real world. I’ll say I’m a lot less voluptuous than Gwen, unfortunately, so it didn’t really go to those heights. But, you know, the signature headband and the thigh-highs and the coats and all of that was important to stay present.
Ve Neill is incredible and with the hair and makeup we tried to obtain that as well but keep her realistic, and still keep her earthbound. I’m by no means a supermodel or an unobtainable-looking person, so that element of Gwen was a bit different than the comic books in some ways because she was such a beauty queen in the comic books. I’m a lot more “next door” than she might be.
In terms of her as a character, it was just kind of a hodgepodge of different versions of Gwen. I know she’s not very hippie-ish in this, and I don’t think she’ll ever be birthing Norman Osborn’s twins. I don’t think that’s going to be happen, or moving to London or anything like that. We tried to keep some of that moxie in there, and some of that self-assuredness.
She’s the daughter of a police chief, she’s the oldest daughter so there’s that responsibility thing that kicks in when she thinks her father eventually could die every day. I think it’s important that she kind of took on that energy of being in charge of her family, like she could be. She could be there should something happen to him and is unwittingly drawn to a man who could be in the same position — an Electra complex going on.
Gwen Stacy is interested in science. How familiar are you with that field and does that interest you at all in real life?
That’s a great question because I was home-schooled and I hadn’t really been exposed to things like that. My aunt and uncle are both scientists that worked for Merck and they had a hand in creating a cervical cancer vaccine. And they’re incredibly intelligent with fantastic minds.
I’d always been fascinated by what they did and I myself, this will actually sound a little bit strange to you guys, but I had really, really bad acne a couple of years ago — really bad. It was during a really stressful time period and so I started going online and trying to figure out what causes this sort of thing, and your cortisone production and how those things change in your body, and how things like Accutane work.
They took us to these labs and this is the first time in my life that I’ve really been very angry about not going to college because I went to these labs and I was fascinated. I knew what they were talking about and we looked at biophotonics and what happens when cortisone fires off in your brain. The same thing that causes acne can cause diabetes, and they’re proving that stress is a link.
I was learning about regeneration and we were injecting axolotls and seeing how they removed their arms and studying the regeneration. We looked at stem cells that they’ve wired to beat like a human heart because they’re finding ways to do this. I was fascinated! I was like, “What do I need to do to intern?”
“’You need to be a college graduate.” And I was like, “But I know what you’re talking about! I get it! I can learn!” It made me so upset. It’s like joining the Peace Corps: you have to be a college graduate.
I was like, “F*cl! It sucks! I can learn, I can learn! I swear!” And so now I’ve gone on my tangent about the word “smart,” which has really been bothering me over the past year. I don’t like the word smart anymore, because what does “smart” mean? Does it mean that you’re able to learn or does it mean that you graduated college? I didn’t graduate college and that doesn’t mean that I’m not smart.
So I really, really got so interested in biology. That was one of the most exciting parts of this process was learning about medicine and regeneration and stem cells. All of it just expanded my mind in so many ways so now I’m going to take a biology class.
What were some of your favorite improvisations in “The Amazing Spider-Man”? And also, do you think you could convince Andrew Garfield to do “Saturday Night Live”?
You’re telling me. I can’t convince Ryan Gosling but I’m working on Andrew. I guess some of my favorite improv moments were the hallway scene, which was written but there were a lot of moments where we got to add into the scene where we’re like asking each other out but not.
And then there was that awful, I mean that was just such a hammy bit when they let me go off to keep Denis [Leary] out of my room. So, I of course, when you give me an inch, it’s not good. So I was like, ‘What’s the one thing that would keep a dad out of his teenage daughter’s room?’ Anything related to hormones I knew in an instant from my own life experience. “OK, all right, I’ll let you go.”
Why did you change from your natural blonde to being a redhead?
I’ll tell you. I dyed my hair brown when I was 15 and I was first auditioning in L.A. I sounded pretty much like I do now and my personality was pretty much the same, which was a little bit weird for parts for 15-year-olds. So a lot of the time it was during pilot season and I was going out for a lot of Disney Channel and stuff, and I don’t know if I exactly fit into the mold. So I dyed my hair brown.
I was like, “Maybe I’ll dye it brown,” and a week later I got my first role, which actually worked out so it was kind of cool. And then a couple of years went by, and I was cast in “Superbad.” I was at the camera test for that movie and Martha MacIsaac, who played Becca in the movie, had brown hair.
Judd Apatow I just remember walked in and said, “Make it red,” to the hair person. So they took me to the hair salon the next day and they dyed my hair red. My mom is a redhead naturally, so I guess I have the skin tone for a redhead.
So they made my hair red and I’m telling you, for five years I tried to get it back to blonde but for every role people would be like, “Oh, we want it red. We want it strawberry blonde. We need a shade of red, just something red.”And then so I stayed red.
But if you actually look back over the things that I’ve done, “The Rocker” was right after “Superbad,” and it was blonde. And then “Zombieland” was brown. I’m always trying to dye it. Blame it on Judd. I love having red hair so I’m sure it’ll happen again someday.
With your stardom, do you feel like you have a great responsibility to younger kids?
I will say — and I’ve thought about this for a long time — I don’t in any way, shape or form think that I am any type of a role model or anything like that. But for whatever reason when you’re put in a public place, you have to figure out what that purpose is in your life, why that may have happened or what you can possibly do with something like that. I’m not political and I’m not going to talk about those kinds of things.
I know that that’s never going to be my job as an actor, to be championing any specific cause except for originality. That’s the one thing that I identify with as maybe part of my responsibility, per se. I know it’s not my responsibility and I know all that, but there’s something that came with getting a Revlon contract, actually.
They approached me for the Revlon contract and I thought, “Why in the world would I be approached for a beauty campaign?,” because I’d always been the funny girl. And that’s not to put myself down, that was always the way that my brain worked. And then I thought about Diane Keaton for L’Oreal and Ellen DeGeneres for Cover Girl and how sometimes real beauty gets to be celebrated, like what’s inside is what counts. You can still feel beautiful or put makeup on because it makes you feel good and not for anybody else.
And that was something that I was like, “Well, if I have an opportunity to possibly reach people or reach young girls in a way that makes them feel like what they are is enough and what the balance of their personality that set them apart and that made them original, if they feel good about that in any way, if that affects one person, then that’s a game changer.”
That’s something that I’m proud to be helpful in any way of looking real or being a real person. Obviously I have a stylist who puts me in clothes like this and I have a hair and makeup artist that are doing those kinds of things, so there’s all of that going on, too. And I’m not that eloquent right now at all, but, yeah, I do feel a slight not responsibility but privilege to be able to speak to younger girls and hopefully make them feel like it’s OK to be themselves.
Why do you think Peter Parker was attracted to Gwen Stacy? Do you think he detected her courage and other qualities that she might not know?
Yeah, I think that elements of Gwen and Gwen’s family life are something that Peter didn’t necessarily have, which is a sense of stability. I know Aunt May and Uncle Ben are a very stable environment for him, but he has abandonment issues. I mean, he was left when he was 5, so he doesn’t feel like he can be totally honest with Aunt May and Uncle Ben because they never really discuss the subject.
You see that when Uncle Ben comes in and he’s like, “Sorry, we don’t talk about this.” He doesn’t feel comfortable expressing the pain to them. I think that he sees someone steady in Gwen, and someone who can understand what it’s like to lose a father on a daily basis as you see in that bedroom scene.
She doesn’t know if he’s going to come home every day, so she feels that sense of abandonment as well. I think they are so different but they also relate on love of learning and things like that. I think he sees something in Gwen and becomes a confidante that he can trust.
How did you approach the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy love story? And what traits from young people in love did you put into “The Amazing Spider-Man”?
Well, in “Superbad” and “Easy A” — actually, any movie that I’ve done — there hasn’t been a love story like this. In “Superbad,” it was sad but it was kind of a totally different thing. “Oh, he’s cute.”
And in “Easy A,” it’s like with Woodchuck Todd, he’s cute but she’s just kind of like… They are focused on their own story, really, and in most of the movies that I’ve been a part of. This kind of swept me off my feet because she’s truly in love with him.
I think the approach was I wanted again to experience that feeling of first love before you know what it’s like to get your heart completely shattered. That life or death love where you’re like, “I know what love is!”
Except for in this circumstance it actually is life or death. So, I wanted to feel that again. I wanted to unlearn and go from the very beginning of, “Oh my god, there’s an attraction to another human being in a way I’ve never felt before. What is this?” You know, that uncomfortable ackk!
I wanted to feel that again so it was a matter of unlearning, of really becoming 17 again and just letting yourself be 17 in this moment. It’s fun, you guys should try it. It’s really cool. It’s pretty cool to feel that way again.
How would you describe the difference between working on “Easy A,” where there are no visual effects and moving up to this where it’s not only a completely different thing but also a major effects film, especially in regards to the 3-D?
My character wasn’t as involved in the effects. My storyline for me was very human, so it actually didn’t feel all that different other than the days where I had to swing, which was fun and hard. The days on a blue screen which, when you’re acting with another person, you could be in a car or a box and it just tests your imagine that way.
And in terms of shooting in 3-D, the only thing that was different was it takes a little bit longer because you’re syncing two cameras. The camera is huge and reflective, so it’s like acting with a mirror right next to you which is very bizarre. If you ever had a conversation with a mirror next to you, you keep catching yourself and it’s just awful. You do get used to it and it’s a little bit better.
But it was nice to know that even shooting a movie like this, you’re approaching the character in the same way. And you’re trying to tell the truth, you know, all the time about who that person is and what they’re feeling. So it’s comforting to know that in any circumstance, no matter what the budget or size, that remains the same. This feels different; the press feels different. That’s where it really strikes you that you’re in “Spider-Man.”
As a fan of the first “Spider-Man” trilogy, was there any pressure from you or anyone on set to make Gwen’s first kiss with Peter as memorable as Mary Jane Watson’s kiss was with Spider-Man in the first “Spider-Man” movie? That became a very iconic moment in the “Spider-Man” films.
I know. Obviously there’s no comparison there. Of course I thought about it because I just did. I thought about the kiss but I just trusted them to write it. It was just what they wrote. We just kind of went with what they wrote.
How do you explain the chemistry between you and Andrew Garfield?
Can one explain chemistry? It’s hard to because with any actor or any person in life that I’ve had chemistry with, it’s hard to pin down what exactly it is. That’s why they do chemistry tests for movies. Even if you’re not playing love interests, even if you’re playing parents or best friends, sometimes it just clicks or it doesn’t and it doesn’t matter how good the actors may be.
So it really is indefinable. It really is exactly what they call it. It’s something else entirely. It’s just some soul thing.
What did director Marc Webb bring to “The Amazing Spider-Man”?
For “(500) Days of Summer,” you can tell that Marc cares about love and he cares about humanity, and that was incredibly important for this movie. He prioritized the relationships just as much as the action. I know he had a million voices in his ear because a movie like this there’s a lot of opinions all the time on everything.
And he would come in on Sundays to work on the scenes with us and break them down and build them all the way back up until we had the same scene that was written on the page but we had analyzed it to death. He was incredibly, incredibly kind and willing to work on that relationship. For my experience, I was very grateful that he came from that background.
Did they rig you up for that big scene or was that computer graphics imagery (CGI)?
We swung. We were swinging!
Are you afraid of heights?
No, that was awesome. Thankfully I’m not afraid of heights; that would have been horrific. That would have been awful actually because you’re so out of control. No, I loved it, other than the bruising. I loved it. Harnesses bruise, you guys. Yikes!
For more info: “The Amazing Spider-Man” website