Entertainment » Movies

They Got Game :: The ’Amazing’ Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone

by Fred Topel
Contributor
Wednesday Jul 4, 2012
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When "Spider-Man" came out in 2002, it was a holy grail for comic book fans. Attempts had been aborted for decades, thinking there was no way to make swinging on webs look good. Even James Cameron bowed out of directing a Spider-Man movie. Sam Raimi’s "Spider-Man" became the most successful comic book movie at its time, and even became a reference point for "Entourage." Their fictional Vincent Chase movie "Aquaman" beat "Spider-Man’s" record setting opening weekend (in real life it would be "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" that would break Spidey’s record.)

10 years later, it was time for a new Spider-Man. Raimi and Columbia Pictures began discussion on a "Spider-Man 4," but producers say that Raimi agreeably withdrew from development. With a new cast and filmmakers, they had the chance to re-invent the origin of Peter Parker, getting bitten by a genetically enhanced spider and gaining the power to stick to walls.


The heroic impulse

Andrew Garfield plays the new Peter Parker. Parker’s lesson has always been "with great power comes great responsibility." In Garfield’s portrayal, Peter has a longer way to go to reach his heroic nature.

"I think it’s important to me that he started with a heroic impulse, without the physical power to do anything with it," Garfield said. "That was always how I felt growing up. You know, I felt like an underdog, and I was a skinny kid. I got over that problem. Now I just realize that being skinny is okay. I always thought I should have been bigger for some reason because society tells you that. Everyone played rugby and I played rugby and I was good at it, but I got concussed all the time because I was a weakling. So that was something I always identified with for Peter. He always felt stronger on the inside than he did on the outside. And there’s nothing better than seeing a skinny guy beat the crap out of big guys. That was important for me."


Bulking up

The spider bite still enhances Peter’s strength, and other qualities that Garfield focused on for his Peter Parker. "There was something specific that I wanted to do with the physicality that wasn’t just a guy in a suit throwing kicks and punches and saying cheesy lines. I wanted it to be a Spiderboy in the way that if we ground this film in reality, then what happens when spider DNA is running through your bloodstream? What happens to the teenage boy who is fidgety and nervous and can’t really keep still? He discovers that he can now have patience, like a spider.

"For instance the scene where I get all the food out of the fridge. The kind of spatial awareness that you have in this film is like, ’Peter doesn’t move like that. Peter doesn’t glide like that before the spider bite.’ And the way he’s moving around the space, he’s kind of walking by the wall as opposed to walking straight through the room. He’s kind of got his back to the wall. That kind of thing is fun to play with."

Garfield did have to bulk up a little bit. and that part was not fun. "The training is horrible. Like the physical training changed my body because I’m a lazy guy. I’m vain, but I’m not vain enough to care about the gym. And Armando Alarcon was my trainer and he’s a fantastic trainer and a terrible person. [Laughs] I have very confused feelings about Armando. Wherever he is, he knows that. He’s hiding from me because he will be murdered one day. No, but we had a great time. I was thankful for him. He kept me on an even keel all the way through, and that combined with the whole stunt team was a pretty awesome experience."


Getting it right

Since Peter Parker is in high school when he becomes Spider-Man, Garfield also wanted to make sure he got the teenager part of the performance right. "I did spend time in Queens hanging out with teenagers and a lot of recording the voice and intonation and picking up phrases that I might not be aware of or a general attitude. That malaise and the awkward shyness, every aspect. There was a great book I found for inspiration called ’Teenage,’ which is a book of photographs.

"I wouldn’t buy it because it’s too expensive, but actually the marketing department at Sony bought it for me very, very generously as a gift. I saw the price and I’m like, ’You guys are crazy! Thank you so much.’ But it’s awesome. The energy of the photos in that is what I wanted to capture. It’s tongue on tongue. It’s just head out the window, that need to express, that need to kick the walls down irrationally. Which, when you combine that with being a superhero, that is kind of exciting."

With the original "Spider-Man," the visual effects were the breakthrough that allowed a web slinging Spider-Man to come to life. 10 years later, stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong built real equipment that allowed Garfield himself, or stuntmen in extra dangerous shots, to be Spider-Man for real.

"Any mention of Andy Armstrong and my heart swells. He kind of turned into a father figure for me on this film and remains that way. There were things that I was scared about and like any good father, he kind of told me to go beyond. ’Go beyond what you think you can do because you might surprise yourself.’ So for that reason it was kind of a spiritually overwhelming experience to work with him. And of course that combined with that physical sensation that I wanted to do since I was three years old, I got to live that for a second and I’m eternally grateful to everyone at Sony Pictures for allowing me to."


A big change

One big change from "Spider-Man" to "The Amazing Spider-Man" is Spider-Man’s girlfriend. Raimi chose to begin with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), who came later in the comic books. "Amazing" introduces Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s original high school crush. Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, and their chemistry was so strong that it carried over into their real life too.

"Can one explain chemistry?" Stone said. "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."


About Gwen

Producer Laura Ziskin produced all four "Spider-Man" movies before she passed away last year. She brought Stone in to audition, and the role evolved from there.

"At first I had met Laura Ziskin really earn on, maybe two weeks after it was announced for Mary Jane," Stone said." 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 affects 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."


A different look

Gwen Stacy looks different from how we’re used to seeing Stone. The red-haired spitfire from "The Help" and "Easy A" is gone.

"Well, 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. The makeup, 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 from 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."


’Make it red’

The blonde hair is actually the real Stone whom we haven’t met yet. She went brunette before we even met her on screen, and "Amazing Spider-Man" has been her first chance to go natural.

"I dyed my hair brown when I was 15 and I was first auditioning in LA. 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 and a week later I got my first role, which actually worked out so it was kind of cool.

Stone brushed up on her Gwen Stacy comic books and learned more than she needed for the movie version. "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 Elektra complex going on."

"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. Blame it on Judd. I love having red hair so I’m sure it’ll happen again someday."


A scientific connection

Gwen is valedictorian of her class and very interested in science. She works at Oscorp, where Peter crashes her tour group and gets the spider bite. Science is a passion for Stone too, but her educational experience is a little different.

"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 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!"


A sore subject

Unfortunately, Stone’s unorthodox schooling prohibited her from getting more involved. It’s a sore subject.

"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--! 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."

"The Amazing Spider-Man" is now playing.


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