AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Week: Uncle Ben & Aunt May Open Up

 

Welcome back to Amazing Spider-Man week! The Webhead's tale is being rebooted in theaters starting July 3, 2012 with new direction, new stars and a decidedly new feel to the film.

In the build up to the movie's release, we have insights into the filmmaking process from all those involved. Thanks to a series of press conferences held in New York, NY early June, we can tell you exactly what to expect, and what these actors, writers, directors, and producers think about Spider-Man.

Today we talk with Uncle Ben and Aunt May, played on screen by acting veterans Martin Sheen and Sally Field. The two struck up quite a comedy routine, which started right when Sheen walked into the room.

Sheen walked in telling reporters, "mighty blessings. May they befall you, lift you up and befall you again. Now what's this all about? What are you young people doing up so early?"

"How many of you saw the film and loved it?" (Many hands were raised.) "The rest of you can leave!" He chatted with people and kept the press laughing while waiting for Sally Field to come in.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Sally Field!"

"Oh my god, it's the Marty show!" said Field as she joined him to lots of laughter.

Sheen then said "Sally and I both have to make an admission, neither of us have seen the finished film!" and asked that people tell him what he did in it, and what got cut.

Question: Have either of you read Spider-Man comics? What was your take on him?

Sally Field: No, I didn't. I read Little Lulu! I haven't seen them make that into anything yet. That was my girl! (she sang the song)

I loved comic books, I was a real comic book freak as a kid, but I read the ones marketed to girls. Archie, I read those. My brother read all the Spider-Man, my brother, who is a world-renowned physicist. He's so excited about this movie, finally I'm arrived! I'm familiar with the movies somewhat, but I never read [the comics], still to this day.

Martin Sheen: The same is for me, I was a big movie fan as a child. I read Archie comics too, but my passion were movies. So Saturday afternoon was always the series, a western, sports, or whatever. As far as Spider-Man is concerned specifically, I'm 21 years older than Spider-Man so I missed him totally. I do recall the afternoon cartoon (Sings: Spider-Man Spider-Man, da da da da da), and my kids would rush to the TV to see that. That was as close as I ever got.

Question: When you work on a big budget Hollywood movie, do you miss being out in the jungle going crazy?

Sheen: Whatever are you referring to? I don't know how to answer that! I don't remember any of that. [Laughs.]

 

At my age, at this time in my career, I'm delighted to be living, let alone working. To still be able to work and make a living doing the thing I love the most, I'm delighted. Whether it's big budget or small budget, I'm just delighted to still be on the team.

Field: And we're delighted to have you here.

Question: At this point in your careers, how do you feel about seeing yourselves on screen in a project for the first time, do you prefer to see it intimately or with a large audience? Also, did Marc let you see any dailies?

Field: I don't like watching myself at all. I never like watching myself.

Sheen: I like watching you!

Field: Thank you! I would say most actors have difficulty watching themselves at all. Now, as I've reached an age, it's really hard to look at yourself. I really may not ever see it (don't tell anybody!), for a very selfish reason! It's 3D for God's sakes, I wasn't good with myself on a television screen!

I grapple with it because part of me says "Well Sally, get over it! You wanna see Andrew, you wanna see Marc's work," and you know, it's such a small vain little thing. But, that's true, I do have that, I admit it, it's out there.

About watching dailies, Marc didn't have anyone watching them. It's really not a good idea for actors to watch dailies, ever. If you're watching those than you start imitating yourself. That is the difficult thing about even watching a film that you've done. You become aware of your own physicality in a way that isn't good for your mind. You see young actors start out and seem free and easy and natural, then third, fourth movie down the line they get pose-y, very careful on what they're doing. Marty, for instance!

Sheen: I was so good until I got successful! [Laughs.]

I agree it's a mistake. In this case, it was interesting, they'd run back a scene almost immediately, for technical reasons, and they'd go down and there were a row of guys at computers, and they're wearing the 3D glasses! In order to even see a playback they had to be there! I agree with Sally it's never good for an actor to see themselves, because you fall in love with one take and then that's the one not in the film, so you've already foreclosed any hope of being satisfied.

I once heard an artist say they did not display their own paintings in their home because they didn't want to be influenced by themselves. Interesting take.

Watching myself on television, for example, I'd always warn the family what was coming. We'd gather to watch a West Wing episode or some movie of the week that I'd done and I'd say "this is going to happen and you're gonna feel this way about it!" [Laughs.] I can control the audience with a television program!

With a movie, I think I'd prefer to go to a movie that I was in after it was opened, for good or ill, and I'd sit with an audience to get an honest reaction. I remember one time, I was taking someone up to Bakersfield in the middle of a hot summer day. Their bus was late and I drove them up. I knew them!

Field: I swear to God, if he saw someone on the corner and said "gee my bus was late" he'd say, "gosh where were you going? I've got a couple hours, I can give you a ride!"

Sheen: If I'm going in that direction. So I'm driven back from Bakersfield and I'm passing by this shopping center and Major League was playing. This was about two weeks after it opened and I'd never seen it so I thought this is an opportune time. It was so hot, and the air conditioning was on in the theater, and there were only two other people besides me. And I watched Major League which I loved. There's a moment when Charlie [Sheen, my son] comes out of the bullpen in the big game and they started playing "Wild Thing" and I started to weep and said "go get 'em kid!"

I wanted to tell the whole audience, all two of them, "that's my son!" So it's not a good idea to get so personally involved.

What was the question?

Question: Your characters really grounded the story in reality, did you feel like you were in a different movie, like you were in a family drama while all this action was going on elsewhere?

Sheen: You know, Sally will confirm, the director Marc Webb wanted us to be simple and honest with each other and really enjoy each other's company. Forget any image of the characters that is well known. Make it alive and personal is what Webb told us. We knew those relationships would ground the whole story.

 

But watching this young man, I know Sally would agree. This is a very very special guy, Andrew Garfield. Watching him work was so gratifying, he was so generous with us. He had to do some very heavy and emotional work. Boy, the set was on fire when he did those moments. Then he'd do an equally intense performance off camera for our reaction. For me, that was an enormous mark of generosity to his fellow actors. That really endeared him to me. I know Sally agrees.

So yeah, we took it to a personal [space] but we had a lot of fun, we laughed a lot.

Field: Basically, all of my work in the film was always with Andrew and Marty in the house, I had one scene that was outside, if it's still in there I don't know. So all I knew of the movie was that! The interesting thing about doing this Spider-Man, is that it is more contemporary, it is a metaphor for how hard it is at any time but especially now, the coming of age, and the darkness that this young man carries with him, the troubled soul that he is. It certainly is different than any of the ones before, we knew our task is that family, that it was a 3D movie was odd. Some of the scenes that Andrew and I had together where Uncle Ben is no longer there (Sheen: What? I gotta see this movie!), it gets very heated, very troubling what is going on. As far as we knew, we were shooting a little kitchen drama in a way!

So what was bizarre was we were shooting a little kitchen scene with a "handheld" 3D camera, that was supported with a bungie cord from guys from above! The lens is halfway across the room, it was bizarre to be doing that. There was a little part of me going "oh sweet mother of God!" This is a 3D camera this far away from my face, I'm never going to see this movie as long as I live.

Andrew and I, having to do the [argument] scenes that we had, you really had to focus away from the maneuvering of this huge piece of equipment that the phenomenal operator is trying to go around us and the furniture; it was a technically fascinating experience.

Question: Mr. Sheen, you just came off of finishing your run with the Mass Effect series, then straight into Amazing Spider-Man…

Sheen: You have to explain to them what Mass Effect is, I don't think they've ever even heard of it!

Question: [To the press] The multi-million selling sci-fi video game series!

Sheen: [Laughs.] I didn't even know what it was!

Question: What is it about genre, science fiction and fantasy, that appeals to you as an actor?

Sheen: I'm drawn to characters, if I can relate to them personally all the better. For an artist, any artist, if it's not personal, it's impersonal; if it's impersonal, nobody cares. I'm challenged by playing villains, which is what I'm playing in Mass Effect I think? I've never seen it, because I don't have a computer, and I'm not very computer savvy!

Field: WHAT? You don't have a computer? I'm going to buy you a computer.

Sheen: No, I don't have one! But there was a guy that came to fix my wife's computer, and he said I was the guy in Mass Effect and he was just over the moon. I said "I'm doing another one, would you like to come?" And he ended up as an advisor for the next one! I hear it's pretty good though.

You know, as I said, I'm attracted to things that speak to me personally, whether it's a villain or a hero. In this case, what attracted to me about this show, frankly, is the lady next to me. Denis Leary, I'd never worked with him before and I am very fond of him. Very fond, particularly of the lady next to me, and I knew it was going to be a sweet ride. i got to play a character; I'm a father, a husband and a grandfather, so I had some familiarity with raising kids and grandkids, albeit not always successfully. Never mind. (laughs quietly)

 

I think one of the things that really fascinates me about Spider-Man the character is that he's dealing with what all young people today in our society are just absolutely fractured by, and that is peer pressure! Bottom line, when you hear that voice inside that's calling you to step up, to be your better self it's going to cost you. But that's the only way you're going to find yourself. And anything that will better yourself is going to cost you, and if it doesn't you're left to question it's value.

Field: You know, I have to say, I agree with you mostly, but I think it's not only peer pressure, but a metaphor for how difficult the world is. When you look at how difficult the world is and you use, metaphorically, these big villains… In some ways it offers Peter the possibility to step up and push his own envelope, fight for the right thing. And threaten your existence while doing it, in other words lose every safe place you ever thought you had just to do the right thing. Boy oh Boy, if the younger generation could have that feeling that "we have to step up and make things right no matter what it cost me," it would be a different world! And you see a lot of other countries, lord knows, grappling with this. How do you make change, enormous change? Obviously, it doesn't come easily.

In some entertaining way, I think that's what the metaphor is.

Sheen: I gotta see this movie! [Audience laughs.]

Question: How did this project even come to you both?

Field: For me, I had one big main reason I did the movie. I loved the idea of Marc, I saw [500 Days of Summer] which I thought was just exquisite, I met with him and had no doubts he'd push his envelope and it would be exciting, and he'd be a new fresh voice. And the cast, wow! The script was very good, the script was dark and really different.

For me the reason that I absolutely had to do it, was that my first producing partner was Laura Ziskin and we produced Murphy's Romance together, it was her first film and my first film that I produced. She is… was…  a spectacular hero [she recently died of cancer]. She is Spider-Man, she really is. I say is because the work that she started is still going, the fight against cancer. She asked me to do the movie, would I come in and do it and I said absolutely! Before I read it, before I knew who was involved in it, before I met Marc, before I knew Marty was there, because my instinct was she wasn't going to do another one after this, and I would've said yes no matter what. I was very proud to be part of her first and last film. She was a hero.

Check back on Friday for more on The Amazing Spider-Man, including our one-on-one with director Marc Webb!

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