17 things we learned on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 set visit

We paid a visit to the set of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 back in June, and here's what we found out about the forthcoming sequel...

Back in June, we were invited on a visit to The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s set, then shooting on location in New York City. During our stay, we watched an early scene being filmed on the edge of Manhattan’s East River, and managed to chat to various members of the cast and crew, the full transcripts of which we’ll be posting individually over the next few days.

You can also read our full set visit report here, but for those looking for an overview of what went on, here’s a list of 17 things we found out about next year’s Amazing Spider-Man sequel, all in a handy digest form…

1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the biggest production to be shot in New York

Remarkably, for a comic book character so rooted in New York, the movies have always been shot elsewhere for the most part, with other cities and sound stages dressed to look like Manhattan. With The Amazing Spider-Man 2, that’s changing for the first time – and while we haven’t been able to discover the film’s specific budget, Sony have clearly spared no expense in filming entirely in this infamously pricey yet iconic city.

“This movie is the biggest movie ever made in the state of New York,” said production designer Mark Friedberg. “So I would say the studio has been very generous.”

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That generosity, the filmmakers hope, will result in a film where New York is a more palpable presence, where real locations are used in surprising, unfamiliar ways.

“You have to show how big New York is, to get your money’s worth and so on,” Friedberg continued. “But that isn’t how New Yorkers experience New York. We don’t go and stand under the Empire State Building – it’s somewhere over the top of the tenement there. “So we were trying to have our locations be off in the distance, and have New York be every day.”

2. We’ll see Peter Parker and Gwen graduate

The scene we saw filming on that hot June day was of a graduation. Peter and Gwen have completed their education at Midtown High School, and they’ve arrived at the point where all they have left to do is don a hat and gown and collect their diplomas. The only problem is, Peter Parker’s late for the ceremony.

As Gwen Stacy gives a heartfelt valedictorian speech about time being precious – words that may foreshadow events later in the film – Peter swoops in from elsewhere in the city, and hurriedly switches his Spider-Man suit for his graduation outfit. Although not necessarily a key scene in the movie, it’s an example, perhaps, of the sequel’s energy and humour. Parker comes skidding around the corner of the stage just in time to collect his diploma, and then sweeps up Gwen to give her a big kiss in front of her classmates. The kiss, we later learned, was initially improvised.

 “I didn’t know I was going to do it,” Andrew Garfield revealed. “I just thought, ‘I just missed my girlfriend’s valedictorian speech. How am I going to make it up to her?’ Then I was thinking, ‘I’m graduating. I don’t really give a fuck about this place, and fuck all of the people. So I’m going to go in and have fun. And embarrass her!’”

3. There’ll be a greater emphasis on humour

If there was one word that kept surfacing throughout our day on the Spidey set, it was “funny”. Remember the scene in The Amazing Spider-Man in the subway carriage? The sequel will have more physical comedy moments like that, we’re told.

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“It was fun, playful, physical stuff,” Webb told us. “We took that to the extreme [this time.] I’m a big fan of old Buster Keaton movies, and what Chaplin used to do.”

“It’s also funny,” agrees producer Matt Tolmach, casually dropping that familiar word into the discussion again. “We felt the need and the desire to really go to the tone of Spider-Man. It’s all things. It’s intense and funny. He’s always so funny and self-deprecating.”

“One of the things I’m doing in this movie is embracing the lunacy.,” says Webb. “In Spider-Man, there’s always that fun, playful wit at work, and I wanted to give him as many opportunities as possible to express that.”

Did we mention it’ll also be funny?

4. Andrew Garfield took inspiration from Charlie Chaplin and Bugs Bunny

“I read about the trickster archetype, and what he does is uses his enemy’s weaknesses against themselves. Bugs Bunny would be a good example of that. If I can defeat these people by not touching them, and just let them beat the crap out of themselves, that is brilliant […] I’ve been into Bugs Bunny – I’ve got every box set, and he’s had a very specific impact on certain sequences of the film.”

5. There’s going to be a Bond-style car chase

As you’d expect from any sequel, Amazing Spider-Man 2 promises to throw more outlandish action on the screen than its predecessor did. But according to stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong, we’ll also be in for a car chase straight out of a Bourne or Bond movie.

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“It’s the kind of action you don’t normally see in a Spider-Man movie as well,” Armstrong said. “There’s a big vehicle chase, there’s a couple of fights without Spider-Man involved. There are big action sequences that would fit in a James Bond movie or a Bourne movie; they’re big, modern action movie scenes.”

6. Emma Stone will have more stunts and fights to do in this film, which she’s not that enthusiastic about

According to Andy Armstrong, Gwen Stacy will lots more physical stuff to do in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (“She has quite a bit action to do in this one. A lot more in this film than the last one”). When asked about these scenes during our brief chat with her, she seemed rather ambivalent about the physical aspects of superhero filmmaking.

“I don’t enjoy it,” Stone said. “I don’t enjoy physical activity all that much. I’m okay with it. I don’t really love fighting. I’d rather do it verbally. I’d rather verbally beat someone down. But yes, that is happening. It’s just so hard… no, it’s really fun. I probably need to be more physical in general.”

7. There will be no Gwen-Peter-Mary Jane love triangle

At the time we were on set (early June) we didn’t yet know that Mary Jane’s character had been shunted from the movie. But even then, producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach said that Mary Jane wouldn’t be getting romantically involved with Peter Parker in the sequel.

“In all fairness, I think that if this movie became a love triangle, I wouldn’t like Peter,” Arad said. “He’s not ready […] It really concentrates on the two of them [Gwen and Peter], because it’s such a huge story. They’re both moving into the future in a pretty complicated emotional state. He has to love her. There’s two hours – he can’t meet someone else and fall in love with her.”

At the time, we took this to mean that, although Mary Jane wouldn’t play much of a part in the plot, she’d at least be in the movie. As we’ve since found out, her character’s being dropped from the film altogether.

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The topic of Mary Jane came up during our brief chat with Emma Stone, who, after a brief consultation with her publicist, replied with a quiet, “Uh, next question…”

8. It’s shot on 35mm anamorphic film

Unlike the first movie, which was shot digitally, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be shot on 35mm anamorphic film. Why? Because it provides “an operatic quality, which is what we were going for,” Marc Webb says.

9. Peter Parker and Harry Osborn will have a “tricky relationship”

Marc Webb refused to be drawn on how much of a role Dane DeHaan will have as Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. All he would say was: “Harry’s an old friend of Peter Parker, and he comes back into his life. And, you know, they have a tricky relationship. I’ll leave that for the movie!” Intriguing.

10. Andrew Garfield has more confidence in this film’s script

“I feel more confident in the script,” Garfield said. “The story is beautiful and layered and rich. It feels like an ensemble piece, the story has a logic to it, and also an emotional trajectory. So in that respect, I came in much more confident. I didn’t have that experience in the first one, and it’s a real testament to the team on this that they’ve wrangled these two gifted writers – three, really: Jeff Pinkner as well as Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzmann.”

11. The villains will be brought to life with less CG

One of the criticisms levelled at the last film was its villain, The Lizard, and the rather variable computer effects used to bring him to the screen. This time, Webb tells us, CG will be used far more sparingly on Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Paul Giamatti’s Rhino.

“We’re trying to do a lot more practical,” Webb told us. “In this one, there’ll be a little enhancement with Jamie’s rendition of Electro, and he’s going to be pretty fantastic.”

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12. The producers have been listening to fan feedback from the first film

Whether you took to the internet to voice your love or displeasure of The Amazing Spider-Man, the producers, we were told, have taken your opinions on board.

“When you look at the Marvel stories very specifically, because Marvel stories have everything, they [the fans] know what they love,” Avi Arad said. “You’d be insane not to take them seriously. We’ve been waking up in the morning and going on websites, because we’re living in it, day in, day out.”

And so far, Arad’s been happy with the response to the various snippets of information that have come about the sequel – such as the casting of Paul Giamatti as the Rhino.

“Paul Giamatti is a jewel of an arthouse actor, and you make him this crazy villain. And again, the internet goes crazy. This gives us license to say to Paul, ‘Go crazy.’”

13. At least one scene will take place in the snow

In a first for the Spider-Man movies, Marc Webb’s sequel will feature at least one scene with snow in it. “We shot it in the snow one day, which we’ve never seen in a Spider-Man movie,” revealed producer Matt Tolmach. “We had all kinds of machines ready to create and blow in snow, and then there was a huge snowstorm.”

New York’s changeable East Coast weather, Tolmach said, added to the film’s ambience – even if it was a world away from the balmy Californian heat he’s used to:

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“There were some long, cold nights where we had to remind each other that it was worth it. [Laughs] We’d sit there and huddle and say, ‘This is worth it!’”

14. The Rhino will rob a bank

So far as we can tell, Paul Giamatti‘s villain The Rhino will play a relatively minor role in The Amazing Spider-Man‘s story. But one thing we did learn, courtesy of production designer Mark Friedberg, is that Rhino will use his considerable heft to rob a bank.

“Rhino likes to bust through walls – that’s what he does. He smashes right through the wall of a bank. That’s how he robs it. He’s a little bit weirdly playful in that way. It’s fun.”

15. Peter Parker will crawl around on the ceiling of his bedroom

When we asked production designer Mark Friedberg what the most difficult aspect of the movie was, he told us it was Peter Parker’s bedroom. The reason? Because the set will rotate.

“[Peter Parker] doesn’t believe in gravity the same way we do,” Friedberg said. “He doesn’t have to adhere to its rules.”

To achieve this gravity defying effect, Friedberg resorted to the kind of practical set-building we’ve seen in everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Inception.

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“[There’s] a little bit of Fred Astaire in there” Friedberg said, referring to the 1951 film Royal Wedding, which was among the first to use the technique. “It wasn’t on a gimbal. It was on a rotisserie. But he can walk on walls. In fact, every set has wires…”

16. Spider-Man will have some sort of scene on the roof of a truck with The Rhino

As we mentioned earlier, we get the impression that Paul Giamatti’s The Rhino will have a relatively small, light-hearted role in this film, but may be back in a fuller capacity in a future sequel – stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong’s comment that “[Giamatti’s] is mostly performance stuff in this film, but he’ll eventually become a really interesting character” certainly adds weight to this.

What we do know, though, is that he’ll be involved in some sort of action sequence with Spider-Man on the roof of a moving truck.

“We really built his stuff around more light-hearted comedy,” said Armstrong, “so we’ve done one scene with [Giamatti] and Andrew on a truck, and it’s a very vintage thing where we use the two stunt doubles for Andrew, as well as Andrew in the same scene. It’s like a slight-of-hand thing where there’s lots of Spider-Men appearing one at a time from different angles.”

How will this work on screen? We’ve no idea – but we’re looking forward to finding out.

17. Andrew Garfield sometimes wears his Spider-Man boots between takes

One of the more surreal moments during our stay on the Spidey set? The sight of Andrew Garfield casually wandering around between takes, maybe picking up a bottle of water from the catering tent, and happily chatting to crewmembers.

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Although decked out sensibly for a hot day, in a white T-shirt and shorts, he was still wearing his Spider-Man boots. We’re guessing that it’s either too time consuming to take them off for a short break or, equally plausibly, they’re so comfortable he’d rather keep them on.

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