Marc Webb wasn't exactly brimming with confidence over the prospect of directing "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" when I last spoke to him. "You know, I want to finish this up and go to a beach and think about the future," he said back in June. "I love Andrew and Emma, but it's like asking someone who has just given birth, 'Do you want to get pregnant again?'" Well, Webb has decided to "get pregnant again," if you will, by officially signing on for round two.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" -- available on Blu-ray starting on Nov. 9 -- grossed $752 million worldwide, which has put its sequel, slated for May 2, 2014, on the fast track. Things are moving so quick, in fact, that just an hour before this interview took place, it was reported that Jaimie Foxx would star as the villainous Electro in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," a story that Foxx himself potentially corroborated with a cryptic tweet. (Said Webb, when I asked him about Foxx and his tweet: "He's electrifying.")
Ahead, Webb discusses why he wanted to return to "Spider-Man" and responds to J.K. Simmons (an actor Webb loves), who has stated he would be open to returning to the Spider-Man universe as J. Jonah Jameson, a character Simmons played in the previous trilogy for director Sam Raimi.
The last time we spoke, you compared talking about the sequel to asking someone who just gave birth if they want to get pregnant again. When did you decide that you wanted to become pregnant again?
Well, I got drunk. Sony took me to dinner. They were wearing a really revealing dress, which is weird because I'm the one getting pregnant, but I'm into that kind of thing. No, it's just like the idea of not doing it was really harrowing. And I started working with the writers and it just seemed there was so much of that story to tell. And any of my business obligations were handled and I just couldn't resist it -- it was so appealing. And I love Andrew and I love Emma and I love the team. They're my family, so it just felt like the right thing to do.
How does that work? Did the final decision to come back come down to you?
There are a million different factors. But, yeah, ultimately, it's my decision. And the opportunity to work on this scale with this caliber of cast and this iconic of a character doesn't come along every day. Ultimately, you invest so much in it, it's hard to let go.
For the first movie, you had to do the origin story again. Do you look at the sequel as your opportunity to have more freedom?
Oh, completely. Here's the tricky part, because the movie came out so quickly on the heals of the other Sam Raimi thing: I have a different version of the universe. And I needed to reestablish certain parts of that origin, so the rest of the films would have a foundation that could sustain the other films -- that are different than the other movies.
Like the aspect of Peter's parents.
Exactly. And I wanted that to relate to his origin. And there were certain elements that are similar -- the iconic parts of Spider-Man: being bit by a radioactive spider and Uncle Ben dying. Those are really crucial parts of the mythology that you can't subvert. I wanted to give it a different context. And I understand the skepticism of that component. But, it allows me now to create an entirely different universe that no longer has those weird obligations.
Just compared to when we spoke before this movie came out, I can sense a different tone in your voice when you discuss the Sam Raimi versions. I can only assume that the box office success of your movie makes that easier?
Yeah, I think there are elements of that. I think some of the relationships in the movie, like Peter and Gwen, and some of the action -- people saw that there was value in it. And that's a really good feeling -- that the world embraced it the way that they did. You know, commercial success does take a lot of pressure off. I mean, you try to never think about that as a filmmaker or artist, but it emboldens you, certainly.
I know what you're saying, but with a movie this big, didn't it have to do well so you could continue to be a filmmaker and an artist?
Yeah, it's a big investment. In many ways, not just financially, but emotionally. And it's good to see that it connected, because you never know.
Not even talking about the current Jaime Foxx news specifically, but, in general, are casting decisions like this your choice? Do you throw out the names that you want?
Yeah, I mean, I come up with a list -- people that I'm a fan of. And then we have a conversation and I like hearing ideas from different people. It just happens any number of ways: sometimes you audition, sometimes you find people that have a certain status that appealed to you for a variety of reasons. To me, what's really, really important is that I have to have a cast that are real actors. Do you know what I mean? They aren't just celebrities, but have real chops. I want to create a film that has really fantastic, quality, unique, deep performances. And that requires a specific kind of casting. And those are the people that I look to.
Last time we spoke you said the hardest casting decision you have is for J. Jonah Jameson because you loved J.K. Simmons so much. He said recently that he'd be interested in returning. Is that possible?
That's an interesting idea. My mom is from Montana ...
And you used to watch him on stage there.
Yeah, I used to see him on stage. I've never met him, but I think ... it's tricky, because it's a different universe. But, you never know.
As a director who put Han Solo in "(500) Days of Summer," do you hear this "Star Wars" news and at least think about the possibility?
As a director?
Put it this way: Is it hard to ignore that?
Spider-Man is my big movie. You know? "Star Wars," I'm actually pretty interested in how they'll invent that. But, what it is, it's an interesting cultural comment. Because I think people are interested in this universe and they are interested in these different versions of it. There are ways that you can re-inflect iconic characters and re-attribute them like they have done in comics and like they've done in movies. I mean, how many versions of "Les Miserables" are there? They are always doing different and interesting adaptations of preexisting material. And I find that it can be appealing, if it's done well.
And about "The Amazing Spider-Man" Blu-ray specifically, what feature or deleted scene are you most excited about sharing?
The Spider-Man second screen app. Where you can follow the movie with your iPad.
What does that mean?
Well, there's an app on your iPad and you watch it -- it links up to your Blu-ray. And, as your'e watching it, you click on your iPad and the commentary will dip in and you can watch little documentaries about the movie as the movie is playing. It's a really great, intuitive interface that allows you to have access and understand the movie from a production standpoint or you can hear the actors talking about the scene or see me giving points about the scene. It's a really great new piece of technology. Listen, we're under a lot of pressure and you just can't fling together a DVD -- people don't respond to that anymore. You really need to create a piece of material that's specific with a lot of value it adds. And I think our team did a really great job creating something that feels specific and new and worthy of purchase.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.