Just days from the start of filming and one and a half years from its May 3, 2002, release date, the makers of Sony’s big-budget “Spider-Man” flick called a press conference on the Sony Pictures lot this morning to introduce the cast and give a little preview of what’s ahead.
Cast members Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, director Sam Raimi (“The Gift”) and other filmmakers led the event, attended by a reported 300 journalists from around the world. While details such as the movie’s budget (think big) are still kept secret, we now have these tasty morsels to mull over:
THE CAST: As mentioned before, Maguire will star as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, with Dafoe playing the villainous Green Goblin and Dunst as Peter’s girlfriend Mary Jane. Franco (NBC’s canceled “Freaks and Geeks”) will play Peter’s roommate (and the Green Goblin’s son) Harry Osborn, and acting veterans Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson will play Peter’s aunt and uncle. J.K. Simmons (“The Gift”) plays the publisher of the Daily Bugle, where Peter is a photographer. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee is set to appear in a walk-on part.
THE PLOT: Pretty much traces the origin of our superhero. Orphan Parker lives in Queens with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Bitten by a genetically altered spider during a science demonstration, he finds himself with super strength and spider-like agility and “sense.”
Peter uses his new powers to win a wrestling match for extra cash, but the prize money is denied because the promoter thinks he won too quickly. Frustrated, Peter witnesses a burglary in the promoter’s office but doesn’t lift a finger out of revenge. Later on, the same burglar kills Peter’s uncle.
Wracked with guilt, Peter takes his uncle’s words -- “with great power comes great responsibility” -- and decides to use his powers to fight crime. He finds a foe in businessman Norman Osborn, who turns into the Green Goblin after an experimental formula blows up in his face, increasing his intelligence and strength but making him insane.
“I personally can do any style of fighting that they ask,” Maguire jokes. “And I gave a demonstration for Sam … But noooo, we gotta stick to the comic book.”
THE COSTUME: Red? Yes, but updated and more subtle. “It won’t be this Arnold Schwarzenegger thing. It’ll be more like a dancer,” Raimi says. Maguire adds that he did have to wear tights for the screen test. “I felt OK in them,” he says. “[But] I never thought I’d be wearing a skintight costume day in and day out.”
Red will also be the color of Dunst’s hair, true to Mary Jane’s comic book persona. “Don’t worry,” the natural blonde assures. “I wouldn’t want to upset any Spider-Man fans.”
OTHER BURNING QUESTIONS:
What’s it rated? PG-13, with Raimi promising that it will be “for the whole family, but appealing to an intelligent audience.”
When is it filming? Monday (Jan. 8) is the start date, and producer Laura Ziskin promises that it will be completed before the anticipated Screen Actors’ Guild strike this summer. (Whew.)
Where is it filming? New York (where the film is set), with studio shots on the Sony Lot in Culver City, Calif.
Will there be a sequel? Likely, depending on the success of "Spider-Man."
What will make this film more “Superman” and “Batman” than “Captain America” and, well, “Batman & Robin”? “We’re trying to capture the spirit,” Raimi explains. “[Spider-Man]’s one of us. … He doesn’t get girls. He has acne. He’s a fairly average-looking kid …”
“OK, maybe better than average-looking.”