Martin Sheen Interview For ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’
One of the world’s most popular characters is back on the big screen as a new chapter in the Spider-Man legacy is revealed in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man.’ Focusing on an untold story that tells a different side of the Peter Parker story, the film stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, with Martin Sheen and Sally Field. The film is directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay written by James Vanderbilt, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. ’The Amazing Spider-Man’ is the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ will be swinging onto the big screen July 3rd in the US and July 4th in the UK.
Speaking to you previously about the film, you commented on how you hadn’t watched the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. What prior knowledge did you have of the Spider-Man world? How was it playing Uncle Ben without any preconceived notions?
Martin Sheen: Yeah, I had never seen them. I keep telling people, in an apologetic way (laughs), but for good or ill, I’d never seen one of the previous Spider-Man movies. I had seen a part of one with Tobey Maguire, whom I love, on an aeroplane once without earphones, a guy next to me was watching it. I was like, “So that’s what people are all excited about.” So I didn’t have any preconceived notion, or any idea of what to expect. I came on the set and just worked with these extraordinary people, like Campbell Scott, he and I play brothers, he’s the father of Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker in the movie. And then Sally Field, who’s Aunt May, we had these relationships going and that’s what Marc Webb encouraged us to develop. Because without that foundation there would be nowhere, emotionally, for the show to go. Uncle Ben and Peter Parker, it’s not unlike any other parent/child relationship in the teenage years. It gets very awkward for young people and I’m familiar with that. Not only as a father, but as a grandfather (laughs). And Spider-Man as a character, I was already 21 when he first appeared. I remember it on television as a cartoon series. The kids used to run to the TV because they loved it, my kids. The “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can” song (laughs). I always remember that.
What was the experience like for you working with Andrew Garfield in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’? You two have some great scenes together.
Martin Sheen: Of all the young actors on the scene today, I’ve never experienced as generous an actor to his fellow actors, or an actor as committed to his craft as Andrew Garfield. He’s just quite extraordinary. He’s very intense, there’s nothing wasted about him, he comes on the set and he’s ready to work. You rarely see him until you’re working with him, you know? He would do these very powerful emotional scenes, and then he would reach the same powerful, emotional level for us while he was off camera. That is the indication of an extremely generous actor – and that is very, very rare these days. I’m enormously impress with him and fond of him. I think the ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is the launch of a really, really huge career.
Working with Sally Field as Aunt May, I know she’s someone you’re incredibly fond of….?
Martin Sheen: We worked together a couple of times over the years, and I mentioned an incident that I hoped she’s OK with my quoting her, but during some awkward moments in my life, I ran into her in a very, very compromising situation for me. But she reached out to me in a deeply compassionate, loving, funny way (laughs). She made me feel very good and I’ve adored her ever since. And I mentioned that moment in my book that just came out a few weeks ago, called ‘Along The Way,’ which is a father/son memoir that Emilio and I did. I talk about her a little bit, she really helped me in a critical time in my life. So she lives in a very special part of my heart.
With Spider-Man being such a huge, much loved franchise that has had many incarnations in the comic book world, did you feel any pressure rebooting it on film, just a few years after the Raimi trilogy was released?
Martin Sheen: It’s such a huge franchise. Everyone knows how Uncle Ben is going to end up, just like people know how Hamlet is going to end up, or any other great, historic franchises of the past, you know? We go to see Opera, some of those Opera’s are 200 years old, but we keep coming back. We come back because it works and we want to see new life breathed into those characters. We want to hear a new voice, we want to be lifted up in the same way as a previous generation has. I felt very comfortable. In ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ all my work was relationships with the people, with Campbell Scott, Andrew Garfield and Sally Field, I wasn’t involved with any of the special effects or any of the action sequences. All my action was an action of the heart.
Your work is character based…
Martin Sheen: Yeah. Most of the stuff I did was family stuff. Like an anxious scene when Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker has a meltdown when I call him on his behaviour. It was extremely pleasant, great fun working with Marc Webb, Sally Field, Campbell Scott and Andrew of course. Like I said, he’s a revelation, this kid is quite sensational. To see him on the launch pad was very gratifying to be a witness to his ascendance, really remarkable. He’s a great young actor, but also a great human being. I was very impressed with his generosity to all of us, the actors, the crew, everyone.
How did you find it you working with Marc Webb? What do you think he brought to the table as the films director?
Martin Sheen: Marc Webb just has a great sense of humour, he really disarms everybody, you know? There’s never any anxious moments with him. He makes you feel extremely confident and not to worry no matter what’s going on, to just stay focused and enjoy the moment. He makes you know that you’re in good hands. That was always his level of involvement with me and all of us that I got to work with. He treated everyone with that same type of compassion and humour and assurance. He’s a lot of fun, and coming from such a young guy I was quite surprised – because I didn’t know him and he’s carrying a huge burden with this film (laughs). But you wouldn’t think that he was burdened by it at all, he carried it with great sense of commitment and confidence….those are two terms that come to mind with Marc Webb. I adored him, he’s very funny and he’s a sucker for a good joke. I’m very fond of him.
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