Marvel’s SPIDER-MAN Director Jon Watts Talks Influences and Creative Process
Marvel Studios previously negotiated a deal with Sony Pictures, holders of the Spider-Man screen rights, in order to bring Marvel’s flagship superhero into their Marvel Cinematic Universe – and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will swing into his next solo film in 2017, helmed by Clown and Cop Car director Jon Watts. This confused many, who wondered how and why the relatively inexperienced Watts was essentially given the keys to the convertible.
Marvel is known for selecting smaller, less-established directors to helm large projects: Elf‘s Jon Favreau launched Iron Man, Joe and Anthony Russo of Community were picked for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Buffy‘s Joss Whedon was selected for The Avengers, the culmination of Marvel Studios’ entire phase one line up of films. The studio’s films recently crossed a total of $9 billion in box office receipts at the box office, so Marvel knows what they’re doing; but when IGN asked Watts how he managed to land the job, the director answered: “You know, still, I’m not exactly sure! [Laughs] It’s still hard to believe it’s happening, even though I’m working on it every day. And at weekends. I went in and first it was just a general meeting. Then I just kept going back and talking more and more about why I liked the character so much.”
Watts will be the next director to handle one of the biggest and most popular superheroes of all time, and as all Spider-Man fans know, with great power must come great responsibility. With so many fans around the world, and with all of them wanting to see Spider-Man done properly, a few have questioned – is Watts a Spidey fan?
IGN: So what does appeal about the character to you? Were you a longtime Spider-Man fan?
Watts: Yeah, I wasn’t, like, a crazy comic book fan, but absolutely. I mean, I think every kid is a Spider-Man fan at some point. It’s a phase you go through because he’s just the most relatable of all the superhero characters.
IGN: Peter Parker is a very different character to someone like Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, or Thor.
Watts: Yeah, and I think that’s what will set him apart. I mean, I can’t go into any plot details, but he’s the ground-level superhero. It’s really exciting, because we’re doing it as a high school movie. And I think it being a coming-of-age movie, to see that growth, will also be really fun.
When it was first revealed that Marvel’s take on Spider-Man would see the character returning back to high school, the decision drew criticism online, despite the character frequently being cited as an iconic hero of youth. While the character spent but a brief time of his more than fifty year history in high school – Peter Parker graduated in The Amazing Spider-Man #28, way back in 1963 – the character began as a teenage superhero. Spider-Man was unique in that he was the first teenage superhero who wasn’t a sidekick. With many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes being adults – whether it be the war-weary Captain America, genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist Tony Stark, or the ages-old Thor – Marvel’s Spider-Man will offer a nice dynamic in that he’s a teenage high schooler who has to deal with teenage problems as well as all the plights that come with superheroics.
Next, conversation shifted to Watts’ favored Marvel movies. While the filmmaker refrained from revealing too much about what elements he may incorporate into his film, Watts did say he enjoyed the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Studios movies. Explaining further, Watts specifically mentioned that he liked watching “the Stark family continuity throughout the movies, seeing Tony’s dad in the first Captain America, things like that.” Nothing particularly revealing, but worth noting are the persistent rumors that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man may show up in Spider-Man’s first solo feature – and Watts did mention Stark by name.
Watts then returned to influences, reiterating that his take on Spider-Man will be primarily a coming-of-age tale. Speaking on inspiration, the filmmaker answered, “I have a lot! I love Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything and Almost Famous, I think those are really great coming-of-age movies. Can’t Buy Me Love is a really great one. It’s been really fun to go back and revisit all those too and see what makes those movies really special. I also re-watched Breaking Away and Dead Poet’s Society, which is such a moving one.” Kevin Feige, star producer and Marvel Studios president, has previously referred to Marvel’s Spider-Man as having a “John Hughes” tone, noting the filmmaker best known for The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller.
Finally, Watts was prompted to speak on how comparative filmmakers have been hired to handle big blockbuster features, and how Watts plans to incorporate the webhead into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was established back in 2008 with Iron Man and which has most recently continued to roll on with this Summer’s Ant-Man.
IGN: What’s your take on so many relatively young and inexperienced directors – Colin Trevorrow, Josh Trank, and now you – getting major franchise gigs? Did you ever think, ‘thanks, but no thanks. It’s too big a step up?’
Watts: Well, working with Marvel and Sony, I feel like there’s a lot of support in place. It doesn’t feel like I’m alone in a room with the burden of making this movie all on my shoulders. It’s a really sort of nurturing and collaborative environment that they’ve created. So right now, it feels good and very positive and very creative. It’s fun! I’m having a blast.
IGN: Have you thought how to work your Spider-Man into the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Watts: Well yeah, he’s in a world where the Avengers exist. So that already puts lots of possibilities at play. It’s all the same universe, so definitely. It has to make sense logically.
That’s one of many reasons how Marvel’s Spider-Man will differ from past takes – it will feature a Spider-Man who isn’t the only superhero in the city. When Peter Parker is webswinging around New York City, it’s a New York that has the Avengers tower as part of its skyline. Spider-Man is one of many superheroes in this expansive universe, and Spider-Man will – for the first time ever – get to fight alongside Marvel giants like Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk. There’s tremendous opportunity there for Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man to be the finest cinematic take on the character yet.
Marvel’s Spider-Man will make his debut in next year’s Captain America: Civil War, before swinging into his own Marvel Studios-produced solo film on July 28th, 2017.
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