*sung to the tune of the original "Spider-Man" theme*
Sam Raimi, Sam Raimi
Does whatever a Raimi does
Hear him talk about his flick
It's not Evil Dead, but it's slick
Okay, so I’m not good at rhymes, but that’s definitely what we’re listening to in this weeks’ Commentary Commentary, Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man. Other cast and crew members join in on the fun, but we’re more interested in what Mr. Raimi has to say. A director beloved by many, the announcement that he was directing this Summer blockbuster of all the Summer blockbusters he could have stepped into slapped smiles on the faces of millions. It even made us forget about James Cameron’s idea for the web-slinger.
With the reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, hitting this week, just a few months over a decade later, it was time to crack open this DVD case and see what glorious insight Raimi and crew have to offer. And with reviews coming in for the newly released Spidey flick, it seems there might be more enjoyment in listening to people talk about a different version. We’re not saying it’s awful, but we’re hoping, praying that someone at Columbia Pictures gets Cameron on the line stat.
The Amazing Spider-Man bashing aside, here are the 29 items we learned from this commentary for Spider-Man.
Commentators: Sam Raimi (direct0r), Grant Curtis (co-producer), Laura Ziskin (producer), Kirsten Dunst (actress)
- The title designer, Kyle Cooper, also designed the opening Marvel logo which now runs in front of every Marvel film. Ziskin remembers the rousing ovation the logo got when the film played for the first time.
- “I think this is one of the best title sequences I’ve ever seen in my entire life of any film,” says Kirsten Dunst, who promptly looked up the word “hyperbole.”
- According to Ziskin, Raimi has a habit of working with two editors, each of whom cuts the film the way they see fit. He then takes both cuts of the film and creates his master cut from those.
- From initial concept of getting Spider-Man to the screen to the film’s actual release was 18 years. Ziskin says this was a good thing, since visual effects weren’t advanced enough to bring the character to life the way he needed to for this film. Some would even say visual effects weren’t advanced enough until Spider-Man 2.
- Certain shots of the spider who bites Peter were pulled off by taking a black widow spider and painting it blue and red. Raimi says the spider was fitted with a cover so that it could be painted without harming the spider, because, if any spiders died on the set of Spider-Man, that’s just bad form.
- There wasn’t enough money in the budget to execute Peter’s dream sequence the way it was scripted, and the entire segment was nearly scrapped altogether. Bob Murawski, one of the two editors, pieced the sequence together using shots from the opening titles, stock footage from Raimi’s earlier film, Darkman, and even a shot from the Lucio Fulci film, The Beyond.
- Ziskin points out that the wallpaper on Peter’s bedroom walls are little spiderwebs. Awwwww!
- When Peter is running to catch the bus and pulls the banner off the side, there was originally another moment after that where he had to jump over a truck to avoid being hit. This was cut because of budget constraints.
- The moment in the lunch room where Peter catches Mary Jane and her tray was very nearly scrapped due to time and budget. What was initially a two-day shoot on that set was cut down to one day, but Raimi and Ziskin were determined to get that moment in the scene.
- Ziskin remembers when Randy Savage auditioned for the role of Bone Saw McGraw and how she fell in love with his voice. Actually, the most important thing we learn here is that Randy Savage had to audition at all. It’s the Macho Man. They should have been calling him.
- “There’s my buddy, Bruce Campbell,” says Raimi, not realizing that we don’t need the man pointed out to us.
- Zisken tells the story of showing a CG mock-up of Peter Parker dressed in his wrestling outfit scaling a wall to the film’s investors and told them it was test footage of Tobey Maguire in the suit. They were convinced that it was real footage.
- “It’s the thing about hair,” says Ziskin when J.K. Simmons shows up as J. Jonah Jameson, “Once we got the hair, he was Jameson.”
- Dunst mentions how the paparazzi were always around while they were filming on location in New York City. She notes that Maguire always liked to mess with them, something he usually does when he isn’t trying to run them over. Can you really blame him, though?
- According to Ziskin and Curtis, the Times Square Unity Festival scene was the most difficult scene to shoot given all the practical and digital elements that had to be incorporated. Ziskin notes it took three weeks to shoot.
- Raimi notes that Willem Dafoe did all of his own fighting while wearing the Green Goblin suit. This helped create a consistency with how the character moves.
- Dunst notes that it really annoys her when girls scream a lot in movies. She adds that she was sick of her own scream by the end of Spider-Man. Wish we could say she’s alone in that. We really do.
- It was executive producer Avi Arad’s idea to have MJ call Peter “Tiger” when she does in the film. It was Dunst’s idea to have her casually throw it out as she’s walking off. “So, together, I think they satisfied that 1 of 1000 fan requirements,” says Raimi.
- Ziskin asks Dunst if she thinks Mary Jane knows who Spider-Man is in the scene when he rescues her in the alleyway, something about Peter and Spider-Man both saying a line about being “in the neighborhood.” “No,” says Dunst, “I don’t think MJ’s that bright.”
- The Spider-Man mask wasn’t designed to be pulled right off, and one had to be made specifically for the shot where Peter takes it off as he’s hiding from MJ, Aunt May, Harry, and Norman.
- The scene where Harry walks in on Peter and MJ at the hospital was James Franco’s first day of shooting. Even though Raimi along with everyone else had agreed Harry’s hair would match that of his father, Franco showed up to set with black hair. Can’t imagine what would cause him to forget something like that.
- The set for Norman Osborn’s condo was on the Warner Brothers lot, where the production chose to choose a number of scenes. This condo set, however, had also been used in Tim Burton’s Batman, and Raimi had to make sure to shoot it in such a way that no one would notice. He would then reveal it to everyone on a commentary track. Fool-proof plan.
- When they first showed the end sequence to the producers, the bridge on which the scene takes place hadn’t been digitally constructed yet nor was there a Spider-Man for half of the scene. “We were trying to say, ‘No, no, trust us. It’s going to be okay.’,” says Ziskin.
- The location where Spider-Man and Green Goblin do their final battle wasn’t a set but an actual, abandoned hospital on Roosevelt Island.
- “Sam came in one day and said, ‘I want him to have a trident.’,” says Ziskin regarding Green Goblin. When Sam Raimi asks for a trident, no one questions him.
- Curtis asks Raimi if the Green Goblin’s arm coming up out of debris was an homage to Evil Dead. Raimi says it’s not, but it’s a reference to all of the Universal monster movies.
- The shot where Norman Osborn dies was filmed later in production after Willem Dafoe had already gone on to another project. His hair was different, and he had to wear a wig for this shot. “He’s more like the David Bowie of Green Goblins,” jokes Raimi.
- “Sam, if you were 19, would you walk away?” asks Curtis about Peter’s decision to lave MJ at the end of the movie. “I don’t remember what it was like to be 19,” responds Raimi.
- The last shot of the film with Spider-Man swinging through the city was the most time-consuming shot of the entire film. Completely CG, execution on it began when production began and was the very last shot completed on the film. All in all it took 18 months to create.
Best in Commentary
“It’s a brilliant idea of Stan Lee’s originally to have Peter enter a wrestling match where those colorful costumes are a must to develop the Spider-Man costume.” -Sam Raimi
“I love when he swings off and lets out that yell. It’s like the high of public service. You know you’ve done the best you can do to help others, and I feel like that’s what he’s celebrating.” -Sam Raimi
This commentary track isn’t the most information-heavy track we’ve covered, nowhere near, in fact. There aren’t any prolonged gaps in any of the commentators speaking, but much of what’s said isn’t that insightful or groundbreaking and revelatory. Raimi points out a lot of shots in the film that he didn’t direct, of which there are a lot. His second unit was working overtime here. Dunst acts giddy and mentions all the things she loved about the production. It’s fine to hear how excited she is about the movie, but it doesn’t add anything informative. Curtis has even less to offer.
The real stand-out on this commentary is producer Laura Ziskin who probably speaks more than anyone else on the track. A breakdown on everyone’s time isn’t included, unfortunately, but it seems fairly obvious that she has the most in terms of both quantity and quality to offer. It’s the first time a producer has made us want to search and discover other tracks to which they’ve contributed.
Spider-Man remains the best that franchise has to offer, The Amazing Spider-Man absolutely included in that statement. However, as continuous as the commentary track for it is, it’s nowhere near one you definitely have to check out for yourself.