Sam Raimi has come a long way since his Living Dead movies. Putting his own unique visual stamp on the Spider-Man franchise, Raimi has cemented himself as one of Hollywood’s most powerful players. Yet, arriving to chat in his trademark suit and tie, Raimi is as consummate an interviewee as he is a filmmaker, as his discusses the challenges of Spider-Man 3 and those pesky rumours as to whether there’ll be a fourth Spidey with him at the helm, or maybe a hobbit is in his future? Raimi talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Were you reticent about having so many characters to deal with, especially the villains?
Raimi: Well, I had, there’s so many fears I have in the making of the movies, that that’s just one of them, so I don’t want to make it seem overblown in my vast array of things I’m terrified of that people won’t like. But I had worked on the story with my brother Ivan, and primarily it was a story that featured the Sandman. It was really about Peter, Mary Jane, Harry, and that new character. But when we were done, Avi Arad, my partner and the former president of Marvel at the time, said to me, Sam, you’re so, you’re not paying attention to the fans enough. You need to think about them. You’ve made two movies now with your favorite villains, and now you’re about to make another one with your favorite villains. The fans love Venom, he is the fan favorite. All Spiderman readers love Venom, and even though you came from 70s Spiderman, this is what the kids are thinking about. Please incorporate Venom, listen to the fans now. And so that’s really where I, I realized okay, maybe I don’t have the whole Spiderman universe in my head, I need to learn a little bit more about Spiderman and maybe incorporate this villain to make some of the real diehard fans of Spiderman finally happy.
Question: Does it concern you that you become a slave at times to expectations of the fans?
Raimi: Well, no. I’ve made choices that I thought were true to the spirit of the character and sacrificing the detail of what’s in the comic book, and I have fallen under, sometimes, criticism, and I can’t say that it isn’t justly deserved. The fans like myself, I’m one of them, have a right to love everything about the comic book. Everything from the web shooters to a particular incident that happens in issue 121, you know, one hundred-twenty one. But as a filmmaker realistically, to stay true to the spirit of the character, which I think is the most important, at least in my mind, that’s my choice, I can’t be true to all the details. It’s just–translation process has to take place. To be true to the spirit, for instance, of Spiderman, Peter Parker, as a regular human being, someone I can really identify with, I can’t also make him a rocket scientist who can make the mechanical web shooters and a formula of adhesive that is air drying that even 3M couldn’t make at this time. So, I choose certain choices to be true to Stan Lee’s spirit. I understand they have a right to be upset, because I don’t have a right to change it, but I have to as the director. Any time anyone makes a comic book into a movie, in some way, I think they have to kill the comic book.
Question: I want to apologize for asking the Spiderman 4 question, but what would it take to bring you back for a 4th film? You’ve said great story, obviously. But it feels like this 3rd film really wraps it up, a nice neat trilogy, so what would it take to bring you back?
Raimi: Well, we really did try and wrap up a lot of the story elements that we had in the first and second picture, but I look at it more like the end of a chapter, because if you’ve read the Spiderman comic books, you know there’s so many more villains and so many more stories that can be told, that have already been told, that are very exciting and vivid, but it’s true. I, for me to come back, I’d have to, when I’m done with all of this, have a breather and then look at the character and say where does he next have to grow to? Where can he now develop in a meaningful way? And if I could recognize, honestly, a real deficit that he, and we could fashion a story then where the characters, where this young man could learn his next life lesson in a meaningful way, and that we could make good story out of it, then I would die to direct the picture.
Question: New Line has also rumored to approach you to do The Hobbit. Have they approached you to do The Hobbit? Was are the rumors, fact, fiction?
Raimi: Well, the truth is I just don’t know what I’m going to do next, that’s the most honest answer I can give you. And I can’t honestly say, even though I have spoken to Bob Shay, that–I don’t know that I could honestly say that anything’s been offered to me until some time in the future, because, it just wouldn’t be exactly right. Or true.
Question: Would you like to go back and do another film that’s a lot smaller, where this pressure doesn’t exist? Going back to your roots?
Raimi: Well, I don’t mind. I don’t look at it as any pressure. I feel like I’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity to make these Spiderman films, because I love the character so much and I feel like I understand him very well. And that’s what empowers me as a director. If I understand the character, I really believe I can make the picture, and understand what they want and where they have to go to. That’s why understanding his deficit is so important to me. I honestly don’t think I could do a good job unless I understood that about Peter for the 4th one. That’s why I can’t actually answer that question either. But these movies don’t leave me with a desire now to go make my little art picture or my little character drama or my love story, because I’ve somehow been given the creative freedom to make all those when I make the Spiderman pictures. I’m allowed to do my character drama, the exploration of the dark side of any man. I’m allowed to tell my love story. They really satisfy me in so many ways, I can make a little bit of a horror movie, it’s fun, I can do some action scenes if I want to. They allow me a tremendous range of possibilities so I feel very satisfied.
Question: When you say you’ve had conversations with Bob Shay, what kind of conversations have you had about The Hobbit?
Raimi: Well, I spoke to him once, so it’s a little more overblown I think. That’s why I don’t want to pretend that it’s bigger than it is. I had one conversation about the possibility of it, and that’s really where it’s at.
Question: I have a question though: in the back of your mind you have to be thinking, The Hobbit–Peter Jackson did such a great job with the trilogy. Is there any fear in your mind about wow, the fans are so attached to Peter Jackson’s vision, how would they take me coming on to the project, and if you did go to the project, is there any thought about taking some of the actors or bringing–
Raimi: I haven’t had any of those thoughts yet, because I think it’s still Peter Jackson’s project. It would be so premature–I’m so overwhelmed with my own insecurities, I can’t take his on just yet.
Raimi: Yeah. I have to burn through all my fears first. And then I’d have to know that he wasn’t making the movie, and then it would have to officially be offered to me, and then all those, I will be the first one to take on all those fears if all of those things were to come to pass.
Question: So you wouldn’t take it on unless Peter Jackson said it was okay?
Raimi: I’d have to know that he was okay with it. It’s really his picture and Bob Shay’s picture.
Question: There’s a lot of powers associated with Spiderman, but in this movie you don’t touch on his spider sense–
Raimi: I don’t want to put him in–I hate to say that, I don’t want to put him in some position where, I don’t even want to put him in a position where he’s forced to respond to me, and I’m not even in the position where I want him, to ask him that. I guess I should say no comment. It’s the–okay, go ahead, I’m sorry.
I was just saying there’s a lot of powers associated with Spiderman, but you didn’t touch on his spider sense in this movie. He gets beat a whole lot. Was that in discussion at all?
Raimi: Well the truth is, in the previous pictures, he’s always had spider sense and still we take him by surprise often. And I started to realize, you know it’s really turning out to be a device that I use when I want and I pretend that it doesn’t exist when I don’t want it, not to, and I felt that there was so much in the picture already. And in addition, in the comics he is immune to Venom, as far as his spider sense, does not work with Venom. So I thought I’ll have to also show, I’ll have to not only cheat at times and show it, but I’ll have to say that it doesn’t work with Venom and I thought where is this all leading. There’s too many elements in the picture already. We know he’s got spider sense. I think I may not focus on that in this particular story.
Question: I know it’s a bit early, but have you already started thinking about the DVD? And were there any sequences that you had to cut out of the film?
Raimi: Well, there were a lot of things that we wrote of and didn’t shoot, or things that we shot that we didn’t think finally were appropriate. We put something in the picture and realized, that’s already obvious from the visuals, we don’t have to say that, it’s better with a look. So like any film, you lose lines and bits, and usually exposition that may not be necessary. Although some of it adds character, it’s always a balancing act. So yes, there were things that were cut out of the picture, and yes, I’ve begun thinking about the DVD, because only in the crudest sense I’ve got to plot time after the promotion to work on the color timing with the director of photography, Bill Pope and my editor Bob Wronski. And make sure all of these extra pieces are properly–
Question: What kind of extra pieces are you talking about?
Raimi: I don’t develop what they are. I just look at them and say, you guys have already used that shot, can we take that out? I’m more like a very distant editor on it.
Question: But you approve the DVD extras?
Raimi: Yes, I do.
Question: How many minutes about were cut out of the film that we may expect on the DVD?
Raimi: I have no idea about that. I don’t know if they’re going to include extra minutes or if we’re going to include extra minutes of the film or not.
Question: Recently Spiderman 2.1 came out with 8 additional minutes. Were you involved in that?
Raimi: Yes, that I supervised. And Sony came to me and said, we want to make a 2.1 that gives fans more of the movie. I said but well, the problem is, I want to be good to you Sony, but the problem is you gave me my director’s cut with the main picture, and I don’t want to punish you now, but that, I really liked, that was the movie I wanted to make and you let me make it and I’m thankful for it. They said well, don’t you have things we could still put in that the fans may want to see? I said okay, we won’t call it the director’s cut, but there’s some additional insight into character, there’s a few lines, there’s a few little action bits that were, maybe were unnecessary to make the point that they said the fans would want to see, so that’s what 2.1 is.
Question: So Spiderman 3 is completely your director’s cut then? I assume it’s the same?
Raimi: Yes, we’ve had a very good relationship like that throughout all the pictures. There are discussions and there’s compromises that you make in any relationship, but I’m very happy with the picture.
Question: Why are these actors so willing to take a leap of faith — I’m talking about Topher and Hayden Church — to sign on something that is not yet completely finished in script form? What is it about this project? You obviously. That attracts them?
Raimi: Well, I’m very happy that they did, because I needed their talents to create these characters. Um, but, I think it’s just the nature of the Spiderman films, and maybe modern day films that are heavy in effects, which is basically–at the end of Spiderman 2, I’m told when the release date is for Spiderman 3, and it simply is going to be on the screen on May 4th. But, but, but–I don’t have it worked out yet. So we have to be working it out and writing the script as we’re casting, as we’re shooting, as we’re working on the effects. It’s just, the demands, we don’t have enough time to do it all in the proper sequence. Ideally, we would write the script, and rewrite the script and finish it, and only then begin the casting process. And only then start storyboarding the piece after rehearsals, and then begin figuring out the effects. But I had to start the effects before I had written a script and cast it before I’d written a script. So it was all a coming–it was unfortunately, on these big pictures that’s how it works, a simultaneous process. It’s like building a house without a blueprint.
Question: Is there a release date for Spiderman 4?
Raimi: They haven’t told me.
Question: If you were to sign on to do another Spiderman 4 film, or even possible few films, with the pressure you were under to deliver 3 by a certain date, would you be more firm with the next one? I want this to be–everything more set up in advance?
Raimi: No, because the fans, I mean, that’s really, that’s a Sony decision. I’d have to ask myself can I get it together, the body picture I need in–
Question: If they he [Tobey] said no to a fourth film, would you be more reticent to do Spiderman 4?
Raimi: For me, yeah, because I’ve made all these three with him, he’s like my partner, and part of it for me would be a real specific experience of continuing the depth of that character that he portrayed. It would be another story working with someone else on the character.
Question: What about Kirsten?
Raimi: I love Kirsten, she’s great, but what about her?
Question: Same thing. If she said no?
Raimi: It would be very difficult without her also.