Interview: Sam Raimi for "Spider-Man 3"

Interview: Sam Raimi for "Spider-Man 3"
By Paul Fischer
Monday, April 23rd 2007 10:48AM

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.

Question: Still?

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.


Interview: Halle Berry for "Perfect Stranger"

By Paul Fischer
Sunday, April 7th 2007 12:42PM

Halle Berry says that at a very youthful 40, she is more confident having hit that milestone, than ever before. Promoting her latest film, the triller Perfect Stranger, the luminous Oscar winner concedes that turning 40 was " really magical" for the actress, because she had "the right to say and be who I wanted to be, say what I wanted to say and not accept what I didn't want to accept."

Despite reeling from a bad marriage, the actress says she is so much wiser at this age and after she turned 40, "I felt more self-assured, more confident and I felt like half my life is probably over now and thus had the right to really be authentically who I want to be and say what I want to say, and not accept what didn't feel right."

Nor does Berry care any more what people think of her. "I was getting there slowly by slowly when I turned 35 but at 40, in a real way, but it doesn't matter what they think. Do people really care? Nobody goes home really pondering what Halle Berry did or said," she says laughingly.

Berry can relate to one aspect of her Perfect Character stranger who finds herself in love with the wrong man. 'What is it about powerful women and shitty men?' a character asks her half way through. The irony of this line does not escape the actress when asked to ponder the question now. "I wish I knew, because the course of my life would be different if I knew the answer to that question before the age of 40," she says, laughingly.

At least the actress has a full-on career to keep her busy, in Perfect Stranger playing a journalist who takes on various pseudonyms to get to the truth. The actress says she was attracted to the film because "I love a character that gives me a chance to grow and do something different, and Rowena was so multifaceted," she explains. "I never played a character that played a character who played a character and that gave me a chance, as an artist, to stretch my limits and challenge myself. When I read the movie and I got to the end, I thought wow, I don't know how I'm going to pull this off but if I can't then at least I'm going to go down trying, because that's how impassioned I was about it."

Berry also gets to look every bit the glamorous movie star throughout the film, as the camera lovingly and often accentuates her beauty and physicality. While years ago, she may have been concerned by this, the more confident actress says she has come to terms with her beauty and doesn't mind showing it off. "I think that's also come with 40, and just getting older as I've become really comfortable with my sexuality and making no excuses for it anymore. It's part of being a woman, part of what empowers us when we're smart enough to know how to use it and the character of Rowena certainly knew how to use it. So I think I've been learning as I've gotten older, to become comfortable with that side of who I am. In the beginning, I used to have to downplay it because I wanted to be taken so seriously as a 'thespian', as an artist and as an actor, so I'd play crack heads, down trodden women and disguise myself. But I think as I've gotten older, I've become more comfortable with whom I really am and all parts of me knowing that my physical self doesn't diminish me in any way or my talent."

Berry not only thrives on challenging herself as an actress, but receiving her star on Hollywood's legendary Walk of Fame represents yet another milestone, a star which she actually kissed during the ceremony. "And then somebody reminded me that it was frequented by crack heads and drug addicts, but it was just a spontaneous thing. I felt so proud of it and I felt like that's what I wanted to do, so that's what I did."

Berry added that attaining the Star, "was yet again another profound moment in my career. After Oscar, I wasn't so sure I would ever have another one and I was surprised that I found myself standing up there on the verge of tears, because I'm an emotional train wreck. So I found myself up there really moved, feeling proud and knowing that while it seemed like a simple star in the ground, it also represented history and that I was a part of it. Not to mention the fact that my star is right in the entrance of the Kodak Theatre which said to me okay, I've got a piece of prime real estate here, so it wasn't a bad day."

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy winner and now recipient of the Hollywood Walk of Fame star, it seems there are few personal; ambitions left for Ms Berry, except one significant aspiration. "I want to be a mother, and that feels really important. Career is one thing and I think I've gotten a lot out of that and made the most of my opportunities but I am starting to feel like I need something more meaningful to wake me up in the morning, and it's feeling very much like it's family and children." Does she have a number in mind? "Oh God, I'm just hoping for one right now."

Berry says that no matter how good or bad her choices, it is the fans of hers that validate who she is an actress, even when it comes to the likes of Catwoman. "A lot of fans, a lot of people liked Catwoman and it's validated. I mean you'd be surprised how many people, especially young girls, came up and they really liked it and so that's the validation. I try to focus on the positive of things and so the validation is really from the fans because that's who we make movies for, for people and for fans and I think it's our job to offer them a variety, and do different kinds of things."

Not that she needs that validation to feel okay about her work, "because I know every time for good or for bad, I give 100% of what I have to give and I make choices based on what's happening in my life at that moment, what I'm most needing to do, sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes for the art of it. So knowing that I make decisions from the right place, I can live with that at night, no matter what the outcome of the project."

Always trying to become as diverse as possible, Berry's upcoming projects exemplify that diversity. She is re-teaming with Perfect Stranger producer for the true story Class Act, in which she plays a cynical high school teacher encouraged by her students to run for Congress. Despite the glut of Hollywood films on teachers, Berry is non-committal as to how this one will differ from its predecessors. "We'll see, I don't know yet, as I haven't even begun to delve into who that woman is right now, so I'll tell you about it on that junket because it's something that's not really close to me right now."

What is far closer is the movie Things We Lost in the Fire with Benicio Del Toro and directed by Susanne Bier. "It's very different from Perfect Stranger on many levels. It's a small movie that deals with love and loss, and it's very different in the sense that while Stranger is designed to be a crowd pleaser, whodunit, this is a slice of life movie, a little movie that will probably take the festival route this year." While she laments the fact that Hollywood doesn't see Berry in a comedic role, the actress is finally getting to star in an offbeat romantic comedy, Nappily Ever After in which "I get to shave my head bald and we're talking grease-head bald."

Berry describes Nappilly Ever After as dealing with "the relationship that women have with their hair, how hair throughout history has defined us, how we're in such bondage, and if my hair's not right then we're not right. So at the beginning of the movie, something is done to my character and her hair starts to fall out, so she after being drunk one night, decides to deal with the fact that their hair is dragged up, she's so she decides to shave her hair completely bald. Now she has to face the next morning with no hair and how her whole life and everybody around her are different, because she was once this beautiful goddess with this long hair and now she's bald. So she's forced to look at what beauty really is and it comes from inside obviously, not from the outside but it's a hard lesson for us to get and this movie will sort of expose that and help us come to terms and may be every time we hear thunder, we won't go like running for cover."

Berry doesn't seem to be running for cover these days. Despite tabloid reports of suicide attempts following her broken marriage, the Halle Berry promoting Perfect Stranger remains consistently upbeat about her life and career. "I've been saying I'm just really happy, I'm in a really good space in my life and I can honestly say it's not because of anything, in particular. It's not because I have a really cute boyfriend now, it's not because my career is in a good, it's because I feel good about me and if anyone of those things should dissipate, I'd still be happy, I'd still be okay and that feels like a really good place to finally have arrived to."