As the release of The Amazing Spider-Man draws ever closer, catch up with the big bad of the piece, Rhys Ifans.
Total Film spoke to the charming, ever-grinning Welshman at Sony’s press conference in Cancun, where he spoke about Dr Curtis Connors (AKA the Lizard), the magic of CGI, and his own personal relationship to comic books.
A bundle of manic energy, Ifans has a refreshingly laidback approach to the Hollywood blockbuster, and provides and endearing everyman’s viewpoint onto the ginormous set. Keep your eyes peeled for further interviews with Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb, coming soon.
Read our full Rhys Ifans interview:
What was it like on set of The Amazing Spider-Man?
“First and foremost it was a great working atmosphere, like any film set. On a daily basis, with Marc’s [Webb] guidance, we would dig deep into the emotional currency of each scene. So that was enriching in itself, a great working experience.
“But it was coupled with the fact that you were, for me and I’m sure for Andrew [Garfield] and Emma [Stone], walking for the first time onto set that was so authentic it looked more real that that real thing.
“When Sony, with a budget like this, builds a New York sewer, it smells like a sewer. It was just extraordinary. And you can never let that intimidate you, you just walk on as a punter, as anyone would, and go, ‘My god, this is amazing. Someone has made this, built this with such attention to detail.’ So I was just enthralled the whole time.
“There were models flying around, there were computer generated models, there were guys walking around with 3D glasses… It was just surreal and really, really exciting. It’s how you imagined Hollywood to be when you were a kid. It was just joyous, really.”
Can you elaborate on what Andrew said about the relationship between your characters being based on love?
“In the movie, Peter Parker’s father, Richard Parker, and I worked together very closely in the past so, without giving too much away, his father is missing, so there’s obviously a connection.
“When I first see Peter Parker, I see his father. And when he sees me, he sees, I guess, a father figure, or a connection to his father. So there is a love there.
“And like in any good film or story, you almost want them to get together. Not in a sexual way obviously, [laughs] that’s another movie. You want that mystery to be solved and for both characters to have closure. And fortunately in this version they don’t quite make it, they grow apart which is painful to watch, and painful to play.”
Can you say something about the CGI performance? How was it as the Lizard?
“The advancements in CGI are quite breathtaking. We were using CGI which I believe has never been used before. I was participant in a technology I have absolutely no understanding of, but a willing participant.
“This was crazy. ‘Why am I sitting in a room with these blue lights, with a million dots on my face?’ It was like going clubbing or something. And then you see the finished product, and whether the audience notices or not, I don’t know. I’d like to think they will. But there are some moments when the Lizard looks at you or looks at Peter Parker, and I can see my own expressions, and that’s just mind-blowing.
“To see it in such detail and to recognise yourself within a monster is a great metaphor for me as a character anyway. That was just absolutely thrilling.”
What sort of research did you do into the character? Because he has been around in the Spider-Man universe for a long time.
“I researched the cross-species genetics… But for me, I didn’t want to be bogged down too much by adhering to the past of the character historically. I wanted to address it afresh, like I think Marc did with the film, and make it very real, and the real themes are ones of loss and bereavement, and the guilt that comes with bereavement, the surrogacy of fatherhood.
“I met with a lot of guys who’d lost a limb, and how that affects your life, your mind, your physical presence in the world. So those were very immediate things I could apply to my performance.”
Were you surprised that you got the call to make this big Hollywood blockbuster?
“Well I wasn’t being invited to make this. This is the story of any actor’s life, you go for 100 auditions a month and very few of them come to fruition. But with Spider-Man, you think, ‘Oh yeah, I’m familiar with that franchise [laughs]. I think I better go for this one!’
“So off I went, not expecting – I never expect to get a gig – and you weren’t sent a script because it was all very secretive, but I was sent this one scene – and I don’t know if it has even made it into the film – but it’s pivotal to Connors’ character.
“It’s about a man who was in a place of extreme flux between being unconfident and disabled and maimed, to feeling all-powerful and beautiful and confident and glistening and strong. And the speech was about a man who loses a momentary glimpse of glory. And it’s crippling to arrive at that. I think that’s a common archetypal theme in any great story. It’s Samson after the haircut.”
Marc Webb calls it ‘a Shakespearean performance’. Did that have anything to do with your part in Anonymous?
“Because Sony produced both films, Marc and all the guys had seen Anonymous, and they knew I was capable of more than wearing underpants and making myself look like a fool.”
Would you have taken this role if it wasn’t part of such a big movie?
“Marc Webb was the appeal for me. I’d seen (500) Days Of Summer and I thought that was just an amazing choice by Sony to employ Marc. I thought, ‘This is really interesting.’ Because I thought the emotional microcosmos that Marc presents us with in (500) Days Of Summer is just delectable.
“And I thought if you apply that to something that’s painted on such an epic scale with such a wide brush as Spider-Man... it kind of needs that detail to sustain that world.
“And I was also very touched that Marc had obviously thought of me. I thought, ‘Fuck man! If he’s willing to run with the ball I’ll run with it too. Let’s see what happens.’ And what happened is this.”
So what’s your relationship to comic books from when you were growing up?
“I wasn’t a boffin. I grew up in North Wales, we didn’t have any comic shops. Comics were a currency. You’d sell them or swap them for conkers or [whatever].
“So they were very present, and they were often found in friends houses in amongst a collection of soft porn in the garage [laughs]. So I’m glad I got the Spider-Man end of it. A one-armed porn film is another thing altogether.
“I’d forgotten about Spider-Man for years, it was something I’d done as a kid, then all these Spider-Man references started flooding back to me.
“And I remember getting a Spider-Man comic and on the back of it there was a Spider-Man face with a dotted line to cut out and put string on and colour it in red and put pinholes in the eyes so I could spend days running around going, ‘Hey Mum! [Websling]’ Stuff like that.”
Have you seen the whole movie yet?
“Not in its entirety, no. They offered to show it to me today but I wanna see it with the glasses on, with my name at the end, and my fingers smelling of popcorn.”
Do you think the Lizard will be a villain to be remembered?
“Hopefully, yeah. I mean, he’s nine foot tall and green, I think he’s going to make a slight impact.”
Are you ready for the exposure that you’re going to have with Spider-Man?
“I think I’ll refer to Andrew’s very eloquent answer earlier in the press conference. ‘No, of course not.’ For Andrew it must be hard. Even if people recognise him in the street, he can’t even wear a mask, because then everyone will go, ‘Oh yeah, we know who’s behind that…’”
The Amazing Spider-Man opens on 3 July 2012.
Read our Amazing Spider-Man review.
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