When a fourth Spider-Man movie was announced, fanboys groaned in unison. We saw what became of the webslinger on the big screen, and as sad as it would be to let the disappointing Spider-Man 3 be the last of his big screen adventures, wouldn't it be best to let him take a rest? We're already in the midst of a superhero overload, reaching a critical point where each studio tries to top the other studio's entry, resulting in increasingly ridiculous CGI overloads (here's looking at you, Green Lantern). Not to mention, The Amazing Spider-Man's director, Marc Webb, has never made an action movie before.
So why should you be excited about yet another big-screen superhero blockbuster, especially one from an unproven action director? One reason: Vic Armstrong. It doesn't much matter that Webb is new to the blockbuster game, because Armstrong is Hollywood's secret weapon. You may not know his name, but he's a stuntman turned stunt coordinator turned second unit director, and has been responsible for some of the best blockbusters ever made: The original Indiana Jones trilogy, the original Superman, decades of Bond films, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Mission: Impossible 3, the list goes on and on. The man is a legend in the industry. If you want to make the impossible look real, you get Vic Armstrong.
Vic's mind-blowing, must-read biography, The True Adventures of the World's Greatest Stuntman: My Life as Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman and Other Movie Heroes, hits next week, which afforded us the pleasure of talking with the stunt pioneer about his career past and present. We'll be posting the full chat next week, but today we wanted to share the portion about his present gig and how it's singlehandedly reversed our interest for The Amazing Spider-Man from "Eh, wait and see" to "I must see this now!"
Movies.com: When it comes to The Amazing Spider-Man, how much of it do you imagine is practical and how much of it is CGI?
Vic Armstrong: Our whole approach on this is to go practical. There's already a lot of stuff in the papers and videos on YouTube of him flying, you know. That's what we aim for. Avi Arad, the producer, came to us when we finished this big flying sequence, which we did in three days, a huge amount of flying-- 50, 60 cars and trucks, swinging in and around the tops of them, all for real. Avi said to us, "Oh my God, this is exactly what you promised us! This is what it says on the box!"
And you can see the difference. He's pulling like 2 to 2.5 Gs. We put a G-meter on him in the rehearsal for when he goes through the bottom of one of these swings and pulls up to do the next one. You see the body straighten out, you see all of his muscles; you don't see him swinging with his arms bent holding onto it, it's real. You stretch out when you've got three or four hundred pounds pulling on your wrist with that kind of g-force. All of that's done real, it's just what we're doing.
The whole approach of Spidey is to do as much as we can. Of course there will be some CG, we're in the 21st century, you know. It's just a case of getting the right mixture.
You mention in your book that you've taken a different approach to what Sam Raimi took, of how he climbs buildings and slings around and what not.
The approach is purely that he's doing more of it for real. So every time you see him climbing, he's lifting 65% of his own body weight, so those look like real moves. He's climbing real things. Sure, we may add another 30 floors below him, but that's what we do; it's what we did in Titanic. But what he is doing, it's the real movement.
And Andrew Garfield is old school, an almost Daniel Day Lewis approach to life-- you have to really feel the things to feel them as an actor. Or Bob De Niro in The Mission, up to his neck in armor, he wanted to feel the real weight of it. Andrew Garfield knows it's a movie, but he wants to feel as much realness as he can get, which is going to counteract the surrealness of it.
I'm glad to hear that. As you may or may not agree, the last Spider-Man went a bit over the edge.
[laughs] Tell me about it.
And that's just the style that seems to have stuck with the latest round of superhero movies. In particular, on the horizon we have Green Lantern, which, for as fun as it looks, is looking so increasingly ridiculous it might as well be animated. It's nice to hear there is a superhero movie on the horizon that will be a bit more grounded.
It takes a brave approach away from everybody. We have to show our case to the studio and they have to buy into it. On paper it looks more expensive because you're doing it on a shooting day and it sounds cheaper to them to just say, "We'll do it in post." I'd love to see the numbers added up when you get to post. It'll cost you $100 grand to do it live, whereas it'll cost $400 grand to do it in post. Nothing's free. You have to present your case and fight in your corner, as it were.