Interview: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Producers on the Marvel Hero’s Past, Present and Future

“That’s how it happened. Kevin [Feige] came to me and said I have a really good idea…”

Longtime Spider-Man producer Amy Pascal was sitting alongside Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige in a midtown Manhattan hotel room as she began to describe to Fandango how, exactly, Spider-Man: Homecoming was born. Feige said, “Always, through the years, Amy has been very gracious and open, and calling and asking for thoughts and feedback on the other Spider-Man films. It was sort of starting… she was opening that process again and saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing on these other movies.’ I honestly said, ‘We’re not good at that. I’m not good at that. But what if we did…’”

That “what if we did…” eventually turned into a landmark deal between two studios, the likes of which we’ve never seen in this new, revitalized age of superhero movies. What Feige was proposing was that his Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney, team up with Sony Pictures, which has the film rights to Spider-Man, and essentially shares one of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters. Feige’s team at Marvel Studios would then place Spider-Man inside their ever-evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the character would be able to share the screen with all the other characters Marvel Studios has the rights to, like Iron Man, Captain America and so on.

“There were a lot of people we had to get lined up to make that all work,” Pascal said. “We were shooting within a year of that conversation.”

The idea was to get Spider-Man into Captain America: Civil War, and though both sides went back and forth – one day he was in it, the next day he wasn’t – eventually everything came together, Tom Holland was cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and within a week of him being cast he was in Germany shooting scenes with Robert Downey Jr.

Spider-Man Is a YouTube Star

In Civil War, it is Downey’s Tony Stark who recruits Peter Parker to assist in his quarrel with Captain America, and as Feige and Pascal explained it was on YouTube where the Avenger first learned of New York’s amazing web-shooter.

“That was sort of our theory, in that if somebody in costume swung down from a building and stopped the bus, it would get caught [on camera],” Feige said, adding that in Spider-Man: Homecoming, when Peter Parker is watching one of the YouTube videos, we can see that the first comment amusingly reads, “Fake,” as in not everyone believes that this Spidey hero is real. “Tony [Stark] realized it wasn’t fake – that there was something worth investigating,” Feige said.

For his first solo outing, Holland’s Spider-Man will be joined by a man who is arguably the captain of the MCU: Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. It is Iron Man’s alter ego, Tony Stark, who serves as Peter Parker’s mentor or watchdog, depending on the situation. As Parker returns to his hometown of Queens, New York, hoping to prove to Stark that he is worthy of joining the Avengers, Stark (and his trusty bodyguard Happy Hogan, played once again by Jon Favreau), keep the teen at bay, stressing that he go to school, be a kid and leave the big baddies to the bigger heroes.

It is that very conflict within Peter that drives the film forward as he wrestles with wanting to be a superhero while also trying to navigate the complicated world of high school and bullies and girl crushes. “I think those kind of moments — where Peter’s starting to figure out who he really is and is struggling with his identity — are the ones that are the most moving to me,” Pascal said.

How Spider-Man Will Usher in the Next Phase of Marvel Movies After Avengers 4

So what happens next for Spider-Man?

The timing of this Spider-Man movie is good in terms of telling a more grounded story that doesn’t feature any universe-shattering action sequences. It’s set at time after Civil War, but before Avengers: Infinity War, so that allows Tony Stark to meddle in Parker’s business without audiences wondering why he isn’t off dealing with some other giant problem connected to another of Marvel’s movies.

That won’t necessarily be the case for the next Spider-Man movie, which will take place immediately after the events of the Untitled Avengers 4. “The second [movie] is all we’re thinking about now,” Feige said. “This five-movie arc, which is a lot of movies. From Civil War to Homecoming, to Infinity War, Untitled [Avengers 4] and Homecoming 2. That’s a big chunk of Peter Parker that’s never been explored before that is taking up all of our focus right now.”

Feige confirmed that Spider-Man’s next solo adventure will kick off Marvel’s next phase of movies following two massive Avengers films that will conclude the story arc that began all the way back in 2008 with Iron Man.

“The Infinity War movie and untitled Avengers are, yes, just by their nature, very big and are going to have a lot of universe-shattering events happen,” Feige said. “How to process that, how to fathom that, how to come back to earth after that… of course you want Peter Parker to lead you through that.”

Those Other Sony-Produced Marvel Movies

At the same time as Spider-Man slowly web-crawls into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony Pictures is busy developing other Marvel movies based on characters it has the film rights to, who, in the comics, tend to be featured in Spider-Man stories. One of those films, Venom, is due out in 2018 and will star Tom Hardy. The last time audiences saw the character Venom on the big screen it was in 2007’s Spider-Man 3, and the catch with this film – as well as others Sony is developing, including a Black Cat and Silver Sable movie and an animated Spider-Man film – will not be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will be.

“All the characters are a part of the Marvel comic book universe. They’re all interrelated in that universe,” Pascal explained. “Spider-Man is now a part of the MCU, as he was created to be in the beginning. The other things that Sony is doing, which are characters from the Marvel comic universe, are independent separate franchises, both Venom and Silver Sable and Black Cat.”

Both Pascal and Feige feel audiences are knowledgeable enough now to understand which movies are and aren’t part of the same cinematic universe. “I would say that I think we have to make people comfortable that we’re clear on what we’re doing,” Pascal said. “I’m also producing an animated version of Spider-Man with Phil [Lord] and Chris [Miller] and that’s a whole other universe.” Feige added, “Nobody confuses Lego Batman and Batman v. Superman. And even Logan and Deadpool are definitively not MCU, but definitively awesome movies based on Marvel characters.”

Speaking of Logan and Deadpool, we’re hearing that one way they may use to distinguish a film like Venom as being completely different from Spider-Man: Homecoming — and, by extension, the MCU — is by making that film R rated.

As to whether Pascal would ever approach Feige to have Marvel Studios make some of those other Sony-backed Marvel movies, like they’re doing with Homecoming, that’s up in the air. “I don’t know about that but if I could work with Kevin all the time, I would,” she said. “Kevin has been working with us on Spider-Man movies from the very beginning. He didn’t open his mouth for the first four years when he worked for Avi [Arad], and little did I know what was underneath all that.” Feige added, “You observe, you watch, you learn.”

Feige and Pascal will once again team up on the second Spider-Man solo movie, which will hit theaters only two months after the fourth Avengers film. In fact, reports indicate that next Spidey adventure will pick up only minutes after the events of the Avengers movie, but, like with Homecoming, the story will again revolve completely around Spider-Man’s own personal trials and tribulations.

“You always have to figure out Spider-Man from whatever his emotional dilemma is that he’s going through,” Feige said when asked what that second movie might be like. “Whatever relatable, overly dramatic, hilarious thing that he’s grappling with is the thing that we need to solve first. Then the rest of it should come from that.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters on July 6. You can snag your tickets right here at Fandango.