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A History of Carnage: Part III
The finale of the story of the cinematic rights to Spider-Man.
If you haven’t read Parts I and II, yet, here you go:
They Say It’s Wonderful, by Frank Sinatra
Cast: Ike Perlmutter, Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton, Kevin Feige, Tom Rothman, Kaz Hirai, Drew Goddard, Jon Watts, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jamie Foxx, Thomas Haden Church, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, JK Simmons, Jacob Batalon, Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Tobey Maguire.
Other parties: Marvel Studios/Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Pascal Pictures
For a high-level media executive, Amy Pascal is peculiar, and a surprisingly incoherent communicator.
Pascal was no industry insider, but she believed she had a knack for being emotionally resonant. She had a middle-class upbringing, studied international relations at UCLA, but decided to take the tough road to movie production. She started off by being a production assistant: get coffee, do odd jobs for the producer. But she’d read up any and every script that came her way because, like the other people in this piece, she loved movies. She adored the directors and the actors, and firmly believed that she was in service of them. And as a woman in a highly-masculine industry, she wanted to prove her chops.
She rose to being a junior executive, the female counterparts of who were more derogatorily called “d-girls”. The job of junior executives was to screen scripts for their higher-ups. But, when someone got called a “d-girl”, the immediate implication about their intentions was that they’d do anything to rise up the ranks. However, Amy Pascal would devour scripts she liked, and got a couple of her choices to the movie screen. And in 1985, prolific producer Scott Rudin gave her that “big break” — the seat of a VP at Fox. A decade later, she went to Columbia, eventually becoming president of the studio.
Her peers thought her a little “insane”, which was likely a result of sexism than anything else. Her own team often didn’t understand what she wrote in her mails. But the stars loved her. George Clooney, Jonah Hill, they all loved her self-deprecating personality. She was Hollywood’s favorite executive. She wanted to make good movies, and not necessarily big-budget ones. If it took her a little fiscal indiscipline to make a damn good flick (at the risk of wrath from her overlords), she’d do it.
But even at Sony, she wasn’t respected by her higher-ups all the way in Tokyo. When she — a (relatively) self-made, non-pedigree, non-MBA woman didn’t get promoted to the head of the division, it hurt. Instead, Japan chose a Harvard MBA named Michael Lynton to be co-chairperson. By title, it would mean they were equals. However, Lynton was responsible for the eventual decision of renewing Pascal’s employment contract.
Lynton was an ex-Disney executive who, according to Ben Fritz, would only attend Hollywood parties because “he lived next door and heard the noise”. He actively positioned himself as someone who couldn’t care less about whether he made friends in the industry. He left Hollywood once in between to work in Penguin, and then at AOL. He survived the AOL-Time Warner merger, the dot-com crash of 2001, and on top of all that, turned around the fortunes of AOL’s Europe business.
But unfortunately, in the grand scheme of narratives on the internet, none of this matters. As far as netizens is concerned, Amy Pascal will almost always be known as the “fall guy” in the aftermath of the biggest hack Hollywood has ever seen.
The 2014 Sony Pictures hack took down a lot of future movie plans, strained many relationships, and gave us behind-the-scenes drama. In the form of good old mails. Unfortunately but expectedly, Spider-Man was collateral damage of the hack.
But we’re still chronologically right when TASM was deemed a good enough success to kickstart TASM2. There was now a little bit of competitive tension between Sony and Marvel. Just look at the banter in this mail, before the release of TASM2. Recognize any of these guys?
Weird cross-communication at first sight, right? But Marvel had a huge benefit if TASM did well: it would end up making serious money out of toys and other merchandise. In fact, before the release of TASM, Sony and Marvel did a little bartering. Sony gave up its share in merchandising profits, and Marvel, its 5% share in the movie’s profits. In addition, Marvel cash-strapped Sony with $175M.
However, the mail chain was all formality. Feige didn’t like the reboot strategy at all. In communication to Marvel’s president at the time, Alan Fine, he wrote:
“In a million years I would never advocate rebooting . . . Iron Man. To me it’s James Bond and we can keep telling new stories for decades even with different actors.”
Fine wrote back in agreement, while also adding his two cents about the TASM2 script:
“I think that it is a mistake to deny the original trilogy its place in the canon of the Spider-Man cinematic universe. What are you telling the audience? That the original trilogy is a mistake, a total false-hood?
I found this draft tedious, boring, and had to force myself to read it through . . . This story is way too dark, way too depressing. I wanted to burn the draft after I read it never mind thinking about buying the DVD.”
But you never know, maybe TASM2 could be the sequel we didn’t know we needed. Maybe it’d surprise, like Sam Raimi’s second outing. So it was obviously made with the best of intentions. Or maybe, Sony thought it might be a nice idea to slightly overstuff the movie with a few more characters, so that they could set up another cash-mint in the form of TASM3, and finally get a movie with more than 2 villains. More like 6 villains. They were feeling the heat from Marvel, who were well on their way to building a lovely shared universe. Sony wanted to make their own Spider-verse.
We might never know much beyond reports of “script tampering”, but TASM2 is universally regarded as one of the worst superhero flicks to ever be made. It made a net profit of ~$70M, which wasn’t great in comparison to what the other movies made. Garfield and Stone were great as always, but 2 years after the movie, he did this interview with Amy Adams. And the gist of this video is that Garfield learnt the hard way that “the value system of corporate America” didn’t always serve the characters and the story.
But 2014: when TASM2 was released, was easily the worst year for Amy Pascal and her team. If you remember, Sony was producing a movie called The Interview, where the villain was supposed to be Kim Jong-un. The movie ends with, spoiler alert, the death of the North Korean dictator in a spectacular helicopter blast. Naturally, that caused a lot of outrage in the country, with the odd death threat to stars James Franco and Seth Rogen.
The culmination of the movie’s release was the leaking of the confidential communications of Sony. Towards the end of 2014, a group that called itself the Guardians of Peace handed over to WikiLeaks an entire package of damning mails from Sony Pictures. Among people who find themselves mentioned in the chain, albeit in poor taste, are:
Erstwhile-president Barack Obama: Pascal and Scott Rudin wondered he liked movies like Django Unchained, 12 Years A Slave, and other similarly themed movies for him to fund Sony,
Kevin Hart, who was called, in no uncertain terms, “a whore” by a Sony executive,
Angelina Jolie, who Pascal called a “minimally talented spoiled brat” over who Pascal wouldn’t destroy her career. The story so goes that Jolie was the kebab bone that wouldn’t let David Fincher make a “The Social Network”-like movie for Steve Jobs. She wanted Fincher to make an adaptation of Cleopatra.
In her mails, Pascal alternates between sweet compliments in smallcase, and angry demands in all-caps. Like this mail subject about Jolie:
David Fincher himself, who was terribly disappointed with the way Sony handled the hack. It may be unsurprising to some that not long after, Fincher ventured into the world of streaming, with House of Cards and Mindhunter. He found a friend in Netflix. It’s unlikely him and Pascal will be on collaborative terms anymore.
Pascal was the most obvious scapegoat for the scandal. But the mail leak was only half the shitstorm, and the forest fire it led to subsided in time. Pascal’s tendency to go over-budget did not do her any favours for when the movies bombed at the box office. Her contract, due for expiry on March 2015, wasn’t renewed. Moreover — even if she stayed, Sony was planning to reduce her salary by ~25%. In January of that year, after 20 years at Sony Pictures, she was let off by Lynton.
Pascal had been miserable for two years. Ben Fritz recounts her trying to convince her parents in 2014 that she’ll keep her job. Movie business is depressing and lonely. Pascal had to let go of her longtime assistant, Mark Seed, as part of a company-wide layoff. Her mails became more incomprehensible because of stress. While it could always be argued that her recklessness was a factor, there is no doubt that the rest of the leadership team wasn’t helping her. Even Lynton felt like escaping, and he did: to some hotshot tech startup named Snapchat.
Pascal’s replacement was a Columbia law graduate named Tom Rothman — he headed Fox’s movie business and led it to being the most profitable film studio of the 2000s, and won three Best Picture Oscars during his tenure.
Even though TASM2 was deemed a failure, it made enough money for Sony to make an announcement for TASM3 at a gala event in Rio in July 2014. For further reference, Captain America: Civil War was meant to be a summer 2016 release. Between July 2014 and July 2016, there were multiple avalanches of giant proportions that shifted entire power dynamics.
The first one has to do with the gala event itself. Enter chief of Sony Entertainment (the holding corporation of Sony Pictures) — Kaz Hirai. Hirai was supposed to break the big news with Andrew Garfield present alongside him. However, Garfield called in sick at the last minute. That pissed a lot of heads over at Sony, including and especially Hirai:
It can’t be conclusively said that such a small shortcoming led to the firing of Andrew Garfield. However, it was certainly one of the triggers that led to that outcome in 2015. The lack of alignment of Sony with what he thought was his version of Spider-Man is what largely seemed to be a deal-breaker for him. Plus, the fans didn’t want another sequel — something Hirai wasn’t aware of for the longest time.
The second avalanche — Pascal was still bullish about a third movie. She decided to take a chance with a new kid on the block named Drew Goddard, whose biggest claim to fame is the Netflix Daredevil. But before anything could happen, the script got leaked in the hack. These two events forced TASM3 to be shelved.
The third avalanche was more deliberate and constructive in nature, in contrast to the first two. Since Feige was in constant communication with Pascal about the performance of TASM2, he surmised an opportunity to bring back Spider-Man to where he belonged. Feige was someone Pascal trusted in because of his ideas and willingness to listen. So when in late-2014, Pascal told him about her vision of TASM3, he rebuffed her and counter-proposed another solution:
“Amy, in all fairness, it's not gonna work. The only way I know how to do anything is to just do it entirely. So why don't you let us do it? Don't think of it as two studios. And don't think of it as giving another studio back the rights. No change of hands of rights. No change of hands of money. Just engage us to produce it. Just pretend it's like what DC did with Christopher Nolan. I'm not saying we're Nolan, but I am saying there is a production company that is doing this pretty well. Just engage the services of that production company to make the movie.”
To which Amy Pascal reportedly threw a sandwich in absolute disgust at Kevin Feige.
The mere suggestion was such a trigger that the writers of Civil War — Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely — had to leave a blank space in the screenplay for if Spider-Man was a possible appearance. However, it seemed like the best way out. And Sony didn’t necessarily have to fold its cards either in order to escape their own mess.
Which is exactly what happened. A few days before Pascal was fired, Lynton and her visited Feige and Perlmutter re-negotiated a new licensing deal, henceforth called Deal 2. The terms of the deal seemed to be mutually beneficial. Sony granted Marvel the option to insert Peter Parker in the MCU, without an origin story, for an annual fee of $35M. Each studio would fully finance and keep the profits of its own productions — a notable deviation from the earlier 5-95 split. However, if the movies grossed more than $750M, the yearly payment that Marvel would have to make would be reduced. Sony would retain right of final approval over all creative decisions. This deal was extended to 5 movies.
Which was fine by Marvel. In fact, Feige and Perlmutter invited Pascal to continue to be part of the movie as a co-producer. In the wake of the firing, she spun off her own production company. Sony did give her a nice gift, though — a 4-year multi-million contract for distributing the films produced by her new venture.
As part of their ongoing slate, the next movie Marvel were planning was, hello, Captain America: Civil War. A promising showdown of epic proportions, with rumors of a young teenage high school science nerd from Queens being in the movie. But who was to play him?
The Russo brothers, who were making Civil War, consulted with Sarah Finn — Marvel’s casting head. Her first pick was a British boy, much in the vein of Andrew Garfield — but 19 years old. He had made a name for himself in theatre, and a couple of nice British drama shows. He did have to compete against 1500-odd teens for the role, but he stood out. A taxi driver told him that he would get it because he was less attractive than another actor who drove in the same cab for the audition. But hey, at least he was partly positive about it. You could look at him and tell that in another world, Stan Lee would have kept Spider-Man’s citizen name to be Tom Holland. In July 2015, 4 days after he was cast, he was on set.
Civil War was the biggest success of 2016. It continues to hold the record of being the 12th-highest grossing film of all time. And though for a brief time, audiences across the world screamed for Tom Holland. He was a lock. The critics loved him, too. He had a natural chemistry with Robert Downey Jr — one that would yield considerable dividend over the next few years.
The solo Spider-Man film that was to follow after Civil War was explicitly barred from being an origin story, primarily because of the nature of the contract with Sony. Which meant no Uncle Ben, and ideally no throwaway lines referencing him either. But there was intention to draw up traits of the new Peter Parker that would be “diametrically opposed” to that of the Raimi take. A relatively new director named Jon Watts was signed up to direct, partly because Kevin Feige really liked an independent film Watts made, called Cop Car. These were early signs of the now well-known trend of Marvel hiring predominantly indie directors to head blockbuster films.
The writing team wanted the movie to have an innocence and a sensitiveness that could only be found in films like The Breakfast Club, and similar classic movies about adolescence. Peter was to be no more than 16 years of age, and a science whiz — a trait that would land him at the doorstep of Tony Stark. The villain was intended to be more grounded this time, and relatively low-stakes in comparison to previous movies, if need be. Which was where the option of getting an anti-capitalist like the Vulture was revived. The casting of the Vulture was arguably the hardest. In fact, the roles of MJ (where the M stood for Michelle) and Aunt May were already decided, to Zendaya and Marisa Tomei respectively. However, after multiple rescheduling and avoiding of clashes, Batman #2 — Michael Keaton was slated to be the bad guy birdman.
This is 2016. Imagine you’re watching this video of the Comic-Con for the first time, where the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming was formally announced. They clicked. They were over the moon to be cast in a property that they likely devoured as kids: in the form of comics, movies, or video games. Watch from 4:05 onwards, where Jacob Batalon (who got cast as Peter’s best friend, Ned) is talking about how excited he is. The movie was already buzzing with energy that the writing team wanted to infuse, simply because they got the cast right. You can watch this and tell that all they had to do was transliterate their own personalities into the script.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Homecoming was the highest-grossing superhero movie of 2017, and generated a cool $200M profit after a $880M gross against a $175M film budget. Tom Holland, Zendaya and Marisa Tomei had won hearts across the world. The Vulture — a fantasy Sam Raimi harboured for Spider-Man 3 — was a superb exemplar of how to write grounded villains. What is really funny is that Pascal wanted Holland and Zendaya to be professional (she said the same to Garfield and Stone).
However, much like in TASM2, the two developed actual feelings for each other. A love story that, touchwood, continues to this date.
The two movies to follow Homecoming, at least chronologically, were the double whammy of Infinity War and Endgame. Even though the production of either movie was kept notoriously mysterious, Pascal had always known that Peter Parker would, spoiler alert, be revived from Thanos’ Snap. He had two more solo movies. That being said, Sony required an announcement for the film’s release to be in July 2019. This complicated Kevin Feige’s super-secret vision for Endgame, due in April the same year. Marketing for the Spidey sequel would get rolling before that, anyway. Fans would have no reason to, ahem, not too feel good about Peter’s situation, even before Endgame’s release.
But before we move to talking about these next movies, there’s an important deviation. The flawed professional that she might have been, Amy Pascal had pulled off a masterful stroke before her fall from grace. And the roots of the move can be seen in one of the leaked emails with Feige and Perlmutter.
Sony’s deal with Marvel didn’t mean they couldn’t develop any of their own properties on Spider-Man. Ideally, they just had to not interfere with the magnanimous scheme for the MCU. Pascal was in talks with two very funny directors that she had worked with — Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The directors of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs wanted to take on a 2014 comic storyline called “Spider-Verse”, and give it an animated spin. Pascal decided to give them free rein, and Rothman announced a 2018 release for the finished product.
The resulting product won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature — the first non-Disney OR non-Pixar flick to do so since 2011. Into The Spider-Verse was beautifully and trippily animated, universally acclaimed, and grossed $378M on a $90M budget. It was so good that it became a contender for the best Spider-Man movie….ever.
But this was still a standalone movie, separate from Marvel’s stable. If you remember, Sony owned every Spidey-related character, and that included characters like Venom — on whom a movie was being planned for a 2018 release. There was ambiguity on the integration of Sony’s own Spidey ventures into the Tom Holland reboot. However, Pascal provided fuel to the fire that was speculation that said assimilation was a possibility (with a hilarious, surprised look from Feige):
But the focus for now is still on the sequel to Homecoming. The writers and Jon Watts had a challenge: they had to deal with a post-Endgame world in which the Snap happened. The thought had always been to talk about what home meant to a still-teenage Peter, and the movie was called Far From Home. And an iconic villain in Mysterio was included, with Jake Gyllenhaal being cast in the role.
Far From Home performed much better than its predecessor. It became the first Spider-Man movie to gross $1B, and much like Homecoming, was well-received. But the sweetest story about the movie was how the team brought back a blast from the past. Watts asked JK Simmons on very short notice to don the hat he did for Raimi — as J Jonah Jameson. Simmons always maintained that he was always to the possibility of reprising the character if approached again. There was a change.org petition clamoring for his return. But Simmons — the golden man he is when he’s not a drum instructor — asked for Sam Raimi’s blessing before he agreed to play the part. The movie gods were not giving up on this reboot.
But oh well, what’s movie business without an underworld to spite heavenly miracles?
This is 2019. Only one solo movie was left in the contract which Disney/Marvel expected to re-negotiate. To begin with, these negotiations seemed to include the terms for the third Homecoming movie. The script for this movie was already being written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers at the time.
Sony realized that they might have had a winning hand of their own. Venom and Into The Spider-Verse were box office candy. Sony was also planning movies around Spider-Man’s affiliate characters, like Black Cat and Morbius (out later this year). So when Marvel pulled out a full house by asking for a 50-50 in co-financing and box office gross, Sony gave them a big large “fuck you”. Enter Deal 3.
Sony had a straight flush with them. They were more than happy to make the third Homecoming movie themselves. As it is, Holland was signed for 3 solo movies and 3 ensemble movies, even though Deal 2 between Sony and Disney extended only for 5 movies. Casting wasn’t a problem for Sony, whose Spider-verse plans had sown its seeds. Rothman was the kind of executive who wanted to make multi-million dollar franchises. He wanted theme parks and toys out of the movies. But he was no Kevin Feige, because it’s not like everything Sony has churned has been a hit. But nonetheless, Sony would rather have the deal break down, as this Twitter thread from the official SPE account proves.
However, people who run change.org petitions do seem to have power. Fans were pissed. And the tide had turned in Marvel’s favor: while Sony knew they had the potential to build their own web of interconnected properties, Marvel had developed a hugely successful playbook on how to do it. And they were entering Phase 4, which means that they had done it thrice already. The MCU was such a rage that it became the most desirable interest to have on a dating app (still is). Fans wanted Sony to give in, so that they could see Spider-Man go on adventures with his friends. They had villainized one corporation against another, just because they asked for what they thought was due to them.
Because let’s face it: Disney/Marvel has been no saint in this. From Avi Arad bullying the Raimi franchise into oblivion, and Ike Perlmutter refusing to spend too much on a good blockbuster, Marvel has always had a stronghold on where Spidey went and what he did. While that sounds obvious because they created the character, after years of drama, it almost feels like they have had a corporate surveillance drone to keep Peter Parker on its sights. And they were skillful manipulators of brand image. Look at the replies to Sony’s Twitter thread above. Look at this Reddit thread. A war broke out on deciding which corporation was right.
Moreover, it’s not like Sony didn’t budge at all. Several insider sources said that Tom Rothman was willing to offer Disney a 25% co-financing and profits share. Phase 4 meant that Marvel only had so much bandwidth, and Disney certainly didn’t want their greatest asset in Kevin Feige spending significant time on a property that they didn’t have control over. By now, Disney had also acquired Fox, which meant that they owned the X-Men characters, too. Disney/Marvel refused this counter. They were also trying to take Jon Watts away by enticing him to make an MCU movie instead.
On the other hand, Holland had become Spider-Man, much less fall in love with the character. When he spoke, everyone felt like the world was blessed with a real-life Spider-Man. In an ideal world, that would also mean that when the time came, he’d also be a savior. And even if Holland, didn’t have actual superpowers, he is, according to the humble opinion of this writer, the hero of this story.
3 days after Sony’s official statement, Disney hosted D23, their annual fan expo at their headquarters in Anaheim, California. Holland was there, too. It was hard for him, because he wasn’t allowed to take any pictures with his MCU co-stars. In an event to promote a Pixar movie called Onward, he was asked to address the failed deal.
Which is where he said something that could have even undone people getting reduced to dust:
“It’s been a crazy week, and I love you all from the bottom of my heart, and I love you 3000.”
Post-D23, Tom reached out to Disney CEO Bob Iger, both of who narrated their own versions of the story of this call on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Not much is known about the details of the conversation, but the gist was that Holland pleaded with Iger to make the deal work. He asked for Iger’s mail, thanking him for the opportunity to play Spider-Man, and that he wanted to continue doing it. He wanted to hop on call with him. And Iger called while Holland was three pints down at a pub.
Sony and Marvel came to an agreement to a 25-75 co-financing-plus-profits deal for two movies, including the third movie which was to be called No Way Home. While many call it an apt title given Peter’s trajectory in this reboot, it’s also fitting considering that at one point, like so many other points in history, the Spider-Man franchise was almost lost, headed nowhere.
McKenna and Sommers had always intended to introduce the multiverse in No Way Home, by virtue of the introduction of Doctor Strange. They had taken a massive risk in writing the story that the movie is today before the actors were even confirmed. It was all or nothing — an attempt to create a mural in a monument that was hanging by the thinnest of threads, subject to a deal that, for all anyone knew, would never be renewed after a couple of years. he team had to knock down two posts at once: a) make an ambitious film, and b) resolve any loose ends if Sony and Marvel decided to part ways. Their worst case scenario was that they wrote a Spider-Man story with only one villain: Kraven The Hunter.
Filming had begun in October 2020, but nothing that would progress the story — mostly a lot of blue screen shots. In December 2020, with just a concept, and a few scenes with Benedict Cumberbatch already wrapped up, the first actor who was onboard with the idea was, welcome back — Tobey Maguire.
Simultaneously, Feige, longtime-friend Amy Pascal, and Watts approached Andrew Garfield. Garfield always wanted to do TASM3, but knowing what we know now, he didn’t feel that he had enough support for his artistic vision. And TASM2 ended on a dark note, which meant that Garfield’s Peter Parker needed some sort of comeback arc. No Way Home seemed to be it. Garfield’s only condition to do it was if Maguire had agreed.
The writers and Watts hashed out a few pages just as proof of concept, if not a full-blooded script, in time to show they key players of this impossible heist. The next people they reached out to were Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe.
Molina was surely excited by the prospect, but was initially hesitant — it had been 17 years since he last played Doc Ock, and now had aged. Of course, those fears were quashed because he was told about the wonders of digital de-aging. Dafoe thought it was “nutty” of the team to call him back, seeing as how he died in the first Raimi movie. The madman that Dafoe is, though, he wanted to do all the acting and stunts — including wear his Goblin suit. None of that cameo shit.
Jamie Foxx — who played Electro in TASM2, and Thomas Haden Church — who played Sandman in Spider-Man 3, had agreed, too. However, for some still-untold reason, Church was never physically present on set. He had only given permission for his voice and likeness to be used as CGI.
The set was great. The kids cracked jokes at Maguire for being old. Jamie Foxx hosted the coolest parties post-filming. Molina asked Batalon for an autograph because his stepdaughter loved Batalon. Holland, Garfield, and Maguire were like brothers on set, and, of course, in the movie too. They have a group chat by themselves. Garfield mentions a little bit about the first time they suited up:
“I think the first time we were all in the suit together, it was hilarious because it’s like just three ordinary dudes who were just actors just hanging out. But then also, you just become a fan and say, “Oh my god we’re all together in the suits and we’re doing the pointing thing!” There was talk about going to the bathroom and, you know, padding around the package. We talked about what worked for each of us. Tom was jealous because I have little zippers in my suit that I can get my hands out of very easily. To work his phone, he had to use his nose because he couldn’t access his hands.”
Maguire, the man who has already had a storied career and had achieved a sense of calm in his life. Holland, the most optimistic and energetic of the bunch, always willing to share burdens. Garfield, the lonely, middle brother, who was disillusioned by blockbuster movie business, only to get another shot at redemption. True reflections of the different Peter Parkers they played, each one shaped by their own experiences. Yet, one and the same person. Especially if not for those experiences. The scene where the multiverse Spider-Men meet Holland for the first-time at the rooftop had a lot of improvised dialogue, which makes you wonder what level of chemistry they were operating on. The three of them cried after that scene. That’s not all when it comes to the emotional intensity of the shoot — spoiler alert for the next paragraph.
While Kirsten Dunst and Emma Stone weren’t eventually cast, they were invited at first. Like I mentioned once before, the ending of TASM2 was brutal from a movie standpoint — Garfield’s Spider-Man couldn’t save his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. No Way Home offered him a second chance at absolution. In an interview with Variety, Garfield mentions that he actually tried to restrain Stone from entering the TASM2 set on the day her death was going to be filmed. Love, man.
It was hard to keep the filming of this a secret. Even though the core actors kept lying about the extent of involvement of different people on set, there were always leaks on the internet. In April 2021, Molina confirmed his presence. There were crazier slip-ups, like the time when Garfield had to show his ID to a delivery guy because the order included alcohol. Marisa Tomei told her therapist the ending of the movie because she couldn’t hold it in. If anything, given how Holland has the knack to spoil things, it’s surprising how there were no leaks on his end. Feige also tried to simmer down speculation, saying that not all fan predictions would be necessarily correct.
The trailer for No Way Home was leaked in August 2021. Sony had to work round the clock to remove it. But that didn’t affect the impact they were hoping for. A few days later, it became the most-viewed trailer in its first 24 hours, a record last held by Endgame. Fans were validated for what they have been thinking for long: that maybe we will be seeing some oldies and young guns from different worlds together. Maybe there’s an Earth-616 and an Earth-199999, and then some. Pre-sales for the tickets were off the roof: websites of both Fandango and AMC Theatres crashed because of high user traffic.
No Way Home had the second-highest domestic (US) box office opening. It is also the sixth-highest grossing film of all time, raking in $1.8B — the highest among all Spider-Man movies by a mile and a half, and made $610M in profits. It proved to be one of cinema’s most dreamy, yet successful experiments. My own theater screamed at the appearances of Garfield and Maguire. I don’t think a single person that day didn’t shed at least one tear at the ending. It was both a stunning feat and a call to closure.
I don’t think I want to give any spoilers for the movie. I couldn’t avoid telling you Garfield’s moment of absolution, the story felt incomplete without it. But there is still the true ending of the movie, that will also pave the path for the rest of the MCU. Or that one shocker in between which I’d rather not reveal. The only thing that does matter is — where does Spider-Man go from here?
As much as I can say that writing A History of Carnage has been blast, looking at this last stretch has made me a little emotional. I like to look at No Way Home as a tale about forgiveness: forgiving your past, your arch-nemeses, yourself. While no one can tell if Holland’s Peter will be able to live with himself in the aftermath of the happenings of this movie, Holland does seem at peace. He thinks he’s ready to move on from the role of a lifetime, the role that’s fulfilled him the most, both personally and professionally. And this is where I might want to end this piece: with the final say from the man that mattered the most in this battle. Not the corporations, not the producers, but a man who still gives us the feeling that he’s still a kid in the world’s greatest candy store. And he’s the only true heir to the same store:
“…the truth is, and you’re not going to like the truth, I don’t know the answer to that question. This film for me was as special as an experience could ever be. Sharing the screen with these guys. Playing Spider-Man could be quite an alienating experience because, you know, we’re the only three blokes who have done it. So to share that with you two, it’s been such a wonderful experience, of which I have such amazing memories. I don’t know. I know I love this character, and I know that I am not ready to say goodbye,” Holland said. “But if it’s time for me to say goodbye, then I will do so proudly, knowing that I’ve achieved everything I wanted to with this character, and sharing it with these boys will be forever one of the most special experiences of my career.”
I’m 22. I fell in love with Spider-Man when I was 6. I had a poster of him on my door. I went through watching the trilogy innumerable times, to growing out of the character in my teens. And, full disclosure: just when I thought I was done, I watched Far From Home and No Way Home for the first time on two successive days. I can’t think of another ending that parallels my equation with Spider-Man. Until next time :)