One of the summer's most anticipated films, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," hits theaters on July 7. We caught up with director Jon Watts during a recent junket in New York where he discussed working with an all-star cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Micheal Keaton and Marisa Tomei, and the confines of working within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
You’re only a few years removed from working on television projects and doing smaller, independent films. How do you leap from that to helming a summer blockbuster of a multi-million dollar franchise in just a few year's time?
Watts: I guess I just tried to not think about it too much so that my head wouldn’t explode.
Q: The film stars Oscar winner Marisa Tomei and Oscar nominees Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton. But it largely rests on shoulders of actors like Tom Holland and a few others who are barely old enough to vote. Is that a difficult challenge as a director working with actors of vastly different experience levels?
Watts: Weirdly... no. If anything it was like a fun reminder for everyone on both sides of the flag. Oh... this is what it's like when you’re a pro and you’re totally professional and also this is what its like when it’s totally brand new and it's the most fun thing in the world and it's overwhelming. It was actually a nice balance to have those two extremes in the same place.
Were there any particular restraints put on you considering this film has to fit within the framework of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Watts: You know nothing that I wanted to do ever came into conflict with anything else that might be happening in the MCU. I think it was particularly beneficial for me because my story is about a kid who wants to be a larger part of the world and isn’t allowed to be yet. So if anything the overlaps aren’t happening yet. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with a piece that’s an extra piece that you don’t need yet. His story is its own very separate part.
Where would you like to see the story go next?
Watts: I have some vague ideas of things I’d like to see. Peter is just a sophomore now. He still has a lot of room to grow and I feel like we're just scratching the surface of what kind of story we can tell. But we’ll have to see what happens in 'Avengers: Infinity War' too.
You draw any inspiration from the earlier reboots staring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield?
Watts: Those movies were great. They were always something that were sort of in the back of my head. But what was nice was we got to skip so much of what they had to do. We got to skip the origin story. If anything it was just trying to do things that weren’t in those movies because they did them so well, we felt like let's try to do something new and show people things they haven’t seen before.
Were you a comic book guy before this film or did you have to immerse yourself in the subject matter?
Watts: Now that I know real comic book guys I would never claim that I was a comic book guy. I can’t even hold a candle. But I did completely immerse myself in the world and learn as much as I could. Now I think I think I could say that I am… at least for Spider-Man.
You were working with heavyweights of the industry in Downey, Keaton and Tomei. What's that experience like for a relatively young director?
Watts: You have to be on your toes. You have to have an idea of what you want as a director and make sure you’re being clear. Because... you talk to Micheal Keaton about something and you walk away and you’re like.. did I make any sense or did I just sound like a complete idiot. You just really try to do your homework so you can answer any question they may ask and just be there to support them and make everyone feel safe... safe to make a mistake or safe to try some thing different or new or follow a tangent and see if they can come up with something better. You just try to protect them.
And the film largely rests on young Tom Holland. What was it like working with him this early in his career?
Watts: It was great. Tom and I... I think both feel like we were in the same boat. He’s never been the lead of a movie and certainly never had to be the face of a huge franchise. I’ve certainly never done anything this big before either so we were in it together. I think we have a pretty good bond as a result.
What was the most challenging part of the shoot for you?
Watts: It's all challenging because so much of it was new and things I hadn’t done before. The biggest surprise for me was the pace. I’ve never done one thing for this long. I’ve never shot that many days in a row. Just keeping up your energy level and staying focused and not burning out. Just being as enthusiastic at the end as you were at the beginning was something I had to be really conscious about.
What's your takeaway been from this whole experience?
Watts: I don’t know yet. Hopefully that doesn’t seem like a cop out answer but I truly don’t know. Once this all calms down for a second and then I’m gonna see what my perspective is but right now I feel like I’m still swinging through the air.