It was early in the morning when I spoke to Jake Johnson. Not so impossibly early that it’s worth complaining about, but just early enough where maybe human beings shouldn’t be conducting interviews because there’s a tendency to get a little slaphappy. And, for whatever reason, the subject that kept making us laugh was the late 1970s Spider-Man television series that aired on CBS starring Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker – as Johnson tries to come up with more and more absurd fake answers about how that series influenced his version of Spider-Man. (As he admits, he’s going for the hipster vote here.) And then, like an unexpected second encore at a concert, Johnson wants to keep going over our allotted time, so, of course, we talked about the Dark Universe, because why not?
In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Johnson voices a Peter Parker we haven’t really seen before. (And, no matter what Johnson tells us, it was definitely not inspired by Nichols Hammond’s version.) This Peter is 40, out of shape, and, well, a bit down on his luck. But then he’s thrust into another dimension where Peter meets Miles Moralas and the two, begrudgingly, team up to fight the Kingpin in what is one of the best Spider-Man stories to ever be released in theaters.
But, yes, it was pretty early in the morning.
It’s pretty early right now. I was worried you were in L.A. doing this at 6 a.m.
If I were in L.A. we’d be doing this call later. I’m committed to the craft, but not that committed.
This is manageable.
I got to say at 40, it’s manageable. At 26, unmanageable.
So when you started on this did you have any idea this would become the phenomenon it’s becoming?
Honestly, when I signed onto it, it was a two and a half years ago. All I knew at the beginning was that Chris Miller and Phil Lord were producing it and writing it and were going to be very involved. They pitched me the soft story of it.
What’s that mean?
It means they said, “You’re going to be playing Peter Parker, but it’s a Peter Parker we’ve never seen before.” It’s Peter Parker at 40 years old who is more a Mr. Miyagi to Miles’s Daniel. But he doesn’t want to be a teacher. He’s out of shape. He’s going through a divorce.