Movies

Director Jon Watts Talks ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ And Where Uncle Ben Might Be


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Spider-Man used to be king. Even the much maligned Spider-Man 3 was the highest-grossing film of 2007. But the next year the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with the first Iron Man and Spider-Man kind of felt left behind – and the Amazing Spider-Man movies just couldn’t quite compete with all the fun that all the other Marvel heroes were having over in the MCU.

So, yes, if you can’t beat them, join them – which led to Sony and Marvel Studios teaming up to finally let Spider-Man enter the MCU in Spider-Man: Homecoming. And it came down to Jon Watts (whose previous film, Cop Car, was a Sundance favorite) to be the guiding hand to merge these two entities together. And judging from the already stellar reviews, he did a lot right.

We already posted how Watts found a way to retcon Peter into Iron Man 2 (if that becomes “official” or not remains still to be determined), but ahead Watts tells up just how important the work of John Hughes was to setting the tone for Peter Parker’s experiences in high school – and how he was also influenced by Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything and Almost Famous.

Also, this is a Peter Parker who just loves being Spider-Man. And Peter maybe even seems a little too happy if we take into assumption the fate if Uncle Ben played out off screen like it did in prior adaptations. So, where’s Uncle Ben? We did our best to get the answer out of Watts – and sometimes the best answers are the most honest and easiest explanations.

You sneaked in a KFBR392 MacGruber reference into Cop Car. Did you sneak one into Spider-Man: Homecoming?

You’re just going to have to watch.

I did watch. I was looking for it. I didn’t see one.

I did so much with the license plates in this. There’s no KFBR in this one. You don’t have to look for KFBR. But everything, for the most part, has some sort of meaning. You know, you look at movies and if there’s something where you see a bunch of names, it’s usually just names of people in the art department or whatever, because they have to generate stuff. They have to generate signs and it all has to be custom. But if you really care, you can hide all kinds of stuff in there.

Also, Spider-Man: Homecoming features “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock of Seagulls.

I’ve just always loved that song.

People always know “I Ran.”

Yeah, because “I Ran” gets a little bit more of the ’80s retro fun vibe. People sing it at karaoke. But I don’t know, A Flock of Seagulls is a good band with good music. I mean, it’s a great song, and like making it a little bit of a ’80s-themed homecoming dance – and then just getting to sort of tweak that John Hughes referential moment by having a song like that just felt right. I just love that song anyway.

I know you’ve said John Hughes movies were an inspiration, but I got a Can’t Hardly Wait vibe…

It’s not always John Hughes specifically. I think it’s just your age. Like if you’re my age and older, John Hughes, that’s your cultural touchstone for ’80s movies. But Can’t Hardly Wait is also so good. I think Amy Pascal was the head of the studio when they made Can’t Hardly Wait. Because I talked about Can’t Hardly Wait to her and she was like, “I made that movie.” Can’t Hardly Wait is great. I have been wanting to make a coming-of-age movie anyway, so I have watched everything.

There’s a lot of angst in a movie like The Breakfast Club

Well, John Hughes sort of grounded all of that and you couldn’t have Can’t Hardly Wait if you hadn’t had that. You know, he really started taking those emotions seriously, treating teenagers seriously. Letting them be funny, but letting them be serious. Letting them really say really messed-up thing, and allowing that to happen – and just sort of stepping back and documenting it. I also think of like Almost Famous

Oh, that’s interesting. Why?

Almost Famous and Say Anything, just in terms of enthusiasm.

So there’s a Cameron Crowe influence?

There’s definitely a Cameron Crowe influence. Cameron Crowe, the way he wrote Lloyd Dobler is just like the most enthusiastic guy in the world. You know? And that level of excitement is another big influence.

Is Peter like William from Almost Famous then?

Well, the stuff in Almost Famous is really great, because it’s a kid in way over his head. And that’s another fascinating thing: he’s doing a bunch of things that he’s never done before. He has this cool, smart mom character who he’s trying to not lie to. You know, coming-of-age movies are just something that will never go away, because someone is always going to be growing up. And I watched everything, so there was so much to draw from and so many things to be inspired by that you feel like it just becomes sort of like a big stew of all of these influences.

What happened to Uncle Ben in this story?

He’s actually not specifically mentioned. Peter says, “I can’t do this after everything that happened.”

This Peter seems too happy for someone who indirectly let his uncle get killed.

Yeah, I wanted to make sure that nothing like that was dwelled on, because I did want to focus on just the excitement of what it would be like to be 15 and to have those powers. So, you know, what happens in the movie is what has happened, but it’s still a jumping-off point to see where else we can go.

That’s coy.

Yeah, it’s totally coy. But it’s also we haven’t written the second movie yet, you know? I mean, I don’t want to say anything because we haven’t necessarily figured anything out.

He just seems too happy to have been responsible for a loved one’s death. Does that make sense?

Yeah. It’s such a heavy story that it was nice to just not dwell on that. So, yeah.

What did you want to avoid from the previous five Spider-Man movies?

A big thing was not showing the origin story. Those movies show a lot of really amazing, iconic Spider-Man moments, so, like, we have to find more. They make you work really hard to come up with new things: Like take him to the suburbs. Take him to Washington, DC.

And it was nice not to have to deal with the Osborn family, at least for now…

Again, it was just we have seen that so much. It would be nice to just see a different side of it. And there’s such a deep well of Spider-Man comics to draw from that I would always just go back to the comics and be like, Oh, this is interesting. This is Spider-Man in the suburbs. That’s really funny. That’s an issue. That’s an early issue of Spider-Man where he gets stuck in the suburbs and he has nothing to swing from.

Is it a weird, weird balancing act? You keep Peter grounded and very much a guy who lives in Queens. But then in the next Avengers movie he’s going to be fighting an evil alien with magical stones.

Well, I think it’s about what his personal philosophy and attitude about the world is going to be. Like, what is Spider-Man’s perspective on this? And we tried to come up with a story that would start with him wanting to be an Avenger and show him a side of the world that he might not have been thinking about in his sort of blind ambition to be what he thinks is the top. And in this story, he gets to see a lot of the repercussions of that world. You know, he gets to see what happens at the ground level as a result of the Avengers’ existence. And in a way, that’s what motivates him to make this choice. His journey is a journey where he realizes maybe, yeah, I don’t want to grow up so quickly, but also realizes that there is value to being the guy on the street.

Jon Favreau plays a big role in this movie.

He’s great. He’s so funny.

Is that intimidating to have the director of the first two Iron Man movies, the guy who started the whole MCU?

It’s totally the opposite. I mean, he struck that tone of like it can be funny, but have really good stakes and be really character-based. And no, if anything, having him there was just a pleasure. A director directing another director is the best, because he gets it. He knows exactly what I’m going through. He helps out.

Peter’s bedroom is filled with vintage Kenner Star Wars toys…

Yeah. I wonder, maybe they’re Uncle Ben’s? Maybe those are Uncle Ben’s – because those are old toys. Were they Uncle Ben’s?

Well, you tell me.

Is Peter a collector?

Why are you asking me?

Is Peter a collector?

I know you’re being rhetorical, but just tell me. Are they Uncle Ben’s?

I don’t know.

Okay.

Maybe.

I feel you know.

Not necessarily. It’s not like there’s this completely complicated plan of where everything is going to go. It’s more let’s just do everything great for this movie – and then you get to be like, oh, okay, what does that mean for this next movie? You know?

So there’s a possibility that Ben is still alive and left May to go make fan-made Star Wars movies. Like he’s out on the road.

[Laughs.] That’s like the best fan fiction ever. Ben on the road, yeah. I love the Uncle Ben paranoid “Star Wars fan theory” now. That’s great.

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