Before you read this, I want you to know I think Daniel Espinosa is a terrific filmmaker. Life is a fantastic horror, thriller, and a whole lot of fun. And Safe House has turned into one of those movies that’s on cable non-stop and I watch it every time it’s on; I’ve probably seen at least parts of it 20 times by now. So that’s why Morbius is such a headscratcher. Espinosa makes good movies. Morbius literally feels like there are scenes missing. (Though, it performed okay at the box office this weekend.) At the time of this interview, the review embargo had broken, unleashing historically bad reviews, so I asked him directly what happened. (I really want to give Espinosa credit for doing this interview. A lot of people by that point would have just canceled.) To the point I told him that I didn’t believe for a second that this movie that was released in theaters is the one he turned in. Morbius is taking such a beating online, I wanted to give a filmmaker I like the chance to, at least, have some say in the narrative that’s being painted. Honestly, I worry he’s going to get blamed, but my gut feeling is this wasn’t completely his fault.
(Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead.)
I also asked him about that post-credit scene with Michael Keaton as The Vulture that makes absolutely no sense. Keaton was touted as one of the stars of the movie. He’s in the trailer! But now he’s in a post-credit scene being transported from the MCU to the universe of Dr. Michael Morbius and Venom? And then he asks Morbius – who in the whole film is painted as this ambitious guy who just took things too far – if he wants to team up and fight Spider-Man. At no point does Morbius even mention Spider-Man, nor is there any reason to believe Morbius would have any beef with Spider-Man, let alone have any interest in teaming up with this criminal to fight Spider-Man.
Also, when Morbius was being filmed, I heard a story about something that happened on set that I always wondered if it was true. So I asked Espinosa if that actually happened and, to my somewhat shock, he did confirm that what I had heard was indeed true.
I’m a big fan of two of your movies, Safe House, which is on cable all the time and I watch it every time…
And Life is amazing.
Thank you, that means a lot. Those two movies are really close to my heart. Safe House was my beginning of coming to America, really cocky and wanting to do everything super real. What’s funny is one is super real, another one is a space movie. But I did a space movie!
Yeah, but it’s not just a space movie, it’s also a horror movie.
One thing with Life, too, is that the ending of Life was always misunderstood, because our perspective was it was the tribute to The Twilight Zone years, and then everything turns to shit. That’s how those movies end. And then people were like, “Oh, it will have a sequel.” I’m going, “No, man, it’s The Twilight Zone ending. It turns to shit.”
I don’t know if you saw this, people at the time thought it was the beginning to a Venom movie. Do you remember that?
I know, I know. Yeah, exactly.
In Morbius, Michael Keaton is in the trailers, but then in the movie he doesn’t show up until the post credit. It does seem like some things were reworked. I’m wondering, after Spider-Man: No Way Home, did you have to change Michael Keaton’s role in this to match up with the events of that movie? Is that what happened?
It was more that when Spider-Man came out, they said, “We know how this works and we have a visual concept of how to make this.” But the idea of having different timelines was something that was, for me, introduced within the movie universe with Into the Spider-Verse. When we were talking about making the movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse had just come out and it was a huge success. I told the guys, I said, “This is super common among comic book readers.”
Well, there are scenes of Michael Keaton in the trailer that aren’t in the movie, so that’s why I was wondering if some things had to be reworked to match with No Way Home?
Yeah. Exactly. The first thing that happened was that we had Michael Keaton because we were planning on doing this. But then when Spider-Man: No Way Home came out, it said, “This is how the visual effects are.” And then the idea of having him just encountering him in that universe seemed too complicated, and then we put it in the end.
Okay, so you did have to cut some things to make it match up with No Way Home, is that accurate?
Yes, because we have to match… I didn’t know how the transportation would look like in that.
Like the crack in the sky thing?
Yeah, exactly. That wasn’t done, that didn’t exist, so there were all these small things that had to be addressed. But I think that the concept of having different timelines were, I believe, came from Sony, not from Kevin Feige. It was Sony that initiated that idea. I think tha Miles Morales that you have in Spider-Verse, I would bet your life on that you would have Miles Morales from the Spider-Verse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point.
The thing I wasn’t clear on in the post credit scene is when Vulture says, “I think this is a Spider-Man’s fault. We should team up and fight him,” how does Morbius know who Spider-Man is? Also, the movie establishes that Morbius is a good man who got too ambitious and created this serum and some bad things happened. But at his heart, he’s not a bad person. Why would Morbius be interested in teaming up with this criminal?
First of all, Vulture is not a criminal in that universe just yet.
That’s fair. But why would Morbius be interested in what Vulture has to say in the first place?
Exactly. I think it’s a meeting of those… because in this world, Spider-Man exists. In all the different Marvel timelines, you have a Spider-Man, it’s a totem. In the Marvel Universe, what you say is that you have to have a Spider-Man in each universe for it to function. He’s one of the fundamental beings. Now, that’s how it is in the comic books.
Okay sure, but there’s nothing in the movie that establishes that Morbius has any beef with Spider-Man whatsoever, though.
Oh, exactly. I think that’s more one of those scenes that are made that when you have scenes before that in a movie comes along, that will explain that reposition.
I heard a story about filming and I want to see if this is true. Someone told me that Jared Leto was so committed to playing Michael Morbius that even when he had to go to the bathroom, he would use his crutches and slowly limp to get to the bathroom. But it was taking so long between for pee breaks, that a deal was made with him to get him a wheelchair so someone could wheel him there quicker and he agreed to that. Is this true?
Yeah. Because I think that what Jared thinks, what Jared believes, is that somehow the pain of those movements, even when he was playing normal Michael Morbius, he needed, because he’s been having this pain his whole life. Even though, as he’s alive and strong, it has to be a difference. Hey, man, it’s people’s processes.
All of the actors believe in processes. And you, as director, you support whatever makes it as good as you can be.
Right. But from your angle, can that be, “This is really slowing down production and I have to talk to the big wigs and tell them why we’re behind.” I could understand why that might be, I don’t know, frustrating, is that the word?
But it’s more that I think the directors that don’t like actors get really frustrated about that. I think it’s really mysterious, what they do. Almost all actors, in general, have their own reputation of being an interesting person how he works with their characters. I think that all of them have these traits. If you want a completely normal person that does only things that you understand, then you’re in the wrong business. Because what’s different is what makes them tick. It’s very hard to be able to say, “I can take this part away and I will still get the same stuff from him.” I don’t do that. I’m more to see like, “Hey, if you’re doing this, we have to do this.”
Again, like I said when we started, I am a huge fan of Safe House. I’m huge fan of Life. I’m sure you’ve seen the reviews for this. This doesn’t feel like one of your movies and I’m curious, was this what you turned in? Is there something else? Because it feels like at some points, there’s some scenes missing. I don’t believe for a second this is what you turned in.
These movies are big ideas…
Because I think you are a very good director, and I think there are some decisions that were made that weren’t always in your hands here.
You’re very sweet. You’re very kind. I think that I work at my best if I get a lot of decision power. But, in these movies, they’re big movies that have a lot of people’s interest. It’s different processes every time.
‘Morbius’ is in theaters everywhere. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.