It has been, somehow, nine whole years since we had a Sam Raimi directed movie. And now he’s back in the Marvel universe (well, that should be “universes,” plural) with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This was a unique situation because I am talking to Sam Raimi about his new movie, which also happens to be a movie I hadn’t seen (I was shown about 20 minutes). We do know there will be a lot of surprises and, my best guess is, they don’t want people like me asking about those surprises before the movie comes out. So, ahead, there’s probably more Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness talk than might be expected for an interview with a beloved director putting out a new, highly anticipated, Marvel movie.
Though, we got into a lot about Spider-Man: No Way Home. Specifically, after the events of that movie, Raimi’s three Spider-Man movies are now, technically, the beginning of the MCU. (Though that will probably change after Multiverse of Madness.) How does Raimi feel about that? He seems very excited. And of course he’s being asked if he would like to make a new Spider-Man movie with Maguire (fair question!), but has he and Maguire even talked recently? Also, Raimi famously didn’t want to use Venom in Spider-Man 3, now that Venom has his own series of hit movies, I was curious what he thought about all that. And if there’s an DC character Raimi has had his eye on.
Just last night we watched Hard Target. I know you were very involved behind the scenes in that movie. Anyway, that movie rules.
John Woo is a great filmmaker and this was his first American film. My buddy Rob Tapert and I got a hand in producing it.
So, this is a weird situation because people loved Spider-Man: No Way Home so much. Now you’re following that, but following something you kind of started. I can’t even think of another example of that.
Well, I feel like more that I’m one of those Marvel writers or artists that worked in the bullpen and sometimes they’d work on Spider-Man and after a year or two, they’d be sent over to work on Doctor Strange a couple of months. Then they’d come back to The Avengers and Spider-Man would make a guest appearance in it. So it actually has a long history of this type of switching superheroes and stories just in a different media, the comic book media.
Your Spider-Man movies were their own thing and now, kind of technically, they’re part of the MCU retroactively because of the last movie. Have you thought about that?
You bet I did. They let me in the club! They let me in the club!
The MCU kind of really starts with your first Spider-Man movie now, at least at this moment.
That was awesome. I mean, where it all begins, it keeps changing, like the multiverse. The beginning, you look back, it’s so weird that the beginning of something can change with a different perspective. But yes, right now, Spider-Man is sort of the first MCU movies. I’m thrilled to be in the club.
When do you find that out? That Tobey is going to be in that movie? Did you know before you signed on to direct Doctor Strange?
As we were talking about this movie, they pulled me aside and said, “Here’s what’s happening with No Way Home.”
I’m sure they want your blessing, right?
They didn’t need that.
No, they don’t need it, but I’m sure they want it.
Yes… I don’t know if they care, but they’re so nice to work with. They probably do care. Mostly they’re concerned about the integrity of the character itself. More than any individual that’s working in the business, making them happy, they’re interested in preserving the truth of what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko have created and pleasing the fans. It’s great to have a company that minds the store. They own and supervise the characters. That’s where their decisions are based on, not pleasing the shareholder, but pleasing the fan.
Do you ever sit back and think how things have changed so much? In the ’90s no one wanted to make your Thor movie. Now it feels like any character could get a movie.
It is crazy. It’s a fan’s dream to be alive right now when all these properties, I mean, I never even thought most of these properties that they’re making now would ever see the light of the movie screen. It’s fantastic. I read all these great reviews about Moon Knight and who would’ve thought that would happen?
That’s a great example.
It’s fantastic that they’re able to do that.
Speaking of characters that I can’t believe movies exist for them, you kind of famously didn’t want to use Venom in Spider-Man 3. Have you seen either of the Venom movies?
I have not seen them.
Basically, the way they cracked them was just make them crazy and almost like a screwball comedy about the relationship between Eddie and Venom.
That makes sense. I’m glad they were able to make a success out of that.
Why did you find that character so difficult? Other than not wanting to use him in the first place.
It was really more just that I didn’t understand the character that well. It wasn’t close to my heart. The best thing I like about Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man is that they made relatable characters that I understand. Even if they were confused, like Norman Osborn, they still have goodness in their heart. They want them to do the right thing, or Peter Parker. Or even J. Jonah Jameson has goodness in his heart. When I read about Venom, which I hadn’t read as a kid, I had to catch up on it when they wanted him to be in the movie. I didn’t recognize enough humanity within that character to be able to identify with him properly. That’s really what it boils down to.
A lot of your recent interviews you get asked if you want to make another Spider-Man movie with Tobey. Have you actually spoken to Tobey since No Way Home came out? Do you two still talk?
No, I only see Toby every year and a half or so. We haven’t spoken yet, but I loved his performance in this movie, No Way Home, and I love him as a person. We just have been out of touch. I’ve been in Europe making this movie actually.
Right, and also the pandemic.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I saw him right before the pandemic.
It really does feel like people got reintroduced to his Peter and remember how much they like it.
You know what, it’s not even for me to say whether anything like that would be possible. It’s Sony Pictures and they’re going really strong with their Spider-Man stories right now. I don’t think they want to change up things at this moment. But I haven’t really pursued it, so I don’t really know.
I saw a debate online the other day about if people like Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness more. I’m curious which one do you feel closer to?
Well, I love watching Bruce in anything he’s in.
He’s in both those movies, so that’s a tie so far.
I know. I love him. I love him in the movies. My favorite part of any of those movies is when he’s either being the jackass in Army of Darkness, the loud mouth in it. Or just the guy who’s becoming the badass monster killer in Evil Dead II. So I like different parts of them. I don’t know if I like one better than the other. I haven’t seen them in 15 years.
I just re-watched both of them in the last few months. They’re good. That’s what I’m trying to tell you, I like a lot of your movies.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
You’ve been involved with so many Marvel characters, even Thor in a way. Obviously, Darkman is its own thing. You mentioned that you’ve read a lot of DC. Is there a DC character that hasn’t really been touched much that you’re interested in?
Not one that hasn’t been touched a lot.
Okay. Which one do you like?
Maybe under that category, The Shadow.
‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ will open on Friday, May 6th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.