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Of all the contenders vying for Best Picture attention at the Oscars this year, no one really had Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home in the mix. Other than the social phenomenon of Black Panther, no comic book film has ever even been nominated, and Academy voters have been seemingly more inclined to nominate small, more independent-style films, to say the least.
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As the eighth entry in the webslinger franchise, box office success and fan enthusiasm obviously was expected, but until it was screened in early December before its mid-month opening, that was about it. Then came instant critical acclaim — sitting at an impressive 93% Fresh from nearly 400 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes — and audience reaction well beyond the norm: The film stands at No. 6 on the all-time global box office list and climbing. Suddenly, Sony and Marvel execs were starting to think about an Oscar campaign and framing the movie as more of a “culmination” of the 20-year franchise than as just another sequel, and, like The Lord of the Rings, the three films starring Tom Holland and Zendaya were referred to as a trilogy, bringing the whole enterprise to a satisfying conclusion. That’s something that became very clear to moviegoers, who had an ecstatic emotional reaction when the two previous Spider-Man stars — Tobey Maguire, who played Peter Parker/Spidey in the first three films, and Andrew Garfield, who donned the suit in the next two — turned up onscreen to join Holland (plus a who’s who of past villains) for the ultimate finale.
But can it make it into Best Picture, especially competing with Dune and No Time To Die (the similarly emotional culmination for Daniel Craig’s quintet of films as 007) in terms of the high-budget-epic slots the Academy might consider now that there will be 10 guaranteed Best Picture nominations again? It only hit the Academy’s digital screening platform 10 days ago. Sony can be assured that a large number of voters likely caught it on the big screen like the rest of the world (the way it should be seen) or have watched at home in the past few days, so it has a fighting chance at one of those slots.
Perhaps aiding the cause is the strong support that not only Holland but also Maguire and Garfield are giving the film, as witnessed by a rare and unprecedented joint interview via Zoom that I was pleased to moderate Tuesday as the film has returned to its No, 1 position on the box office charts and Oscar voting is imminent. Because the participation of Maguire and Garfield in No Way Home was about as top secret as it gets, and kept that way in the film’s opening weeks with the studio urging critics not to print spoilers, this was a fun opportunity to get them on the record together. The studio obviously hopes it will intrigue Academy members to see this interview and the film before voting if they haven’t already (the link to the whole interview is at the top of this post). For Holland’s part, even he was caught off-guard by the enormous reaction to the film, which has given hope to those who believe in the moviegoing experience, hit hard by the pandemic during the past couple of years.
“I mean, I always knew that this film would be loved around the world,” he told Maguire and Garfield. “I didn’t think it would be quite as massive as it has been. One of my favorite things to do at the minute is to go online and watch fans’ reactions to you guys coming in that one scene in particular. I don’t think I could ever have imagined it as being so well received by everyone. I mean, I guess I had an idea that people would love this movie, but in no way, shape or form could I have thought it was going to be as big as it has been. And it’s been … only the last couple weeks that I have sort of really come back to reality and come home and started to face real-world problems, and it feels like we’ve been on some sort of really weird dream. It feels really strange.”
In terms of actually agreeing to be in this film after all these years, Maguire was asked to have a meeting with producers Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, but he didn’t know what they possibly could have had in mind at the time. “In that conversation, the intention, the kind of love and celebration of these movies and what it meant, I think, to Amy and Kevin was apparent,” he said. “And to me, when artists or, you know, people who are steering the creative process have a kind of authentic, genuine intent of celebration and love, it just was so apparent in both of them, that, I don’t know, I just wanted to join that. And I’m a big fan of Tom and those movies and Andrew. So, it was definitely intriguing, but yes, I was also going, ‘well, what are we going to do? And that was a bit mysterious.”
As for Garfield, who is having a banner year with acclaimed roles in tick, tick…BOOM! and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, he had just one criteria for joining. “Well, I was just waiting to see if Tobey was going to do it, and if Tobey was going to do it, then I was like, ‘Well, I have no choice,’ you know? I follow Tobey to the ends of the Earth. I’m a lemming for Tobey,” he laughed. “But that was sincerely a big part of it when I was approached about it, and again, it’s similar to what Tobey was saying. It was like, ‘Oh, the intention feels very pure here. It actually feels like a great creative idea and a great creative story.’ It wasn’t like they were just asking us to come and say hi and then leave again but actually have our presence being in service to Tom, being in service to Tom’s journey and where he is as Peter Parker. And I love the destiny feeling of the multiverse expanding in this film, and actually, without Tobey’s Peter and Andrew’s Peter being present for Tom’s Peter at this very moment, he may not become the Peter Parker that he’s supposed to become. … Getting three Spider-Men together could go one of two ways, and I think it’s a testament to these guys that it went the way that it went, which was a brotherhood, which is just beautiful.”
Holland was struck by how emotional this experience was — onscreen and off — and he had to go places he hadn’t before. “There definitely was a sense for me, as an actor, that this was the last time that I could potentially don the suit, so a lot of that emotion came from the act of saying goodbye, which is one of the biggest themes throughout this film. But this film also felt like a celebration of three generations of cinema. So, at times, we would be getting into these scenes that were incredibly emotional. They’re very taxing, and I was so happy to be there, that I had to go at it a different way and kind of go, ‘wow, look at my life. Look what’s happened to me. I’m working with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield and we’re telling this story’,” he said. “And I would get emotional at kind of how proud I was of the situation that we were in and what we were doing and that I really believed in what we were doing. So, yeah, it was tough, but you know, anything hard is worthwhile. I was happy to kind of really push myself and to make this film more emotional than superhero films have been in the past.”
Keeping it secret was not easy for Garfield, who was on one press tour after another for his aforementioned films, and he kept getting asked about the rumors that he and/or Maguire might be in the new film. “I justified my unethical lying behavior,” he said. “I call it fibbing more than lying, but I kind of enjoyed it. It was quite fun, and it felt like that game Werewolf or Mafia where, you know, you’re the werewolf and you have to convince everyone that you’re not. So I kind of turned it into a little bit of a game for myself … even though there were all these leaks and all this stuff happening, I think there was enough doubt in everyone’s mind going, ‘Oh, god, what if it isn’t? What if they don’t show up?’ And then, so when we did, it kind of gave them that little extra little bit of icing on top. I watched the movie with Tobey for the first time, and I was in pieces. Like, this is a deep movie. This is a movie that is about a coming of age, an acceptance of loss, acceptance of death, taking responsibility for your gifts. I was torn open by the journey that Tom went on; it’s classic Peter Parker, but it felt totally fresh and totally reimagined. It is like, Tom’s origin story was happening in his third movie rather than his first. There’s something so profound. So the film, I feel, stands alone without me and Tobey showing up. I hope we enhance it, but I think [director] Jon Watts and Tom have made this something, actually, that is exceptionally moving, especially for young people, you know? I think it’s a beautiful film.”
Maguire had the same kind of feeling about it. “I was just grateful every day. Really, it was such a rich experience and, as the guys have touched on, the kind of sharing of something and the brotherhood of it. It was just so rich, emotional. I’m not sitting there conceptually thinking about that all the time, but I would have moments where that kind of stuff would hit me. You know, day to day, it was just a beautiful kind of unfolding of this story and these relationships,” he said in thinking about 20 years and the character these actors have in common. “And the way those films and characters evolved in those films are unique, and then to bring all of that together, including all of our supervillains and all of that, it was pretty wild to witness the immensity of all of this history coming together and being put into what Andrew was saying is this standalone, worthwhile story.”
I had to ask Holland if he could give me a scoop and tell me if this was indeed the end of the road for his own journey as Spider-Man or if he might be moving on to the next phase of the character as the end of the film leaves a door open, or should I say a window, to carry on Holland’s Peter Parker in a very different world.
“The truthful answer — and I’ve done a whole press tour where all I do is lie — the truth is, and you’re not going to like the truth, I don’t know the answer to that question. This film for me was as special as an experience could ever be. Sharing the screen with these guys. Playing Spider-Man could be quite an alienating experience because, you know, we’re the only three blokes who have done it. So to share that with you two, it’s been such a wonderful experience, of which I have such amazing memories. I don’t know. I know I love this character, and I know that I am not ready to say goodbye,” Holland said. “But if it’s time for me to say goodbye, then I will do so proudly, knowing that I’ve achieved everything I wanted to with this character, and sharing it with these boys will be forever one of the most special experiences of my career. So, if it’s time, it’s time. If it’s not, it’s not. But at the moment, I don’t know.”
You can check out our Zoom conversation, which has been lightly edited, above.
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