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Thomas Haden Church Discusses Spider-Man 3

Thomas Haden Church Talks About Working with Director Sam Raimi

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Thomas Haden Church Discusses Spider-Man 3

Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko in Spider-Man 3.

© Columbia Pictures
Updated April 07, 2006
Thomas Haden Church earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role as Paul Giamatti's womanizing best friend in the critically acclaimed indie film, Sideways. Church is following up that attention-getting role with parts in bigger budgeted movies, including two animated family films and a major role as one of the main villains in Spider-Man 3.

Church plays one of Spider-Man's enemies ('Flint Marko/Sandman') in the third installment of the Spider-Man film franchise, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Although the press rounds for Spider-Man 3 are a long way off, while on a press tour in support of the DreamWorks' animated comedy, Over the Hedge, Church answered a couple of my Spider-Man 3 questions and lavished praise on director Raimi.

Sam Raimi's Directorial Style: "It’s very choreographed because, not unlike an animated film, everything is animatically strategized. They have the whole movie. I’ve seen the whole movie – I saw it last summer in animatics. I’ve seen everything and what Sam does is, and it’s what I’ve been doing since I started shooting in November, is you just get as close to what is animatically configured. You just get as close to that as you can in a live-action setting or stage.

You know Sam, despite all of the airs and graces of this being a hugely successful franchise and action movie and superhero movie, Sam is ultimately a brilliant actor’s director. I’ve described him in more than one interview as like Elia Kazan locked inside of Richard Donner. Even though I think Richard Donner is a great actor’s director, too... He’s just...he’s a very specific actor’s director. [Raimi’s] very specific when it comes to performances. He’s very specific and he pushes really hard, but it’s very rewarding.

I shot a scene in January that was a very emotional scene in the movie for my character. And I didn’t understand… We shot all the other coverage all day long, and I was actually starting to get kind of frustrated. I could feel it. I was starting to get a little irritable. And as they day progressed we broke for lunch and we hadn’t gotten any coverage on my side. I was like, ‘Well this is bulls**t man. I’m like working my a** off over here and Sam doesn’t seem to be in too big of a hurry.’

We continued building and building, and then we came back from lunch and we kept building and building. There was a lot of coverage, there was a lot of lighting changes because there’s a whole kind of thing where a window blows out and a storm blows in and there’s all these effects that had to be captured on camera. And I really felt myself becoming more and more physically aggressive. I kind of snapped at a couple of people – and I apologized. I felt myself becoming more emotionally aggressive. He then set two cameras on me and we went for a rehearsal. I slammed the stunt guy; I grabbed him and I slammed him really hard into the wall. Sam came over and goes, ‘You’re ready for your close-up.’ He knew exactly what he was doing. That just gave me goosebumps. He knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way all day long. I had like one rehearsal and he’s like, ‘You’re ready. We can get your close-up first,’ because he knew I was right there and that’s exactly how I had to be in the scene, which was, you know, super aggressive - almost homicidally aggressive."

Church continued. "He shot the close-up first and then he started backing the camera out and shooting the rest of the coverage. And really, I went up to him when we wrapped and I hugged him. I was like, ‘Wow, you taught me so much today that I really thought I knew, and I didn’t know.’ That’s what it was. It was unraveling the conventions of filmmaking as I’ve learned them and teaching me another way. Honestly, a very kind of improvisional way of doing it. Like watching the actor, really watching me and paying attention to all the elements, but watching me because I do drive the scene. But waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting until he saw me get to where I needed to be. And, hey, unbeknownst to me it took me all day to get there but once I was there, he captured it like that."

Page 2: Spider-Man 3's Target Audience

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