Twenty years ago, Sam Raimi first saw the makings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when a budding young executive producer by the name of Kevin Feige wanted to add superhero cameos to his first spider-man movie and subsequent trilogy.
Feige, who’s now the president of Marvel Studios, worked on Raimi’s landmark trilogy alongside Avi Arad, the head of Marvel Studios at the time. And according to Raimi, the two producers were both inspired by the seminal work of comic book writers Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decades earlier.
“It was Kevin who wanted to start bringing in guest appearances into the first three spider-man movies. I forgot if it was Wolverine he was trying to get into the movies or another character, but it was really Avi standing on the shoulders of Stan Lee and then Kevin standing on the shoulders of Avi that enabled this all to happen,” Raimi tells The Hollywood Reporter at the press junket for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Raimi is also looking back at December’s Spider-Man: No Way Homewhich saw the celebrated return of his Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire.
“It was very emotionally moving. The way Tobey did that performance, it looked like he had lived kind of a hard life as Spider-Man. So it was really emotional and so well done, but it was also like spending an afternoon with old friends who I hadn’t seen in 15 years. It was beautiful,” Raimi says.
In that recent conversation with THRRaimi also discusses the biggest advantage that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had compared to his last superhero movie, Spider-Man 3in 2007.
It’s been 15 years since you last made a superhero movie. What was the biggest adjustment for you on Multiverse?
Well, the technology was much easier. It wasn’t really an adjustment I had to make. It’s just that we no longer had to lock off the camera as often or do scans of every set. There are now pipelines in place to make CGI characters. There are now great programs to help with the coloring and the shading. It was much more primitive 15 years ago, and therefore, much more difficult. I think the biggest change for me since 15 years ago is the great tool of telecommunications. Zoom really enabled me to communicate with crews of a massive size all at once. I could communicate with all my department heads on one telecommunication call. I could ask my storyboard artist to bring up that board we were working on to show the team what I was referring to. I could then have my production designer bring up an illustration blueprint of the set to show us exactly how much room we had to do this shot in. Then I could have my cinematographer bring up a piece of film to show us what the look of it was going to be like. And then I could have my editor show us the current cut all on one call. So these communication tools on a massive production like this were incredibly important and made the experience so much better.
When Kevin Feige worked on you spider-man films back in the day, was there any indication at the time that he was aiming to create an empire?
Yes, in hindsight. At the moment, his boss of him, Avi [Arad]was [trying to create an empire]. First of all, Avi had gotten behind Blade, X Meneven these spider-man movies. He was the head of Marvel at the time, and Kevin was his assistant to him. [Arad] also went on to Hombre de Hierro. But it was Kevin who wanted to start bringing in guest appearances into the first three spider-man movies. I forgot if it was Wolverine he was trying to get into the movies or another character, but it was really Avi standing on the shoulders of Stan Lee and then Kevin standing on the shoulders of Avi that enabled this all to happen. It was generations of writers with intertwining stories that the Marvel universe told. Characters would have their own issues and comics, and in a Marvel team-up, they would get together. All of these interactions were pre-described by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko 50 years ago, and now we’re just following their formula. So yes, Kevin is brilliant, and I’ve never met anybody who runs a company just ensuring the integrity of the characters as their No. 1 job. It’s unbelievable. It’s a pleasure to work at that company because of that. He doesn’t really answer the shareholder; I have answers to the fan. And so it makes it a wonderful place to work.
Last December, your Spider-Man appeared in a new context [Spider-Man: No Way Home]. Was it bizarre for you to see Tobey in a different world? Was it surreal in a lot of ways?
It was very emotionally moving. I probably felt like the audience felt: “Oh, there’s my old friend, the old hero, who I haven’t seen in 15 years. He’s back.” And the way Tobey did that performance, it looked like he had lived kind of a hard life as Spider-Man. So it was really emotional and so well done, but it was also like spending an afternoon with old friends who I hadn’t seen in 15 years. It was beautiful.
Besides Mr. Bruce Campbell, did you tuck any Sam Raimi-verse Easter eggs inside the film?
I can’t swear to you that Bruce Campbell is in the film because I’m not allowed to, but there’s no Sam Raimi Easter eggs. My job this time was really to recognize where the continuing Marvel universe had been, understand the characters of Wanda and Doctor Strange and what was relevant to them as we last saw them, and bring that forward to a new tale where they meet each other for the first time, so the fans have a great experience with characters where they should really be, and also open up the door to the multiverse for future stories to take place.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters on May 6.