SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Far From Home
John Watts returned to direct Spidey’s second solo outing in Spider-Man Far From Home. Picking up not long after what’s now being referred to as “The Blip”, all Peter wants to do is take time off from being a hero and spend time with his friends. John sat down with us recently to discuss how he approached the first post-Endgame film, bring Mysterio to life, and bringing a familiar face back to the Spider-Man franchise.
It’s crazy, especially with a Marvel movie, because I’m already excited going in. So it’s, like, how’s it going to be topped? But then I was even more excited coming out of this movie, which is even crazier.
So I know that in Homecoming, you can a lot of influences from John Hughes. What were some of your influences for this one?
Jon Watts: I thought there was a bigger genre of American kids traveling through Europe, like road trip movies. There’s not really. There's EuroTrip, and that’s kind of it. So, I don’t know. We were more in uncharted territory in this one. I watched a lot of travel movies, like Before Sunrise kind of stuff, to influence Peter and MJ’s stories. It’s also a globetrotting adventure, so it was a good excuse to watch a bunch of James Bond and Mission Impossible again. Any excuse to watch movies. It’s all influence.
You’re two-thirds away from completing your Spider-Man trilogy. What kind of arc are you planning for Peter in this trilogy, and what kind of growth can we expect from the character by the end of the third movie?
Jon Watts: I mean, I try to think about it one movie at a time. We definitely telling the story of this kid growing up, and we end the movie putting him in a very unique spot that we really haven’t seen Spider-Man in before in the films. So, I don’t know. For me, I’ll wait until the next one to start to figure out how we’re going to get to where I want it to end.
Correct me if I’m wrong: is the end of this movie the first time we actually see Spider-Man swinging from buildings in New York? Because, Homecoming, there’s not a ton of that.
Jon Watts: Yeah. There’s [only] chasing after the Vulture at the end, but that was a conscious decision. Of course, that’s the most iconic thing to see Spider-Man doing, swinging from building to building in New York City. But it was a definite choice to hold back on that until we could rebuild the character from scratch, and I didn’t want him to do a big swing until he had earned it. Does that make sense?
I love that, it totally makes sense. New York is a big part of Spidey’s character, as is his costume. However, fans have already seen him everywhere from Germany to outer space. What motivated you to take him out of his natural habitat?
Jon Watts: First of all, I wanted to do it just to make things difficult for him. You want to get Peter out of his comfort zone, and so getting him out of New York City is one way to do that. But on a bigger level, to me it was about taking him from being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to being a hero, an Avenger, on this global scale. Taking him to Europe and really elevating him and pairing him up with Nick Fury and Mysterio was the way to do that. To really sort of test him in a way we haven’t seen before.
I thought something that was brilliant was you guys answered all the questions that we had about the Snap, about the blip, in that news segment. Whose idea was that? Because those are all the questions I probably had after Infinity War.
Jon Watts: I think that was my idea to do it through the school news. But as a team, we all had a lot of questions, and there was this long list of things that are the fallout from Endgame. What are we gonna address? What are we gonna skip? What are we gonna make a joke about? What’s gonna be in the school news? So that was a really fun way to deal with a lot of those loose ends.
I love some of the supporting characters in this too, like Betty’s great in this, the teachers are great. But I want to talk about the costumes. Which one of Spider-Man’s costumes, especially the new ones, is your personal favorite?
Jon Watts: Honestly, the [Night Monkey suit] looked really cool. There’s something cool about that. But I really liked the red and black suit, especially because Peter built it himself. That’s another big part of Spider-Man that I want him to earn.
Ever since we were introduced to Spider-Man with Civil War, he was always kind of longing for a father figure, whether it be Tony Stark or even in this situation, Nick Fury and Beck. Can you talk to me more about his relationship with Quentin Beck, though? Because he is seeking out that father figure, and he kind of finds it with Quentin.
Jon Watts: Yeah. I mean, that idea of loss and looking for a mentor is a big part of what makes Spider-Man who he is. And here we find Peter, at the beginning of this film, he’s lost Tony. He’s looking for direction, the world is looking to him to step up, he’s not ready. And then literally out of the sky comes this guy who he can finally relate to. Someone he can talk to, who’s finally there for him and listening to him. He fits so perfectly into what Peter needs at that moment that it feels almost too good to be true.
Kevin was telling me a story about how after Tom got cast as Spider-Man, he wrote down a list of things that he wanted to accomplish in that year. And one of those was to work with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Jon Watts: Really? I didn’t know that.
Speaking about Jake, what did he bring to the role that may not have necessarily been on the page with Quentin Beck?
Jon Watts: A lot. I think something that developed out of just my conversations with Jake was more complexity and more depth to his relationship with Peter. Because in real life, they really got along in this way that was almost like a mentor-mentee relationship. And their actual dynamic informed their relationship in the film, I think, in a lot of the same ways that Tom and Downey’s relationship was sort of paralleled by their real-life relationship.
Interesting. Sony has sprawling plans for the Spider-Man character. Have you gotten involved in any Spider-Man ventures for the studio outside of the one that you’re actually doing?
Jon Watts: It’s just one film at a time. Finish this one, get it out into the world, and then we’ll see where we go from there.
How difficult is it for you as a director to have them talking to you about Infinity War and Endgame, knowing that you have your own different plans?
Jon Watts: It’s fun, because then it kind of becomes a creative challenge. I remember the first time I got the download of everything that was going to happen in Infinity War and Endgame. You’re sitting there listening and nodding, and you’re like, “Okay. So everyone disappears from existence, and then they come back. Oh, but it’s five years later? Okay, I see. And Tony Stark is dead? And what happens with Cap again? Okay, so he’s old because he went back… So how am I going to deal with that stuff?”
It’s a fun creative challenge to just be thrown into it and to have to juggle all those loose ends with the tone and the style and the arc of the movie that you want to make.
It also seems that Michelle’s wearing her own mask with a lot of secrets she’s holding from Peter. Can you talk to me about that character in general, about how she’s developed from Homecoming to Far From Home?
Jon Watts: Well, she’s barely in Homecoming, but we knew that we wanted to eventually explore MJ and Peter’s relationship. And it made a lot of sense in this film, which a lot of it is about deception. You know, Peter’s lying to himself about how he feels, and she’s being guarded in the same way. They have a nice sort of parallel dynamic where Peter thinks she likes him because she’s looking at him, but is she only looking at him because she thinks he’s Spider-Man? So everyone is sort of exploring different sides of the same themes.
Now that Endgame is over, is it easier to plot the characters’ futures?
Jon Watts: Yeah, until I find out all the other crazy things they’re going to do in Phase 4 that I’m going to have to deal with.
That must be a fun conversation.
Jon Watts: It’s going to be the same thing again. “Mm-hmm. Okay, what happens? Really? That’s interesting.” One thing at a time.
Immediately after watching this movie, my jaw was on the floor. I wanted to see it again, because there’s so many different twists. Some of them I kind of caught looking back now.
Jon Watts: What do you think you caught?
For sure when Fury is whispering to himself something about the Kree, I was like, “Wow, that’s weird.” And when he says, “Where’s Captain Marvel?” “Never invoke that name.” Looking back I get, but now I want to see others. Sam’s performance has to change, because he’s different obviously.
Jon Watts: Now that you know that secret, you can watch all of the Nick and Maria scenes again. There’s a lot of little things like that.
There’s a lot of Easter Eggs like that. Like the Hydro Man thing, “Oh, on Buzzfeed, they say his name…” I didn’t catch that. So I heard that you’re notorious for putting in comic artists names and so forth. What are some non-spoiler Easter Eggs that people should be looking for?
Jon Watts: In Homecoming, I hid a bunch of artists’ names in graffiti throughout the movie. Some of them were really intense tags, so they’re hard to read. In this one, I hid a bunch of Spider-Man writers’ names throughout the movie.
Jonah Jameson. I was floored. JK Simmons? Info Wars? What?! It’s brilliant. Now that Spider-Man’s a fugitive, we’ve never seen him in this position before ever. At least cinematically. As a fan, you would think, “Are they writing themselves into a corner?” But there’s always a plan. What comics should people be looking out for to inform them what happens in the future?
Jon Watts: You get to see Peter reveal his identity to the world in Civil War. I’m going to have to do that homework too now, I’ve sort of painted myself in the corner. I gotta go back to the archive.
It’s a shocking ending, and the best post-credits scene I’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I gotta ask about JK Simmons, I never expected that.
Jon Watts: Once we started talking about the Daily Bugle and bringing J. Jonah Jameson back to be the one who finally outs Spider-Man’s identity in this reverse of the ending of Iron Man, there was never a question that it should be JK Simmons. It would feel wrong if it wasn’t him. That performance is just so definitive that if it wasn’t him… Why not?
I love that, but I also like that it’s a different J. Jonah Jameson. It’s your own, essentially.
Jon Watts: What’s really interesting too is that his performance isn’t that far off from the [original]. His look is a little bit less heightened like it was in the Raimi films, but it’s weird that that exaggerated, over-the-top delivery now has some real-world comparisons. The world has changed around his performance to put it in a completely different context, which is kind of fascinating.
It’s incredible. There was a rumor going around that another MCU character was going to appear in the film: Sam Wilson. Is that just a rumor?
Jon Watts: Yeah, just a rumor. I don’t think that was ever on the table. It was never on the whiteboard.
And also, the scenes with Mysterio doing the illusions. For me, as a fan, that was just pulled straight from the comic books.
Jon Watts: Oh, yeah. There’s so many frames that are almost direct pulls from Mysterio comics.
I think that’s the first time I sat there and felt like I was living in a comic book that I had read.
Jon Watts: That’s the reason why you have Mysterio as your villain. It’s the excuse to do that kind of crazy visual sequence.
You’ve opened the door with so many villains in the MCU, in Spider-Man specifically, with Mike Mondo playing the Shocker. Obviously Vulture. Are you planning your own Sinister Six by chance?
Jon Watts: Again, I always just try to focus on one movie at a time. But for me, it’s always about trying to surprise people and show people things that they haven’t seen before. And Spider-Man has such a rich Rogues Gallery. I mean, I figured out a way to get Hydro-Man, Molten Man, Cyclone and even Sandman kind of into this movie. You can always go somewhere crazy.