Most people were surprised when word got out that Rhy Ifan's Lizard wouldn't be the sole villain doing battle with the titular hero of The Amazing Spider-Man. Indian actor Irrfan Khan snagged the film's other antagonistic role, that of Niels Van Adder, who eventually transforms into Proto-Goblin in the comics.
Khan has spoken out a bit about his role in the Spider-Man reboot, and is indicating that while his role will be an important one, it won't require him to play the red-skinned, yellow-haired Proto-Goblin.
Although Khan told NDTV in an interview that it was his role in the HBO Drama In Treatment which earned him the attention of Hollywood types, he's been on the film scene since Mira Nair's Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay! back in 1988. While a lot of U.S. moviegoers were introduced to the actor by Slumdog Millionaire, I first became acquainted with Khan after watching his moving turn as the immigrant Gogol in Nair's adaptation of The Namesake back in 2006.
Director Marc Webb was also familiar with Khan's work prior to his being cast in The Amazing Spider-Man, and approached the actor himself to play Van Adder in his new cinematic take on the iconic web-slinger. Khan says that he's playing "a pivotal role" in the film, which he reportedly signed on for after being impressed by "the intricacy and freshness of the script," by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Losers).
Global Desi also chatted recently with Khan, who confessed his initial reluctance to sign on for the Spider-Man reboot as he "didn't want to be part of this violent American fantasy," and agreed to star in on one condition - he wouldn't play either a masked villain or sci-fi monster.
Given that Khan did not flat out deny the appearance of Proto-Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man, it's possible the creature could still appear (albeit entirely in CGI form), or that Khan's Van Adder could simply acquire superhuman abilities and never don any sort of costume or fancy getup. The third option would of course be that Khan's villain will be more mind over matter, and aid The Lizard by using his intelligence and wit to attempt to take down Peter Parker's masked hero.
So long as Van Adder doesn't kick the bucket before the end credits roll on Webb's reboot, his character could also also be set up to become Proto-Goblin in a future installment. That could be done explicitly - much like Harry Osborn (James Franco) discovering his father's secret lair at the conclusion of Spider-Man 2 - or more subtly, like how Sam Raimi's trilogy often dropped hints that Dylan Baker's version of Dr. Curt Connors could eventually become The Lizard in a future sequel. Those plans may not have panned out, but it's possible The Amazing Spider-Man will approach Van Adder's potential fate from a similar angle.
The Amazing Spider-Man is currently in the midst of filming, and won't arrive in theaters until July 3rd of 2012. In the meantime, feel free to speculate about Khan's role in the comments section below.