'Venom' Director Ruben Fleischer Reveals Why Tom Holland's Spider-Man Isn't In the Movie
“Venom” has landed.
The famous Marvel villain, first introduced in “The Amazing Spider-Man” issue 300 (way back in May 1988), has made it on screen before, more than ten years ago in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3.” But in that film, he was little more than a cameo in an already overstuffed piñata of a Spider-Man movie; fans wanted a movie exclusively devoted to the alien symbiote and his human host Eddie Brock. And now, finally, they have it.
In the film (opening nationwide on Friday), Brock (played by Tom Hardy) is an intrepid reporter who is looking into the shading dealings of a technology company run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), as a more-openly-evil Elon Musk. This gets him fired, of course, but his quest for answers also exposes him to the alien symbiote known as Venom (also Hardy). While he’s not exactly a hero, the two personalities work to stop Drake from unleashing unimaginable horror on the world.
And as difficult as preventing the apocalypse must be, it was probably equally painful to bring the character to the big screen, a job that fell directly on director Ruben Fleischer. We got to sit down with Fleischer and talk to him about what it was like bringing Venom to the big screen, especially without mentioning everybody’s favorite neighborhood wall crawler.
Moviefone: You're somebody whose name is always brought up for these big franchise movies, but -- until now -- you'd still never done one. What made you finally commit to "Venom?"
Fleisher: What got me really excited about this movie was that we were doing something new. I felt with "Venom," we had the opportunity to launch a whole new world, a whole new character. Beyond the fact that I had loved the character from the comics for a long time, and think he's one of the most cool, bad ass characters from the comics, it was the idea for me of doing something new.
Marvel so knows what they're doing, and DC has such a defined aesthetic, it was fun to get to create something new. That was the driving principle of this film, was to just do something that felt a little different from everything else. And that's something that’s obvious in the tagline, which is, "The world has enough superheroes. Embracing the antihero nature of the character, to the aesthetic of the film, which I'm really proud of. I think the tone is really distinctive in terms of that horror/comedy/thriller/action vibe that it lives in.
The tone is definitely distinct. Did you do any experimenting to find that balance?
From the original script, there was always a lot of personality to Venom. And even from the comics, you have this huge, hulking, scary figure -- with giant teeth and whatnot -- but he always had great lines. He would always say, "Mmm snacks!" He was always really funny. So I wanted to do justice to the comics and have a mix of tones. I think that's ultimately why people love him; you can have this scary, menacing character, but it's undercut by that goofy tongue or the great lines he has or his relationship with Eddie. And for me, that [tonal mixture] was always inherent to the film from its inception.
Was there anything that you looked to for inspiration? There definitely seems to be an "American Werewolf in London"-vibe to some of it.
You hit the nail on the head, both in terms of its mixture of horror and comedy. But it's also the story of somebody who is possessed by something and he doesn't really know what it is and it becomes a mental breakdown. The werewolf was a great metaphor for Venom, in the way that a human is possessed by something else and physically transforms. The big difference is in the werewolf model, usually the human goes to sleep and the werewolf comes out. When the human is awake, the werewolf isn't talking to him. But true to the Venom comics, it's always about the relationship between the two. They're always talking to each other, whether Venom is in Eddie or Eddie is in Venom. Even those scenes from the comics where Venom comes out and talks to Eddie directly, it's all about their relationship.
Obviously, Venom is heavily indebted to Spider-Man. Was there ever any talk of integrating that universe into this? We saw those set photos of Tom Holland.
Those aren't real.
So there was never Spider-Man as a part of "Venom?"
From its inception, at least as long as I've been a part of it, there was always a defined rule -- no Spider-Man. The challenge, obviously, is that in the comics he's so defined by Spider-Man. But because of "Spider-Man 3," we kind of saw the true-to-the-comics version and -- because of corporate stuff I don't understand and probably shouldn't talk about -- we couldn't use Spider-Man in this movie. So that put the onus upon us to create something original.
So I approached the film as the kind of "Ultimate" version of Venom. That's what my guiding principle was, reimagining a different origin, reimagining whether it was the Life Foundation -- pulling things from the canon of the Spider-Man universe, but making him ours, and allowing Eddie and Venom's story to stand on their own two feet.
Were there incredibly strict guidelines? It's interesting to see Venom and not see the white spider on his chest.
We couldn't use Spider-Man, so that was the ultimate. But maybe we could have used the spider on his chest, but it doesn't make sense. If he didn't originate from Spider-Man, it wouldn't have made any sense. It would have been weird if you have an alien from outer space, occupying a rogue journalist, and -- all of a sudden -- there's a spider on his chest. That's not to say in the future, if ever Venom and Spider-Man were to meet and Venom would return to Spider-Man and come back to Eddie, then he could have the spider on his chest. But up until that point, I think he's spider-less.
Can you talk about the rating of this movie? People assumed it would be R from the get-go. Was that ever the case?
We only ever intended this movie as a PG-13 movie. I've said in many interviews that we're going to push the violence to the hilt and that this would be the most violent Marvel movie, because the character is one of the most violent. But it's all within the PG-13. The Marvel movies are all PG-13. "The Dark Knight" is PG-13, and that was a huge reference point for me. Because "The Dark Knight" didn't pull any punches and delivered a really gritty, violent film that was incredibly satisfying and it was PG-13. Some fans may have this blood thirst, I feel like we delivered a really aggressive version of "Venom" that didn't compromise and is a really satisfying PG-13.
Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, but also does the voice of Venom. What was that like?
Early on in the process, as soon as he got involved, he'd record lines from the movie in Garage Band and started applying filters to it and would send them to me. He was just excited to create this character with audio. It's amazing how much personality he's able to imbue Venom with just his voice. Obviously, there's the visual component, which I find really satisfying, but Tom was able to create so much interplay between Eddie and Venom and the dynamic of their relationship, all by himself.
You worked with cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who is amazing, but how did you come up with how this world would look?
That's one of my favorite things about the film. Matty is a true genius and a master at his art, having made everything from "Requiem for a Dream" to "Black Swan" to "Iron Man." He's just one of the best cinematographers working today. What was really important to me was that we distinguish our movie from Marvel and DC.
I wanted it to feel singular in its aesthetic, and grounded and gritty and real in our modern world. I felt San Fransisco, as a backdrop, was cool and distinctive and we really embraced the anamorphic '80s quality, whether it's Spielberg or Carpenter -- pick your favorite 80s anamorphic movie. We shot it in digital, but we used a lot of old 1970s lenses that give it a softness. It doesn't feel super crisp and cartoony. It has a richness that gives it a nostalgic quality. Sometimes, digital can be overtly sharp and clean and we really wanted to dirty the image.
We can't talk about anything you see during the credits, but we can talk about what you can hear, specifically the fact that there's a new Run the Jewels song during the credits.
I've got to say that when I was prepping the movie, I made a playlist of "Venom" songs and it heavily featured Run the Jewels. There's something about the darkness of their music and the content of their lyrics that I fully embraced and love. It was a dream when we got on the phone with El-P and Killer Mike to talk about what that song must be like. I just love the track that they delivered. It's a banger. There's a line, "Hardy har, you're a laugh, I'm a Riot." It's so cool that they managed to get Riot in there. It was just a dream.
I know you're about to start in on "Zombieland 2," but is a "Venom" sequel something you'd look forward to returning to?
I don't know. I'm just focused on "Zombieland 2" right now.
"Venom" hits theaters Thursday night, opening wide on Friday, Oct. 5.