Contains Spidey spoilers!
Warning: This post contains spoilers from Spider-Man: Far From Home. Read at your own risk!
On the surface, Spider-Man: Far From Home seems like your standard web-slinging adventure. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker takes a class trip to Europe with his friends, where he has to juggle the pressures of being a costumed crusader with his yearning for a normal teenage life — pretty standard Spidey stuff.
But, in a twist true to the film’s reality-bending theme, things are not always as they seem. Instead, Far From Home is something far more ambitious — and a whole lot weirder. Not only is Peter dealing with the world-altering fallout of Thanos’ Snap (here called “The Blip”), as well as the death of his mentor Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, but he also finds himself grappling with some heavy psychological themes, first teaming up with and then being betrayed by a slippery wannabe hero called Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). The result is a film that’s part high school comedy, part clever conman movie, and part trippy meditation on the very nature of truth, with several surprises along the way.
With Far From Home now in theaters, EW caught up with director Jon Watts to talk about some of the film’s biggest spoilers — including Iron Man references, cut scenes, and a certain angry end-credits cameo.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the biggest reveal: the Mysterio of it all. Tell me a little bit about how you wanted to structure that reveal of who Quentin Beck really is — a jilted Stark employee and conman.
JON WATTS: Well, I always felt like comic book fans would know what was going on with Mysterio, so half of the audience is going to be suspicious the whole time. But my hope was that the other half of the audience might just buy the con. I didn’t want it to be a late third-act reveal, like what we did in Homecoming. I thought it would be a really interesting way to divide a movie up, to have a movie that’s essentially split in half: The first half is this completely fake adventure story about Mysterio traveling from another dimension to fight the Elementals. It’s just completely fake, and [I wanted] to tell it and completely end it right at the 60-minute mark, and then reveal that it was all an elaborate con.
Jake Gyllenhaal seems like he’s having the time of his life, especially when he gets to give that big villain speech on the bar.
Oh, it was great. Jake and I really got along, and as we talked about the character and got into it, I think he really got to enjoy showing off his range. Jake can do so many different things, but it’s rare that he gets to do so many different things in one movie.
He gets to put on different hats.
And fishbowls. [Laughs]
I love the idea of manipulating reality and the nature of truth. That feels very timely in 2019. How did you want to approach that theme?
I think it’s always a relevant theme, especially as a filmmaker where you’re making movies that are lies that you’re showing to an audience. You’re telling stories, and you’re putting ideas in front of popular culture, and it’s something that is just inherent to the medium. To make a movie that explores that and the nature of reality and why we need heroes and why we need to believe in things, it felt like it gelled perfectly with Mysterio.
I mean, that’s a character that started as a stuntman in the comics. He himself worked in movies, so it’s fitting.
Yeah, I love going back to the original comics, even though it seems so dated now, where he has smoke bombs and springs in his shoes, and he builds sets to try and fool Spider-Man. There is a pretty clear modern-day equivalent with AR and holographic projectors and deep fakes. We’re within the realm of things like that being possible, and that was something I was very intrigued by.
It’s interesting that Mysterio is working with these everyday people who feel like their lives have been ruined by Tony Stark. That feels like a nice follow-up to Michael Keaton’s character Adrian Toomes in Homecoming. Tell me a little bit about Mysterio’s lackeys.
Yeah, they’re like his crew. They’re essentially middle management. If Toomes’ crew lost their jobs as the ground-level workers cleaning up the messes that the Avengers made, Beck’s crew are the guys that lost their jobs in the merger, you know? [Laughs] I always like to think of the people behind the scenes in movies like this, where you know who the movie stars are and you know who they play. But there’s always these people behind them, these extras, and I like to think, “What is their life like? How are they affected?” In this film, we were able to turn them into the crew in what’s hopefully a surprising way.
Making all those callbacks to the original Iron Man must have been fun.
Yeah, once we figured out that Beck’s technology would be based on the B.A.R.F. tech that you see in Civil War, then it just became a fun homework project to go back through the other movies to see who we could cherry pick to assemble this team of people that were left behind. The people that weren’t in the will when Tony died. [Laughs]
Beck’s story raises the possibility of a multiverse. Obviously, he’s not from there, but is there actually a multiverse in the MCU? Is that something you guys talked about?
Well, that’s the thing about Marvel: You feel like everything is always on the table. So just because Beck is a conman and none of that’s true, that doesn’t mean that it’s not true in the larger universe.
So there’s a possibility?
I’d say there’s a possibility.
Let’s talk about the end-credits scenes. First of all, there’s the public reveal of Peter’s identity. Why did you want end on that note?
You think about the story, and thematically, we’re dealing with these ideas of what’s real and what’s fake. Peter’s lying to himself about how he feels about Tony and the loss that he’s experiencing and denying. MJ’s lying about knowing that Peter’s Spider-Man and that she likes him. There’s a lot of deception in the movie. So, I wanted to finally confront Peter with his biggest lie, which is that he keeps his identity a secret, and in a way, have Mysterio win. Everything that Mysterio is saying throughout the movie suddenly all comes to a hilt at this final climactic moment.
The other interesting parallel for the reveal is that it’s similar to the way the first Iron Man ends. The whole movie, we’re asking, “Is Peter going to be the next Iron Man? Who’s gonna step up?” At the end of the first Iron Man, Tony chooses to reveal his identity to the world. And when you’re dealing with Peter Parker, he has the worst luck, so everything bad that could happen always seems to happen to Peter. So we thought, why not take that choice away from him? If he was potentially thinking — after facing all these lies and all this deception —about maybe revealing his identity to the world, let’s take that choice away from him and suddenly thrust him into a world that we’ve never seen before on film.
We haven’t really seen a film version of Peter before where his identity is out in the open.
No, never. In the comics you see it a little bit, but in the movies, it’s definitely a way to start getting into some uncharted territory.
So are you already starting to think about how you might probe that idea in a future film?
[Laughs] There’s nothing like painting yourself into a corner and then having to find your way out of it.
Obviously, we gotta talk about J.K. Simmons’ appearance as J. Jonah Jameson. How did that come together?
As we were talking about how that was going to be revealed, The Daily Bugle came up, and there wasn’t even a question, honestly. It was like, “If we’re gonna do The Daily Bugle, it’s gonna be J. Jonah Jameson, and that has to be J.K. Simmons.” It wasn’t even a conversation. It was just like, “Yep. Everyone’s in total agreement? Yep, let’s do it.”
So what was it like when you reached out to him and he said yes and got back into that character?
I think initially he was a little weirded out, like, “What are you guys doing? Don’t you realize those are different movies?” [Laughs] He was definitely, I think, a little bit confused. But when we pitched him the story and he saw how he would fit into all of it, he was really excited. It’s such an iconic performance, so for him to step back into it… For me personally as a huge fan of the Raimi films, to watch him bring that character back to life was so great that I ruined the first take because I was laughing.
I love that it’s TheDailyBugle.net and he’s become almost like a shock jock. That’s such a fun evolution of the character.
Yeah, well, it’s very telling that he can still be performing in the same over-the-top exaggerated way that he was in the original trilogy, but now that is something that people totally recognize as a real-world character. Our world has become more cartoonish and his performance now seems completely realistic.
It reminded me a little bit of the recent Spider-Man PS4 video game. J. Jonah Jameson plays a similar role in that. Was that something you were thinking of as an influence?
No, actually, but a couple of people have said that. It all sort of fits together nicely. I actually started playing the game when I was shooting on my days off, and I thought, I can’t be playing Spider-Man on my day off from making Spider-Man. That’s too much Spider-Man. [Laughs]
Speaking of influences, I know you’ve talked before about how much you loved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Was that something you were thinking about making Far From Home?
I mean, they upped the game on such a dramatic level and did so many things that are only visually possible in an animated film. There were things when I saw that movie where they were a little bit similar to some of the visuals we were doing in our Mysterio sequence, so we had to dial that back. We didn’t want to repeat things that they were doing.
The opening of this movie is such a delight, with the Whitney Houston soundtrack and the Comic Sans slideshow recapping the Blip. Why was that how you wanted to open this?
Well, I was given the very difficult task of juggling the very heavy themes and repercussions of the events of Endgame while still maintaining the tone that we had established in Homecoming, which is a lot more youthful and fun and grounded. So that was a pretty early idea I had of how to have those two worlds collide. And again, [I wanted to] just root this film in the perspective of the kids and the ground level and the regular people in this elevated insane MCU.
I feel like that would be such a fun world to play in. We see all of these stories about Thor or Captain America or Tony, but Peter has that ground-level, everyday perspective.
Yeah, I could’ve made many, many movies that just dealt with the ground-level implications of the Blip. We had this long, long list of things that we could include in the newscast, things that we could show. There would be so much fallout. But you have to get the story.
Was there a joke or a scene you wanted to shoot that didn’t make the final cut?
I wanted to show some animals blipping out and coming back. There was an idea about twins, where one of them disappeared and one of them got older and how that changed them. We talked about how if it’s all life in the universe, does that include bacteria? Did people get sick or really healthy because half of the bugs that live in their stomach disappeared?
And if the people that got voted into office [were blipped], were there secondary elections? Do you have to go to the post office to get a stamp or sticker or something on your passport or driver’s license to show how old you are relative to the Blip? There would be so many things that would happen.
Bureaucratically, it would be a nightmare.
Yes! I was just thinking about how annoying it would be. It would be so inconvenient. [Laughs]