The screenwriter-producers tell EW about their upcoming animated superhero spectacle, with an expanded role for Oscar Isaac — and new ones for Issa Rae and Jason Schwartzman.

Multiverses: They're very hot right now. Between Everything Everywhere All at Once, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Hollywood sure loves a trippy tale that bounces between dimensions.

But no movie does it quite like 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the innovative animated film about teenage web-slinger Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore). When the original first swung into theaters, it almost immediately became an instant classic, reenergizing the genre and winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film. It's everything a superhero movie can and should be: ambitious, colorful, heartfelt, and deeply funny.

Now, Miles and his fellow Spideys are back — and they're about to face their biggest threat yet.

The first of two planned sequels, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, is scheduled to hit theaters June 2, 2023, and anticipation has never been higher. For EW's 2023 Preview, we caught up with screenwriter-producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who teased the next chapter in Miles' adventure, one that follows a slightly older teenage hero as he juggles growing pains with the high-stakes responsibilities of "great power."

"As he's growing up, he's trying to figure out how he can go out and see the world and spread his wings and leave the nest," Miller, 47, explains. "But he also feels rooted to his home and his family. It's that push-pull of your life as a teenager, where you're like, How do I get to be my own person, but also not lose where I came from?"

2023 Preview
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) faces off against the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) in this exclusive look at 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse'
| Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

Fortunately for Miles, he's not navigating that journey alone. If the first film followed a squad of different Spider-People as they traveled to Miles' universe, this one finds Miles venturing into the multiverse himself. As he swings across dimensions — each with its own unique art style — he meets countless other Spideys. (Lord and Miller don't have a final number, but between major roles and brief cameos, they estimate about 240 unique characters were designed and modeled for Across the Spider-Verse.)

A number of familiar voices are back, as Miles reunites with Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson). He also links up with new allies, like Jessica Drew's Spider-Woman. Insecure's Issa Rae voices Jessica, a motorcycle-riding phenomenon who helps mentor Gwen. "A lot of work has gone into making that character look great," Lord, 47, adds. "If you've ever been around Issa, she's such a dynamo of talent and grace, so you just want to make the character look as cool as she is."  

Oscar Isaac takes an expanded role as Miguel O'Hara, a.k.a. Spider-Man 2099, who made a brief cameo in the first film's end-credits scene. Lord and Miller say that Miguel and Miles have a lot in common, but they don't always see eye to eye — especially when it concerns the safety of the multiverse. "He's not the villain of the movie, but he's sort of an antagonist to Miles because they both think that what they're doing is the right thing," Miller teases.

As for the actual villain? Jason Schwartzman voices the Spot, a cryptic baddie with the ability to create portals between different dimensions. With his goofy, almost dalmatian-like costume, he isn't necessarily an A-list comic book villain. But Lord and Miller say the Spot's trippy powers make him "a perfect character for animation," with abilities that allow him to bend reality almost like an old Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

"I like the villains best when they reflect the journeys of the hero — sort of a dark mirror of the protagonist," Lord adds. "And I think Spot's no different. He wants to be seen as legitimate. He's a character that has a silly costume and is not always seen as the top tier of Spider-Man foes, but like all of us, he wants to be taken seriously."

Still, despite all the jaw-dropping animation and clever cameos, Lord and Miller stress that Across the Spider-Verse is Miles' story, first and foremost.

"Even with all the whizzbang parts, we're always trying to look for ways to make them scenes between characters," Lord says. "That's the thing that everybody wants, which is so surprising to me. I never expected the star of [the first] movie to be people talking together in dramatic scenes. But that's the thing that people are most interested in."  

"Really, the hardest thing is making sure that you've got a story that you care about and that you're emotionally connected to," Miller adds. "Without that, you've got nothing."

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