Martin Sheen and Sally Field talk Amazing Spider-Man with SlashGear

This past month, SlashGear had the opportunity to speak with the rogues gallery of stars from the biggest comic book sci-fi action film in the theater right this minute: The Amazing Spider-Man. Amongst these actors and actresses were none other than two of the most well-known actors in the business: Martin Sheen and Sally Field. These two play Uncle Ben and Aunt May, the guardians of Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, and holders of the keys to this young man's past.

It was a bit of a strange encounter with this pair of acting legends as Sheen entered the room first while Field ended up being a couple of minutes later gracing the room with her presence. As such, Sheen took the opportunity to warm the audience up, standing in front of the room aside the stage he'd soon take to do the talk with Field. He stood next to approximately 12 recording devices that'd been set in front of the chairs that would soon hold him, amongst these the highest tech digital recorders down to tape recorders and over to a couple of smart phones as well...

[Martin Sheen] Now what's this all about? *laughter*

How many of you have seen the film? The rest of you can leave... How many of you saw the film and loved it? The rest of you can leave... How many of you have the most important question you've ever wanted to ask anyone your entire life? The rest of you can leave...

What are all these cell- some people have lost their cellphones en masse here!

Did you all come in for this, or did you fly in? Really? Where did you all come from?

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Idaho, Minnesota – oh Minnesota? Saint Paul? Garrison Keillor is one of my heroes. Clevland? My wife went to highschool there. They closed down the place, she couldn't go to her reunion. Closed the joint. It was that awful shooting. She grew up on Ukeland. I was over there just last week working for Senator Brown. In Ohio. Good man.

When are they gonna stop picking on the unions over there? What is that about? You know who's working that crowd, is... what's that fascist's name... Karl Rove. You know exactly – when I say fascist, you say Rove! *laughter*

Isn't it true? Man and they reward that kind of fascism. Give me a break, Wisconsin, Walker, they can keep Walker. Somebody from Wisconsin?

*Field enters the room*

[MS] Ladies and gentlemen, Sally Field. *applause*

Martin Sheen and Sally Field pose for press photos at the NYC junket for The Amazing Spider-Man

[Sally Field] Oh my god it's, it's the Marty show.

[MS] I've warmed them all up. Those who didn't like the show have left. They're an eclectic crew.

[SF] Oh you already know them all? You know where they came from, where they live, how many children they have.

[MS] Sally and I have to make a commission.

[SF] I don't know where you're coming from with this...

[MS] Neither of us have seen the movie, so...

[SF] Oh an ADmission, yes. You said commission.

[MS] Oh, it's show business, they know what I mean. I didn't get the chance to see it yet, when did you guys see it? Just last night? How was it? I wasn't invited. But I didn't get a chance to see it, and I feel badly about that, so I cannot respond specifically to what you saw. – I know I'm in the film, I assume I'm still in it?

[SF] I don't know, I don't think they'd be talking to someone who weren't in the film, you might not be in it very much?

[MS] So if there's any specific references, you'll have to refresh my memory, so sorry.

Spider-Man's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy (1962)

[Q] Have either of you read a comic book or seen a movie with a Spider-Man character?

[SF] Ah no, I didn't – I read Little Lulu. And I haven't seen them make that into any thing yet. Little Lulu was mine, that was my girl. So I can sing that song "Little Lulu, Little Lulu" no never mind, I'm not gonna do it. But no, I just, I didn't – I loved comic books, I was a real comic book freak when I was a kid. Except they were the girl ones. I read Archie, I read those, but my brother read all the Spider-Man.

My brother, who is a world-renowned physicist, he's one of the finest physicists in the world, he's almost 3 years older than I – he's so excited about this movie that I've... finally I've arrived. I'm in this movie because my brother used to read all of those. So I was and am familiar with the movies but I never have, still, to this day [read the comics.]

Little Lulu, as read by Sally Field

[MS] Yes the same is true for me, I was a big movie fan -

[SF] You read Little Lulu? *laughter*

[MS] Ah no, but I did read Sluggo and Nancy and ah, Archie comics, but my passion for movies was always the, ah, Saturday afternoon, the Zorro or the western or sports or what have you. But no I was, as far as Spider-Man is concerned, specifically? I'm 21 years older than he is, so I missed him, totally. But I do recall the afternoon cartoon, "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, [does whatever a spider can]" and my kids would rush to the TV to see him, but that was as close as I ever got.

Sluggo and Nancy, as read by Martin Sheen – image via MyComicShop

[Q] Mister Sheen, when you're working on a big budget Hollywood movie, do you miss being out in the jungle with a rebel director going crazy?

[MS] What ever are you referencing? *laughter*

Nah ah, I don't know how to answer that.

[SF] Just say you don't remember any of that.

[MS] I don't remember any of that. You know at my age, at this time in my career, I'm lucky to be living, let alone working. So I give thanks and praise each day that I'm able to get up and walk around. And to still be able to work and to make my living doing the thing I love the most – I'm delighted. So if it's big budget or small budget, I'm delighted to still be on the team.

[SF] And we're delighted to have you.

[MS] Well thank you very much.

Martin Sheen on set for Apocalypse Now (1979)

[Q] At this point in both of your careers, how do you feel about putting yourselves on screen in a project for the first time? Do you feel like it's better to see it in an intimate setting, or especially with a big blockbuster film such as this, do you prefer to see it with a big audience in a theater? And also if you could talk about behind the scenes – did Marc let you see any dailies, and did you want to see dailies?

[SF] I don't like watching myself at all. I never liked watching myself.

[MS] I like watching you.

[SF] Awww, thank you. But I know a lot of actors, most actors have difficulty watching themselves, but now, as I've reached an age, it's really hard to look at yourself – so I really may not ever see it! I shouldn't tell you. It's just a really selfish reason, it's like ahgh! You know, it's 3D, for God sakes. I wasn't good with myself on a television screen.

[SF] So I don't know, I grapple with it because part of me says, 'oh Sally, come on, get over it, you want to see Andrew, you want to see Marc's work,' and it's such a small, you know, such a vain little thing that – but that's true, I admit it, it's out there.

But also – about watching dailies: Marc didn't have anyone watching dailies. It's really not a good idea for actors to watch dailies, it's an acting faux pas, ever, because the whole task of an actor is to not have any actual mental vision of yourself outside of yourself. Because then you start imitating yourself.

And that is the difficult thing even about watching a film that you've done, because you become aware of your own physicality in a way that isn't good for you to have in your mind. You see actors who start out, young actors who start out and seem so free and easy and natural. Then all of a sudden, third or fourth movie down the line, they look posey, they're all careful with what they're doing. Like Marty, for instance. *laughter*

[MS] I was so good until I got successful. *laughter*

[SF] Yeah so sometimes, and Marty will answer this question, I'm sure he feels similar things about watching dailies. I don't think it's ever comfortable.

[MS] I agree that it's a mistake, in this case it was interesting because they would run back a scene almost immediately for technical reasons. You know, you do a take, and they'll say 'something was in the frame' and they'd go down and they'd have just... a row of working computers, these computer geniuses -

[SF] The technology was unbelievable.

[MS] In order to see a playback or a rush, by the way I never saw any of them and I agree with Sally It's never a good idea for actors to continue to see themselves. The thing is you fall in love with one take, and that's not the one that's in the film, and so you've already foreclosed any hope of being satisfied.

I once heard an artist say that they did not display their own paintings in their home because they didn't want to be influenced by themselves. It's the same thing.

Watching myself on television, for example, I always warned the family what was coming. Like we would gather to watch a "West Wing" episode or some movie of the week, and I'd say, 'Now this is gonna happen, and you have to feel this way about it.' *laughter*

I could control the audience when a television came on. With movies, I prefer to go after it had opened, for good or ill, and see it with an audience to get an honest reaction.

Bakersfield, California – courtesy of Google

[MS] I remember one time I was driving someone up to Bakersfield in the middle of a hot summer day, and on the way back I -

[SF] Why?!

[MS] I had to drop them off!

[SF] Why would you do that?

[MS] Because the bus was late, and, I don't know.

[SF] Was it someone you'd just met or

[MS] It was someone I knew very well, yes.

[SF] No no, if you've just met Marty, I swear to god, if he'd seen some people on the corner and that said 'I just spent my bus money' he'd say 'gosh, where were you going? Look, I've got a couple hours, let me drive you!' *laughter*

I swear!

[MS] Well if I'm going in the same direction. By the way if any of you people are going along PCH... anyway.

At any rate, I was coming back, I was going back to Bakersfield, and I was passing a shopping center, and they had the movies listed. "Major League" was playing. This was about two weeks after it'd – I had never seen it, and so I thought 'ah this is nice' and it was so hot. So I went in and it was air conditioned in the theater, and there were two other people besides me. And I watched Major League, which I loved, in the moment where Charlie [Sheen] comes in from the bullpen during the big game, they started playing "Wild Thing", and I started to weep, and I said, "Go get 'em, kid!" And I wanted to tell the whole audience, all two of them, that that was my son coming in to pitch for the Indians.

So it's not a good idea, you know, to get so personally involved.

[SF] It'll cause you to act foolishly in Bakersfield.

[MS] Just – what was the question? *laughter*

[Q] Your characters really ground this story in reality, and I was just wondering about how you were almost in a different movie, like you were doing a family drama while all this action was going on elsewhere.

[MS] I think Sally will confirm that our great director, Marc Webb, wanted us to be as simple and direct and honest with each other and just enjoy each other's company and not to play any image of the characters, who are very well known. To forget all that and make contact with each other and enjoy what we were doing and make it alive and personal. Because if it's not personal, it's impersonal and if it's impersonal, who cares? We knew those relationships would ground the whole story and that was important.

So that, for my part, that's all we focused on. And watching this young man — and I know Sally would agree — that this is a very, very special guy, Andrew Garfield, who is now launched and rightly so. But watching him work was so gratifying. He was so generous with us because he had to do some very heavy emotional work and, boy, the set was on fire when he went to those places. But then he would do an equally intense performance off-camera for our reactions. For me that was an enormous leap of generosity to his fellow actors. That really endeared him to me and Sally, too.

But yeah, we took it personal and we had a lot of fun, we were laughing a lot.

Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Andrew Garfield, and Emma Stone pose at NYC junket for The Amazing Spider-Man

[SF] We laughed a lot. And basically all my work in the film – and I don't know how much of it is actually in the film – I too have not seen it at this point – but it was always with Andrew and Marty, that's all that I was in the house and around that, I had one scene outside it, I don't know if it's still in there.

[SF] So all I knew of the movie, really, was that. We had a table read so certainly knew what was going on, but the interesting thing about we doing this Spider-Man movie is that it is more contemporary, in a sense, in that it's a metaphor for how hard it is anytime, but especially today, to... the coming of age, you know? And the darkness that this young man carries with him and that troubled soul that he is.

[SF] It certainly is different from any of the ones before, and Mary and I knew our task is that family. That it was a 3D movie was odd because, I said before in an interview, where some of the scene that Andrew and I had together where Uncle Ben was no longer there...

[MS] I've gotta see this movie!

[SF] It gets very heated, it's very troubling what's going on. As far as we knew, we were shooting a little kitchen drama. And what was bizarre for me, because I've been doing this a long time, is that we were shooting a kitchen scene in a very confined atmosphere with a handheld 3D camera. And that means, first of all, that it is enormous, and that it is being held up on a bungee cord by guys up above that are helping. The hand-held camera, notoriously why it was used is so that it can move around with the actors – it's not on a dolly, it's not stationary.

[SF] And it moves where we go, if we decide to go this direction or we go that direction, it can go there with you. And you learn as an actor how to, sort of, work with that. But I'd never worked with a 3D camera – first of all the lens is halfway across the room, and it was bizarre... to be doing that. And there was, yes, at least a little part of me going 'Oh sweet mother of god. This is a 3D camera this far away from my face. I am never going to see this movie as long as I live.'

[SF] It's kind of amazing, and Andrew and I, to do the fight scenes that he had, to not lose your focus. We were maneuvering around this huge piece of equipment that this phenomenal operator is also trying to, you know, maneuver around us and... the furniture... It was technically fascinating. And in a lot of other ways, as well.

[Q] Mister Sheen, you recently came off of doing voice work for Mass Effect going straight here to The Amazing Spider-Man...

[MS] You, you gotta explain what Mass Effect is, most of em never heard of it.

[Q] Mass Effect is a Science Fiction video game series, ah, and...

[MS] Ok. I didn't even know what it was, ha!

Martin Sheen doing voice work for Mass Effect – from the official Voice Actors Reveal video

[Q] What is it about genre entertainment, about science fiction and fantasy that appeals to you as an actor?

[MS] I'm drawn to characters, you know, if I can relate to them personally, all the better, because for an artist, any artist, if something is not personal it's impersonal. If it's impersonal, nobody cares. I'm challenged by playing villains which I think Mass Effect is what I'm playing. I've never seen it because I don't have a computer and I'm not computer savvy. I'm very sorry. I have not seen them. I don't have a clue what it is.

[SF] What?! What, you don't have a computer?

[MS] Naw and there was a guy who came to fix my wife's computer who said that I was the guy in Mass Effect and he was just over the moon. And I said, "I'm doing another one. Would you like to come?" And he ended up as an advisor for it.

[SF] And then he drove him to Bakersfield. *laughter*

Martin Sheen shares a warm moment with Andrew Garfield at the NYC junket for The Amazing Spider-Man

[MS] I'm attracted to things that appeal to me personally, whether its a villain or a hero. In this case, what attracted me to the show was, you know, frankly, was the lady next to me, she was the only one – well, Dennis Leary, I didn't have any scenes with him but I've worked with him before and I'm really fond of him. And Campbell Scott [playing Peter Parker's father], I knew, these guys, and I was very fond of the lady next to me particularly, so I knew it was going to be a sweet ride.

I got to play a character that I'm a father, I'm a husband, and a grandfather so I have some familiarity with raising kids and grandkids, albeit not always successfully.

Never mind. I'll take a rap for it.

But I think one of the things that really fascinated me about Spider-Man the character is that he is dealing with what all young people today, particularly in our society, are just absolutely fractured by, and that is peer pressure. And he's saying, bottom line, is when you hear that voice inside that's calling you to step up, to be your better self, it's going to cost you. But that's the only way you can become free and that's the only way you can become yourself. But anything worthwhile has got to cost you. If it doesn't, then you're left to question its value. So he's really saying to young people...

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) throttles a bully (the character Flash Thompson played by Chris Zylka) after he's gained Spider-Man powers

[SF] I have to say, I agree with you mostly, but I think that it's not only peer pressure. I really think it's not only a metaphor for how difficult the world is, I mean, when you look at what's happening to the world, and he's using, metaphorically, these villains that come in – in some ways it offers the Peter the possibility to step up and push his own envelope and to, sort of, fight for the right thing. And to threaten your existence in doing it, in other words lose every safe place you ever thought you had to do the right thing.

And, boy oh boy, if the younger generation could have the feeling that we have to step up, and make things right, no matter how much it costs me, it would be a different world. And you see a lot of different countries, you know, lord knows, grappling with this: how do you make change? How do you make enormous change? Well, obviously, it doesn't come easy.

And in some entertaining way, I think that's what the metaphor is. It's a really, really difficult world right now.

[MS] I gotta see this movie.

[SF] It's playing in Bakersfield!

[Q] I was wondering how the project came to you both, I thought about how Webb was basically a newbie to feature films, but both of you are familiar with new directors or directors who suddenly become really huge. I wonder if that was part of the appeal? And do you seek that out to keep your careers fresh with new talent? New writers, new projects, and new challenges?

[SF] For me, I have one main big reason why I did the movie, but I loved the idea of Marc. I saw his first film which I thought was just exquisite. And I met with him and he is who he is, and I had no doubts he was going to, you know, push his envelope, and I had no doubt that it was going to be exciting, and fresh, because that's what this film was. So that was never an issue at all, I was very eager to do that, and the cast, and the script was very good. It was dark, and really very different.

But for me the reason that I absolutely had to do it was that my first producing partner was Laura Ziskin and we produced Murphy's Romance together. It was her first film, and my first film that I produced. She was a good friend. She is, was a spectacular hero. Really a spectacular hero. She is Spider-Man. She really is. I say is because the work that she started is really continuing the fight against cancer. She asked me to do the movie, would I come in and do it, and I said 'absolutely' before I read it, before I knew who was involved in it, before I met Marc, before I knew Marty was there. Because my instinct was she wasn't going to do another one after this, so I would have done it no matter what so I am very proud to have been a part of her first film and her last film. And she was a hero.

Have a peek at the rest of our interviews from the cast and crew of The Amazing Spider-Man in the timeline below, and be sure to stay tuned as more are indeed on the way! We've got everyone from Andrew Garfield to Dennis Leary to Emma Stone and back again! We've also got Rhys Ivans – playing Curtis Connors, aka the Lizard, coming up soon, the same goes for Sony Pictures Imageworks Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen. Don't miss it!