With The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters this week, it’s high time you read up on the making of the film and it’s future as spoken by the stars themselves, today’s interview being with none other than Dennis Leary. Playing the role of Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy’s father, Leary lets it be known that he’s not letting go of the series as easily as the classic plot-line surrounding his character would suggest. Note that this interview is especially littered with swearwords and spoilers galore, so if you’re rather young or don’t want to know what happens to Leary’s character in the movie specifically, watch out – otherwise dip in on this rather candid talk with the actor.
Also be sure to check the timeline at the end of this post to see each of the other interviews we collected last month (with more on the way) from the New York City press junket for the film. Don’t miss our first impressions of the movie as well – it’s a blast!
[Dennis Leary] First of all, I have a question. You guys f*ckin bored yet? *laugter*
You just had Sally Field and Martin Sheen up here, I bet you’re really looking forward to me. Two screen legends, and then this a**hole.
I’m sure we can make this very fast.
How about that Martin Sheen. Did he mention his book? I’ll do it for him. He just wrote a book with Emilio. It’s about the father son relationship – A total dysfunctional book book about Emilio wanting to beat the sh*t out of his father on the set of Apocalypse Now. -Which by the way, I don’t know what kind of stuff you like to read, but when he told me about it today and I said, ‘I’m reading that sh*t.’ How great would that be? You know?
[Q] What’s the name of the book?
[DL] Sh*t. I’m sure if you just Google ‘Emilio Esteves punching Martin Sheen’ you’ll get it.
[Q] Hi Dennis, how are you?
[DL] Good, how are you doing?
[Q] Good. I was just wondering – after writing, acting, producing duties on “Rescue Me”, was it nice to be able to come in and do this and just focus on the acting?
[DL] It was awesome. You know that 3D cameras sometimes need to take a break, because they’re air conditioned? They’re big rigs and I just go back to my trailer, watch ‘Sports Center.’ I didn’t have to write anything or fix anything. It was awesome; it was great; it was really good.
Above: The Amazing Spider-Man viral marketing video with Leary as Captain Stacy.
[Q] You played a New York City cop and a New York City fireman, can you tell us, in real life, what experiences you’ve had with either job – how people on the job affect you? And I also wanted to get the inside story on how – you have one of the best lines in the movie with the Godzilla reference – I was wondering if you could tell us how many takes that took, whether or not that was scripted or if it was improvised?
[DL] It was improvised. Marc is like an actor’s director, and he made a small movie, I don’t know if you’ve seen it it’s called 500 Days of Summer. It’s a terrific little movie with a lot of heart. And it’s an actor’s movie – and that’s what he described this as when I first got on the phone with him. And he actually stayed true to that. That he was making a character movie that happened to cost a good jillion dollars and have a big blockbuster name. -And a July 4th release date!
[DL] But it really was like an acting movie. Even in the big action sequences. So in rehearsal and stuff, he was talking about wanting to improvise around certain things and in certain scenes and play with it. That was one of the scenes he had earmarked. And I don’t know what take it was but we filmed a number of different versions of it. It was just myself and Andrew that day with a lot of extras. And we just started playing around with it and somewhere in the middle of it Marc walked up and said ‘what about this?’
Because it feels like, I imagine that we had about 8 or 9 takes where we just played with it and some where my ideas and some where Andrew’s ideas and Marc had come up with that line. And I said, ‘let’s shoot it!’
And I don’t know what they did from there, if they tested all the takes, or if they just decided in the editing room.
[Q] Have you seen the final cut of the movie?
[DL] I haven’t seen the movie.
[Q] What are some of your best real life experiences with real-life New York City cops and New York City fire-fighters?
[DL] Too many to mention with fire-fighters, but, when I was doing a television show called “The Job” for ABC which was based on the real life of a detective, who I knew, who was my technical advisor on The Thomas Crown Affair. So the guy was clean and sober when I was working with him on the television show, but he had been a pill head and kind of a mess – and he had had a mistress while he was married, and he had both things going on which was what the show was about.
And I was standing with Lenny Clark who was an actor in that show, outside of the Steak House after we had just eaten dinner. And the detective, who was on the job, who was under cover, we both see this guy who was scouting stuff out, he had a radio thing and he started to move and he saw us and and he went ‘hey Dennis, thanks a lot, now my wife’s really pissed, she found out about my girlfriend.’ *laughter*
And I thought that summed it up.
[Q] Dennis, I wanted to know what it was like working with Emma Stone –
[DL] Horrible. It was just a nightmare. *laughter*
[Q] It’s apparent you had a really great bond with her and you got to know her so I’m wondering if you could just talk about that.
[DL] We had makeup and hair tests and all that stuff you normally do, but we had some rehearsal time, and ah… listen man, honestly speaking, I had seen her in a couple movies and I’d heard on the grapevine great things about her. And Andrew I’d seen in a couple movies and I knew Rhys’s work, but I didn’t know him – the only person I knew coming in was Martin Sheen, we’d done a movie called Monument Avenue together years ago.
But I really, you know – I thought that Rhys was just a great actor… I didn’t know what to expect from Emma, and quite frankly, they were the real deal. I mean, they were all about the work. They were able to improvise, which not everyone can do – everyone thinks they can but they can’t really do. Every actor thinks they can do comedy and that’s just not f*cking true. *laughter* And everyone thinks that they can improvise and a lot of people can’t!
She’s great at it, and so is Andrew – so the first couple of days was getting used to the idea that these couple of kids were going to steal the movie from me and Rhys. And then, I remember in the dinner scene which was the first big acting scene that we shot and one of the first things we shot on the movie. We had three days to shoot, and we were playing around, improvising and all this stuff, and ah, I still wasn’t there yet.
I was supposed to be intimidating Andrew’s character but it didn’t feel like it was working. Because he was really coming to strike right back at me. And Marc walked in after a take and he just kneeled down next to me and he said ‘hey you really gotta step it up.’ *laughter*
And I just go… ‘f*ck.’ *laughter*
I mean that’s how good they are. I don’t know if you saw Death Of A Salesman but he was really outrageously good and that’s one of the most difficult roles you can take on in the theater and he was just – he was outrageously good, so, they’re the real deal. They’re going to be around for a long time and I’m just saying really nice things about them because I’m going to ride their coattails. *laughter*
That’s what I’m hoping to do. I’m going to be really nice to them, from here on in.
[Q] I have a question about –
[DL] -Where are you?
[Q] Oh, down here.
[DL] Oh, geez. How did you get the microphone? -Oh, she hands it to you, I see. There’s not like a hundred mics! She has a mic, and she has a mic. OK, sorry. I was confused.
[Q] What’s the difference between the effects films you worked on, say, 10 years ago, compared to now? Especially in regards to 3D.
[DL] There’s a huge difference now. Even in the course of “Rescue Me” which we shot for seven years. With a lot of action sequences which involve fire which is famously, obviously, dangerous with real smoke, real flame. And there’s sometimes effects that you need to lay in under that.
We went from having to do everything completely real – fire and smoke, to make it look real – to by the end, in the first five years of the course of that show, finding that there were details that we could do, that we could do digitally, that the audience would never see the difference of. And it would save a lot of safety concerns.
But at the same time there’s a lot of stuff that Marc purposely shot in front of the cameras, to avoid CGI, in terms of the stunt work.
You know, the audience will always know that there’s been a cut, or an edit, or an effect tossed in. I remember the movie “Children of Men”, did you see that movie? There’s a couple of sequences in that movie where it’s clearly one take, and it’s really the actors, and you’re never gonna really get away from that. We all know, we know more than ever when we’re being tricked, so when you’re not being tricked, you’ll stay on the edge of your seat longer.
[DL] I didn’t know that.
[Q] They make a rig that’s made specifically so that 3D filming is not intrusive. So you’ve got these 3D cameras that are going all over as easy as 2D cameras – did you notice them? Was it difficult to work with them?
[DL] Yeah they’re pretty big, it was pretty difficult not to notice them. But you know, you get used to it after a while.
[Q] Could you talk about – what was your hardest thing to do physically for this movie, and also was it fun to go back to Ice Age with a movie coming out in a few weeks?
[DL] Listen man… those things… Chris Rock said something about them at the Oscars this year. They’re the greatest. You come in, you look like sh*t – I don’t like to dress up, I wear the same clothes every day, you’re lucky I’m wearing – I changed my shirt and my tie like, I basically wear the same sh*t every day and I, you know, I don’t even wear underwear, I’d be in a bathing suit, that’s what I would wear, so.
When you can walk into a room and talk to an electric stick, and pretend to be, I don’t know, some f*cking tiger or something, and they give you all this money for it? That’s the greatest job in show business. It’s an insane job. I love it. I think it’s fantastic, and I’m truly hoping that we do – I want to do Ice Age until we do the Civil War, the Johnson Administration, and Obama gets elected. We’ll have Ice Age 13 when we catch up to the current timeframe and we’re moving into the future. They’re unbelievable man, they’re great.
[Q] What about physical stuff [for Spider-Man]? Do you get scared doing any of that?
[DL] Hey man, that’s what stunt men are for. I’m not one of those actors that’ll walk around saying ‘oh I do all my own stunts’ – f*ck you. First of all there’s a lot of stuff they wont let you do, you know what I mean? Then there’s sh*t you’ll look at and say ‘yeah, I want to do that, that looks pretty cool, let me try that.’ Then there’s stuff where at my age I’m like ‘f*ck this, I’m not doing it.’ F*cking stunt double, man.
[DL] The one thing I wanted, I told Marc, ‘I’m shooting that shotgun, every time the shotgun is fired.’ There was like four days of that, man. And that was a blast. Shooting the shotgun… so I like to do all the shooting. And some of the falls, you know. Sh*t that makes you look cool, I’ll do, but once it gets a little dangerous it’s like; no. That’s where that CGI sh*t comes into play.
[Q] What originally attracted you to this film?
[DL] I’d just finished filming the last season of Rescue Me, we were still cutting and mixing music and making choices. And Marc called me, I got on the phone with him, like I said he described this small little acting movie and I was like ‘this guy’s crazy.’ I’ve done action movies before, nobody, you know, you don’t get to do any acting.
And then I just said, ah, I’ll just jump in. I mean I’m not writing or producing it so how hard is this gonna be? It took longer than I thought but my job was basically just the acting, I didn’t have to do anything else. Which was great. And then just like any film, you figure like, you just hope it comes out in the wash. You know, comes out good. But it was no pressure on me.
I’m not like a comic book guy – my friends that are like Captain Stacy fans I had to like, stop talking to them. Because that’s like, insane, the sh*t that they want you to know about the character and so forth. So I went into work and focused on the other actors and that was it. So I had it easy, on this, you know? It was really no pressure on me.
Now I just gotta make sure I’m in Amazing Spider-Man 2 and 3 and 4 – which, by the way, is not impossible. Flashbacks… I really get in Peter Parker’s head there at the end with the dialog…
I was like ‘guys, you know I can come back, right? You know I can come back in a flashback, I’m in his head.’ And they’re like ‘oh that’s true, yeah man.’
F*ck yeah. By the time we get to The Amazing Spider-Man 5 it might be called “Captain Stacy’s Story.”
[Q] While you said that you’re not really that familiar with the comics, how early on did you know about Captain Stacy’s fate – which was pretty direct from the comics?
[DL] Yeah pretty much from the get-go, yeah.
Captain Stacy as he originally appears in the pages of Spider-Man courtesy of Spider-Man Crawl Space – note his retired status.
[Q] Was that something that made you hesitant or did it make you more excited about the role, getting to be the big act 3 tragedy?
[DL] Well I’ve been around long enough to think ahead. So I’m like, ‘ahh f*ck. My guy dies.’ As an actor I’m like, ‘well I get to do a big juicy death scene.’ But I could be out on the sequels… which is where the real money is.
Because in the original Ice Age, the ape was supposed to die – at the end of the first Ice Age. So I said, ‘this isn’t going to work, you can’t kill a major character, kids bum out.’ Right? So they screened it the first time and kids bummed out. Not because it’s me, because you have to kill the mother at the beginning of the child movie, and it’s OK. But you can’t kill a major character at the end.
So I got in on that! And I had a brief conversation with Marc where I was like ‘how about if I die, and then at the end, I come back to life.’ And he’s like, ‘no you gotta die.’ And I’m like, ‘alright.’ But that’s why I gotta plant the seed for flashback city. Two and 3, you know? Gotta get in there.
[Q] When you were talking about the dinner scene before, and Marc told you to step it up, I was wondering where it went from there, how you stepped it up and intimidated Andrew in that scene?
[DL] Ah, that next take. I kind of saw his, his head move back a little bit. I’ve got it in me, I was just still playing around trying to figure it out, you know? But they’re really good, and they’re not, you know, Andrew and Emma, I don’t know how they’re so good at such a young age, I really don’t.
[DL] Rhys and I would just stand to the side and say, ‘how did these kids get this good this young?’ They’re concerned about all the right things. You know, it’s not the size of the trailer, it’s the meat of the scene. That’s what they’re concerned about, so, you know, hats off to em, man. I wasn’t anywhere near that good when I was their age. Or that mature.
[Q] Did this movie get you thinking about the limits of science, and like, pissing God off by going too far and that kind of thing?
[DL] Yeah, Lapsed Catholic. I not believe there is a god because the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. *laughter* I also think God is a gangly Irish guy who smokes and drinks and is not the guy that most people believe in. And I flunked science and math in highschool, and I still don’t understand science. So yeah, I don’t really…
I think it could be really cool if you could get bit by a spider and then fly around. I’d f*ckin do that tomorrow. You know? But I don’t investigate that stuff morally. I don’t know anything about science but I can basically recite the entire starting lineup of the 1967 Boston Red Socks – and their batting averages. And why wasn’t that on a math test when I was in school? You know? Like Bobby Doerr‘s stats, I could have been a straight-A math student if that had was on the math test. But no!
[Q] People don’t know that you’re a doctor.
[DL] They should know that because I published a book under the name Doctor, two books under the name Doctor actually.
[Q] A lot of people don’t realize this.
[DL] Yes I am, in fact. It’s nice that it follows the science question. Just incase you didn’t know – but you probably did know because of the celebrity world of becoming a doctor, which is you don’t actually have to go back to school. You’re just famous and they give you one if you speak at the graduation – which I used to think was really bullsh*t, but now that I have a doctorate, I think it’s a really smart system. *laughter*
I actually graduated with honors from my college, it was an acting and a writing degree, and then years later they gave me a Doctor of the Fine Arts. So there you go, Bill Cosby.
Bill Cosby actually went back to school and got his real doctorate, I’m like, ‘f*ck man, he must be pissed.’ I’m Doctor Dennis Leary, he’s Doctor Cosby. You know what I mean? But it’s cool to be able to say Doctor Leary.
I just went to – my son just graduated from the school I went to, and the guy looked down his nose at me because they were putting the doctors, the doctorates in a special seating area. And we were going in there, and this guy, like a real academic looking, like real doctor, of letters, turned around and he’s like, “excuse me but this is for the doctors.” And I’m like, “yeah I’m Doctor Dennis Leary.”
And he went like this, *surprised look* like that, and then there I was sitting next to him at the graduation. With all the other f*ckin doctors. *laughter* He was pissed, man, he was not happy.
[Q] Where is this school located?
[DL] In Boston, it’s a great college. Emerson College. I went there, there’s a lot of famous people that went to school there. It’s a fantastic school for acting, writing, and now filmmaking as well. My son just graduated with a degree in filmmaking. I can’t say enough about that school. It’s where I ultimately met my wife, after I graduated, she was going to school there, and… a lot of great alumni from that school from Henry Winkler to Norman Lear back in the way old days to – you know, a lot of the Simpsons original staff writers came out of that college. David Cross, me, god – the list, Gina Gershon, Mario Cantone, ah… I’m forgetting people man, Laura Keitlinger, it’s just, it’s – Steven Wright, the comedian.
It’s a really great school.
I should be getting paid for this.
Be sure to stay tuned for our whole series of interviews being posted immediately if not soon for this fabulous film. Have a peek at the timeline below to see what we’ve already got and hit our Entertainment hub for more awesome interview and film feature action in the future. Also don’t forget to see The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters now!