Andy Armstrong insisted that the new movie use real people, instead of CGI, whenever possible
|Stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong (r.) talks to Andrew Garfield on the set of The Amazing Spider-Man|
Thursday, June 28, 2012, 6:00 AM
What helps makes the new “Spider-Man” reboot amazing is that there’s actually a man behind the mask.
Stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong agreed to bring the web-slinger back to the big screen on one condition: That director Marc Webb let him use practical special effects — that is, real people — instead of computer-generated imagery (CGI) whenever possible.
So when audiences watch “The Amazing Spider-Man” opening Tuesday, they’ll see Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker actually crawl along the ceiling inside of a speeding subway car, instead of an animated character.
“The best trick of all is when there’s no trick,” says Armstrong, 58, who was originally approached by director Sam Raimi over a decade ago to work on the previous Spidey trilogy starring Tobey Maguire.
Armstrong, who’s been in the risky business of bringing impossible stunts to life for 40 years, had to turn Raimi down because he was tied up in other projects.
“Not to knock the earlier movies, but they feel dated now purely because CGI has come a long way,” he says.
“This new film became a very good opportunity to show what we can do with real-life stunts.”
A number of often imperceptible things in CGI signal to the human eye immediately that something isn’t real. In Spidey’s case, it was swinging through the air properly.
Armstrong says he pored over scenes of what he calls “the CGI-Spider-Man” flying in Raimi’s films.
“His speed stays consistent,” notes Armstrong. “The swing is done at the same speed at the bottom as when he flies up.”
The stuntmaster then videotaped an Olympic gymnast swinging on a high bar and compared the footage.
“I realized immediately that there’s a big difference in speed,” he says. “The downward motion [of the gymnast] is incredibly violent and incredibly fast ... and then when he rises up, he gets slower, until eventually he becomes negative and is actually floating in the air for a second.”
Armstrong realized that the best way to make the superhero swing just as realistically was to strap a stuntman into the harness and fling him into the air. The eye-opening result is evident during a police chase between the wall-crawler and the NYPD on Riverside Drive in Harlem.
The film crew built rigs 200- to 300-feet long and tapped stuntmen skilled in acrobatics so that they could make Spider-Man physically swing.
“How cool is it that we were able to swing a real guy over real cars under a really beautiful location in an iconic city like New York?” says Armstrong. “It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Leading men also don’t get any better than Garfield, he says.
“Andrew was fabulous,” says Armstrong. “He was at our training facility every day learning the stunts, beating himself up and doing everything that he could [to get the moves down].”
The pair worked painstakingly to recreate Spidey’s iconic poses while in mid-swing or during fights, paging through the comics to memorize the iconography of Spidey. Garfield also took yoga and parkour classes to transform from another lean British actor into a lean, crouching-jumping-swinging machine.
They even rigged mirrors, with pictures of Spider-Man’s signature moves taped to them, around the training facility so that Garfield and his stunt doubles could strike poses to memory.
“You have a big obligation to the fans to do your best and create something that’s close to what they’ve seen in the comic-book world,” says Armstrong, “You don’t want to be even one tiny little bit off.”
Commentary: I LOVE practical effects. Unless it's for safety or budgetary reasons I prefer to see real stunts with real people, with real objects. Again, some things you just can't afford to do, some things you just can't do because of safety reasons, but when at all possible, make it practical.
I posted about safety in film @ the 'Nother Brother Entertainment blog in the post Gunplay In Film