Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse doesn’t tell the same tired-old Spider-Man story that we have seen in the past. Instead, we get a refreshing new webspin on the tale of the Webhead. In this coming of age film, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), an Afro-Latino teenager, must assume the Spider-Man moniker when Peter Parker of his universe dies in attempts to stop the Kingpin from activating a supercollider. So our young and very inexperienced hero gets help from for other Spider-beings from different universes and similarly tragic backstories.
And though Miles’ fear of trying to be like his predecessor holds him back, the Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) from another universe tells him that what makes Miles different makes him exactly the Spider-Man his city needs.
ThatsItLA had a chance to sit at a roundtable to talk to Moore and Johnson about their roles as Miles and Peter, respectively.
For them, hearing their voices as their respective characters was a very surreal moment. There were, according to Johnson, a few “whoa” moments. “Because, you know, we’ve been doing it – I think we’ve been recording it for about two years,” Johnson said. “When we record, we don’t see a lot of footage. You will see a scene. But really, this movie existed, for both of us, in a dark room with a microphone in front of you.”
He added, “So to see it all come together, you really see all the hard work that Chris [Miller] and Phil [Lord] have done on it. And all the animators, obviously.”
Moore’s preparation included having trust in producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord, and directors Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, and Robert Persichetti. “I mean, their professionals with this. They are like the biggest comic book nerds, you know what I mean,” Moore said. “I knew about Miles Morales, but the detail and the story that is coming to the forefront right now, I mean, everyone is learning about Miles Morales, together.”
“It is really nice as actors to really trust the creative group,” Johnson added. “We were able to act together at times. We were able to record together. We were able to improvise at times, but the captains of the ship really knew where we were going, so there was a lot of freedom as an actor to play a scene maybe meaner or funnier or whatever the tone you wanted because they would know if it wasn’t working.”
Unlike live-action films, animation allows for plenty of improvisation during recording time. “I think each scene, I think we’ve done it 20 to 25 times,” Johnson said. “This was not the kind of job where you go in to read the script, say the lines, and ten minutes later you all leave and then we are all watching the movie going ‘I don’t even remember that.’”
But this was different, mostly due to the very unconventional way of recording the dialogue. Johnson recorded in different cities from Chicago to Atlanta. And no recording session was the same. There were times where the directors would spit out lines at Johnson, and at other times, they would offer him handwritten lines. “Chris and Phil have a technique,” Johnson said. “They are hard-working and they don’t quit. So if Shaimek [Moore] said, ‘You know what I want to try?’ They are never going to say ‘no.’”
“Well they won’t say it in front of my face,” Moore joked.
“Well they might not press record,” Johnson quipped.
While Moore may be relatively new to live-action acting, he says he prefers the voiceover process a lot more, but only because of the creative forces acting behind the scenes. The young actor says he still has goals that he wants to accomplish in live-action, music, and fashion. “This is my first animation. We have more to come, you know what I am saying,” Moore said. “This movie is the best Spider-Man movie I have ever seen, personally. I might be a little bias, but…”
He added, “I would say I am thankful for this opportunity. I learned a lot.”
Moore had known about Miles Morales prior to signing on to voice him in Into The Spider-Verse. However, that didn’t mean it was any less surreal when he saw the character he would be the voice. “So I saw the screen, as Miles Morales, at 15-years-old, maybe for me, and I am looking in the mirror to my right and saying ‘Wait a second, they animated my face,” Moore said. The actor made a few references to the character’s appearances on the small screen and never thought that he would get the chance to play him.
However, while filming his starring debut in Dope, the actor wrote, “I am Miles Morales,” in his journal. So when the producers first saw the film at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, they knew that they wanted Moore to play Miles.
As for Johnson, getting a chance to voice an older and grumpier version of Peter Parker was something that appealed to him. “I love this version of Peter [Parker], Johnson said. “I’ve seen the younger version of Peter in the movies, and even though I loved the Peter Parker character, that guy never really resonated with me, even when I was younger.”
The super smart, fast-talking, everything is working out for him Peter Parker was never Johnson’s guy. But the curmudgeon version of Peter Parker, who has an ability and by doing that ability he loses other things and the humanity of Peter. “Sure it’s great to be Spider-Man, but what happens when you are Spider-Man all the time? You’re home life is probably not awesome,” Johnson said. “What I really loved about the Peter and Miles story was that Peter was annoyed by Miles at first, but then he ends up learning so much from him and it was really a unique friendship.”
According to Johnson, the pitch was Mr. Miyagi and Karate Kid, but he says its really more of a friendship between the two.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse opens in theaters on December 14, 2018.
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More Into the Spider-Verse coverage:
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller Talk Representation, Finding Miles’ Voice, And Staying True To Character