Sam Raimi did right by the Spider-Man fans with his two film versions of the classic superhero story. But when he started saying he just didn’t like Venom as a villain, even his devotees started to get worried. They will be happy to know that Raimi reconsidered for Spider-Man 3, as he explained during a press interview before his Comic-Con presentation.

“[Former Marvel Studios Head] Avi Arad, who’s has really got his pulse on all the Marvel fans better than any head of the corporation has ever understood those people that are interested in the corporation’s product, he really knows what those kids want,” said Raimi. “He said, ‘You’ve had two Spider-ManM pictures. This third one, there are so many kids, so many fans of Spider-Man want to see Venom. Even if you didn’t grow up with him, they want to see him. You’ve got the Sandman, that’s one of your favorite villains, why don’t you bring Venom in also and make those kids, the fans of Venom, happy?’ So I thought that’s what we should do.”

And boy is he glad he did. “Now that I’ve seen Topher Grace perform him, then saw what Alvin Sargent did with the script, he created a great character. He really filled out Eddie Brock into a very meaningful character, and Tobey has a great energy with him in the few scenes that they play together as competitors. I really like him now.”

Of course, James Franco is only under contract for one more film, so Harry Osborn needs to resolve his hatred of Spider-Man by the end of part three too. Throw in Gwen Stacy and there’s a lot for Peter Parker, not to mention the screenwriters, to deal with in a single film.

“Well, Spider-Man comic books had all these characters and successfully interwove their stories. A lot of what we’re doing is not introducing elements. Like if Harry Osborn does decide to seek vengeance upon Peter Parker for the death of his father, it’s certainly something that’s been set up in the first and second picture. This is more the conclusion of that. So we have less work to do in that sense of not just introducing all of these new people. And one of the other villains we’ve tried to weave the story into Peter Parker’s personal life in as important of a way as we could. In a way that hopefully will make more of the first two pictures, give us insights into what we’ve seen before. I think probably only with the Brock character is there a complete new introduction of elements into Peter’s life but that’s ok, I think, because he can meet new people, too.”

Perhaps the filmmakers were more ambitious the third time around, because the crew has developed their game over the past two films. “What’s been easier each time is getting to know the family that we work with and really trusting them to the point they become complete collaborators. From Laura Ziskin to Alvin Sargent, Tobey, Kirsten, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, the directors of photography, the animators, the editors. There are so many people that make this movie. Unlike a lot of smaller films where it’s one person - the actors and the writer and the producer, a tiny little core - there’s a thousand people making this. So it’s gotten a lot easier because we’ve got this system of knowing each other, knowing how we work together. Trusting each other. That has made everything a lot easier.”

Raimi has also had luck dying pretty young girls’ hair. Blonde Kirsten Dunst went red to play Mary Jane, and now Bryce Dallas Howard is going blonde to play Gwen Stacy. “We just cast the best actress for the part. Tobey, our producer Laura Ziskin, myself, Grant Curtis were just trying to find the best actress for the role. Best actress. Not someone that looked like Gwen Stacy of the comic books, although once the actress would have been cast, that would have been our immediate job. How could we make her look like the image the kids have grown up with? But nevertheless, casting we’re just trying to find the right person who could make it real, take the dialog and bring it to life. See things, read it in the most unexpected way, bring some life to it. Make it interesting, exciting for me who was watching it, for Tobey who was acting in it, for Laura who was watching it with us. That’s really what the casting was about. The moment came when Bryce read the scene, one particular scene, and it came to life for us suddenly. And we all looked to each other and felt energized. It was a different thing than with Kirsten and Tobey because we were after a different relationship actually there. But here we were looking for a great actress and that’s what seemed to jump out at us.”

Which begs the question, who gets killed: Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy? If Raimi had his way, he’d keep them both alive. “The villains may have something else in mind.”

Previous Spider-Man films have recreated specific panels from famous series, to the fans’ delight. Part three may not go there. “In this story we’re less specific but we did try and stay very true to the Venom comic books when they describe his birth, the creation of Venom. We did try and stay true to the writers’ and the artists’ ideas of how that happened.”

Raimi also made waves with his fans when he announced plans to remake his own Evil Dead. With all his work on Spider-Man 3, he was almost surprised to be answering questions about that project.

“We’ve been so busy, I’ve been so busy on Spider-Man that I haven’t even had time to think about it lately. But what we want to do with this company, myself and my partners have, Ghost House Pictures, is find the right director who can really re-invigorate that story and really spook the heck out of the audience, and that’s what we’re waiting for.”

And yes, Bruce Campbell will appear in Spider-Man 3. “He plays a cameo, yeah. He’s got a new character. We can’t say.”

Spider-Man 3 opens summer 2007.

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