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Turns Out Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Jon Watts Has An Unexpected Role In The Flick

Spider-Man crouched in his Iron Spider suit in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment/Marvel Studios)

Spider-Man: No Way Home just became the most successful movie since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, and there is one actor in the movie who most definitely didn’t spend a single day on set. Thomas Haden Church, who reprised the role of Sandman from Spider-Man 3, did not reunite with Tobey Maguire during the hush-hush production of the Marvel movie. However, now we know who did take his place with the other actors: director Jon Watts. 

No Way Home’s VFX Supervisor, Scott Edelstein, recently shared how the team was able to bring back Sandman without literally bringing back Sandman. In his words: 

Starting from set, when they're shooting, they have a stand-in that is there for eyelines, for the camera blocking, all that kind of stuff. But his actual facial performance, his body performance isn't necessarily what they're going to keep. So most of the time what we're going to do is paint him out of the plate, if he's there at all. And then we have multiple different things after that show us what Sandman could potentially be. Sometimes it's the director himself, John Watts actually shot reference of himself doing the body performances, and the kind of facial like performance that he wanted the character to have. And so we would have that reference.

While speaking to Comicbook.com about the specifics of what the VFX team needed in order to bring Sandman back for No Way Home, he shared that Jon Watts would often serve as a stand-in for shot references and body performances. Edelstein continued: 

They did do a shoot on a mocap set where they got a body actor to perform so that we would have mocap of what those performances would be, if that's what they were going to use. And then… we had the voiceover of Thomas Hayden Church giving the lines. And so most of the time, what it ended up being is the animators just literally hand keyframing everything. From the body performance to the facial performance to match the voice and all of that. So that all goes underneath the character. And then on top of that, you sim all the sand and you add in all the breaking sand and the sand falling off of him and all that.

It’s quite amazing that we’ve come to the point that an actor who has a sizable role in a Marvel film doesn’t have to be on set to be part of a movie like Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s also wild that with the amount of juggling that likely was taking place from the director’s point of view, that he had time to basically be Sandman on set at the same time. 

Thomas Haden Church’s character was in his sand form for much of Spider-Man: No Way Home, so it makes sense why the production may not have needed Church since they’d be animating him anyway. But I’ll be honest here too, the return of Sandman was sincerely a weak point in the near-flawless film. That very well may have had to do with him not being physically present. Or maybe it’s because the movie didn’t have enough for him to do? 

Electro, Lizard and Sandman in Spider-Man: No Way Home

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

The VFX team also had Thomas Haden Church reference points from Spider-Man 3. And while it hasn’t been confirmed, many believe Rhys Ifans, who reprised Lizard in No Way Home, also did not come to set, but rather just did the voice-over, like Church. The scene where he goes back to being human looks suspiciously like the scene from The Amazing Spider-Man from 2012. For as big of a movie No Way Home has become, I bet Thomas Haden Church wishes he could have given a physical performance. 

The VFX team can not tout an Oscar nomination for No Way Home for Best Visual Effects. You can relive the film’s epic visuals when the movie hits digital on March 22, and Blu-Ray and DVD on April 12. 

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