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Denis Leary talks filming The Amazing Spider-Man, working in 3D, and the future of media

Dennis Leary in The Amazing Spider-manDenis Leary trades in his fast-talking, chain-smoking comedy for a slightly more serious role in this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man. As Captain Stacy, he’s got to find the masked vigilante roaming the city. As the dad of Gwen Stacy, he’s got to deal with his daughter’s pesky new boyfriend, a nerdy kid named Peter Parker. Also, there’s a giant lizard terrorizing NYC.

Of course, the Leary we know and love is right below the surface. When he walked into a press conference for Spider-Man, he turned to the audience of journalists and asked us if we were “[bleeping] bored yet,” then held court like it was Comedy Central. Here, the actor and producer lauds his young costars and chats about the impact of technology on his everyday life.

The cast of Spider-Man with Marc WebbDid you feel at all dad-like on set towards Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield?

Certainly I did in the scenes, but other than that, Rhys [Ifans] and I would kind of look at each other and we’re like the two guys in the back of the room making fun of the teacher, and these two are like, “Guys, let’s work on this scene.” So the fifty-year-olds were like the thirteen-year-olds, and the two twenty-year-olds were like, “Hey! Let’s go! Time to work.” They’re really something. I don’t know how they got to be so grown up at such a young age ’cause I certainly wasn’t like that when I was that age, and neither was Rhys.

What was your experience working with the 3D cameras? Everyone’s been describing how, especially in tight, intimate, story-driven shots, it’s a little disconcerting.

It takes a little bit of getting used to. Marc had an extra day built into the dining room scene, which was like the first big acting scene that we shot, so that we could get [used to it]. We started with the cameras far away and we moved them in… The whole thing in film acting is you’ve gotta drop down into character and forget that anybody’s there except for the other actor. It’s hard enough to do with normal-sized cameras, because you’ve got 150 people just outside the camera and around you who are holding the lights and [all that]. So that’s difficult anyways, but normal cameras are black and these 3D cameras have a mirrored beveled edge at the bottom, so you’re seeing an upside-down reflection of what you’re doing. So it was difficult the first couple of times. And then I got used to it, and once I got used to it I was okay. But that first day, all of us were kind of like, “Wait a minute. This is what we’re working with? ” And then you just kind of get used to it and it goes away.

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When they first started talking about The Amazing Spider-Man, it was sort of being talked about as more low-budget, not as flashy and big the Sam Raimi ones, and now, of course, it’s very big. Did you know that going in? What were you expecting when you signed on?

Basically, what Marc had told me on the phone… sounded like he was making 500 Days of Summer, but this time it involved a little bit bigger budget and a guy that was gonna turn into Spider-Man. It was like he was talking about this little character piece. So, you know, I went on faith, what he was talking about, and I loved working with him. I loved it. I don’t know how great the movie is or how not it is, but I certainly had a blast making it, and he’s a really great actor’s director, so I would want to work with him in a heartbeat again. I loved it. I really felt like he was in charge and he knew what he wanted. And he’s really respectful. He loves actors. He played all the right music in between takes to keep us in the mood, so it was great. And I loved 500 Days of Summer, so that’s what I went on. That’s what I had to go on.

You mentioned producing Marc Maron’s series, you have your site with a podcast, and you’re on Twitter. I was hoping you could just talk a little bit about using multimedia in your own career.

I’m not a smart enough guy to know what I want to do with it in the future, but I think it’s great. I just used Kickstarter through my Twitter account to raise some money for this documentary I did called Burn, which was an amazing amount of money in no time that we raised. I loved the fact that Louie [CK] ended up doing this stand-up special through his website, which changed that whole thing. So I love it.

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All my books are on [an iPad]. That’s where I buy my books and my magazines. That’s where I read the newspapers online. I love it. And I think there’s a huge future for television shows and for movies that are connected that way. I think video on demand is the future of independent film. I just had this argument with somebody in the publishing business the other day who’s, like, my age and was arguing about, “I can’t believe Amazon is ruining bookstores and publishing.” And I was like, “Listen, man… Remember record stores?” You know, there was a Tower Records on my block. I woke up one day, it was gone! That’s it. You have to run with the herd or get eaten alive.

I think these plasma television sets, I think Netflix [and] all this stuff is fantastic for delivery to the audience. I think a lot of it is people get old and static, and at that point, you might as well just watch old movies and watch old television shows because you’re not engaged. There’s a guy on my block [and] some days I’m up having coffee, and I see him get up and he walks two blocks to the store to get the New York Times, and I’m like, dude, I already read it! It’s on my phone. I mean, come on, man!

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