Interview with Rhys Ifans
Question: If you have had the choice which character you want to play in the Movie, which character would you have chosen?
Rhys Ifans: I would have chosen my character, Curt Connors, … yeah. Because I think of all the Spiderman villains he is the most complicated, the most human, and particularly because he has a very real kind of emotional connection with Peter Parker. You know, he knew his father, he holds the answer to many of the questions that Peter has along the disappearance of his parents. And also because of the science he is working with, Cross Species Genetics, is the very same science that enables Peter Parker to become Spiderman. So in a sense one is the beneficiary of that science, the other is the victim, that being Dr Connors.
Question: Could you a little bit explain how you developed your character?
Rhys Ifans: I think, you know, ahem, in the comics of course Connors is kind of a well intentioned scientist, if not a little crazy. I did not want to portray a crazy mad scientist from the beginning. I felt this is very important that the audience actually like this guy and feel for him. He has one arm, he wants to grow it back and if he achieves that then that science if applied to the rest of the world it would be a huge benefit. Everyday we see young people return from warzones with their limps blown away, landmine victims. What he can achieve potentially is a great thing. And so I wanted people to really kind of be on Connor’s side, right up until to the point even when Oscorp, the Corporation he is working for, want to test this science on unwitting members of the public. Connors takes the moral high-ground and decides to become his own lab rat. And you know, the consequences, the results are tragic. But so really up to this point, I wanted the audience to be with him. And if you stay with the character for that long, there is a possibility that we all might recognize that lizard potential, that monster in all of us, if we are not vigilantes.
Question: Did you revisit the comics, they are appearing since the sixties, to prepare and which ones in particular?
Rhys Ifans: None in particular. In some of those comics Connors is kind of unhinged from the beginning. I did not want to do that. I wanted someone very bright, capable and intelligent. Of course later he becomes madder, you know, each time! But he is always, you know, - what interests me, when he is reptilian, he wants Spiderman out of the way. But there is always remorse when he returns to become a human again. There is shame and there is guilt and even in this movie we necessarily do not know why he feels shame when he meets Peter. He knows very much what happened to Peter’s father and he is implicated in some way in his disappearance. It is not revealed in this film but I wanted to show a sense of discomfort, when he meets Peter.
Question: So he is Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
Rhys Ifans: Yes it’s a classic, it happens so often in mythology. That is the enduring power of all superheroes and what America does very well: It takes ancient Greek and ancient Celtic mythology and applies it to a modern world, very eloquently. And these themes that are grappled with in all of the superhero-comics are kind of ancient archetypal themes. That is why these characters are revisited so often because they apply in some way to each generation. In the same way that is why Hamlet is performed every year in every city. It’s a tale about growing up and even in hamlet it is about a guy who is confused about what has happened to his father. The same applies to Peter Parker. So, I have no problem with stuff being done again, you know. Every great rock and roll song has been covered, time and time again, because they are great songs!
Question: What is your biggest weakness?
Rhys Ifans: Well, I smoke to much!
Question: Did you ever try to stop that?
No, no yet! I have had no time, I am so busy …
Question: You practised being one-armed?
Yes, before we started shooting, I spoke with a lot of Amputees, particularly with guys who lost their arms. And what I learned from them is of course , that it is deeply traumatic, physically and psychologically. The main lesson I learned, was how very, very quickly, when you are healed, how very soon amputees become adept, become daft and learn to operate in a two handed world almost to a point where it becomes a life confirming challenge, almost to the point it becomes a party trick. What stuff you can do with one hand. I myself had to learn to do a tie with one hand. And there is a satisfaction to be from that. But in Dr Connors case it is different. He sees it as a weakness and because he is at the forefront of this science, those biological advancements he chooses not to have a prosthetic limb. Prosthetic limbs even now in our universe are so advanced that you can move and operate the digits of a hand with a tiny movement in your severed appendix. But he do not want a technical solution, he wants a biological solution. And that is why he refuses to have a prosthetic He wants his severed arm there the whole time to remind himself and the people he is working with of what needs to be achieved
Question: What was the hardest thing to achieve, when you were preparing for the role?
Rhys Ifans: Clapping!
Question: In the action scenes, did you go to the set to see a stuntman do your work, or…
Rhys Ifans: No, no, no! I was there for every action scene, yeah, for the most part. One day I went to the set and I watched some guy doing my thing for the scene in the school and I said to Mark: “No, no, no, no, that is not the way he moves!!!” So I did it myself. And then of course I was in it every day.
Question: How much of yourself is in the CGI-character?
Rhys Ifans: In motion capturing in the past you just had seven or eight muscular reference points on your face, but the technology is so advanced now, that I had up to three thousand in my face. So they almost spray you with a diffuser so you have thousand of ultraviolet dots, I mean, if I had gone to a club, I would have looked fantastic! I was like: “Yeah, yes let us go out man!” It is an extraordinary technology and I think each time a film is made now, the technology becomes so advanced. And to the point I saw the film two or three weeks ago, I was so blown away because there were moments, when you saw the lizard in his full cgi glory, I could recognize something very human in him initially and then when you realize that the human you are recognizing is you, it is intense!
Question: Did you like the monster in you?
Rhys Ifans: Yes.
Question: You would not prefer to become a vigilante?
Rhys Ifans: It is kind of nice to throw a taxi over a bridge!
Question: Is it a big difference to play the lizard and the Doctor or is it essentially the same?
Rhys Ifans: It is a big difference, but if you take away the trappings of the lizard, if you take away the image of a lizard, what you are left with is a man who looses his mind. And that is what I found very interesting. The lizard is essentially a symbol for the moral collapse of a human being
Question: And in terms of the movement?
Rhys Ifans: Yes, of course the movement is different. If you leave a room with a nine foot tail, you have to leave it very carefully… or you knock furniture over and you hurt people, yeah.
Question: In one particular memorable scene the man who actually created this character fifty years ago shows up. Did you have the chance to speak to him about your character?
Rhys Ifans: Stan Lee! Yes! I was very nervous. Stan Lee is god! Without Stan Lee there would be no lizards. So you know, you are actually meeting your creator! You know, Christians are trying to do this for centuries. So it was kind of epic! Oh my God, God wears glasses, I can not believe it! And he came into the trailer and that day I was half man and half reptile. He had seen some footage and he said: “Good Job!” And then these big green lights appeared in the sky and I knew everything is going to be okay! Yes, he was really pleased. I loved that moment when he is in the film. And I was told he appears in every of these films. But to have his permission to proceed was very important to me!
Question: Did you feel any changes in yourself while transforming from a human being to a reptile?
Rhys Ifans: Well, not personally, no! When I went to the audition with Marc, there was a scene that is not in the film, but it is a scene where Connors is in the sewers and he is just being the lizard for the first time and he has just returned to be a human. So you k now, on a small level, he had really a big time out and he feels rough. So on that scene there is this debate, of: Yes I want to do good to the world but when I am the lizard I feel so empowered, I feel superhuman, I feel so euphoric! So in many ways the reptilian side in him becomes an addiction, if you like, of sorts in a way if he feels this euphoria his moral map goes out of the window. And he wants the rest of the world to feel like him. But every time he returns to be a human he sees the folly of that addiction. But because for so many years he felt inhibited and enabled with one arm this feeling is just to extraordinary to let go.
Question: The Spiderman comics are a successful franchise for over fifty years now. Other superheroes disappeared. Do you have an explanation for that?
Rhys Ifans: Yes, I do! Batman is a millionaire who lives on a house on a hill, he has staff and a dubious relationship with a young boy called Robin. So that is not part of most of our own experiences. Financially and sexually… And Superman is, you know a deity or a man from another planet. Spiderman goes to school. Spiderman falls in love for the first time. Peter Parker is as a fearful and has as many questions about the future and about becoming a man that every boy does. I think that is the connection. Peter Parker is a lower middle class hero. So you relate to him immediately. And his superpowers are almost a symbol of overcoming those teenage-anxieties.
Question: Could you add yourself something to the back-story of your character or was it all written out for you?
Rhys Ifans: Yes, you do. On a subliminal level I guess. Yeah, you know, I had to visit some kind of weird places emotionally. You know, there is a rage in Dr Connors that I am, we are all potentially reptilian in our cold bloodiness. There is a side to human nature that it is very ugly. And the lizard is the embodiment of that! And it is a side that has created dictators and started wars, being violent. It is a side of human nature that we always must be vigilant of!