Thomas Haden Church Defends ‘Spider-Man 3’ and Topher Grace’s Venom Album

Eleven years after “Spider-Man 3” disappointed nearly everyone who saw it, Thomas Haden Church shared what went right and wrong behind-the-scenes.

Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” series “derailed” after the third movie, which came out in 2007 starring Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborn/Goblin, Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom, and Thomas Haden Church as villain Flint Marko/Sandman.

Church is now starring in the HBO series “Divorce,” and he recently filmed a role in another upcoming superhero movie. (His role hasn’t been announced yet, but he said it’s not Marvel, so it’s probably in the DCEU. Maybe “Aquaman.”)

Church talked to JoBlo about his role as Sandman in “Spider-Man 3,” starting with his casting process after the success of “Sideways,” and going through the many script changes to the compromised finished product.

“I was not that familiar with that world, but when they started talking about The Sandman and his story, I told them that’s appealing to me. That’s a guy that’s completely misunderstood and while the world regards him as villainous he’s actually on a mission that’s the purest of humanity. And that of course is a character that is immensely appealing to me. And they all just kind of looked at each other and said, “We feel the same way.”

I kinda backed into it. And, yeah, we were in the early stages of putting together Spider-Man 3 and we feel that The Sandman, we want him to be the principal villain. Although, it didn’t really turn out that way later on.

Because, when they first pitched me the movie, Sandman and, of course, [James] Franco’s transformation to the Goblin, we were who he [Spider-Man] had to deal with in the picture and Venom wasn’t even in it. They introduced at the very beginning the character of Vulture, but he was only in it briefly and then at the very end of that picture they were gonna bring The Vulture back just to sorta set the stage that he was probably going to be the main villain in Spider-Man 4. But then, obviously all of that stuff sort of derailed. Well, not so much derailed, but took a different railway.

The studio felt like they had me, they had Franco’s story continuing, and they were like, we need one more that’s more of a millennial. And that’s how Venom and Topher Grace came into the picture. And by the way, I thought Topher was great in the movie and Venom is a pretty scary animal. And that was the evolution of that.

I was thrilled, man. I’m a big admirer of Sam Raimi’s, I love Tobey [Maguire] as an actor and it was right on the heels of getting so much attention for Sideways and then these people step up and offer me the villain in the next Spider-Man. And, I just liked everybody involved, I liked the script. Again, I didn’t know how it was going to change, but c’mon, I would’ve done the movie anyway. I liked the character a lot….”

The JoBlo reporter said the movie gets a bad rap, but it has a lot going for it. Church agreed, although he acknowledged the flaws:

“I’m very proud of it. Even Sam [Raimi] has gone on record as saying, ‘Hey we tried to shove ten pounds of story into a five-pound bag.’ Even he thought it was just too much. And, to some extent it led to Sam and Sony to part ways. Sam’s production company is still set up there and he’ll always have a home at Sony, but on that particular franchise they parted ways. I think that Sam could come back to it if he was really interested if it doesn’t so far past him, y’know. Sam is only like a year or two older than me. Sam’s got plenty of energy and creative fuel and if they ever invited Sam to come back and do another one, I think he’d consider it, I do.”

Right now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, with Michael Keaton as Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” They haven’t introduced Venom yet, but Sony has separately made a “Venom” movie starring Tom Hardy in the lead role of Eddie Brock/Venom. Based on the first teaser trailer, we have to expect he’ll go in a very different direction from young Topher Grace.

Tom Hardy’s “Venom” opens in theaters October 5. Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming 2” is scheduled to open July 5th, 2019. Thomas Haden Church’s “Divorce” airs on HBO.

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