New York Daily News

new spin for Spidey family

- BY JOE NEUMAIER NEW YORK DAILY NEWS jneumaier@ nydailynew­s. com

With great, powerful roles from comicbook history comes great responsibi­lity.

Good thing, then, that Martin Sheen and Sally Field didn’t quite know how important Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May were in the superhero universe. It freed them up to spin their performanc­es their own way.

The two acting icons co-star in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” opening July 3, as the relatives in Queens young Peter is dropped with after his father and mother abruptly flee nefarious forces. Once he’s bitten by a radioactiv­e spider in high school, Peter (Andrew Garfield) needs his aunt and uncle even more, though his struggles with his abilities and his search for the truth about his dad cause a rift at home.

“I didn’t know Uncle Ben was a figure of mythic proportion­s until I did this movie,” says Sheen. “But when I was offered it, I accepted it without hesitation, because I knew it would be a special film, and I could relate to it as a husband and as a father.

“We worked to establish Peter, Ben and May as a family that is loving and compassion­ate. If we hadn’t establishe­d the family, there’d have been no place to go. If you don’t care about them as people, it doesn’t launch.”

Field explains that, in this version, it was decided that Uncle Ben and Aunt May had tried to have children and it didn’t work out, and they accepted that.

“Then this child is dropped in their laps in a very mysterious way,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Wasn’t his dad supposed to come back?’ ck?’

“We settled on the idea that Peter was a complicati­on May wasn’t planning on. No one had asked her. And then there he was, and even though she loved Peter and raised him, now he’s a teenager, and May is not the easy one, between she and Ben. She’s more difficult to deal with.”

Director Marc Webb’s approach to Ben and May is a left turn away from how they were portrayed in SpiderMan’s 1962 Marvel Comics debut and in the 2002 movie.

Here, the two are a sprightly, feisty pair of New Yorkers, with May no longer the doting, silver-haired sweetie she was on the page and in the earlier films.

And while Ben is still — as Spider-Man myth dictates — the conscience sacrificed so that Peter can find his soul, the old man has more steel in him than the way “Spider-Man” creator Stan Lee wrote him or the late Cliff Robertson played him.

“These films provide lessons and morals,” says Sheen. “I think that young people are inspired by Peter’s inner voice to step up, to risk peer pressure and to pay the price for whatever that inner call asks of us.

“All of us have challenges, and and we’re not always encouraged to step up in the current culture. And stepping up can be costly. But if

something is not costly, costly then we question its value.”

The actors both speak of the human elements Webb focused on in the FX-heavy story, and each brings four decades of movie history with them to achieve it.

Sheen, 71, broke through in director Terrence Malick’s 1973 debut, “Badlands.” He starred in Francis Coppola’s classic “Apocalypse Now’ in 1979 (suffering a heart h attack during its it famously troubled b production) and an co-starred in “Gandhi” (1982), (19 “Wall Street” (1987) and “The American President” (1995) before playing U.S. President Jed Bartlet for six seasons on “The West Wing.”

Throughout his career, he’s fought off-screen as a political activist for liberal causes, including environmen­tal and workers’ rights issues and anti-nuclear causes, and has been arrested more than 60 times.

He has four children, including sons Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, who were born in New York City when their dad was based here as a stage and TV actor.

Sheen says that though his son Charlie had collected comic books as a boy, “I never opened them. And I wasn’t much into comics growing up. I liked movies. But people like Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, the Kennedys — those are my kind of heroes.”

On the set, Garfield says, “Martin doesn’t ever talk about acting — he talks about experience­s and life and love and joy and personal stories. And he

comes in every morning and kind of blesses the makeup trailer, a little prayer for everyone in it. He’s got an amazing heart and a sharp, sweet wit.”

Field, 65, has used her famously spunky grit to go from sitcoms (“Gidget,” “The Flying Nun”) to the TV movie “Sybil,” which won her an Emmy. After moving into films, she won the Oscar for Best Actress twice, for 1979’s “Norma Rae” and 1984’s “Places in the Heart.” She just wound up five seasons on TV’s “Brothers and Sisters” and will be seen later this year as Mary Todd in Steven Spielberg’s biopic “Lincoln.”

“‘Spider-Man’ is a metaphor for how hard it is to grow up in this world right now,” says Field. “Ultimately, Aunt May fights for Peter, fights for his survival the same way any mother would. When you’re given a character to play, it doesn’t matter that they’re legendary comic-book characters. You look at the reality of it.”

Which means that despite even small scenes being shot with a hand-held 3-D camera by crew members danging from wires, Field says, “As far as Andrew, Martin and I were concerned, we were shooting a little kitchen drama.”

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 ??  ?? A Ap panel from the 1962 19 “Amazing Fantasy” Fa debut of Spider-Man
A Ap panel from the 1962 19 “Amazing Fantasy” Fa debut of Spider-Man
 ??  ?? Martin Sheen (l.), Sally Field and Andrew Garfiled
in “The Amazing Spider-Man”
Martin Sheen (l.), Sally Field and Andrew Garfiled in “The Amazing Spider-Man”
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