After a fast rise up the comedy writing ranks, John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein make their directorial debut on the sequel to Vacation. And they can finally admit they’ll write the new iteration of Spider-Man for Sony and producers Amy Pascal and Marvel’s Kevin Feige.
DEADLINE: The web is on fire today with all these stories claiming they’ve confirmed you are going to write Spider-Man. Deadline broke the news that you were getting the job, a couple weeks ago. Did they not believe me?
GOLDSTEIN: No. Actually, the day after you did that we had a junket that was just brutal. We weren’t allowed to talk about it and it was the closest we’ve felt to being politicians. In the Nixon administration.
DEADLINE: Best thing about it was, I broke that during my vacation, during a Foo Fighters concert at Citi Field.
DALEY: Did Dave Grohl reveal it? He’s a huge Spider-Man fan.
DEADLINE: He worked it into “There Goes My Hero” and I put down my lighter and called it in…Is he really a Spider-Man fan?
DALEY: I have no idea.
DEADLINE: It’s been a twisty road in setting the filmmaker, star and writers for this Spider-Man film, the first one done with Marvel maestro Kevin Feige leading the way. Deadline reported several times you guys were on a short list to direct the movie. That job went to Jon Watts and then you resurface as the writers. How did that process go down?
GOLDSTEIN: Our agent helped get our foot in the door with Marvel, sending them a script we had written, and letting them know our track record and that we’d love to move from broad comedy to action and action comedy. Also, it helped that Kevin Feige wanted to draw on the spirit of John Hughes for this Spider-Man, and we had just written and directed a sequel to a John Hughes-created franchise with Vacation. We’d pitched ourselves to both write and direct, and so our pitch included a pretty extensive story outline that appealed to them. After Jon Watts got the directing job, they came back and asked if we would be interested in doing the script. The answer was, yes.
DEADLINE: With Vacation, you tackled original subject matter from Hughes and Harold Ramis, who are giants. Here, we’ve seen twice the story of Peter Parker’s formative years. I’ve heard the new movies will take him through high school. What about that appeals to you?
DALEY: Lot of specifics still have to be worked out, and we’ll be sitting with Jon Watts to figure it out, shortly. We definitely were attracted to approaching it from the standpoint of a real kid, a high school geek who, just because he gets super powers he doesn’t really want, doesn’t become a superhero right away.
GOLDSTEIN: It’s a long journey. You don’t want him to become someone capable of saving the world by second act. There is a wish fulfillment opportunity here in that few superheroes are given powers like this, and then has to navigate how to use them in a responsible way. Peter Parker is a geek, like us, and one of the very few superheroes who would actually read comic books. Stan Lee has said he wrote it that way, with wish fulfillment in mind, where most superheroes are very handsome adults, with superpowers. This is a real kid we’re talking about.
DEADLINE: That is iconic stuff, but so is the original Vacation, considering the architects were Hughes and Ramis, who meant so much to blueprinting the film genre you’ve worked in.
DALEY: They were huge. We approached it from the beginning by telling ourselves we were not remaking anything, that there was no intention of encroaching on what John and Harold did, other than nodding to that original and taking it to the next generation. Once we got there, this felt organic. And let’s face it, there were four different actors who played the role of Rusty in that film series, so to cast one more seemed okay.
GOLDSTEIN: We did feel a heavy burden as comedy writer/directors, to not do anything to tarnish the memory of the original. Nodding to it was fine, but we did not want to retread over their territory. What we really found in there was this feeling of family and how we get nostalgic when we recount those road trips we all took when we were kids, the ones that were horrible when you were on them because being stuck in a car with the family brings out the worst in everyone. Beyond the raunchier bits of the movies, what we were most proud of is the sweetness we tried to capture in the relationships between family members, in the face of this ridiculousness.
DEADLINE: You brought back Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Chevy grew up with Hughes, Ramis, National Lampoon’s Matty Simmons. What did you have to do to earn his respect?
DALEY: He makes his directors arm wrestle with him. Actually, he didn’t agree to do the role until he read the script and when he first came down to Atlanta, he said he had changes. Our hearts skipped a beat, but they were Clark Griswold-isms that worked. Clark Griswold is an iconic movie dad and seeing him back in his element was important to us. It told the audience this wasn’t some remake and having him and Beverly as grandparents was an implied stamp of approval we felt, and validation of our script.