After Tobey and I chatted about Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, I pivoted into the meat of the matter: “Why were you so tired during your voice recording sessions for Spider-Man 2?” Tobey was silent for a few moments, sighed, and a weight seemed to fall off his shoulders as he said, “two words: method acting.” I encouraged Tobey to continue. “I was proud of the work I did in the first two Spider-Man movies, really I was. But I felt like it was time to try something new with the character. Sure, while researching the role I visited some high schools and developed a crush on an underage redhead. But I never got beneath the skin of Spider-Man; I never understood him. The voicework was my chance.” Tobey stopped talking and closed his eyes, seemingly lost in the memories of Spider-Man 2 voice recording sessions. My curiosity piqued--how could Tobey method act as a superhero and how could it possibly translate to voice acting?
Tobey opened his eyes and acknowledged my puzzled expression, “I know what you’re thinking. How could I remain in character as a superhero? I guess it was sort of crazy. Obviously I didn’t have any powers, no alter ego, no extrasensory perception. But there were other ways I could be Spider-Man. The first was obvious: I could hang upside down in the recording studio. Every line of dialogue I recorded while hanging upside down.” I didn’t have the heart to tell Tobey that Spider-Man wasn’t upside down all the time. Tobey went on, “I had the studio provide a rock wall for any time I wasn’t in the recording booth. Each lunch break I spent perched on the wall and I couldn’t exactly eat while clutching the wall but I think the results were worth it. In addition to on-set, I had to be Spider-Man at home too. I had my manager hire child actors around the city to release balloons for me to chase. I probably ran after a dozen balloons a day. When I wasn’t chasing down balloons, I worked a part-time job as a pizza delivery driver. I gave myself time limits for each delivery and I personally paid for any pizzas I failed to deliver on time. I’m not proud of this last bit: every night I beat up a homeless guy. Don’t give me that look, vagrancy is technically a crime. I never beat anyone too badly and to be honest it was pretty easy when I imagined each of them killed my uncle.”
“I was dead tired every recording session. When I was in that studio, I felt more like Spider-Man than I ever had in front of the camera. Method acting worked, it really did. But here’s the problem: I still didn’t have superhuman abilities. When you spend your day off set chasing balloons and rushing pizza deliveries, your nights beating up homeless guys, you hang on a rope while recording your lines, and climb a rock wall during your lunch break without eating, it takes a toll on you. In my heart I was Spider-Man, but in my body I was still human. I could barely raise my voice. All my lines fell flat in spite of multiple takes. The studio was fed up. All the balloons, ropes, and hush money for the vagrants wasn’t in the budget. They wanted me out as soon as possible. I wasn’t phoning in my performance, it’s not that I didn’t care. I cared too much, and the game suffered for it.”
Our interview took longer than expected; the sun was beginning to set behind the Maguire Estate. The rope obstacle course took on a more web-like appearance in the twilight--was Tobey caught in the web, or its architect? I shook Tobey’s hand somewhat awkwardly as he was still upside down, and thanked him for his time. Before I drove off, I took a final look at the Maguire Estate. Tobey had both feet on the ground and his rope course collapsed as I drove away. Tobey remained standing.