J.K. Simmons Is Busier Than Ever

Did you model anything after other football coaches?

Not at all, in this case. There certainly have been times in the past, like when I played the baseball manager in For Love of the Game—there was a lot of Jim Leyland in that guy. It was just a combination of what was on the page, and then the freedom that Ric gave all of the cast to improvise and make it our own. There were these 50 young men sitting on folding chairs in a hotel ballroom, and when I was looking at them face to face out there, they were there with me. It was wonderful.

We’re talking a day after the release of the latest Spider-Man trailer. There was an entire theatrical event for it in Los Angeles. Twenty years after signing onto the original movie with Sam Raimi, how do you comprehend where the Marvel Universe has gone—and that you’re still inside it?

Dude, at the time, back with Tobey [Maguire] and Sam [Raimi], it was just fun, a treat. I was so grateful to Sam for going out on a limb and saying, “This is the guy I want to play this iconic character.” And then once the universe went on without Sam, I thought, “Well, that was really fun.” So when I got a call from my agent about me doing Jameson again, I was surprised, to say the least. I sat down with all the powers that be, including [director] Jon [Watts] and Sony, to talk about the possibility. And it all happened very quickly. Obviously, I was amenable to reviving the guy, slightly reconfiguring him.

You’ve just lost the hair now.

Yeah, it’s the same guy—he either went bald or stopped wearing the toupee. I think different people within that universe will argue that it’s a much different guy. From my perspective, he’s the same blowhard that he was in 2002 in Spider-Man, but some of the trimmings have changed.

So many people are still connected to those Raimi films. I’m curious why you think there’s such a nostalgia for his early vision.

You have to give a lot of credit to those first two movies for kicking off what is now the Marvel multiverse. When Sam was first meeting about it, he was like, “I don’t want to make a movie about Spider-Man, I want to make a movie about Peter Parker.” I think people recognize what a brilliant job Sam did at creating that universe that’s now expanded exponentially. I look back on those as fondly as anything in my career.

There’s a popular deleted scene in Spider-Man 2 of you putting on the Spidey suit and pretending to shoot webs in your office. What do you remember about shooting that?

A few weeks before shooting, Sam called me and said, “What kind of shape are you in right now?” I was like “Meh.” He was like, “OK, can you be in really lousy shape? Can you eat a lot of cheeseburgers? We got this idea…” And I didn’t, really. I stayed in mediocre shape. But he told me that Jameson was going to parade around in private in the discarded Spider-Man uniform. So when it came time to do that, because money was tight at Marvel, they didn’t build me a suit. So I wore the same exact suit that one of Tobey’s stunt doubles wore. Now, I’m not a giant guy, but I’m bigger than Tobey, and certainly bigger around the waist than his stunt doubles.

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