On-screen chemistry isn’t an exact science, even for Peter Parker.
Director Mark Webb and the producers of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” opening Tuesday, knew that all the CGI-infused fight sequences, 3-D camera tricks and heart-pounding stunts wouldn’t mean a thing if they didn’t find the perfect Peter and an equally perfect Gwen Stacy, Peter’s true love from the original 1960s Marvel comic books.
The already-risky rebooting of the successful Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst franchise from 2002-2007 could have been an experiment gone awry had the casting not clicked. But it proved to be a winning formula once British stage veteran Andrew Garfield, 28, and comedy alumna Emma Stone, 23, emerged from an international casting search.
Webb compares the way Garfield and Stone play off each other in an awkward high school hallway scene to ’50s comic duo Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
That playful, rapid-fire back-and-forth was on display when the stars of “The Amazing Spider-Man” — now a couple off-screen as well — recently sat down for an exclusive interview with the Daily News.
Daily News: So, this movie plunks Peter Parker back to his high school days. Emma, even though you were home-schooled, between this movie, “Easy A” and “Superbad,” you can’t seem to graduate, even though you’re now 23.
Emma Stone: I know, are you kidding me?! But as long as they cast me in high school, I’ll take it. There’s going to come a day when [if I passed on one of these roles] I would kick my own a— later on if I was like, ‘You complained about playing younger? Really?!’ There’s nowhere to go but up.
Andrew Garfield: Because you’re looking, well, old.
Stone: I am.
Garfield: You’re looking proper old.
Stone: I am looking proper old.
DN: Andrew, did the scenes in high school give you flashbacks to your own high-school days?
Garfield: Yeah, of course. Everyone wants to relive high school and do it better — and I got to do it as Peter Parker, which is the most awesome thing ever.
Stone: Are you serious? If you had the chance to go back and do it again, you’d do it again?
Garfield: Yeah, of course. And you’d do it completely differently?
Stone: Hell, no. But most people say they’d never go back.
Garfield: Yeah, but you were simply at home with your mom.
Stone: Yeah, it was awesome. But I wouldn’t do it again.
Garfield: You were the coolest kid in school!
Stone: I was.
Garfield: … and the least coolest.
Stone: I was. No, just the coolest. I don’t know why you would say that.
Garfield: … and you were the smartest … and the stupidest …
DN: Voted “Most Likely to Succeed”?
Stone: Yes, I was! Also “Best Smile.” And “Cutest Couple.”
Garfield: You and your mom, that’s so adorable.
DN: Listening to you two, you have a great comic timing. Did you hone that for the movie despite coming from very different professional backgrounds?
Stone: I shortened “Backgrounds” to “B.G.’s”.
DN: I just had a Bee Gees song pop into my head. I hope it gets out.
Garfield: It won’t.
Stone: It never will. That’s the miracle of the Bee Gees.
DN: So how did you get that timing down?
Garfield: Really, I followed her and tried to keep up. I had only seen her in “Zombieland” and “Superbad” before we worked together, and I hadn’t seen anything else. And so I knew her as that, the perfect comedian.
In the screen test, I was blown away. We did the breakup scene from the movie [where Peter says he can’t be with Gwen] and then I obviously saw that she could do anything that she wants, ever. And I mean that.
Stone: I’m going to … throw one of these forks! (Stone picks up a fork and pretends to stab Garfield in the leg .)
Garfield: I have a titanium leg. It’s a weird thing, you think you know someone and you never know anyone, really. And I think it’s very rare for an actor to play outside his or her wheelhouse, as it were. And I’m always craving to kick out of my box, and I know you are, as well. And can I speak for her and say she can do anything she wants?
Stone: Thanks for speaking for me. I was just about to say that.
Garfield: I’m going to say what she’s thinking, which is that she’s the best and she can do whatever she wants.
DN: You’re following a franchise that just started 10 years ago. How much did that weigh on your performances?
Garfield: I think the only thing to reference is the Spider-Man canon, as it were. Since Stan Lee wrote the first panel and Steve Ditko drew the first drawing, that’s what you want to be true to, the core of the character and the themes of the story. And the [Tobey Maguire films] were another chapter in that legacy, as we are. We all are [part of the Spider-Man] family. It’s just nice to carry a torch that’s been so well guarded for so long.
DN: How about you, Emma?
Stone: Ech, whatever. (Andrew and Emma both break out laughing.)
DN: Gwen Stacy in this movie is not the typical damsel in distress.
Stone: I wasn’t playing Mary Jane [Dunst’s original role], so that was a bit of a relief. It was nice to start fresh. You’re right, Gwen doesn’t come across as a damsel in distress. She’s incredibly responsible and has to be — she’s the eldest kid in her family, and is constantly fearing that her dad [police Capt. Stacy] is going to die in his job every day. And then ultimately, her boyfriend, Peter, is in the same kind of position.
However. When I first read [the original comics] I was really taken aback by her story. And I found it so staggering, so stunning, such a stamp on pop culture history.
Garfield: Good alliteration.
Garfield: Good alliteration.
Stone: Stunning and stamp. And stupid! I thought it was stupid, Stan Lee! No, I thought it was just so fascinating. Any story — story — that causes people to burn their comic books and cancel their subscriptions is a story that I want to be a part of! (Note: Gwen Stacy has a very tragic arc in the Spider-Man universe. ’Nuff said .)
DN: Andrew, are you ready for the level of fame that’s coming with your face plastered on billboards all over the world?
Garfield: It’s not my face, man, it’s not my face. Isn’t that awesome? It’s so reassuring that it’s a mask. Kids aren’t driving by the billboards saying, “The British actor Andrew Garfield!” They’re going, “That’s f—ing Spider-Man!”
DN: What’s the best thing about living in New York?
Garfield: I’ve been living here for six months, because I [was] doing “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway, and I’ve never felt at home at a place like this. I went skateboarding around the other night after the last show of “Salesman.” I was exhausted — we had done two shows that day and we had gone out and had a great night, all the cast — but I got home at 2, and I just had so much energy, I went skating through all the people. I had Cat Stevens music playing in my ear. This city is just magical. I’m very earnest.
Stone: Ernest Goes to Camp.
Garfield: Ernest Scared Stupid.
Stone: New York is where my heart is. It always has been. I’ve been here three years now, and I came here first when I was 7 years old to see my first play. I saw “Les Miz” and I was like this (eyes widen, mouth slack-jawed ). I don’t know how you would print that [amazed face.] I was like, “Wow!”
So we would come out here two or three times a year to see shows. I mean, Phoenix. Arizona — say what you will about it, but there’s not a whole lot of culture.
DN: It is very hot though.
Stone: It is very hot. So that’s great.
Garfield: And you have such olive skin, that’s the perfect place for you.
Stone: It was the perfect place for me to grow up — I didn’t burn or anything! This was home instantly, the moment I got here. It’s so nice to live in New York. I love New York.
Garfield: You should get one of those shirts.
Where you’ve seen her: As the sarcastic object of Jonah Hill’s affections in “Superbad”; as a cynical postapocalyptic drifter in “Zombieland”; as the high school student labeled as promiscuous in “Easy A”; as the aspiring writer in “The Help” who spotlighted African-American maids’ point of view in the ’60s South.
Her first role: Starring in a school production of “No Turkey for Perkie” alongside the fifth-graders when she was in first grade.
How she got here: Suffering from panic attacks as a kid and partly home-schooled, Stone found solace in acting. To convince her parents to let her move to Hollywood as a 15-year-old, she showed them a Powerpoint presentation. It worked.
“The Powerpoint presentation was okay, it wasn’t that great,” says Stone now. “I made my mom and dad popcorn, which I think was their favorite part.”