Rhys Ifans will play undisclosed “Spider-Man” villain

With production beginning in December, casting is in full force for Marc Webb’s “Spider-Man” reboot. Last week, we received news of Emma Stone’s casting as love interest Gwen Stacy opposite Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker. Today, Sony/Columbia Pictures has revealed UK actor Rhys Ifans will be “the villain” in the 2012 film.

The role is still under wraps, which comes as a surprise to no one considering that’s exactly how the previous “Spider-Man” films were handled. Meanwhile, the rumor mill will fall off its hinges until someone unearths it. Current and past speculation has been over Venom and the Lizard.

Ifans has mostly been a supporting actor in his career, with his first major role as such in 1999’s “Notting Hill.” He’s most recently been in “Pirate Radio” and “Greenberg” and will make his Harry Potter debut as Xenophillius Lovegood in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” next month. He is also set to star in director Rolland Emmerich’s notably not disaster film, “Anonymous,” a period thriller about one of the theories of who was actually behind Shakespeare’s work. There’s no question that he can no longer hide from the spotlight between all these roles.

I’ve enjoyed Ifans in the few films I’ve seen him in. He’s known mostly as a quirky character actor who’s good at being a bit of a nutcase. Between that and his look, Venom doesn’t seem out of the question. However, there’s this in the press release from Webb:

“What sets the Spider-Man villains apart is the complexity of their relationships with Peter Parker. Rhys’ incredible ability to embody both warmth and rage makes him the ideal choice for this character.”

True: not just Spider-Man, but Peter Parker, has relationships with the villains he faces, which was almost true across the board with Raimi’s three films … except Venom. Eddie Brock is just a nasty criminal and I’m sure Sony would prefer to stay away from Venom until this new reboot coms into its own.

Dr. Curt Connors aka The Lizard was precisely where I thought the third film should have gone, but the pressure was too great for Venom’s debut. In the comics and TV show, Connors and Parker have a tight student-professor relationship and whenever Spider-Man has trouble with his powers, he turns to Connors, who has demons of his own. In attempting to regrow his missing arm, Connors becomes the Lizard, a very Hulk-type character “can’t control rage” character.

Its hard to picture Ifans as a scientist, but the Lizard presents the very dynamic Webb eludes to in that statement. “Warmth and rage” pretty much sums up Connors, who mentors Peter but loses control in his attempts to improve his own life. The challenge would be weaving this story in with Spider-Man’s origin story — considering this is a reboot.

Unless, James Vanderbilt’s script decided to go into obscure territory with the villain, its hard to bring up anyone else (albeit I won’t claim to be an export on the various iterations of villain backstories). Ifans isn’t old enough to play Norman Osborn (well, 42 isn’t too young, but he doesn’t look it) and he would seem to have the other quality origin storyline.

Below is the original press release:

CULVER CITY, Calif., October 11, 2010 – Rhys Ifans will play the villain, opposite Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, in the next installment of Spider-Man from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios, it was announced today by Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures. The film, to be directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt and produced by Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will begin production in December and will be released in theaters nationwide in 3D on July 3, 2012.

Commenting on the announcement, Tolmach said, “We have been very fortunate to attract some of the best actors working today to play the villains in the Spider-Man movies, and it is exciting to see that trend continue with Rhys Ifans. After seeing his performance in our upcoming film Anonymous, we’re in awe of his talent and think he’s the perfect choice to take on this role.”

The filmmakers prefer to not reveal which character Ifans will be playing in the forthcoming film.

Webb added, “What sets the Spider-Man villains apart is the complexity of their relationships with Peter Parker. Rhys’ incredible ability to embody both warmth and rage makes him the ideal choice for this character.”

Spider-Man is being overseen at the studio by Tolmach and Rachel O’Connor. Ifans is represented by United Talent Agency, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and Independent Talent Group.

RHYS IFANS’ breakout performance came in 1999 in Roger Michell’s Notting Hill, opposite Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, for which he received a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. Prior to that, Ifans starred in Heart, Twin Town, August, and Dancing at Lughnasa, and since then, he has appeared in more than 20 films, including Vanity Fair; Rancid Aluminium, Little Nicky; The Replacements; Hannibal Rising, Enduring Love; Human Nature; Formula 51; Hotel; The Shipping News; Once Upon A Time in the Midlands, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Pirate Radio; Greenberg; and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. He will next appear in Mr. Nice, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Passion Play, and Columbia Pictures’ Anonymous, for director Roland Emmerich.

On television, he played the role of Peter Cook in Terry Johnson’s “Not Only But Always,” for which he won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor. He also appeared in “A Number.” In the theatre, Ifans has appeared in “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” “Bad Finger,” “Volpone,” “Under Milk Wood,” “Beautiful Thing,” “Thyesters,” and, most recently, Patrick Marber’s adaptation of “Don Juan in Soho” at the Donmar Warehouse.


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