EXCLUSIVE: Ben Whishaw, the Man Who Could Have Been Spider-Man
Julie Taymor's Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark hasn't had the easiest time making it to the Broadway stage. On paper, it would seem to have everything going for it: a big budget, one of theatre's brightest directors, songs written by Bono and the Edge, and a cast that's had Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming attached. Still, the show was hit hard by hiatus last month -- and then there was the little matter of casting Peter Parker. Taymor's Across the Universe lead Jim Sturgess had participated in readings and workshops, but he never officially signed on. Who did Taymor have in mind for the role, if anyone?
While I was talking today to Bright Star's talented Ben Whishaw (the full chat will be coming to Movieline next week), we landed on the topic of Taymor, who directed him in her upcoming adaptation of The Tempest. As the actor discussed her, suddenly the thought crossed my mind: Whishaw himself is bookishly handsome, has a theatrical background, and has sung in roles before (including one scene in Bright Star). Surely Taymor approached him to play Peter Parker at some point?
So I asked. And, pay dirt.
"She did, yes!" Whishaw said. "She did ask me to speak to her about it."
Still, despite Taymor's vote of confidence, Whishaw wasn't sure he'd be right for the role. "I don't feel confident enough as a singer," he admitted, though he has nothing but praise for Taymor's methods.
"She's working at a very furious pace. You almost have the sense that she could do anything on a project: she could act in it, she could light it, she could design it, she could direct it. She's working at a real speed, and you've either got to be up to her speed or lag behind. I like that kind of challenge."
Certainly, a Spider-Man musical would have posed a very different challenge than the sedate Bright Star. "Yeah," Whishaw said, laughing. "And maybe not a bad one! I'd love to do a play or something with her, or even another type of musical. I'm just not a strong enough vocalist for Spider-Man." ♦