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A big, green bad guy with a human side.

RHYS Ifans was a "Spider-Man" fan. Really. The British actor, best known for his performances in Notting Hill (1999) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010), simply didn't know it until he landed the role of Dr Curt Connors -- and as Connors' deranged alter ego, the Lizard -- in The Amazing Spider- Man.

"I got the job and then I thought, 'Well, what's my relationship with Spider-Man?,"' Ifans says, chuckling, as he settles into a chair at a Manhattan hotel. "Then these memories came flooding back, really kind of vividly. I was kind of a lapsed Spider- Man fan, if you like. "I just had this memory," he says. "I must have been about seven or eight Comic books were never present in England in the sense that they are in the States.

They were things that would come in boxes from garages, and they were almost a form of currency, you know? "So I remember being seven or eight and this Spider-Man comic appeared in the house, and on the back page there was this cutout mask, with a scissor mark around it," Ifans continues. "You'd colour it in, put two little pins through where the eyes are and tie it onto your head. So for several months, as a kid, I wanted to be Spider-Man." That fantasy wasn't destined to be fulfilled -- Andrew Garfield plays Spider-Man in the new film, which is directed by Marc Webb -- but the 44-year-old Ifans at least gets to play the villain in The Amazing Spider-Man. The film, relates the accident by which nerdy science student Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man after being bitten by a radioactive spider in the lab where the likable, well-meaning and one-armed Connors strives to unlock the secret to reptilian limb regeneration. Connors and Peter's late father were best friends and science partners, and the scientist takes a liking to Peter.

Alas, Connors' experiments go too far and, after being transformed into a monstrous creature dubbed the Lizard, he becomes a danger to New York as a whole and to Spider-Man in particular. The affable Ifans, dressed casually in baby-blue jeans and a light-blue, denim shirt, points out that, in many comic-bookbased mega-movies, the villains are brought in merely to spar with the hero, verbally and literally. The Amazing Spider- Man, however, takes the time to develop "a very genuine, emotional connection" between Peter and Connors that carries over into the interactions between Spider- Man and the Lizard. "I was just relieved to navigate the moral and ethical stormy ocean that Connors has to navigate in the film," Ifans says. "That, to me, was key. Regardless of him turning into a reptile, there's a real conflict of interest there. For any character to have that, it's difficult and rewarding, ultimately, to play.

It's the stuff you want as an actor. "Also, he's absolutely not a villain, Connors," Ifans adds. "Even at the last minute, when Oscorp tries to pursue a line of experimentation that would involve unwitting members of the public, Connors takes the selfless act of becoming his own lab rat, to regrow his arm. The computer models say the science and technology work, but what he doesn't reckon on is that a reptilian psyche would mess with human ethics. "So, yes, Connors regrows his arm, but then also acquires this reptilian, coldblooded hubris, and that in itself becomes addictive," the actor continues. "This allpowerful, all-confident feeling takes over. Reptiles are very solitary creatures, and they're as unlike humans as could possibly be.

He becomes like a crystal-meth addict, where he feels the power of several men, feels godlike, feels that utter euphoria... and that's his downfall. He wants more of it, and he wants everyone to feel as good as he does." Much of what moviegoers will see of the Lizard was out of Ifans' hands, and the same is true to some extent of Connors as well: Ifans' right arm was digitally erased to give the illusion that Connors was an amputee, while a special-effects team led by Jerome Chen used computer-generated animation to render the 9-foot-tall, Komodo dragon-esque creature who menaces Spider-Man.

"I had to have a lot of trust in Marc Webb and the effects guys," Ifans recalls. "I worked very closely with them at every given turn. There was so much visual stimuli around me, and they'd done a lot of work beforehand, so I knew exactly how the Lizard would look and what I needed to do. I worked closely with the effects guys on how he'd move. "On many occasions I was dressed up as a crash-test dummy with this big, cardboard head on so that Andrew had an appropriate eye-line," he adds. "So I decided, myself, to get more involved in the process, just to get a sense of the size of this beast that he becomes, and the weight and the mobility and the enjoyment of his power." Ifans goes on to speak highly of Garfield, the Peter Parker to his Connors and the Spider-Man to his Lizard.

The two spent countless hours working together, playing student and mentor or hero and baddie, in simple scenes with two people talking or in elaborate sequences involving green screens, wires and harnesses. "I was impressed with Andrew on two levels," Ifans says. "How he's mapped out the character's emotional journey is just beautiful. You see this slightly annoying kid, at the beginning, who really grows through the film. When he falls in love for the first time, you know it's the first time, and when he feels the rage at the loss of his father, that sense of injustice, you really, really, really feel that and see how it affects him. "Coupled with that, you see the physicality," he continues.

"You really get a sense of this young man who is uncomfortable in his own body, this teenage body that's riddled with hormones and very much in flux. To see him go from that awkwardness to this mercurial, arachnid, Olympian being that is Spider-Man, it's just a beautiful, balletic journey. It's an amazing performance." Now Ifans has reached the fun, if tiring, part of the gig. Crisscrossing the world for the next month or so to promote The Amazing Spider- Man. Attending premieres in numerous cities, signing autographs and soaking in the love of fans. He sat for innumerable print, television and Internet interviews. He'll stay in posh hotels and live on room service.

Best of all, at long last he'll be able to play with his Lizard action figure. "I haven't seen my action figure yet," Ifans says, smiling broadly. "You don't think about it when you do a job like this, but then, as you're doing it, people tell you, 'You're going to get an action figure.' Of course I'm thrilled about it, in an amused way. I've never expected I'd have an action figure, let alone one that is a nine-foot reptile."

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Publication:Qatar Tribune (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Jul 9, 2012
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