An oral history of Spider-Man 2’s train scene, one of the best action scenes in superhero cinema

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By all accounts, Alfred Molina was a consummate professional, despite never having worked on a film as technically complex as this one.

John Dykstra, Production Visual Effects Supervisor: I think Sam did a great job. To me, his Spider-Man films seemed to capture the essence of the character best. Not that the latter ones weren’t good, but I think for an origin story, this one was actually pretty good. I think his choice of cast with Toby and Alfred and the people it required was really inspired.

Alfred Molina, actor (“Otto Octavius/Doc OK”):The main memory I got was actually that it was a lot of fun. I have never done anything like this in my life. I had never worked on a film like this before, so all the technical […] It was state of the art then, but I still had arms attached. The tents were still attached, so there were puppets in blue suits working on them and stuff. So it was a bit cumbersome and the speed was slow.

Ray Lykins, stunt double (“Doc OK”):Alfred is a great actor. Many people don’t realize that he is classically trained. He is a complete actor, not just someone winging it and giving it a try. Very nice boy, best boy ever. When I met him he said, “Hey Ray, you know what?” We meet at a wardrobe fitting and he says, “I’ll never spend a day away from being a stuntman.” And I say, “Perfect. It’s perfect. We’re going to have a great time.” And of course, he believed it to be true. It was like every time it got close to the action, he’d say, “Where’s Ray? Where’s Ray?”

Brad Martin, stunt double (“Spider-Man”):I fought Alfred, and he’s very good. We spent some time. He is a gentleman, a very smart person. Really, really, really good. And just a professional in every way. Toby lives in his trailer a lot, because he had the hood on when he was Spider-Man. He usually wasn’t there when I was around.

Alfred Molina, actor (“Otto Octavius/Doc OK”): I remember another day when Rosemary Harris and I were suspended in mid-air. We were shooting the sequence where I am taking her. I stole it, and we’re going to the skyscraper. And we shot it all the way. We shot it where the skyscraper was flat, and we were working horizontally. We had a sequence where it was vertical, and I think that shot was of her when she hits me with the umbrella. And so we were, I don’t know, 20, 40 feet up in the air in our harnesses, and we’re doing this. And then suddenly everything stopped, and everyone on deck went over to the monitors, and they were looking at the monitors and talking and we were there for quite some time. And then I heard one of the guys on the floor say, “We’ll just stop for a minute, if you don’t mind stopping there.” Because it always took time to bring us down and take us up. So we both went, “Yeah, it’s not inconvenient at all. We’ll stay here.”

So there we are, and we’ve been there for a long time. Rosemary and I, we started really hanging out over little things, and then it was a hot day and someone opened the dock doors of the soundstage, and we caught this breeze. And so we both become suspended, and we begin to float. The wind has caught us, and we are floating like this. And out of the silence, as we’re floating like this, Rosemary says, “I’m classically trained, you know.” [laughs] I have never forgotten it.

Ray Lykins, stunt double (“Doc OK”): They were filming me live and he came in joking because he’s always joking. He says, “Why am I doubling Ray Now?” Because I shot it, and then they’re going, “Okay, well Ray did this and Ray did that.” He says, “Wait a second. Who’s Doc Oak here?” He was joking. We were getting along so well and I looked exactly the same, to the point where they were shooting me without thinking. [trying to hide my face],

Alfred Molina, actor (“Otto Octavius/Doc OK”):I remember there was a moment when Spidey hit me or sent me flipping back, and I had to fly back, and the strings were pulling me back. And there was this feeling when we did it the first time, I just remember – I think we were done with [second] The unit director, I’m not sure I was working with Sam on this sequence – but he kept saying what I was doing, because I wasn’t used to it, in the first few takes, I was laughing a little bit, because The physical sensation of suddenly being pulled back makes me go “Wow!” Was forcing me to say it. It was making me laugh. So I had to overcome that.

Ray Lykins, stunt double (“Doc OK”): He’s the funniest guy, you can always know where he is because you can hear him on set because he’s laughing, always laughing, talking. He’ll talk to anyone – hold on, it doesn’t matter. There is no ego in him, there is nothing like that. He is always talking and laughing with everyone. Super nice. He knew right away that he wasn’t going to pull any stunts, and that worked out for me and everything else.

Alfred Molina, actor (“Otto Octavius/Doc OK”):I remember one time I had to react to a punch or strike, I was literally like, “Aah!” Had to say. [acts as if he was just punched in the face] or something like that. We must have done this, I don’t know, 25 times. And I remember after a while I thought, “I must be the dirtiest actor in the world. I can’t even get this right.” And then after about 10 or 12 takes, I said, “I’m sorry, am I doing something wrong? I don’t understand at all.” And he said, “Oh, it’s not you. It has nothing to do with you.” And I suddenly realized that no one was watching me do it. No one was going, “I don’t trust that reaction.” They were all watching it on a computer on top of some kind of pre-vis, and it was all happening over time with a whole bunch of other elements. So it had less to do with me and more to do with how the overall thing would look in terms of lighting etc. And then the penny dropped, and I realized, “Ah, that’s it. What I’m doing is a small part of a much larger series of things.” And as soon as you embrace this fact, only then can you really start enjoying the process. It’s a great lesson to learn that, when you’re doing something over and over again, it’s not necessarily about you. It’s about a bunch of other things.

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