NEW YORK — As you might expect, the legendary Marvel Comics creative genius Stan Lee has more than a little ham in him.
As an irrepressible creative force behind such iconic comic-book heroes as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man and others, Lee has been an inspirational presence behind the scenes for most of the blockbuster movies that have sprung from Marvel's rich pulp universe.
And as even the most casual fan knows, the 89-year-old Lee has also been a consistent and witty presence in front of the cameras for most of Marvel's big-screen extravaganzas.
To date, Lee has made 16 cameo appearances — often winning huge laughs from comic-book lovers — in Marvel-inspired superhero movies, beginning in 1989 with “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.” And when “The Amazing Spider-Man” swings into the nation's multiplexes Tuesday, Lee will chalk up his 17th such attention-grabbing cameo (still a far cry from that wily old cameo fox Alfred Hitchcock, who reportedly had 39).
Not to give too much away, but during a fierce faceoff between Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) and his slithery nemesis The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), watch for a rumble through the school library to catch a humorous glimpse of the mustachioed, bespectacled Lee.
During a recent media day hosted by Columbia Pictures at the Crosby Street Hotel, director Marc Webb, taking over from Sam Raimi in this rebooting of the franchise, talked about his first encounter with Lee.
“When I got hired to direct ‘Spider-Man,' the first thing I did was contact (producer and former Marvel CEO Avi Arad) and got Stan's phone number. I called him up and said, ‘Hey, let's go to lunch.' So we sat down to lunch, and he says, ‘So, Marc, let's talk about my cameo.' And I was like, ‘Oh, great.'
“So we talked about it and he made his demands,” Webb said with a laugh. “He also talked a little about getting a category at the Academy Awards for ‘Best Cameo.' So I'm really excited about rooting for that.
“In all honesty,” the new director said, “I had been going through the script and thinking about places to add a little levity and humor, and that library scene came up and it just made perfect sense to put him in there. And he kept trying to add lines to the scene.”
“And I get the calls (from Stan) complaining, ‘I didn't have a line,'” Arad chimed in. “I told him, ‘You'll get the laughs. Don't worry.' It's a tradition that we cherish — to put Stan in.”
Webb recalled with a chuckle: ‘The line he had there was, like, he was checking in books and he goes, ‘Oh, Dostoevsky, he's like the Russian Stan Lee.' The line gets a big laugh from the assembled journalists.
“That's a pretty ingenious line,” Webb said.
“I should have kept it — clearly, by your reaction.”
So we sat down
to lunch, and he
(Stan Lee) says,
‘So, Marc, let's
talk about my
cameo.' And I was
like, ‘Oh, great.'”
Director Marc Webb