All throughout production for this summer’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, details surrounding Michael Keaton’s Vulture have remained one of the more heavily guarded parts of the film. However, we’re just shy of 3 months until the film’s release, and set visit interviews are just now starting to hit the interwebs, and Collider caught up with the Academy Award winning actor last August to talk about Keaton’s supervillain. Fair warning, mild spoilers for the film follow, so read on at your own risk if you want to be surprised come July.
As we all know, this version of Adrian Toomes/Vulture will definitely be a new take on the classic character, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I mean, the classic feather suit wouldn’t exactly translate onto the big screen so well. Aside from the costume, this version of the Vulture has been reinvented with some cultural relevance, especially given today’s political climate, according to Keaton.
“[T]he approach that Jon [Watts] has chosen a really interesting one, and kind of risky. Which was appealing because he’s somewhat of a victim. He takes things in that he feels like a victim, and some of it is justified actually. He believes that there’s an upper echelon of society of people who are getting away with a lot and have everything. And there’s a whole lot of folks who are working hard, and don’t have much. Does that sound familiar to anybody, given the political climate? Which I think is an interesting way to go about this.”
For those of you who may not know, this version of Adrian Toomes is a blue collar worker who started his own salvaging business, only to be pushed aside and pushed aside by Tony Stark’s Damage Control in the aftermath of the events of The Avengers:
Well, they gave us the rundown. We know that he’s a salvage guy. We know that he gets the job snaked from him by DDC, and that he resents the DDC and Stark.
KEATON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s pretty much it. He runs salvage. He’s a working guy. He’s built this business, this company. He works hard. And they took it from him.
This definitely sheds some light on the Vulture’s motivations in the film, and also serves to reinforce Toomes’s role as a sort of every man villain that director Jon Watts has mentioned in the past. Up until this point, we haven’t really seen a villain like this in the MCU. Toomes is a hard working, middle class blue collar worker, and this aspect of the character seems to have resonated with Keaton on a personal level.
The Vulture is more of a blue-collar villain than the MCU has seen before. I’m wondering if because of your Pittsburgh roots, did that connect to you in a certain way?
KEATON: Probably, yeah. I would say probably. I’m sympathetic and empathetic and curious about what’s going on in the world, and more so right now in the country. This is an evident situation that’s existed for a long time, without making too big a deal out of it. I think it’s a really interesting approach.
We’ve seen upper class businessmen and philanthropists such as Obadiah Stane and Wilson Fisk, as well as villains born into royalty, such as Loki, but never someone who was just a regular Joe. Some may argue that the version of Ivan Vanko/Whiplash that we saw in Iron Man 2 was just a normal guy who cobbled together a suit to take on a superhero. While that is true, Vanko didn’t stand out as a memorable villain for several reasons, the chief being that he just wasn’t that layered. He lost his father in the opening scene of the movie, but aside from that, he really only went after Stark in order to avenge his father, and not for any personal issues with Stark. From what we can tell thus far, Toomes has a much deeper potential to have personal stakes in the film, because this Vulture is a father.
We were in his hideout over there, and there’s kid’s drawings on the fridge. I feel like this is the first Marvel villain that’s a dad, and has kids. I was curious if that makes him one of the more sympathetic villains.
KEATON: I don’t know if it makes him sympathetic because you got to see him in the full picture. In fact, I have to see in perspective. These movies are difficult to act in, in a sense that you’re kind of imagining where you are in this big giant machine of a movie. But I’m assuming you’ve talked to Jon about that, about him being what he just said?
KEATON: Yeah. Um, which when Jon talked about it was really interesting to me. Let me put it this way, his approach—I’m not being coy, I’m just trying to be respectful for what these guys are all making. I’m just here to do the gig, you know? But when I talked to Jon, and he started talking about the character, I found it an interesting way to go, and kind of a gutsy way to do it, instead of probably going down a path that other directors and villains have gone down before.
Breaking another precedent in the MCU, it appears that the Vulture will be the first major antagonist in the MCU who is also a father. We don’t know how this will affect his motivations in the film, but if I had to guess, I would wager that because of Damage Control’s interference, Toomes will likely be out of work and desperate to provide for his family. If this turns out to be the case, it won’t excuse his actions, but it will definitely make him a more sympathetic character for the audience. Speaking of firsts in the MCU, the Vulture will also be the first villain to feature a crew of henchmen who will play significant roles in this film, with the potential to show up again in future installments:
It seems like Toomes has a loyal crew, friends and co-workers–
KEATON: Yeah, that’s his crew.
Some of them even get powered up with their own suits and stuff. Can you talk about your loyal compatriots?
KEATON: Well, I think it’s an assembly of people he’s needed, just hired ‘em on, and others that have loyalty. They’re his boys, and they are like-minded. They are just his boys, you know? I really like the relationship with the Tinkerer, with Michael [Chernus]’s character—it’s great. He’s real funny, so we goof around a lot and make up very, very funny backstories.
In the full interview, Keaton was very careful in his phrasing when answering questions, but it’s obvious that he’s taking the role very seriously. From this interview, it’s clear that Keaton understands that the MCU is a big place, and that these characters have a very special place in the hearts of many fans, and he wants to ensure that his performance is authentic and genuine, all while staying true to the source material. He took some time to talk about his struggles while playing this character, as well as how Toomes evolved as a character during production.
I’ll tell you why it’s a little bit difficult as an actor, to see the big thing and know what you have to accomplish and how you have to honor the lore of all this stuff, stay respectful and stay accurate, and then tell the story the way he wants to tell, and place things right, and hope the tone’s right. So, I kind of had to find it with him after we talked a lot. Well, we talked a little about it, enough about it. And I thought I had the general world, you know? And then when I got here, he started seeing—I think what it is a combination of him watching me, and going, “Oh, that’s kind of interesting.” But also—and this is more the case—him saying to me, “I really want to do more of this with him.”
From the sounds of it, Keaton’s Vulture has the potential to be one of the best MCU villains we’ve seen thus far, and I can’t wait to see him take on Spidey this summer.
Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters on July 7, 2017, and stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey, Jr.