Superheroes are powerful role models who dominate both big and small screens. But Jamie Foxx, who plays supervillain Electro in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” said antiheroes can turn the tables on how fans see good and evil.
“I love being a villain,” he told NBC News in an interview. “What’s great about the villains in Marvel, they didn’t start off being bad. Something happened to them — so it doesn’t come off where they just want to do bad.”
Comic book legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced Electro in 1963. He appears in a green costume with yellow bolts on the cover of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Volume 1, Issue 9. He is presented to readers as “a menace so powerful that Spider-Man’s strength is useless against him!”
In fact, Electro knocks Spider-Man out with an electric shock during their first fight.
Foxx said Marvel since then has pushed to move the stories of Electro and Spider-Man forward to reflect fans’ new reality while paying homage to the characters’ origin stories.
“Think about the first time you saw Tom Holland and the way they sort of implemented modern-day things in that first movie that they did,” he said. “So now they got it right. And I think that they still tip their hat to those guys and girls that are nostalgic.”
On the comic book page, Electro is introduced as Max Dillon, “an ordinary electric lineman,” who gets his powers after being struck by lightning while working alone on a high-tension pole.
Just over fifty years later, Electro (played by Foxx in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”) is an electrical engineer. Genetically altered eels in a tank sting him, and he transforms into a translucent blue figure that can manipulate electricity.
Now, Foxx gets a chance to reprise his role as one of Spider-Man’s deadliest adversaries — seven years after fans had seen him explode and disappear on the big screen when his electric supply was overloaded.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opens in theaters Friday, has the friendly neighborhood web-slinger facing off against multiple villains from earlier generations of Spider-Man movies, including Dr. Otto Octavius (played by Alfred Molina) and Norman Osborn (played by Willem Dafoe).
These supervillains enter Spider-Man’s universe from alternate realities after a spell from Dr. Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) goes wrong.
While viewers might expect the spotlight to shine only on Spider-Man as he takes on his foes, Foxx said the multiverse presents an opportunity for these supervillains to take ownership of their stories and become more redeemable.
“It’s sort of like a different starting point because if you go to a new universe, you could be a new person,” he said.
Foxx also said the idea of reinventing yourself as another person resonates with multiple generations of fans who have pretended to be one of Marvel’s supercharacters.
“We all lived those dreams in our bathrooms in the mirror,” he said. “So imagine how it feels to actually be a part of such an incredible franchise, and then watching your kids and everybody around sort of get caught up in that. That’s, you know, living the dream.”
When he thinks about Electro’s evolution from a money-driven villain in comics to a more complex character on film, Foxx said he also thinks about the way America is changing.
“Like in our country, we’ve gotten things wrong for a long time, but we eventually tried to make those things right,” he said. “And so with this in the artistic world, that’s what we’re doing. We’re making those things right to the point that we’re not even questioning it.”
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