They say there's only one Times Square. They're wrong -- because for several weeks last year, a nearly life-size version sat in a parking lot outside Gold Coast Studios in Bethpage, where director Marc Webb shot a pivotal scene of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," opening Friday.
"It was wild," says star Andrew Garfield, who reprises his role as the superhero and his alter ego, Peter Parker. "When we drove up the first night, I was awestruck," he says. "From a distance, it looked like a football stadium -- the size of it and the way it was lit."
"Built to scale," says Jamie Foxx, the Oscar winner ("Ray") who plays Max Dillon, aka the supervillain Electro. "Not all of it," he clarifies, "but that part where the red stands are? That's all to scale. I saw it and I was like, 'What the [expletive]? This is amazing!' The shops, the buildings, the street, the everything. It was just crazy."
But the scene it was in was sublime: The mutated Max -- his skin an electric blue, giving off electrical charges -- has stumbled out of the insidious multinational Oscorp after a near-fatal accident with genetically modified electric eels. Hurt, confused and hungry to absorb electricity from cables beneath the ground, he panics when police see something and say something. Soon, bullets are flying, webs are slinging and Times Square is suffering its latest blackout -- followed by a power surge and then lots of metal snapping, billboards falling and tourists about to be fried.
For all such pyrotechnics, the movie -- which also shot at Bethpage's Grumman Studios and Brooklyn's Marcy Armory -- gives off its most potent sparks in small moments, whether between Peter and his love Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Peter and his dying childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) or, perhaps most powerfully, Peter and his aunt May (Sally Field).
"Yeah, beautiful, isn't it?" Garfield says. "She just gets to the heart of the matter, and you really feel as though you're watching real people working through that dynamic, that relationship."
Garfield also shot scenes with Shailene Woodley playing Mary Jane Watson, whom Peter marries in the comics, but they were cut to keep the focus on Peter and Gwen. "I think all of [those scenes] were in our backyards," Garfield recalls, "We had two or three scenes with me talking over the fence, and there was one with us riding together on a motorcycle that we never got to shoot. But, yeah, she's an amazing actress and an amazing woman," he says of Woodley, who has said she likely won't return for the sequel.
Foxx, given his character's fate, may or may not be back for any sequels or the projected "Sinister Six" spinoff featuring Spidey against a half-dozen foes. And even if not, his 4-year-old daughter, Annalise, has already gotten a kick out of her dad fighting Spider-Man.
The day he got the role, Foxx recalls, "My daughter was jumping in a Spider-Man bouncy house and I said, 'Babe, we gonna be in Spider-Man!' And she said, 'What you gonna do in Spider-Man?' I said, 'Well, I'm gonna be playing Electro, the bad guy.' 'So Spider-Man gonna kick your butt, huh?' 'Well, yeah, he is.' "
Foxx smiles. Because getting your butt kicked by a Marvel Comics hero is many an actor's dream -- even if it's in Times Square on Long Island.
An earlier version of this story misidentified the Bethpage studio where the Times Square set was built.