The ominous squad of cop cars and ambulances gathered around Anthology Film Archives a few Tuesdays ago wasn’t due to just another New York bomb scare. Something much rarer took place—a meeting of mega-budget Hollywood and Manhattan’s scrappiest little avant-garde institution. For two days, Sony Pictures invaded the East Village to transform Anthology into Doctor Octopus’s lair for the as yet untitled sequel to 2002’s highest-grossing movie, Spider-Man. (Other local backdrops that week included Columbia University and City Hall.)
In less than an afternoon, the crew altered Anthology’s already foreboding facade into something a tad more evil, adding Gothicky metal doors, gaslight-style lamps, and metal signs that read, “OTTO OCTAVIUS—NOSCE TE IPSUM.” A cramped mini-lobby was constructed within Anthology’s own, just big enough for stars Tobey Maguire and James Franco to run through, amid clouds of manufactured smoke, for Sam Raimi’s cameras.
Naturally, this was not the first on-premises production. Andy Warhol shot two featurettes there, Courthouse and Jail, when it was still an abandoned municipal building. More recently, Anthology hosted a movie-watching scene in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (1999) and a similar segment with Jim Carrey for Charlie Kaufman’s upcoming Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry. “But we’ve never had a crew this big,” remarked Anthology director of collections Robert Haller.
Raimi’s crew taped man-on-the-street interviews nearby for a verité montage sequence; one included Anthology founder Jonas Mekas, apparently by accident. But Anthology got more than just a Mekas cameo. Administrative director John Mhiripiri reports that the income from the shoot “was like a little grant” and the building was scrubbed and repainted in the process. “They made the outside look awesome,” Mhiripiri says, even cleaning off graffiti, “but the night after they left we got hit again all along Second Avenue.”