The Joy Of Lying…As Long As You’re A Movie Star by Tom Beasley

For this month’s column, I wanted to speak out in favour of lying. Now obviously, this comes with a great deal of caveats. Most lying is awful and wrong, whether it’s coming from me, you, or a senior figure within government who doesn’t seem to understand their own public health rules. However, I’d like to sing the praises of a very specific kind of lying – famous people refusing to spoil movies while on press tours. I mention this because of a very recent, high-profile example.

If you haven’t yet seen Spider-Man: No Way Home and have been deliberately avoiding spoilers, stop reading now.

Tom Holland has been talking about this movie in the press for a long time. The pandemic meant things were delayed and he had several films released in the meantime, as well as an entire promotional interview tour in which nobody was shown the film. I know this because I was one of the journalists who interviewed him. It’s routine for us to see the movie before the interview day. With Spider-Man, we were only shown the first half an hour.

Someone else who had to talk about the movie a lot was Andrew Garfield. On the face of it, there’s no reason for this. Garfield played Spider-Man in two movies, released almost a decade ago. His days as a webslinger are long gone. However, rumours had surfaced that Garfield and original big screen Spidey actor Tobey Maguire would show up in No Way Home. Every time Garfield appeared in the press – and he had several movies to promote which meant he had to – he was asked whether he was in the film. And every time, he said no. Every time Holland was asked about other Spider-people showing up, he denied it too.

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that both Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire appear. For over a year, Garfield and Holland lied through their teeth to journalists, fans and – presumably – a certain number of friends and family members. And that’s a good thing. Wouldn’t it be boring if they’d told the truth?

While most fans were ecstatic to have been deceived about the Spidey surprises, others were upset the actors had lied. The same was true back in 2013 when Benedict Cumberbatch had repeatedly and falsely insisted that his mystery Star Trek Into Darkness villain was genuinely a new character named John Harrison rather than a revamped version of the iconic baddie Khan. The fan backlash was swift – an uproar at the fact they’d been lied to in order to preserve the movie’s surprises.

It’s symptomatic of a world in which film fans want to consume every titbit of information about a highly-anticipated project, months before it is released into cinemas. Any crumb of insider detail becomes the subject of dozens of articles, lengthy YouTube videos and fan theories. I am certainly complicit in this as an entertainment journalist. Back in February 2020, I wrote 750 words about a 56-second clip of Robert Pattinson in his costume for The Batman.

But let’s face it, speculation is fun. We all love talking about the things we enjoy and, for movie fans, that often involves delving into where franchises will go next and who might appear in secret and exciting cameos. That’s not going away, and nor should it. Certainly my own career relies upon me being able to get paid for pontificating about a minute of footage of a famous person wearing a Batsuit in the dark.

But we have to make peace with the fact that movie stars, increasingly, need to be good liars. We should welcome their deceit because, at the end of the day, it makes things a lot more fun for us. I can’t recall ever being in a cinema as raucous as it was when those Spider-Man cameos happened. That’s what the shared experience of communal film watching is all about – and it only happened because everybody involved managed to keep the secret perfectly.

So, what next? Sir Patrick Stewart has recently been denying that his voice can be heard as X-Men leader Charles Xavier in the trailer for upcoming superhero adventure Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. When asked recently whether the voice was his, he simply replied, “Who’s Doctor Strange?” Here we go again…

© 2022 Tom Beasley

The opinions expressed in this article are personal to Tom Beasley. Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.