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Three years ago, Tom Hardy made his grand return to cinematic superhero storytelling in Venom as Eddie Brock and the Symbiote Venom. The movie was big and brash, giving Hardy a chance to show off his take on a character that arguably no one was expecting — to the delight of many. On Oct. 1, Hardy is back for the sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, co-starring with Woody Harrelson as serial killer Cletus Kasady/Carnage, and Michelle Williams returning as Anne Weying. However, Andy Serkis is behind the camera for this adventure, documenting the dynamic between Eddie and his Symbiote who has a lot to say.
SYFY WIRE connected with the trio to find out how that post-credits sequence featuring Harrelson at the end of Venom turned into a 90-minute sequel pitting the two Symbiotes, and their hosts, against one another for a battle royale.
Creative Symbiosis and Setting the Tone
Tom Hardy, Co-writer & "Eddie Brock"/"Venom": We wanted to do more with [the sequel] and introduce more characters — but carefully and spend time with them — and bring it in under 90 minutes so it's a ride and a thrill. It's quite an exacting bit of rather boring scheduling and working out as a discipline to it. Holding that whilst also I have a language of [Serkis] as an actor. I have a language of him as a fellow traveler. I trust him to debate as well as for him to go, "Hey, Tommy, try this or maybe that," or, "Yeah, that's on," or "That could be this better." There's an innate trust there. He's treading the path and held the ground. The studio felt that way and so did [writer Kelly Marcel]. It was a wonderful cauldron of cool ingredients to play in, and have a safe space whilst also turning in an ambitious and, what I think, a wonderful sequel to what was already a really enjoyable first film for me. I think we pushed it a little bit further on.
Andy Serkis, Director: I had a brilliant touchstone in the first movie with that moment in the lobster tank. It was the thing we all universally agreed that everybody loved. From that, [the challenge was] was how can we have some of that, but keep the relationship bubbling away and growing into an odd couple relationship? They both have their own agendas, they both want different things, they both see life very differently — how it could pan out? To have fun with it, but at the same time always keeping it underpinned with real emotions. And that's the same with all of the characters in the piece. You can bring as much humor as you like but you have to have stakes and care about all of the characters. As soon as you drift too much into one area and forget the other, then you're in a bit of a hiding to nothing so that was the ambition.
Voicing the Monsters
Hardy: Fundamentally, when Venom arrives, he's scary and he's a parasite. In the first one, we don't show if it's some kind of like a tropical disease. He doesn't know he's getting infected. There was an element of wanting to create a monster, or some sort of horror element to Venom because we just heard him for the first time. He's minimal in his talking, he speaks less. He has shorter sentences. He says "cannot" instead of "can't" because he's more primal and fierce and dangerous. There is the establishment, the welcome and the here we are. You can still do that with them, but the only problem is now with Venom 2, we've established a relationship. He's learned a few more words. He's become more articulate and verbose. And it's an ill-fitting suit. He has different ways of speaking as he's starting to establish himself [with] longer sentences. With that comes, technically a sound, as it's the same voice with the same filters, but just the length of parentheses and the lengths of speeches, that's what it sounds like to talk longer."
Woody Harrelson, "Cletus Kasady"/"Carnage": There was a lot of discussion about the voice and I tried it a lot of different ways. But honestly, I felt like, Andy Serkis is better at this than any human being on the planet. I was like, "Andy, why don't you do the voice? I mean, like, who's gonna know the difference? They won't know if it's me or you." No, he felt emphatically that I should do the voice. But he did help. [Andy] gave me a lot of ideas. I'm only as good as the director. And to have a guy like Andy doing this, he really knows what he's doing. It was really helpful to have his advice and anytime I would have doubts, he was great at just giving me a little, "No, you're doing good. It's gonna be okay."
Serkis: The biggest challenge was the battle royale. Having two Symbiotes fight is one thing, but you've always, again, got to underpin it with emotion. The challenge for that was to bring in the Symbiotes and also Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady together as well, and have those stories underpinning this Symbiote fight so that the stakes were relatable too."
Make Sure You Look for the Secrets Hidden in Plain Sight
On Eddie Brock's Mumford College shirt:
Hardy: The full Eddie Brock costume is Eddie Murphy's costume from Beverly Hills Cop, but it's subverted with the color palette of Venom. We love that movie and we throwback to movies that we love when we were kids like Ghostbusters with Bill Murray or Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. Or the movies that we grew up with that made us feel like we were young adults. They're just a little bit naughty, but they're not fully adult. Like Keaton's Batman was rated 12 [in the United Kingdom], which were like the grown up movies for kids. There's a lot of that [in Venom] because that's the territory that we're playing with. We want to just ride the edge of it. A lot of the humor that comes out of it is retro.
On Cletus' exit from prison ditty:
Harrelson: That was an actual song that they got the rights to so I snag that bit. We actually tried a number of different things, including I was dancing. It kind of worked for that part.
On Serkis' favorite planted secret:
Serkis: There's a moment in the convenience store with Mrs. Chen where he goes in and there's a particular comic book that's there. That's a good one without giving too much away.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage opens on Oct. 1.