‘Across the Spider-Verse’ Rewrote an Entire Character at the Last Minute

in Entertainment, Marvel

Pavitr Prabhakar from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in Mumbattan with Hasan Minhaj

Credit: Sony/ITM

The summer’s biggest blockbuster, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, is already doing intensely well with fans and critics, even after less than a week at the box office.

Fans are calling it Best Picture-worthy and lauding the strides that it has made when it comes to representation in film – including, surprisingly, for the Transgender community, as they made repeated efforts to signal that Spider-Gwen might be trans herself – or if not, is at least an avid supporter and defender.

However, it is neither Gwen Stacy’s vastly expanded characterization in Across the Spider-Verse, nor Miles Morales that the creators tout as their proudest accomplishment. Co-director Kemp Powers told Variety, “Of the new characters that are in the film, I think Pav is one that, collectively, we’re the most proud of.”

Pavitr Prabhakar in the new Spider-man: across the spider-verse tv trailer
Credit: Sony Pictures

Related: Reminder From Stan Lee As Twitter Debates if Miles Morales Is Spider-Man

“Pav” refers to Pavitr Prabhakar, played by Karan Soni, the Spider-Man from Mumbattan, the Mumbai-Manhattan, Indian-American hybrid city of Earth-50101. As Powers explained, along with fellow directors Joaquim Dos Santos and Justin K. Thompson, they were trying to build an important sequence with him, but something felt…off.

“We had worked on that sequence for a while, and we finally got it to a place where logically and from a staging perspective, it was doing all the things…[but] it was like, ‘Why is this just a wet blanket right now? It gets really crazy here — but we’re not connected to the story.’”

Then came an email from their animation team at Sony Pictures Imageworks in Vancouver – specifically, from some Indian members of the team, who told them that something about Pav “doesn’t feel authentic…he doesn’t feel aspirational.”

‘Across the Spider-Verse’ Directors Tapped Hasan Minaj to Make Pavitr Prabhakar More Authentic

Pavitr Prabhakar from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in Mumbattan with Hasan Minhaj
Credit: Sony/ITM

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Although many filmmakers and fans might dismiss such an email as inconsequential to the film as a whole, especially when they were, as Powers said, “already quite far along in the production process,” the Spider-Verse team saw this as the answer they were looking for.

Although it would cost them more money and might even set them back, the three directors halted production on the scene, scratched it, and assembled a new, more representative team to try and Pav from a more authentically Indian American perspective – a room that included the actor Karan Soni himself, as well as famous comedian Hasan Minhaj.

However, they went beyond rewriting the one scene they had trouble with.

We literally re-broke the entire sequence and reimagined the Pav character. And then Chris and Phil very quickly rewrote the entire script for that section so that Pav’s characterization completely changed.”

After the change, Pav’s character became more optimistic, bouncy, and joyful to be around – anyone who’s seen Hasan Minaj’s stand-up will no doubt recognize his brand of quick, plucky, somewhat chiding comedy in Prabhakar.

‘Spider-Verse’ Films Are So Good Because the Team is Committed to Collaboration

Pavitr Prabhakar from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in Mumbattan
Credit: Sony Pictures

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The filmmakers then rewrote many scenes surrounding that sequence to align with the recharacterization. “It really spoke to the spirit of collaboration on this movie,” Powers said;

You have to be open in this process to criticism and to good ideas from wherever they come. And that really speaks to the amount of problem solving that we had to go through to make sure that that character who’s supposed to represent a very specific part of the world felt authentic to people from that part of the world.

For those still struggling with the concept – this is what it truly means to be committed to diversity in representation. It’s not about getting brownie points or making sure your film fills some quota so you don’t get canceled – it’s about making sure the culture you’re portraying feels seen and heard when they watch your film and that it speaks to their life experience.

The only way to get that kind of authenticity is to ask and include those points of view without filtering them through one’s own perspectives – and that is also what makes for genuinely great collaborative art.

What did you think of Pavitr Prabhakar’s character in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.

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