‘Morbius’ Director Daniel Espinosa on How ‘Pokémon’ Inspired His New Marvel Movie

Yes, we asked about Jared Leto’s hair, too

Sony Pictures

“Morbius” is everywhere.

The latest Spider-Man-adjacent project from Sony’s pocket of the Marvel universe was released nationwide Friday, becoming the No. 1 movie in the country. It’s the story of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant doctor cursed with a genetic disorder who seeks treatment by combining bat and human DNA. Of course, this being the world of comic books, he turns himself into a nightmarish vampire. But does he retain enough of his humanity to become a hero? This is the question!

TheWrap spoke to director Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House,” “Life”) the morning that “Morbius” finally opened, after many pandemic-related delays, to see how he was feeling, ask him about Leto’s hairstyle and try to get some information about Tyrese Gibson’s robotic hand.

Light spoilers follow for “Morbius.”

The movie just opened. How are you feeling?

Oh, great. It’s always, you carry these movies around, so even though you tell yourself that you can walk past them, you can’t until they’re out. It’s really nice to be done.

What drew you to the movie?

I thought it would be fun to do something that I had to make up things. Like I thought it was fun to make up the echolocation, how that works. I thought it would be fun to do a bit more advanced moves in the kind of “Matrix” zone with the fighting between the characters.

I thought it would be fun to put purple inside of his [abilities]… I always loved those 1970s Morbius comics where he has this kind of black rain after him, when he is going for it. I always thought that Pokémon-esque idea, that you use colors and streaks more to tell you stuff. If you have short streaks it’s because you’re running and stuff like that. That whole part, I thought that if I do Morbius, I can do whatever I want with those things. And that would be fun, you know?

I was wondering about that because I thought it was maybe part of the echolocation, but then when there’s security camera, you see the streaks too.

Yeah, I know. It has to be part of him, that he emotes. Like Nightcrawler [from “X2: X-Men United”] emotes certain things that you see. There are things that he can see that are filled with color. And then around him, there’s more like a black, dark thing when he travels, which is fun. I also think that comic books are expressive. And I think that the movies don’t have to be realistic in the same way. They’re like expressions of moments. I wanted to make it a bit more comic book-y with that.

Were you inspired by any particular era of Morbius?

Yeah, but I think that it in the late ’70s was a nice era. But I think that the kind of dystopian quality of his character more is like the mid-90s, when he gets like into this more Nine Inch Nails kind of style. And then I was not so interested in the whiny Morbius from the early ’70s, the direct arrival of him, where he’s more like a Gollum kind of character. It was also trying to understand how big we would go with his powers. Because he’s beat up some big guys. He beat up Dr. Strange at some point, and he’s knocked out Spider-Man with one punch, which not very many people can do. He has a certain speed. It was also developing how big his powers would be allowed to go.

Was there a discussion of how long Jared’s hair should be?

I think that he should be like the long hair, Tony Stark-y kind of person. I think that’s one of the things that was to find out what was eternal about Morbius. How much of a pig nose do you want? How monstrous should he look? What are the elements that makes it feels like Morbius, if you don’t use the suit?

Were you not allowed to use the suit? Or you just didn’t want to?

No, no. No, but I always said that if you do a suit, you have to do almost a movie about the suit. Because it has to be something… Very few characters can get away with Spider-Man’s quick, “Oh, I just make this up,” such an intricate, perfect spider suit.

Did you ever think about doing prosthetics?

Yeah, but first we went to this idea that it would be prosthetics. Because I know Ryan Reynolds, we had done two movies before, so I called him because I knew that he was a big prosthetics guy, that he really liked what he did on “Deadpool.” And who doesn’t love “Deadpool”?

And so we started with prosthetics, but the hard thing with Morbius is that his look is that his nose goes back. There were like parts of the look of it that has to do with negative space, that you can’t really do that with prosthetics. Then we had to consider if we’re going to do the head extra-large.

It happens to be that my visual effects supervisor was the guy that done Thanos’ face, which we all thought was an excellent translation of a performance. And he said, “That was three years ago, dude. We can do so much better,” and then I said, “OK, let’s try this.” And then the studio said that they were willing to pay for it, because it’s much more expensive. Then we went for that. And then I thought, if we go for that, then the idea must be that the expression of his emotion, when it’s overcome with his hunger, the monster will come out.

Matt Smith gives a rather exaggerated, comic book-y performance as the villain. How did you land on that?

It was like from the meeting of him. Because I love him as an actor, then I met him.

He’s much more kind of Sid Vicious than I thought. He just came into his meeting and he looked like he was on his way to a great party afterwards, and like drinking the life from its chalice, the way that I could never do. I like that.

And he liked those big characters that exist before, and most of his roles have been pretty contained. I wanted him to have the expressiveness and the courage to go for it. And I really enjoyed it. I thought it was nice to have… I have my “Marathon Man,” my Dustin Hoffman, and then I had my Laurence Olivier. The acting styles are exactly that.

There were promotional images of Tyrese Gibson with a robotic arm. What happened to that?

I mean, it’s still there. I think that if you look at the fourth-to-last shot, there’s something there. It could mean something for the future, you know.

“Morbius” is playing in U.S. theaters nationwide.