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Mt. Lebanon native hopes his 'Spider-Man' role opens Hollywood doors

Saturday, May 11, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Flash Thompson cleans up nicely, it turns out. Joe Manganiello, the Mt. Lebanon native who plays the high school bully in "Spider-Man," hopes Hollywood will notice.

Joe Manganiello, Mt. Lebanon native and CMU grad, greets fans at Carmike 10 in Bethel Park at last weekend's special screening of "Spider-Man," in which he plays Flash Thompson. (Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette)

Movie Review

The Carnegie Mellon University graduate came home last weekend when his mother, Susan, held a special screening at the Carmike 10 for 250 of Joe's closest friends and family. He towered over the sea of heads in the lobby, wearing a suit and a friendly smile as he signed autographs and posed for pictures.

Inside the auditorium, the audience cheered and applauded every time he appeared on screen. As for Manganiello, he has learned to stop wincing at watching himself push people around.

"I hated me. I hated the character growing up," he said as a longtime fan of the "Spider-Man" comic. Seeing himself on screen was "nerve-wracking the first time around, and now I'm kind of getting used to it. But it's neat."

He appears in the first shot of the movie with his arm around co-star Kirsten Dunst, and he has a big fight scene with Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who is just discovering his new powers.

"I did one of the stunts, and the other one was too dangerous. I worked on fight choreography all week and then shot a 14-hour day, sparring all day. But the next morning I was all beat up."

The characters graduate from high school during the movie, but we may not have seen the last of Flash Thompson.

"I've had conversations with [director] Sam Raimi about the character in the sequel. But there'll be nothing concrete until they start rolling the camera and I'm in front of it," Manganiello said.

For now, he's about to start shooting an independent feature written and directed by a CMU classmate, Matthew Hencke. "Disenchanted Kingdom" is about a woman whose life goes wrong and she tries to put the pieces back together. Mariel Hemingway and John Savage are also in the cast.

"I play another bad guy," Manganiello said.

But what about his concern of being typecast as a villain?

"I like working better," he said.

So what did Mom think of "Spider-Man"?

"I was thrilled," said Susan Manganiello, a former model.

"I knew he was gonna be a bad boy, and it worried me. I said, oh my gosh, he's going to look so bad. But he did it tongue-in-cheek, and it came through that he really was just a big bully rather than a mean person. I really thought he looked wonderful."

Manganiello isn't the only person with Pittsburgh ties involved in "Spider-Man." The film's production designer, Neil Spisak, went to CMU. Bill Nunn, who has a blink-or-you'll-miss-him appearance as a Daily Bugle editor, is a Pittsburgh native. And Mark Helsel of West View was an extra in the movie.

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