Did Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church really return for ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home?’

By now, an estimated 50 million people have made it to theaters to witness the glory that is Spider-Man: No Way Home. The spectacular film is blowing away box office expectations and continues to drive conversations both online and off.

Warning: From here on out, this article contains major spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. Please proceed with caution if you have yet to see the film.

Numerous actors returned to old roles for No Way Home, including both of the actors to previously portray Peter Parker in live-action Spider-Man films. Several of the actors who played villains in past Spider-Man universes also returned, allowing actors like Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina to return to roles they haven’t played in almost 20 years.

In total, the film saw five separate villains return from two different universes. From the Tobey Maguire-helmed Spider-Man trilogy of the early 2000s, three villains returned: Spider-Man‘s Green Goblin, Spider-Man 2‘s Doc Ock, and Spider-Man 3‘s Sandman. Two villains from Andrew Garfield’s run as Spidey also returned, with both Lizard from The Amazing Spider-Man and Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 coming back for the film.

This massive effort saw several actors who haven’t played a Spider-Man villain in decades reprise fan-favorite roles. Not all of the actors involved in the old Spider-Man franchises were available to provide current footage for No Way Home, however, leaving the studio to rely on leftover footage from their original runs as the characters.

Don’t worry, that’s really Willem Dafoe and Jamie Foxx on screen ⏤ technology hasn’t come quite that far yet. But two of the villains included in No Way Home ⏤ Sandman and Lizard ⏤ weren’t actually played by their original actors. Or, to put it more clearly, they were, just not in the traditional way.

That’s because all of the footage used of both Thomas Haden Church, who played Sandman, and Rhys Ifans, who played Lizard, was recycled from Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man, respectively.

Viewers who have already enjoyed No Way Home will likely recall that both villains largely appear in No Way Home as their villainous selves. That is to say, they mostly appeared as the heavily-CGI’d, monstrous versions of themselves. But both characters did briefly appear with their actor’s genuine faces, following the trio of Peters’ timely use of their specified cures. It was in this final scene, as each character made eye contact with their respective Peter and took a moment to reflect, that old footage was used.

The footage of Church was taken from early scenes in Spider-Man 3 in which his character, Flint Marco, loses his ability to maintain his physical form. He disintegrates into sand after coming into contact with water in the sewers, long before he learns to properly control his new abilities. No Way Home used this footage, in reverse, to restore Flint to his original form after receiving his dose of cure.

The footage of Ifans took slightly less creativity to pull off, as it simply appears to be an alternate version of the final moments of The Amazing Spider-Man‘s final fight. It shows Ifans’ Curt Connors as he slowly loses his scales and Lizard-like appearance, eventually losing his tail and his hard-won right arm before returning to his normal appearance.

With the amount of CGI in No Way Home, it’s not overly surprising to learn that two of its characters are wholly computer-generated. Eagle-eyed fans may have even noticed it as they were watching the film itself ⏤ Haden Church, in particular, looked extremely young, considering its been almost 15 years since he last appeared in the role ⏤ but it was a clever way for Marvel Studios to retain old characters without requiring their actors to return for heaps of new shoots.

And the cameos paid off in the final film, proving that Marvel made the right choice in using recycled footage. While their characters don’t carry the weight of Foxx’s Electro of Dafoe’s Goblin, they were excellent additions to No Way Home’s impressive lineup.

Plus fans can now look forward to catching hints of Marvel’s clever workaround during their next rewatch.