Spider-Man swung into the movie scene and won audiences near and far. Critics and fans alike praised the adventures of Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) as he thwarted the dastardly efforts of the sinister Green Goblin, played by larger than life actor extraordinaire Willem Dafoe. The movie was thrilling, exciting, and full of heart and paved way for Marvel’s cinematic aspirations.
And Spider-Man, as we now know him, may have never taken off had it not been for the slick determination of one horror icon – Sam Raimi. The man who gave us The Evil Dead franchise also gave us Spider-Man. Raimi has admitted that Spidey was always his favorite super-hero, and with those first couple of films, we see just how much Raimi loved the character. There’s a lot of heart to them both and show what amazing feats a director can accomplish when studios don’t interfere with a project. SM 3 is another matter.
Of course, most of you already know that. But did you know that Spider-Man’s cinematic roots go much deeper than the mind behind The Evil Dead? The Web-head has connections to Cronenberg, Aliens, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So buckle up as we swing right into the horrific web of Spider-Man!
Cannon, yes that Cannon – the guys responsible of Master of the Universe – got hold of the Spider-Man rights after Roger Corman lost them. Knowing how legendary The Fantastic Four is now among the bootleg circuit one can only imagine how crazy a Corman-made Spider-Man movie could have been!
Now try to imagine what Cannon would have given us! For starters, the studio had eyes on a young Tom Cruise to play the part of Peter Parker. Cruise was fresh off the success of Risky Business and was Hollywood’s sweetheart. Many readers may fall back in ghastly dread as they imagine Tom Cruise donning the famously tight-fitting Spidey duds. Oh, the horror! Honestly, though, I think it would have been an interesting role for the actor. But to me, he will forever be immortalized as Lestat.
Likewise, just as the studio knew who they wanted to play the lead hero, they also knew exactly who should play the maniacal Doctor Octavius – Bob Hoskins! Given how much Hoskins hated his role as Super Mario, I imagine he would have been a very hard sell to get back into any kind of super-hero flick. But I think he was a very interesting choice. Had they the budget Hollywood can offer today, I would have liked to have seen Hoskin’s Doc Oc. Feels like we lost a great opportunity there.
Now we all know the Spider-Man lore. A young photographer gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Blessed with increased strength, agility, and the groovy ability to climb walls, Parker became the face of Marvel comics.
Well, we may know all about Spidey’s lore, but that doesn’t mean Cannon did. Nor did they feel like they needed to respect it. Who needs to be faithful to a beloved lore when you can just make one up? So in Cannon’s Spider-Man, we would have had a Peter Parker who is a little no-body employee at a science research lab run by a crazy (mad) scientist called Dr. Zork. Zork’s plan to raise up a mutant army of his own would be the motivation behind Parker’s fateful spider bite.
In this version, Pete wouldn’t wear a blue-and-red suit and fight crime. Oh no, this is Cannon, and that means he would grow eight freakin’ arms and be a monster! The producers admitted that their inspiration was the Wolf Man, where a man turns into a monstrous wolf. So why wouldn’t Spider-Man turn into a monstrous spider? Sure, makes sense to me.
Peter would rebel against the evil plans of his wicked maker and fight a horde of mutants. You know, the more I think of it the more this sounds a lot like the Venom plot.
This would have been a very costly film to make though, and so re-writes were in order. They came up with a Spidey vs Doctor Octopus story, but, again, it proved to be too costly. Spider-Man was then pitted up against another mad scientist, but this time around the crazy doctor turns himself into a vicious vampire. No word on whether this would have been Morbius, the living vampire or not though.
It’s worth noting the original directors who were attached to bringing this weird-little movie to life. First off we have to mention Joseph Zito, a name Friday the 13th fans will likely recognize. Zito directed Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of our favorite installments in the franchise.
However, Zito only took the reigns after horror legend Tobe Hooper stepped down. That’s right, the guy who gave us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre almost directed Spider-Man. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be as grizzly as we might imagine, but, then again, this was Cannon and they were intent on making this into a big, bad monster bash. We very well could have seen a full-on blood and guts Spider-Man flick.
Luckily, for all of us true believers, Stan Lee vetoed all of this. He was concerned that his beloved character was being poorly represented and all the fans would know that. Stan Lee understood a very important life-lesson, one many still to this day do not quite get. Never piss off your fans. He knew we weren’t stupid and wouldn’t get behind something this outlandish.
The original design for Spider-Man was heavily based off of Cronenberg’s The Fly. No doubt that would have been one helluva interesting watch, but that’s not something Stan Lee was willing to release onto the public.
Superman IV and Masters of the Universe both came out and were financial disastrous for Cannon. Plans for Spider-Man were dropped and the company lost the rights.
That brings us to James Cameron of Terminator and Aliens. He took the character back to his roots and made his web-shooters organic, which makes sense. Leonardo Dicaprio was set to play the role of Peter Parker. And I have to say that the rest of the cast is remarkable. Robyn Lively would have been Mary Jane Watson, R. Lee Ermey was set to play J. Jonah Jamerson, and I’m gonna pause right there. That was a truly lost opportunity. Could you imagine Ermey yelling at and cussing out Peter Parker? That man made profanity poetic! He would have been a hilarious Jameson!
Michael Biehn, Sandman
Lance Henricksen, Electro (just wow!)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Doctor Octavius/Doctor Octopus. The Terminator almost donned the mechanical arms of Doc Oc, people!!!
Knowing James Cameron’s track record for making blockbuster movies, this is one project I’m truly sorry we never got. Reportedly, this film would have been a grittier take on the character with lots of sex and epic battles. We already have three of the Sinister Six right here in the movie. I can only imagine what this could have been. This sounds way more appealing than Homecoming was.
So Spider-Man went through a whole lot of re-writes and passed through the hands of a lot of horror heavyweights before being secured in Sam Raimi’s grip. And the rest is history.
So there you have it, my lovely Nasties. Stan Lee may be gone but he’ll always be alive with us through the characters he created and the legends he inspired. This has been your pal, Manic Exorcism. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and hey! Speaking of turkey day and the Spider, Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie actually has Thanksgiving in its plot. So maybe it’s time for a re-watch?
As Uncle Stan would say, ‘Nuff said.