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SPIDER-MAN SAGA
(Sam Raimi, 2001-2006; Marc Webb, 2012)

 

 

THE SPIDER-MAN SAGA

 

 

"Who am I? You sure you want to know?    The story of my life is not for the faint of heart."

SPIDER-MAN

Sam Raimi .2001

Marvel chief Martin Goodman wanted more characters like 1961’s The Fantastic Four. And so it came to pass that Peter Parker was born in the final issue of the Amazing Fantasy comicbook (#15)in 1962. Marvel legend Stan The Man Lee writer-artist Steve Kitko, created the teenage hero - imbued with all thepersonal problems that other teens wrestled with. Andsthey loved him so much that Goodman launched The Amazing Spider-Man books in 1963.

Spidey was later born on the small screen with ABC’s Spider-Man series, 1967-70; Fritz The Cat creator Ralph Bakshi recalled a sparse $14,000-per-episode budget. The show remainsbest known for its inevitablytacky signature tune (“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.”) A second toon series lasted 14 chapters on CBS, followed by a live-action show, The Amazing Spider-Man, 1977-79, starring one of The Sound of Music kids, Nicholas Hammond.

The big screen version got stuck in

Development Hell for nearly 25 years

There are those who say it should have remained there.You will not find them in this survey of the casting of Sam Raimi’s trilogy - and the shock aftermath.

The first film was going to be produced for $6m budget by Cannon in 1986. Albert Pyun,. future helmer of the second Captain America, 1990, was hired to direct Scott Leva - champion gymnast, stuntman, stunt co-ordinator, 2nd unit director, director and sometime actor - as our hero Curt Connors, the Lizard.Cannon planned to shoot two weeks up to Peter Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider.... and Pyun would then shoot Masters of the Universe Part 2 while Leva built up some muscles.

Leva went on to win a 2006 technical achievement Oscar for the design and and development of the Precision Stunt Airbag for falls.Cannon could have done with one of those bags, because...

 

Cannon went bankrupt...

and Spidey was sold to Carolco.

 

James Cameron and his then  wife, Kathryn Bigelow, were planning to their X-Men in 1993  - he producing, she directing – when Stan Lee at  Carolco (home of Rambo 1 & 2  and Terminator 2) offered him Spidey – starring, Michael Biehn.  Charlie Sheen campaigned for the lead. Cameron was  more keen on the younger Leonardo DiCaprio, future   star of his Titantic.  Villain of the piece was to be Doctor Otto Octavius alias Doctor Octopus alias Doc Ock - set for Arnold Schwarzenegger. (He had been on Pyun’s wish-list for Captain America). Cameron, however, split for The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss. Schwarzi in the first, Biehn in all three and  -  just for the hell nof it  - Biehn  was bitten on the hand... a la Peter Parker.

Then, Carolco went bankrupt...

and Spidey ended up at Sony

 

... which joined forces with Marvel and wizard helmer Sam Raimi. He seemed the right guy for the job. At home, he had a collection of... 25,000 comics.

Peter Parker/Spider-Man .   Nicolas Cage, Hollywood’s #l1 comicbook fan, was  Raimi’s  early Spidey choice and later idea for the villain. Nic took his Cage name from the first black superhero, Luke Cage, and he kept cropping up in comicbook castings (Superman Lives, etc).  Just never the movies.

The studio wanted Cameron’s choice: Leonardo DiCaprio.  Or  Wes Bentley (opposite his 1998 American Beauty co-star Mena Suvari?),  Michael Biehn, John Cusack, Edwqard Furlong, Jake Gyllenhaal Josh Hartnett, Chris Klein, Heath Ledger (the future Joker in The Dark Knight), Scott Leva and Charlie Sheen.

Jay Rodan, a  South Africa-born Canadian actor (a future TV Marc Antony)  lost one of his earliest LA  auditions. The Uk’s Felicity TV star Scott Speedman (or, in Clouseau  accent: Speederman, also lost his. As did James Franco (but won the son of the psychopathic villain, Green Goblin). Jude Law met with Raimi but had something better to do: Spielberg's AI.

And like most youngsters meeting Sam, Freddie Prinze Jr just had to play his boyhood hero. “His comics taught me how to read.”

DiCaprio just didn't feel up to it. An exact reprise of  Batman Forever,  and Star Wars:  Episode II - Attack of the Clones.  Fantasy heroes? One day.  Perhaps.  “You never know. You never know. They’re getting better and better as far as complex characters in these movies…., I don’t rule out anything.” 

Raimi preferred Leo’s pal, Tobey Maguire - and his test convinced the suits. He  beefed up for the gig... and signing on for two sequels similarly beefed up his bank account...  by $26m.

Mary Jane Watson .   About a dozen years earlier when Spidey first looked likely to leap into cinema, his main squeeze Mary Jane Watson was aimed at Jennifer Aniston and all the usual late 80s gals: Christina Applegate, Elizaberth Banks, Drew Barrymore, Justine Bateman, Neve Campbell, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Connelly, Elisha Cuthbert, Cameron Diaz, Eliza Dushku, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Alyson Hannigan, Kate Hudson (preferred being  Heath Ledger’s fiance in The Four Feathers),   Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lori Loughlin, Alyssa Milano, Tatum O’Neal, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tara Reid, Natasha Richardson, Molly Ringwald, Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Kyra Sedgwick, Ally Sheedy, Brooke Shields, Tori Spelling (never considered pretty enough for movies), Mena Suvari, Tiffani Thiessen, Uma Thurman.

Once the 2001 version went into pre-production, all of these girls wre ladies and just too old.   Raimi saw heaps of new girls  - and Kirsten Dunst just pulled ahead in the final furlong. As seen on the DVD, Eliza Dushku read (with Tobey Maguire) for the role. Elisha Cuthbert  reported that Reese Witherspoon sat  next to her at the auditions,. “And Amy Stuart walked in afterward.  “Who cares if I get the part? I’m all right in this town.”  Except she never got the parts - Lois Lane in Superman Returns or Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, 2006.

As for Witherspoon, she soon left them all far behind - with her Oscar for Mrs Johnny Cash in  Walk The Line,  2005

“I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first  movie opposite Tobey Maguire,” Elizabeth Banks told Glamour UK  magazine. “Tobey and I are basically the same age [at 26 she was 15 months older than the baby-faced Maguire] and I was told I was too old.” She did  co-star with Maguire in Seabiscuit, 2002, inbetween her three stints as Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant  in all three Saim Raimi movies.

Also losing out on the first film’s upside-down kiss were Raimi’s first choices: Kate Hudson and Alicia Witt.  Said Alicia: “In my fantasy I was always the savour. I’d come to Peanuts-land and save everybody. Charlie Brown would fall madly in love with me. Peppermint Patty was so jealous.”  Oh, er... really!

Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin .  Raimi’s first choice  for the Green Goblin (after thinking of him as Spidey) wascomicbook-mad Nic Cage - who finally made a comic cutsmoviewith Ghost Rider, 2006. (The Village Voice called it: Queasy Rider). Robert De Niro didn’t take his offer seriously (nor when invited to be Doc Ock in Spidey 2). Edward Norton was thencaught between two franchises after him - he preferred to join Sir Anthony Hopklins in Red Dragon. (Norton played The Incredible Hulk for the same Columbia company in 2007).

After Cage (and Jim Carrey)quit, John Malkovich refused the nasty Goblin.Not really his genre, “and what they offered wasn't in any way an inducement for me to do it.” (he did, have talks, however, about being Vulture, in Raimi’s un-made #4). Ironically, the role finally went to Willem Dafore, Malkovich’s co-star inShadow of the Vampire... which happened to have been produced by Nic Cage!

J Jonah Jameson .  Before JK Simmons stole the movie as  the Daily Bugle’s angry editor – the Spiderverse Perry White - Jameson was headed towards rthe inevitable cameo from Marvel kling Stan Lee.He made 126 other such bits, produced 158 and helped wroite 171.  JJ was too talky, so Stan settled for Man At Fair.  Next up: R Lee Emery, one of the few people ever allowed by script-perfectionist Stanley Kubrick to improvise his dialogue… as the savage drill instrctor Gunnery Sergeant Harttman  in the 1985 Full Metal Jacket.   "You are nothing but unorganized grab-asstic pieces of amphibian shit! "

Aunt May Parker .  Who should be Martha Kent, er, Aunt Maybe?MarionRoss, 74, Ron Howard’s TV Mum onHappy Days, 1974-1984... or Rosemary Harris, 75, mother of The Chisholms, 1997?  Harris won.

In London, a young man of 19 bought the DVD - well, a pirate copy - in Portobello Market, with his mate,Terry McGuiness. “We went back to my skanky apartment in North London and we watched it twice in a row,” he told Tobey Maguire, “and then we practiced your final line in the mirror!”

That teenager was Andrew Garfield.

 

Hi, my name is Spider-Man and I'll be your superhero today”

SPIDER-MAN 2

Sam Raimi .2003

According to the most prestigious member of the writing team -Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon - the film was once going to a wet dream for geeks- featuringnot just Doc Ock butBlack Cat, The Lizard. and the new Green Goblin.Hey - far too many, said Chabon, reallyearning his money. Much better, he suggested, to scale down the costumed capers to just Spidey and Ock.Keep something for an encore...

There was a bigger problem.

Tobey Maguire’s agent wanted a pay-hike

Mr Agent wanted $25m or 10% of the gross, whichever added up to the most.Sony’sreply was shorter.Initials, even....

Peter Parker/Spider-Man .  Surprise, surprise!  Jake Gyllenhaal, who was Kirsten Dunst’s lover at the time, was being asked to suit up when it appeared that Maguire would slinghis webs no more. In the end, Jake never got to wear any of Spidey’s 35 costumes, but the very fact that he was checking the wardrobe had Tobey agreeing to $17m and rushing back to work. Works every time!

Incidentally, Jake may have fancied Spidey, but refused both Bat and Supie in Batman Begins, 2004, and Superman Returns, 2006. Plus Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet, 2010.

Dr Otto Octavius/Doc Ock .  When James Cameron planned Spider-Man in 1993 his villainous Doctor Octopus was set for his Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.Then... Ah, the hell with all these rights hassles,let’s go do True Lies.Ten years later, with Arnold elected as Governor of California, Raimi hot-listedsuch old reliables as Chris Cooper, Robert De Niro (already Sam’s target forGreen Goblin in Spider-Man 1), Ed Harris and Sam Neill.Yawn,.Anyway, none of them were interested in wearing some 75 lbs of tentacles.

Going younger

didn’t help...

X-Files TV star David Duchovny passed - didn’t anyone know he had already refused Eric Bana’s Hulk that year. Liev Schreiber didn’t seem keen on comic-cuts, either. He would also rejectHarvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight, 2007, and Stryker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009.

And then,Raimi’s wife, Gillian Greene - daughter of Bonanza’s Lorne Greene- saw Alfred Molina in Frida... (He had replaced De Niro inthe film). And the British Molina was a Marvel fan. Case closed!He l called Ock’sfour, 13 ft longmechanical tentacles: Larry, Harry, Flo Moe and“bloody heavy.”

John Jameson .  Jerry O’Connell was an early notion for John Jameson, aka Spider-Man’s enemy, the ex-astronaut now known (on full moon nights) as Man-Wolf. O’Connell was seen in Superman Returns in 2006.

Elevator Passenger .  Phil LaMarr from Pulp Fiction and a major gaggle of voice-work,  lost the ride to  Hal Sparks, from the US version of Queer As Folk,  TV, 2000-2005.  In an astonishing total of 453 screen credits in 37 years, LaMarr has voiced such folk as Rocket Crocket, Sir Hamsta, Booty, Hector Con Carne, Bolivar Trask, Kiy Fisto, Tom & Jerry’s Spike, Gabe Wallace, Bail Organa, Om Free Taa, Syo Bakam, Samurai Jack,  Catman Scrotherts (!). Plus Muhammad Ali, Aquaman, Black Panther, Blakc Vulcan, Luke Cage, Dracula, The Flash, Lucius Fox, Nick Fury, Gambit, Green Goblin, Green Lantern, Man Bat, the  Lego Darth Vader. Eevry year his dance-card is  packed!

 

 

“I don't understand -Spider-Man doesn't kill people. What happened?”

SPIDER-MAN 3

Sam Raimi .2006

As Sam Raimi became the first director to helmthree chapters of the same superhero - five years before The Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan would match him - everything fell into place quite easily.True, Sam preferred Vulture (Ben Kingsley was in talks)to Venom and his “lack of humanity.” but Venom it was, even if Sam kept up the public pretence of hating him- venomously - until launching a winning clip at San Diego’s 2006 Comic-Con.

With no reported rivals (if you know better, do please let me know), Topher Grace quit TV’s The 70s’ Show and gained 24lbs of muscle over six months to be Peter Parker’s rival at the Daily Bugle, Eddie Brock/Venom The recently Oscar-nominated Thomas Haden Church then gained 28 muscular poundsfor Flint Marko/Sandman - a favourite character of both Sam and Tobey Maguire.

Gwen Stacy .  The only known battle saw two stunning blondes,Elisha Cuthbert and Scarlett Johansson, surprisingly trounced by Ron Howard’s plain daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, as Peter Parker’s sexy lab partner, Gwen Stacy. (Scarlett also lostLois Lane in Superman Returns, 2005).

Globally, this was the most successful of the Raimi trilogy and, obviously,plans started with Raimi, Maguire, Dunst, etc,for #4,5,6. Dylan Baker’s Dr Curt Connors was due back - merging, at last, into the Lizard. Raimi also had talks with John Malkovich about Adrian Toomes/The Vulture...with Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight’s future Catwoman) as Felicia Hardy, but as Vulture's daughter, the Vulturess, and not her usual alias, Black Cat.

Another Pulitzer  Prize-winner, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, joined the writers’ bullpen.Sam may have lost the Venom battle, but for Spider-Man 4, he made it clear that he didn’t want Carnage althoiugh Toxin would definitely pop up in the back-to-back productions of #4/5.

Fine, said Marvel. But wedon’t want the Lizard. Why not? Faceless figurines don’t sell well!

Talking to everyone from Empire magazine to The Hollywood Reporter and trhe Nerdist podcast, Sam Raimi confessed  he failed with Spidey 3. “ I didn’t believe in all the characters… Each and every one of those Spider-Man movies were pretty damn challenging.  I messed up plenty with the third… so people hated me for years.  They still hate me for it! I love Spider-Man so much that I’d like to continue telling Spider-Man stories, but only under those circumstances where I think I can honour him.” And in the case of #3, “I didn’t really have creative control… I’ve gotta be the singular voice that makes the creative choices on the film.”

 

 

 

“We all have secrets. The ones we keep... the ones kept from us.”

THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN

Marc Webb, 2010

New readers start here...  Genial director Sam Raimi,the only director to ever call me “Sir” (it was like interviewing Elvis), had finished his firsttrilogy -earninga staggering $2.5bn, second only to Batman’s prowess).He was prepping another trio when - shock! horror! - he dropped out. His team, with him.They had all signed for #4, with Tobey Maguire on $50m for #4 & 5. There was the usual talk of Raimi wanting too much money (as if Marvel and Sony didnlt owe him),but that is not Raimi’s style.He simply felt the script (well, four of them) was all wrongand if he was to get it right, he couldn’t hope to have #4 ready for May 6, 2011... “and retain creative integrity.”

Hey, if Bond can do it...

why not Parker, Peter Parker?

Once Maguire and Raimi quit, Sony voted re-boot. With“a smart, sensitive, and cool new Peter Parker who can inspire us and make us laugh, cry and cheer,” ordered Marvel.

Peter Parker .  The well-named new director was Marc Webb, who had only made one feature -  (500) Days of Summer in 2008 - after various shorts and videos.  He described the film as “a story about a kid who grows up looking for his father and finds himself.” And  checked through 20 youngsters from the Juno star Michael Cera to the rather obvious new screen heroes Troy Bolton, Edward Cullen, Harry Potter, Tintin… er, Zac Efron,  Robert Pattinson, Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell,… for the younger Spidey.  The winning Brit, Andrew Garfield was older than most candidates at 27! And 29 when the 3-D film opened in 2012. Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn) and Twlight-er  Taylor Lautner were the youngest: 18.

The other also-rans included: Liam Aiken (Road To Perdition), Michael Angarano (beaten by Jake Lloyd to Star Wars: Episode I, 1997), Frank Dillane, Alden Ehrenreich (the fuiture young Han Solo), Jesse Eisenberg,  Patrick Fugit, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  David Henrie, Josh Hutcherson (who won the next hot  trilogy: The Hunger Games), Aaron Johnson, Logan Lerman, Taylor Lautner, Logan Lerman, Xavier Samuel (from (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Jim Sturgess., CUT Yelchin Miles Teller. And for (a half-hearted) diversity, Donald Glover, the futyure Lando Calrissian in Ehrenreich’s  Solo: A Star Wars … flop.

Anton Yelchin  would also lose another reboot, Fantastic Four, 2013, as Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic.  He wassn’t complaining hjaving won Chekov in the new Star Trek franchise until his tragic death in a freak car accident at 27 in 2016.

“Though his name may be new to many,” commented Webb, “those who know this young actor's work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence

“I’ve been waiting for

this phone call for 24 years”

”For someone,” declared Garfield, “to call me up and say 'Hey, we want you to pretend to be a character that you’ve always wanted to be all your life, and we’re going to do it with cool cameras and cool effects and you're going to feel like you're swinging through New York City. Do you want to do that?' 'Let me just consult with my seven-year-old self and see what he thinks! Like every young boy who feels stronger on the inside than they look on the outside, any skinny boy basically who wishes their muscles matched their sense of injustice, God, it's just the stuff that dreams are made of, for sure. I've been preparing for it... ever since Halloween when I was four years old and I wore my first Spider-Man costume.”

What did the old Spidey think of all; this? “I was particularly excited at two moments,” Tobey Maguire told Garfield when interviewing him for Vman magazine. “One was when Marc Webb got involved... an interesting and cool choice.Then, I was certainly curious as to who was going to play Peter Parker. When I heard it was you, I was literally like: Fucking perfect!”

(Positions were reversed in 2012 when Maguire was chosen over Garfield for Yann Martel - author of the book adapted for Ang Lee’s film, Life of Pi).

Gwen Stacy .   A new Spidey, called for  a new Gwen… Although most of the potential Gwens met Webb without knowing who they were  testing for ... Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, or perhaps even Parker’s first love, Betty Brant.  These other hopefuls included: Dianna Agron, Lily Collins, Brooklyn Decker (Battleship), Hilary Duff, Ashley Greene (Twilight), Amber Heard, Anna Kendrick, Lindsay Lohan, Dominique McElligott, Teresa Palmer, Sara Paxton, Imogen Poots, Scout Taylor-Compton, Mia Wasikowska, Mary Elizabeth Winstead… plus two Melbournians: Emily Browning and  Georgina Haig,

Realising that Julia Roberts (a Mary Jane target in 2001) was too old for this kinda gig, the suits looked over her niece Emma Roberts. Both Agron and Winstead had been seen for Man of Steel’s Lois Lane in  2011. MEW also lost SHIELD Agent Maria Hill in Disney’s first Marvel film, The Avengers, 2011. Instead, she married Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Collins, Greene, Palmer also lost The Gangster Squad to  Emma Stone in 2011. And London’s Olivia Lovibond got Carina in Guardians of the Galaxy, instead.

“The chemistry between Andrew and Emma was stunning,” said Webb, “and made Emma the clear choice. At the heart of the story of Peter Parker is not only the amazing Spider-Man, but also an ordinary teenager who is wondering what he has to do to get the girl. Andrew and Emma will bring everything audiences expect to these roles, but also make them their own. Much to my surprise, it was fun to find out that our choice for Gwen (Emma) is also a natural blonde.”

Dr Curt Connors/the Lizard .   The suits had told Sam Raimi in 2009 that they did not share his enthusiasm about Dylan Baker reprising Dr Connors, finally merging into the Lizard. (Remember: Faceless figurines did not sell well!)  Sam disagreed. Sam went. When the same suits, give or take a jacket or two, started talking re-boot, guess who Marc Webb’s baddy was. Right, the Lizard!

“He’s the literal embodiment of the theme,” explained Webb, “which is we all have a missing piece. He has no arm. Peter has no parents, and he fills that void with Spider-Man.”

Michael Fassbender,  Magneto in the X-Men franchise, wasn’t keen. Nor was his  2009 Osacar-winning co-star  in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds,   Christopher Waltz.  He had just been been the bad Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet  and  the James Bond people were already waving cheque-books at him for Spectre in 2014. So,  enough with villains, danker!   Enter a Welsh Lizard: Rhys Ifans.

How did The Amazing Spider-Man (original title for Spidey 2) make out?  Almost amazing, said the geek of all geeks, Harry Knowles, on his Ain’t It Cool News site.He fell - and heavily for Garfield and Stone. But... “The movie is actually more along the lines of  Spider-Man 2,” he said “Just not that consistent.”





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