Sometimes things get complicated in Hollywood. When a movie studio or production company buys the rights to something–a book, a magazine article, a character–it may seem fairly straightforward. But when companies are bought u or merged or producers jump from one place to another, the rights can slip in and out of countless hand, which can turn the actual process of making the movie into a weird chaotic chase.
That’s kind of what happened with Spider-Man for several decades. Moviefone has a great story about the several Spider-Man movies that were almost made while the rights to the character bounced through the hands of a number of directors and producers. Here’s a quick run down:
- The producers who first bought the rights in the 1980s didn’t get the character and wanted to make a movie like “Swamp Thing.” Who should direct it? Why, Tobe Hooper of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” fame.
- Stan Lee rejected the horror idea so instead they went for an action-oriented type movie, with plans for Joseph Vito, who’d directed several Chuck Norris movies, to direct. This new story focused on “Otto Octavius and his research assistant Peter Parker are both transformed during a lab experiment involving a cyclotron. Parker’s boss turns into the maniacal Doctor Octopus — complete with head-scratching “okey dokey” catchphrase — and it’s up to Spidey to stop him from obtaining anti-gravity. Bob Hoskins was considered for Doc Ock.
- The studio that held the rights went under but the producers made a deal with Columbia Pictures to make the movie there. The producers announced James Cameron–and they put his name on the existing script, calling it a rewrite. Now they wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doc Ock.
- Then Cameron really did submit a script. It was “heavy on profanity” and would have climaxed in a battle on top of the World Trade Center. It would also have featured “a Spider-Man and Mary Jane love-making session that mimicked the mating rituals of arachnids, on top of the Brooklyn Bridge.” I think I’m glad that didn’t happen.
- After a financial disaster that led to a complicated battle for the rights (in the end, it involved a trade that gave MGM the Bond movies and Sony/Columbia the Spider-Man movies), the Sam Raimi movies were made. But when it came time to make “Spider-Man 4 and 5,” Raimi and Sony/Columbia couldn’t agree on anything. First the villain was the Lizard, then it was the Vulture, then they threw in Anne Hathaway to play the Vulturess. When the differences got to be too big, Raimi left the project, with Tobey Maguire going as well. Voila, reboot.
For more details, read the Moviefone piece. It’s a tortured history indeed, but once the movies did get going, they made, and are still making, lots of money.