Spider-Man 3 paved the way for more sequels...
Back in 2007, Sony and Marvel were enjoying a mass backslapping session over the massive success of their friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man. Despite some unfavourable reviews lamenting its surfeit of villains, Spider-Man 3 had just made an absolute killing at the box office, with a worldwide take of almost $900 million making it Sony’s highest ever grossing film.
Not ones to leave a cash-cow unmilked, Sony announced that there was plenty more to come from the franchise, with executive Michael Lynton revealing plans were afoot to make not one, not two, but three further sequels.
“Everyone has every intention of making a fourth, a fifth and a sixth and on and on,” gushed Lynton to the BBC. “ Spider-Man 3 had a universal appeal, it had a broader appeal than the second movie. It attracted a family audience and brought the family audience back. (We’ll keep making) as many as we can make good stories for.”
“When everybody comes up for air,” he concluded, “we can think about how to make the next one.”
Having done better business at the box office than the first two films combined, Sony’s bullishness was hardly surprising. So with the studio all set to plough their newfound millions back into the series, the next move was to get Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire back on board…
Sam Raimi was in place to direct...
There were initially question marks over whether Raimi would return for a fourth instalment. Rumours of studio interference in Spider-Man 3 , particularly over the inclusion of Venom (a character Raimi had been openly sceptical about) had suggested an increasingly strained relationship between Raimi and Sony.
“If I can't find the right story that would work for me and that I could tell really well, I would like someone else to tell that story”, he told MTV in 2007, suggesting that if he were to do a fourth film, it would have to be on his terms.
However in September 2008, Sony confirmed that both Raimi and Tobey Maguire would be returning for at least one more film, with the director apparently having shelved his reservations in favour of a fourth crack at the franchise.
And as if that wasn’t news enough, there was also talk of shooting a fifth film back-to-back with the fourth.
It would be a real endurance test,” said Raimi. “Probably only Peter Jackson knows how hard something like that would be,” “If Tobey and me, and all the producers, like the story for two pictures then we would do it.”
So with Maguire in place to reprise his web-slinging antics, who would he be facing off against? Once again, Raimi was a man with a plan…
Vulture and Black Cat were set to be the villains...
Despite the third instalment suffering from multiple-villain meltdown, Raimi was keen to give Spidey plenty to grapple with for his fourth outing, with the rumour mill going into overdrive as to which villains he would pick from Marvel’s vast roster.
“I would love to see maybe the Sinister Six as a team” he told MTV, stoking fears that Spider-Man 3 ’s treble-trouble would be doubled with a six-villain pile-up. However, come 2009, Raimi was widely reported to have pared-down his wish list to just two baddies.
The creaking, winged villain known as the Vulture was one, whilst Felicia Hardy, otherwise known as the Black Cat, was said to be the other. Not only that, but Raimi also had a good idea of who he wanted to play them too, with John Malkovich and Ann Hathaway reportedly in the frame.
Malkovich would later go on to confirm that he had had extensive talks with Raimi about the role, hinting that the choice of villains may have been a contributing factor in the project’s collapse.
“I think a lot of the people who sort of follow that genre didn’t approve of that character as an adversary,” he said. “Or maybe the studio (didn’t). I was disappointed because I like Sam and I like Toby, but it didn’t play out.”
Indeed it didn’t, as Sony were about to drop a bombshell that would turn the series on its head…
Raimi dropped out with Sony planning a reboot...
In January of this year, Sony announced that both Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s involvement with the series had come to an end, with plans afoot to give the series a complete makeover.
With rumoured differences over the film’s script and plot becoming insurmountable, Raimi released a statement confirming the news, with more than a slight air of gritted teeth.
“Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me,” he said. “While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job.”
Matt Tolmach, President of Columbia Pictures, was quick to play-up the gravity of the decision, expressing his thanks for Raimi and Maguire’s work across the first three films.
“We have had a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration and friendship with Sam and Tobey,” he said, “and they have given us their best for the better part of the last decade. This is a bittersweet moment for us because while it is hard to imagine Spider-Man in anyone else’s hands.”
Imagine it he did though, with a press release revealing that, “Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theatres in the summer of 2012!”
These studio execs, eh? You can’t keep them down for long…
The new-look Spidey will be gritty and low(ish) budget...
The initial press release went on to describe the Spider-Man reboot as a film, “that focuses on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.”
All of which sounded like a guarantee of some pretty full-on angst, with Entertainment Weekly’s Hollywood Insider column claiming that the studio were looking for, “a more gritty, contemporary redo of the series.”
The man charged with delivering the aforementioned grit was James Vanderbilt, presumably hired on the strength of his work on gloomy-but-ace serial-killer flick Zodiac .
According to Sony insiders, Vanderbilt’s script had been in place for some time, but had initially been intended to follow Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 , which had been pencilled in as a farewell for the series in its original form.
Reports emerged that Raimi’s inability to complete the project by 2011 had been a major factor in the studio’s decision to can it, with a series reboot planned for the following year.
If that shed some light on proceedings, reports of the film’s prospective budget only served to raise eyebrows again. The Hollywood Reporter claims that the film will be, “in the $80 million range and feature a cast of relative unknowns.”
A bit of a change of pace from the Raimi days then. Limited cash, cast of unknowns…looks like Spider-Man is going to need a director who can handle a budget…
Marc Webb will be behind the camera...
Fortunately, it’s got one in the shape of director Marc Webb, whose work on sleeper smash 500 Days Of Summer clearly wowed the bigwigs at Sony.
“The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker's life,” said Sony’s Amy Pascal in an official press release. “We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter's shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man's adventure.”
Webb meanwhile was clearly still pinching himself as released a statement of his own, playing up his delight at the announcement, and his understanding that with great power, comes great responsibility.
“This is a dream come true,” he said, “and I couldn't be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi's virtuoso rendering of Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon. The first three films are beloved for good reason. But I think the Spider-Man mythology transcends not only generations but directors as well.”
Perhaps wisely, Webb is keen to distance his vision from what we’ve seen previously, presumably aware that Raimi’s dismissal didn’t go over too well with many of the series’ devotees.
“I am signing on not to 'take over' from Sam,” he continued. “That would be impossible, not to mention arrogant. I'm here because there's an opportunity for ideas, stories, and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas, and creative voice to Spider-Man."
It will be in 3D...
Somewhat bizarrely, Sony’s next move was to announce that the film will be released in 3D. Not bizarre in the sense that it should be a surprise to see a superhero movie getting the 3D treatment (even your gritty kitchen-sink dramas seem to be leaping out of the screen these days), but more that it seems to jar with earlier reports of a back-to-basics, low-budget approach.
However, it seems like that’s what’s going to happen, with Sony Chairman Jeff Blake releasing an official statement confirming the news.
“Spider-Man is the ultimate summer movie-going experience,” he boomed, “and we’re thrilled the filmmakers are presenting the next instalment in 3D. Spider-Man is one of the most popular characters in the world, and we know audiences are eager and excited to discover Marc’s fantastic vision for Peter Parker and the franchise.”
Sounds like we can look forward to some in-your-face web-slinging then, as Spidey inevitably comes swinging straight out of the screen. But who exactly will audiences be getting up close and personal with?
The search for Spider-Man was rigorous...
Nobody can accuse Sony of not doing their homework when picking their new Spider-Man. After months of Chinese whispers from fan forums to this very website, a shortlist comprising the cream of young Hollywood talent were revealed to be undergoing screen tests.
Amongst the young hopefuls to audition for the role were Jamie Bell, Aaron Johnson, Logan Lerman, and Star Trek ’s Anton Yelchin.
Bell aside, the majority of auditionees were relative newcomers (or at least actors with only a handful of major screen credits) reflecting Sony’s determination to take the series in a fairly major new direction.
And whilst Bell was most people’s favourite to bag the role, another young British actor swung in to steal the part from under his nose…
Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker...
That’s right, Blighty’s own Andrew Garfield managed to sneak under the radar without getting anybody’s Spidey senses tingling, prompting fans everywhere to ask, er, “who?”
Well, without being a massive name, Garfield has built a burgeoning reputation within the industry with a series of impressive TV credits, Channel 4’s hard-hitting Red Riding adaptation being chief among them.
Soon to be seen in The Social Network with Jesse Eisenberg and Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley, Garfield unsurprisingly describes his new identity as something of a dream come true.
“I have been waiting for this phone call for 24 years,” he told The Hollywood Reporter recently, “for someone 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?’”
“God, it's just the stuff that dreams are made of,” he continued. “It's a true fucking honour to be part of this symbol that I actually think is very important, and has meant a great deal to me, and continues to mean something to people. So yeah, I feel like I've been preparing for it for a while. Ever since Halloween when I was four years old and I wore my first Spider-Man costume.”
We can say he’s keen, then. At 27 years of age, Garfield might be a bit long in the tooth to play a high school student, although Webb may decide to shift the setting to college if needs be. So what news on his love-interest? Well, we can definitely tell you who won’t be appearing…
MJ has been given the boot...
That’s right, there will be no rain-soaked smooching this time around, as not only Kirsten Dunst, but also her flame-haired alter-ego have failed to make the cut.
The Heatvision Blog reports that traditional love interest Mary Jane Watson will not be appearing in the reboot, leaving us to ponder whether this will result in a reintroduction of Gwen Stacy (played by Bryce Dallas Howard in Spider-Man 3 ) or a different love-interest entirely.
As with their male casting, Sony have drawn up an extensive shortlist of Hollywood starlets said to include Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Emma Roberts, Nowhere Boy ’s Ophelia Lovibond, The Blind Side ’s Lily Collins, Teresa Roberts of The Sorceror’s Apprentice and Imogen Poots, who appeared in 28 Weeks Later .
However, it may be that none of those get the nod, with Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper turning up a tidbit of key information when interviewing actress Hilary Duff recently. The article states that, “a script marked Spider-Man sits on the table, with lines for a character simply called 'girl' highlighted in yellow".
No confirmation has been forthcoming as yet, so let’s just keep are fingers crossed that the role doesn’t require any singing…
The villain is still unknown...
No word as yet on who Spider-Man will be facing off against, although that hasn’t stopped the online community firing off rumour upon rumour. There doesn’t seem to be too much debate over who the fans would like to see, with The Lizard the name on everybody’s lips.
Dylan Baker had played the scaly so-and-so’s human incarnation Dr. Curt Connors in the original trilogy, and Sam Raimi had hinted that the character’s transformation was one of the ideas he’d been toying with for Spider-Man 4 .
“He’s a great actor,” said Raimi of Baker, “and I think one day The Lizard’s story will be told.” However, whether that day has come or not is another matter. In the same way that Killer Croc is unlikely to turn up in a Batman film anytime soon, The Lizard’s outlandish appearance may be a bridge too far for Sony.
One villain we can probably rule out is Venom, whose contentious appearance in Spider-Man 3 had paved the way for a spin-off movie. Sony have gone fairly quiet on the fate of the Venom-project since announcing their reboot plans, but as far as we know it’s still in development.
In any case, we’re expecting the villain to be the next revelation after Spidey’s love-interest is cast, so in the meantime we’ll be hoping Dylan Baker catches a break and finally gets to go green…
Shooting begins in December...
Sony will have to get a shift on with their recruitment process, as cameras are set to begin rolling in December this year. Apparently, filming will be kicking-off in LA, a slightly odd choice on the face of things, given that the character is so synonymous with New York.
That said, there’s nothing to suggest the story won’t be set in it’s traditional home (LA has doubled for the Big Apple on plenty of occasions), although it would seem that the high-profile locations favoured by the Raimi films may not be to the fore.
Andrew Garfield is just focussing on making sure he’s in peak physical condition for the shoot, with the star confirming that, “flexibility is my main focus right now, making sure that I can be as flexible as possible.”
The film is slated for a release date of July 3 2012, meaning there will be plenty of time to chew over the particulars of cast and plot. It might seem a little too soon to be rebooting a franchise that’s less than a decade old, but if the aptly named Webb can steer the series back on the straight and narrow after the disappointment of Spider-Man 3 , there won’t be too many complaining.