Sometimes it takes a long time to get a movie made. Decades even. Projects pass through various creative hands at various studios. Scripts get rewritten and thrown out. That’s just how it goes. Such was the case with Spider-Man, long before Sam Raimi stepped in to make his live-action version of the Marvel Comics hero in 2002, which helped to usher in the modern era of superhero movies as we know it.
But things could have gone in a very different direction, as Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, almost made a horror version of the movie back in the 80s.
According to a new report, Cannon Films landed the rights to make a Spider-Man movie in the mid-80s. They paid $225,000 for the rights. It was a five-year deal, meaning the rights would revert back to Marvel if they didn’t make a movie by 1990. Admittedly, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the heads of the studio, didn’t seem to have a grasp on the character of Peter Parker very well. So, their idea was to radically change his origin story and make something more akin to David Cronenberg’s The Fly, which would see Peter Parker transformed into an eight-armed hybrid beast, via radiation exposure at the hands of someone by the name of Doctor Zork. No radioactive spider business.
Leslie Stevens, of The Outer Limits fame, was hired to pen the screenplay, with Tobe Hooper eyed to direct. Eventually, Stan Lee got wind of what they intended to do and talked them out of it. They were convinced to head in a different direction, which would have been more faithful to what Lee and Steve Ditko had cooked up in the pages of Marvel Comics. The new version was penned by Barney Cohen (Sabrina the Teenage Witch). Hooper left the project around that time and Joseph Zito (Invasion USA) was hired to take his place.
The story they cooked up was compared to the one featured in the recent Spider-Man PS4 game, which was very well-received by fans. Doc-Ok would have served as a mentor to Peter Parker. What’s perhaps most amazing is the cast they were going after. It would have included a young Tom Cruise as Peter Parker, Bob Hoskins as Doctor Octopus, Christopher Lee as an unnamed scientist character, with Lauren Bacall or Katharine Hepburn eyed for Aunt May. In a fun twist, Stan Lee would have played Daily Bugle editor J Jonah Jameson, who was famously brought to life by J.K. Simmons in Sam Raimi’s trilogy.
Eventually, after a slash in the budget (originally expected to be in the $20 million range) and a lengthy development process, it was scrapped by Cannon. James Cameron then spent a number of years working on his famous never-to-be version in the 90s, before Marvel sold off the rights to Columbia in 1998, which led to the 2002 version that actually got made. The rest is multi-billion dollar blockbuster history.
Who knows? If this horror version had gone forward, maybe the Sam Raimi version never would have got made. Maybe the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t exist. It could have fundamentally reshaped the history of comic book movies. But, thankfully, that didn’t happen. Still, it’s a fascinating part of would-be Marvel movie history. This news was brought to light by Digital Spy.