1. Spider-Man: The Movie
Our first look into the scrapheap of aborted Spider-Man motion pictures comes from Steve Krantz, one of the producers of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoons. He'd spent several years trying to get a musical version of Spider-Man off the ground before eventually dropping the songs and pitching a more traditional superhero style feature.
In 1976 he was seeking studio backing to produce, what was described as, an epic adventure for the web-slinger. The script worked in elements from the 1973 story The Night Gwen Stacy Died...
...It also featured Nazis...
...Although no studio ever took the bait, Krantz' pitch involved some elements that would appear in later adaptations, including Spider-Man facing off against a 100 ft tall robot - very much like the 1978 Japanese Spider-Man series. It also got studios thinking about Spidey's live-action future, and so just a year later The Amazing Spider-Man television series debuted...
2. Columbia Pictures Spider-Man
Starring Nicholas Hammond as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, the 1977 TV series ran for just 13 episodes. Premiering on CBS with a TV movie in September 1977, 5 episodes followed in April/May 1978 which all proved to be huge ratings successes, with the rest airing sporadically across the 78/79 TV season.
The series also proved very popular in other countries, but not initially on the small screen. Columbia Pictures had taken the 90 minute pilot and released it theatrically....
...The TV show was proving very expensive to produce, and CBS were becoming wary of being labelled 'The Superhero Network', as they also broadcast The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and Captain America, so The Amazing Spider-Man was abruptly cancelled.
However, Columbia were so pleased with the international box office draw of The Amazing Spider-Man that they edited together some of the other episodes for cinema release, including Spider-Man Strikes Back (which comprising the two-part Deadly Dust storyline) and Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge (which compiled the Chinese Web storyline). So with no future on TV, Columbia looked into developing an ongoing series of new theatrical movies with Nicholas Hammond in the starring role.
Why it never got off the ground is probably due to finance, but the negative fan reaction to the series may have also played a part. Comic book fans had complained about the many changes made to Spider-Man and the lack of any real super villains. For instance - in The Dragon's Challenge, Spider-Man went to Hong Kong to save a Chinese politician accused of corruption, not very true to the comic book really!
3. Roger Corman's Spider-Man
In the early 1980s Orion Pictures had the rights to Spider-Man, and they tasked the legendary Roger Corman with bringing the web-slinger to the screen. Corman was a fan of Spider-Man and turned to Stan Lee to write the screenplay. As you'd expect it was pretty faithful to the comics - radioactive spider bite/Uncle Ben/Mary Jane/Doctor Octopus fight. It did also included a scene where Spidey managed to avert nuclear war between Russia and the USA, but hey ho, it was the 80s after all!
All was looking good, until disagreements over the budget between Corman and Lee came to a head. Lee envisioned a big budget spectacle, whereas, unsurprisingly, Roger Corman had planned to shoot the whole thing in his back garden with his local amateur dramatic society playing all key roles (well not literally, but you get the point). All the conflict kept pushing production of the movie back, until eventually, much to Corman's dismay, Orion let the rights to Spider-Man expire.
4. Cannon Films' Spider-Man
In 1985 Cannon Films spent $225,000 licensing the web-slinger - money well spent you may think? Only trouble was that the cousins who ran the Cannon Group, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, weren't actually sure who Spider-Man was, they thought he was like The Wolfman! So they had in mind a superhero free movie, something more akin to the classic Universal monsters movies.
The director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper, was bought on board, and a treatment was put together by The Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens. In it Peter Parker mutated into an eight-armed tarantula monster, and then set about fighting a variety of mutants who'd escaped a secret government laboratory.
Stan Lee stepped in and convinced Cannon to take a more traditional direction, and so a new script was written by Ted Newsom and John Brancato which saw Spidey take on Doc Ock. Cannon Films were so excited about the project that they took out a 50 page pull-out ad in trade papers to promote their upcoming feature...
But trouble was brewing behind the scenes. First Hooper left, to be replaced by Missing in Action director Joseph Zito, he quickly realised that Cannon were way out of their league. The cousins wooed him with talk of Tom Cruise playing Peter Parker, but quickly changed their mind and thought that stuntman Scott Leva would be the better choice (pictured above). Before he departed the project Zito had plans to cast Bob Hoskins in the role of Dr Octopus, his replacement, B-Movie director Albert Pyun, and Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus thought otherwise. A new script was written which now saw Spider-Man face off against a "bat-like scientist-turned-vampire".
Logistical problems, and another Stan Lee intervention, saw a further rewrite that now included the Lizard as Spidey's nemesis, and Lee himself as J. Jonah Jameson. Sets were built, and most of the (unknown) cast were in place.
Before they finally pulled the plug in 1988, it was reported that Cannon Films had spent well over $10 million in developing their Spider-Man movie, an unheard of sum at the time. Every new re-write and direction saw the filming budget for the proposed movie cut further and further, and so it got to the stage where there was just not enough money left to actually shoot the film itself. A last ditch effort saw Pyun suggest that he shoot the movie alongside the proposed Masters of the Universe sequel - both films sharing sets and production costs. But when that film also fell through, Pyun accepted defeat. He went on to use the sets and props that had been created for Spider-Man in his Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Cyborg.
The Cannon Group went under, so to recoup some losses they sold the rights to Spider-Man to Carolco, the studio behind Total Recall and Terminator 2. And Carolco just happened to have James Cameron on speed dial...
5. James Cameron's Spider-Man
In 1991, fresh of the back of their Terminator 2: Judgement Day success, James Cameron wrote a treatment for a Spider-Man movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Octopus. To say Cameron wanted to make some changes to the Spidey mythology is an understatement!
Cameron's take was quite mature in content, and laced with profanity. Peter Parker is described as "your basic sexually pent-up adolescent" and includes more than one scene featuring Peter spying on Mary Jane in her underwear, and another with the two of them having sex on top of the Manhattan Bridge! Villain wise, a trio of Doc Ock, Electro and Sandman would've been featured. Electro was to be a successful "Donald Trump-type" businessman, who after attempting to rape a woman ends up killing her, then brings her back to life all using his powers to finish the 'job'.
Carolco weren't exactly digging what Cameron had in mind (maybe the suggestion of Charlie Sheen as the Web Slinger wasn't to their taste), and so combined with their current financial and legal problems, in April 1992, they ceased active production on a Spider-Man movie.
And the world said "Thank God!"
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