The Marvel Superhero Movies That Never Were: The Mid 80s SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Marvel Superhero Movies That Never Were: The Mid 80s SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE

More Wolfman than Spider-Man.

In 1985 Cannon Films spent $225,000 licensing the film rights to Spider-Man from Marvel for a period of five years. 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 knew the whole origin story, radioactive spider bite yadda yadda yadda, but believed the character was more akin to the classic Universal monsters, like The Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein. So they spent close to a quarter of a million dollars with no intention of making a superhero movie.

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 with Golan & Globus up to speed on web-slinger lore he convinced Cannon to take a more traditional direction. Finally understanding what they'd licensed, 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, Spider-Man: The Movie...

A new script was written by Ted Newsom and John Brancato which saw Spidey take on Doctor Octopus, but trouble was brewing behind the scenes.

First Tobe 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 had wooed him with talk of Tom Cruise playing Peter Parker and a $20 million budget. But after the financial failure of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and Masters Of The Universe, both produced by Cannon, the company tightened the purse strings.

With the budget slashed in half and thoughts of casting Lauren Bacall or Katharine Hepburn as Aunt May and Peter Cushing as a sympathetic scientist who helps train Peter Parker all but vanished. And as for Tom Cruise? Uh-uh. Not that he would've likely taken the role anyway, but Golan & Globus had moved on from Cruise anyway (he was so over by then!) and decided that unknown stuntman Scott Leva would be the better choice (pictured below in test shots).

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 along with Golan & Globus thought otherwise, nixing the character completely and commissioning yet another new script, one which would be cheaper to produce.

The proposed film would now see 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, most of the (unknown) cast were in place and Marvel Comics even promoted the film by including a shot of Scott Leva in Spider-Man costume on the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #262.

Before they finally pulled the plug in 1988, it was reported that Cannon Films had spent well over $10 million in developing Spider-Man: The Movie, an unheard of sum at the time for a film that never even went before the cameras. Every new rewrite 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.

A last ditch effort saw Pyun suggest that he film the movie alongside the proposed Masters of the Universe sequel - both films sharing sets and production costs. But when that sequel 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, with assets purchased by Pathe Pictures in 1989. All assets that is except for Spider-Man which Golan kept in lieu of a cash pay out, moving to 21st Century Film Corporation with the intention of continuing developing Spider-Man: The Movie.

Despite an announcement at Cannes in May 1989 that a two year extension had been agreed with Marvel and production on the Spider-Man: The Movie would begin in the September of that year, it wasn't to be. Eventually, to recoup losses, the rights to Spider-Man were sold to Carolco, the studio behind Total Recall and Terminator 2. They just happened to have James Cameron on speed dial and what he had in mind for Spider-Man... well we've explored that in detail here.

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