Stan Lee’s No Way Home cameo would have been wrong

Including a Stan Lee cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home would have been a mistake reducing the man's legacy to nothing but nostalgia fodder

Stan Lee No Way Home cameo

Spider-Man: No Way Home’s script has been released online, and it contains several revelations. While headlines across the internet were dedicated to explaining what Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were really called and examining stage directions for clues about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something else caught our eye. No Way Home almost used a Stan Lee lookalike to give Spidey’s co-creator one last cameo.

Now a Lee cameo isn’t out of the ordinary for a Marvel film; he’s been appearing in superhero action movies since the first X-Men in 2000. However, after Lee’s death in 2018, we presumed (wrongly, it seems) that the comic book creator’s cameos had been retired? Now we know he made some posthumous appearances in Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, but those particular cameos were filmed before his death.

That’s why Lee doesn’t appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home; they hadn’t gotten around to filming his appearance yet. At the time, it was reported that Spider-Man director Jon Watts never even suggested using digital necromancy to put him in the film as the decision had been made by Marvel to end Lee’s cameos following the release of Avengers: Endgame.

This decision to retire Lee’s cameos was confirmed by an unlikely source, The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean. Jean wanted to put Lee in The Simpsons Disney Plus short ‘The Good, The Bart, and the Loki’, but he was told he couldn’t.

“We just thought, ‘Oh, we have Stan Lee audio from when he was on our show, could we cameo him in?’ They said that their policy is he doesn’t cameo now that he’s passed away, which is a completely understandable policy,” he told Comicbook.com. “That was their only note, and that was, of course, easily done… Believe me, I respect that these franchises have a great power beyond ours. I respect it.”

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So why did Marvel and Sony nearly put him in No Way Home? Well, a charitable interpretation of the cut cameo is that they wanted to pay their respects to the man who helped breathe life into Spidey in a movie that celebrated 20 years of Spider-Man movies.

A slightly less generous reading of the planned appearance is that they wanted to prompt a nostalgia induced endorphin hit. After all, while No Way Home is a fun movie, there’s no denying that there’s a slight reliance on stuff you’ve seen before, or to paraphrase Milhouse from The Simpsons, ‘remember Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? Well, they’re back in MCU form’.

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Tortured Simpsons references aside, I’m glad common sense prevailed, and they cut the Lee cameo because this isn’t the first time Disney has resurrected the dead for their movies. Who could forget the digitally resurrected Peter Cushing from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, who climbed out of the uncanny valley and into our nightmares?

While the question of using digital effects to revive actors of yesteryear is a thorny one with no easy answer, we don’t think it’s controversial to say that we shouldn’t be using it for throwaway appearances.

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Whether it’s a lookalike or a digital homunculus, we should let Stan Lee rest. The man gave half of his life to the comic books that inspired these movies; he shouldn’t be reduced to a Spider-Man: No Way Home easter egg for the braying public to hoot and holler at. Lee means too much to comic fans to reduce his legacy to that.