Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man helped define the nascent superhero movie genre in its infancy. While it may seem quaint in a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DCEU dominate the box office, in the early noughties, action movies starring folks in spandex pyjamas were far from guaranteed hits.
Spider-Man, however (along with the X-Men movies), helped to convince the suits in Hollywood that the cape and cowl crowd were an audience worth courting. It helps, of course, that Spider-Man (2002) is one of the best Spider-Man movies ever made. Theatrical in tone and boasting some breathtaking visuals. In many ways, Raimi, like Richard Donner before him, really did make you believe a man could fly, or in this case, swing. Curiously though, there’s a path not swung for the Wallcrawler. You see, Raimi wasn’t the first choice to direct Spider-Man.
Before the horror movie maestro came on board, there was another: the box office busting James Cameron. Work on Cameron’s Spider-Man began in the early ‘90s, and a lot of details about the film have leaked online. Unfortunately, right’s issues meant the film never materialised, but Cameron’s called it the “greatest movie I never made.” So we’d like to take you on a trip through the multiverse and imagine a world where Cameron made his movie. Here’s what could have been…
Leonardo DiCaprio would have been Spider-Man
This is relatively well known, but Leonardo DiCaprio was reportedly Cameron’s first choice to play Spider-Man, although it’s doubtful he would have taken the role. In an interview with Short List, DiCaprio admitted he saw the script but didn’t feel ready to take on the part.
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“Er, that was another one of those situations, similar to Robin, where I didn’t feel ready to put on that suit yet,” he explained. “They got in touch with me.” Other younger actors linked with the role of Peter Parker include Edward Furlong, who worked with Cameron on the robot movie Terminator.
Electro and Sandman would have been the villains
Cameron didn’t want his take on the wall-crawler to tackle one Spider-Man villain but two. Apparently, he wanted Spidey to battle Electro and Sandman, sort of. Cameron reimagined both characters for his interpretation of Spider-Man.
Electro went from Max Dillon, a lineman who gets electric powers after being struck by lightning (comics are silly, we know), to businessman Carlton Strand. Strand would use his new powers to manipulate data and bank transfers to make himself successful.
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As a side effect of his powers, though, Strand would’ve been unable to touch his wife or experience intimacy. When Spider-Man appears on the scene, this new stress would have driven Strand insane, and he would have done everything in his power to kill the Wallcrawler.
Sandman would also have had his backstory altered. Instead of Flint Marko, he would been known as Boyd, and would’ve been a thug working for Strand. While he would have retained his sandy powers, he reportedly used them primarily to shapeshift.
Electro and Sandman’s inclusion in Cameron’s script is often touted as the reason why these characters didn’t appear in Spider-Man’s animated series.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Doctor Octopus
While Electro and Sandman were the main villains, Arnold Schwarzenegger told Empire Magazine Cameron wanted him to play Doctor Octopus. It’s probable but unconfirmed that Cameron showed Schwarzenegger an early draft of the script that used an earlier screenplay from masters of shlock cinema Canon Picture.
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While some might be sad to hear we never got Schwarzenegger’s take of Otto Octavius, you should count yourself lucky. The bits of story that leaked from that Canon screenplay include Doc Ock using the catchphrase “okey-dokey”, having a sidekick named Weiner, and the character having his name inexplicably changed to Professor Octopus. We should thank our lucky stars we got Alfred Molina’s more nuanced take on the not so good doctor.
Organic web-shooters were a metaphor for… you know
Raimi caught a bit of heat for dropping Peter Parker’s mechanical web-shooters, but the idea originated with Cameron. While he’s great at making blockbusters, Cameron’s never been exactly subtle, and he planned on using Peter gaining spider-powers as a metaphor for puberty.
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While that’s exactly what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did with the character, they did it with a little more grace than Cameron intended. The Terminator director wanted to explicitly link Peter’s powers with his burgeoning sexuality having a literal web-wet dream at one point in the film.
In fact, as a whole, Cameron’s version was a lot hornier and creepier than anyone would have wanted. One sequence would see him using his powers to spy on Mary Jane as she changed, eventually getting so excited he momentarily loses his ability to stick to walls. And you thought Spider-Man 3 was problematic…
It would have been R-Rated for some reason
When people think Spider-Man, they think one thing, over the top violence, sex and swearing. Yeah, we’re not sure what Cameron was thinking but his Spider-Man movie was, for some reason, R-rated.
Apparently, the film would have been a gritty and dark reimagining of the character, complete with F-bombs and over the top violence. If you thought we were done detailing the creepy elements of the script, think again because we haven’t even got to the spider mating dance.
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Multiple sources claim there would have been a scene where Peter seduced Mary Jane by performing an erotic spider dance that ended with them copulating. Presumably, this version of MJ just wanted Peter to stop dancing, but alas, we’ll never know because Cameron’s plans fell apart over rights issues to Spidey.
While Cameron may have called his Spider-Man movie the greatest film he never made, we’re glad this mutated monstrosity never saw the light of the projectionist’s bulb.