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John Malkovich turned down Green Goblin in Spider-Man

Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin is now viewed as a classic Spider-Man villain, but he could have been played by John Malkovich, if they'd offered him more money

While movies based on Marvel comics were certainly a mixed bag before the MCU began in 2008, most people are a fan of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies (or the first two, at least). Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin have both become iconic Spider-Man villains, but things could have ended up looking quite different.

Back in 2000, John Malkovich told Empire Online that he wouldn’t be playing the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie, despite rumours to the contrary. “I won’t be doing Spider-Man,” Malkovich told the site. “It’s not really my genre particularly, and there were scheduling difficulties, and what they offered wasn’t in any way an inducement for me to do it.”

Malkovich added, “It was everything. Way too much time, not enough money, not enough of anything. I mean, if I’d have loved it, obviously I would have done it, but those sort of films aren’t art films, they’re business propositions.” Malkovich is not exactly known for being choosy with roles, having appeared in 140 films. And he’s no stranger to playing action movie villains such as Cyrus the Virus in Con Air.

Both Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe had cameos in 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, as did Tobey Maguire. Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy was released between 2002 and 2007, with Spider-Man 2 being the best received of the three. The three movies made between $700-$900 million each.

It’s funny that Malkovich was saying that superhero movies aren’t “art films, they’re business propositions” over twenty years ago, because this is a debate that has only intensified since.

The future of Spidey is currently somewhat in the air, as we don’t know what role he will play in Phase 5 and 6 of the MCU. Sony is also expanding its series of movies revolving around Spider-Man villains, which began with Venom, and continued to the much-maligned Morbius. They will be hoping for more success with Madame Web, Kraven the Hunter, and El Muerto.

Check out our guide to the Spider-Man actors, ranked.