It's one of the great questions of modern day superhero movie-dom: After the huge commercial success of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3, why didn't we get to see a sequel? After all, the movie made $890 million internationally, despite lukewarm reviews. Surely that alone would be enough to guarantee a sequel?
Well, there's one main reason that Spider-Man 4 never found its way in front of a camera - and as it turns out, it's entirely down to Sam Raimi himself.
Thankfully, it's the sort of reason that might actually restore your faith in movies a little...
First, though, let's take a look at what we almost saw...
John Malkovich Was Set to Play the Villain
And, better yet, he was set to play one of the most iconic and longest-standing villains in Spider-History...The Vulture.
Way back in 2008, when Raimi began development on the movie, Raimi's mind swiftly turned towards Malkovich to play the legendary Spider-Villain, revealing back in 2007 that he'd "love" to see the character to appear in the movie.
That, though, wasn't to be, and in 2010 Malkovich discussed with Collider just why the role fell through...
“Well, I think a lot of the people who sort of follow that genre… I’m not sure, I never really spoke with Sam about this, but I’m not sure they — maybe the kind of fanbase, the fanboys — either didn’t approve of that character as an adversary for him to some extent…or maybe the studio. Or maybe that was totally unrelated to why it fell apart.”
That same period, between 2007 and 2010, saw a whole lot of speculation as to what the movie would eventually feature, including...
Dylan Baker Almost Played The Lizard
Yup, Dylan Baker, who played Dr. Curt Connors in the previous Spider-Movies, came close to reprising the role - but this time, as the villainous Lizard, who Connors is transformed into.
Raimi even spoke about how much he'd like to see Baker return in the role, revealing that:
“I love Dylan Baker as a person, and I really like the character he is developing.”
“The Lizard is probably one of my favorite characters,”
Ultimately, though, the character fell by the wayside of several script revisions - and, it seems, Baker was deemed insufficiently famous to play the role by studio heads.
One role, though, had its lead actor pretty firmly in place...
Anne Hathaway Was Nearly The Black Cat
That's right - years before taking on the role of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway came close to playing a very similar - but Marvel-based - catburglar: Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. The Black Cat.
Or did she?
After all, Raimi confirmed in 2013 that Hathaway had indeed been set to play Felicia Hardy - but he didn't actually specify that she was set to play The Black Cat.
And, as it happens, there were reports back in 2009 that Hathaway was going to play a very different version of Felicia Hardy from the one that's appeared in the comics - one who becomes a villain known as the Vulturess...
Which, while unconfirmed, would have been...kinda weird.
Why, Though, Didn't the Movie Happen?
Well, as it turns out, it was precisely because of everything above - but not quite in the way you might think.
Between 2007 and 2010, Raimi and Sony, who produced the series, went back and forth over several scripts - with James Vanderbilt, David Koepp, David Lindsay-Abaire and Gary Ross all taking a crack at the script - all to no avail.
Which, in most circumstances, would be challenging, but not unusually so - many films take a long, long time to get right at the scripting stage. With Spider-Man 4, though, there was a problem - Sony had already set a release date for the movie.
So, with May 6, 2011 looming, Raimi decided to pull out of the project - and in January 2010, it was officially cancelled (before being almost immediately re-booted with the Amazing Spider-Man series).
Raimi, though, recently revealed to Vulture exactly why he dropped out, and it's...well, it's well worth reading for yourself:
"It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: It was simply that we had a deadline and I couldn't get the story to work on a level that I wanted it to work. I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all. But I couldn't get the script together in time, due to my own failings, and I said to Sony, "I don't want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn't make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you've been planning anyway." And [Sony co-chairman] Amy Pascal said, "Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio's money, and I appreciate your candor." So we left on the best of terms, both of us trying to do the best thing for fans, the good name of Spider-Man, and Sony Studios."
That's right - Raimi chose to leave the Spider-Man franchise not because he didn't get to include the villains he wanted, or because of the critical reaction to Spider-Man 3 - but because he felt that he couldn't make the movie he felt the fans deserved, within the time-frame available. In short, he dropped out to give the Spider-Man series the best chance of succeeding that he thought possible.
And y'know what? No matter how we might feel about Spider-Man 3, or about the Andrew Garfield-led reboot, I think that's actually pretty noble...
What do you guys think, though?
Was Sam Raimi right to leave Spider-Man 4?
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