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Script to Pieces: James Cameron’s Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

There were several attempts to bring Spider-Man to the big screen before 2002’s blockbuster smash hit. In many ways, much like Freddy vs. Jason, the success felt validating, like it was the payoff of over a decade’s worth of work. Cannon Films held the rights to do it during the 1980s, with many directors attached at various points. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter director Joseph Zito was in line to helm it at one point.

Tobe Hooper was attached to direct a version for Cannon that had nothing to do with the comic book, as Golan and Globus had no idea what it was and did not seek to familiarize themselves with it. Hearing the title, they thought it was about a man turning into a spider and battling other mutated spider-creations. They instructed Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens to write a script based on this idea.

Spider-Man 2002

Joseph Zito came onto the project after Hooper following the success of Invasion USA. He sought to create something a little more in line with the source material. His version would at least see Peter Parker as a costumed crimefighting superhero and a classic villain in Dr. Octopus. While Zito wanted to hand the Spidey role off to Marvel’s go-to guy for promotional appearances featuring the character, Tom Cruise was also discussed.

Golan drastically cut down the big budget script and the project limped on for years before the cord was finally cut. It came to a head in 1990, when Golan felt that the failure to launch proved that a superhero movie that adapted the comic could not be done, allowing him to return to his original idea of a freakish spider/human hybrid. That too failed to see the light of day.

In 1993, things changed when James Cameron was brought in to meet with Marvel to talk about their plans to bring X-Men to the big screen. He was interested, but as soon as Spider-Man was mentioned, he started gushing to Stan Lee about his love for the character.

This is, without a doubt, the most famous failed attempt at the Spider-Man movie before it eventually got made. While there are ideas from the script that made it into the finished film, such as the organic web shooters, the story itself is very different. First and foremost, as much as Cameron seemed to get and love the character, his version of Spider-Man was incredibly violent and profane.

Spider-Man 2002In a move that probably would have angered fans, Cameron’s treatment did not directly include any villains from the comics, although the antagonists were clearly based on Electro and Sandman, respectively. Carlton Strand, Cameron’s take on Electro, was the primary antagonist and served as a parody of corrupt capitalism and bureaucracy.

This version saw a much rougher, meaner Spider-Man who has no problem saying “fuck you” to his enemies. And no problem revealing his identity to Mary Jane, either. In fact, the treatment went as far as to include a sex scene on the Brooklyn Bridge. The final showdown was meant to take place at the World Trade Center, with Spider-Man battling both villains atop the towers.

Both Edward Furlong and Leonardo DiCaprio were considered for the role while Cameron was attached. Obviously, DiCaprio would go on to star in the colossal all-time hit Titanic only a few years later, under Cameron’s direction. While it’s difficult to see Furlong as Spider-Man, he actually feels completely tailored to the punk, angry, homicidal version of the character that Cameron wrote into his treatment.

Ultimately, this version never materialized. Columbia gained control of the rights after Carolco went bankrupt. The best bits of Cameron’s treatment were retained in David Koepp’s heavily rewritten script. Sam Raimi was brought in as director, a fan of the series since childhood, he brought a deep understanding and respect for the source material that proved to be the key in cracking the code of adapting this classic character for the big screen.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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