Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man helped define the fledgling superhero film genre in its early days. While that might seem quaint in an era when the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DCEU dominated the box office, in the early 2000s action movies featuring people in spandex pajamas were far from classic. guaranteed success.
Spider-Man, however (along with the X-Men movies), helped convince costumers in Hollywood that the cape and cowl crowd was an audience worth wooing. It helps, of course, that Spider-Man (2002) is one of the best Spider-Man movies ever made. A theatrical tone and breathtaking visuals. In many ways, Raimi, like Richard Donner before him, really made you believe that a man could fly, or in this case, swing. Curiously, there is one path that is not balanced for the Wallcrawler. You see, Raimi wasn’t the first choice to lead Spider-Man.
Before the horror movie maestro arrived, there was another: box office smash James Cameron. Work on Cameron’s Spider-Man began in the early ’90s, and many details about the film have leaked online. Unfortunately, right-wing issues meant the movie never materialized, but Cameron called it the “greatest movie I’ve ever done.” So we’d like to take you on a journey 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
It’s relatively well known, but Leonardo DiCaprio would have been Cameron’s first choice to play Spider-Man, although he’s unlikely to have played the part. In an interview with ShortlistDiCaprio admitted to seeing the script but didn’t feel ready to play the part.
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“Um, it was another one of those situations, similar to Robin, where I just didn’t feel ready to put on that costume yet,” he explained. ‘They contacted me’ Other younger actors linked to the role of Peter Parker include Edward Furlong, who worked with Cameron on the robot movie Terminator.
Electro and Sandman would have been the bad guys
Cameron didn’t want his wall crawler approach to tackle one Spider-Man villain, but two. Apparently he wanted Spidey to fight Electro and Sandman, sort of. Cameron reimagined both characters for his portrayal of Spider-Man.
Electro has gone from Max Dillon, a lineman who gets electric powers after being struck by lightning (the comics are silly, we know), to businessman Carlton Strand. Strand would use his newfound powers to manipulate data and bank transfers to succeed.
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As a side effect of his powers, Strand was reportedly 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 also reportedly had his backstory changed. Instead of Flint Marko, he would have been known as Boyd and was a thug working for Strand. While he would have retained his sand powers, he would have primarily used them for shapeshifting.
The inclusion of Electro and Sandman in Cameron’s storyline is often touted as the reason these characters don’t appear in the Spider-Man animated series.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was set to play Doctor Octopus
While Electro and Sandman were the main villains, Arnold Schwarzenegger told Empire Magazine that Cameron wanted him to play Doctor Octopus. It’s likely but unconfirmed that Cameron showed Schwarzenegger an early draft of the script which used an earlier script from shlock cinema masters Canon Picture.
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While some might be sad to learn that we never got Schwarzenegger’s vision of Otto Octavius, you should count yourself lucky. Story bits that leaked from this Canon storyline include Doc Ock using the “okey-dokey” catchphrase, having a sidekick named Weiner, and the character whose name was inexplicably changed to Professor Octopus. We should thank our lucky stars for Alfred Molina’s more nuanced take on the not-so-good doctor.
Organic web-shooters were a metaphor for… you know
Raimi took some heat for dropping Peter Parker’s mechanical web shooters, but the idea was born with Cameron. Although good at creating blockbusters, Cameron was never really subtle, and he planned to use Peter to gain 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 anticipated. The Terminator director wanted to explicitly tie Peter’s powers to his burgeoning sexuality having a literal web dream at some point in the film.
In fact, overall, Cameron’s version was a lot more exciting and scary than anyone would have liked. One sequence would see him use his powers to spy on Mary Jane as she changed, eventually becoming so aroused that he momentarily lost his ability to stick to walls. And you thought Spider-Man 3 was a problem…
It would have been R-Rated for some reason
When people think of Spider-Man, they think of one thing, beyond violence, sex, and swearing. Yeah, we don’t know what Cameron was thinking, but his Spider-Man movie was, for some reason, rated R.
Apparently, the film would have been a gritty, dark reimagining of the character, complete with F-bombs and over-the-top violence. If you thought we were done detailing the spooky elements of the script, think again because we haven’t even gotten to the spider mating dance yet.
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Multiple sources claim there was a scene where Peter seduced Mary Jane into performing an erotic spider dance that ended in copulation. Presumably, this version of MJ just wanted Peter to stop dancing, but alas, we’ll never know because Cameron’s plans fell apart due to rights issues at Spidey.
While Cameron may have called his Spider-Man movie the greatest film he’s ever made, we’re glad this mutated monstrosity never saw the light of the projectionist’s light bulb.