With a Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) set to appear in Captain America: Civil War before getting his own solo Spider-Man movie in 2017, Marvel and Sony Pictures have put aside what used to be a bitter divide in order to rebuild Spider-Man’s movie presence. The franchise has struggled ever since Sony opted to scuttle Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 in favor of the Amazing Spider-Man reboot series, which produced neither the critical nor commercial returns that the studio had hoped for.
Fans have their varying pre-Civil War thoughts about yet another take on “Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man”, but one thought seems to be near-universal: It’s hard to imagine anyone but J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. The Oscar-winner himself has told Entertainment Tonight that he’d be open to coming back as the character (see the video above) – though he also makes it clear that no such offer has been made, as of yet.
Simmons’ role as the hot-tempered, vigilante-hating publisher of The Daily Bugle in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy is widely viewed as the role that launched the now-iconic character actor to mainstream acclaim, having taken the part when he was still best known as a villain from HBO’s gritty 1990s prison series Oz. The character, one of the most enduring figures of Spider-Man’s supporting cast going back to the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics of the 60s, plays an important role in all three films; and is alternately considered one of the most faithfully-adapted Marvel characters ever and also frequently cited as a performance that has defined the character across the pop-culture imagination.
As such, few were surprised that Sony did not seem to be in a huge hurry to find another actor to take the role for the Amazing series, as Jameson only “appeared” via an (angry) email message to Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s not officially known whether or not any version of the character is set to appear in the yet-to-be-titled new Spider-Man series, as only Holland as Peter Parker and Marissa Tomei as Aunt May are the known cast members at the moment.
It seems like a safe bet that J. Jonah Jameson will appear in the MCU Spider-Man solo film; the character is just too important to the mythos, for one, and for another as a voice and presence of the media he would make an ideal candidate to join the ranks of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) in Marvel’s stable of utilitarian supporting-players who appear across multiple films and series in order to strengthen the sense of a connected MCU. And while it would be unusual for Simmons to effectively play two different versions of the same character, it’s not unheard of: Actor Desmond Llewelyn played the gadget-master Q for much of the James Bond series despite multiple soft-reboots of the character, and Judi Dench stayed on as M in the same series despite the first “hard” reboot between Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
If Jameson does return, the studios will have to decide what sort of role he’ll play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While originally a greedy buffoon who resented Spider-Man for exposing his own jealous insecurity (a villainous characterization thought to have been influenced by co-creator Steve Ditko’s strong Objectivist political beliefs), later creators would give the character greater dimension. His hatred of Spider-Man has frequently been extrapolated into an overall distrust of unaccountable vigilantism, and he’s been framed (via his work as publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper) as an early champion for Civil Rights and an outspoken advocate for the rights of Mutants in the Marvel Universe. If Simmons did return to the role, its entirely possible that it would be for a significantly different characterization.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.