In early May there were five directors reported to be the top contenders for the highly coveted job of directing the next Spider-Man movie. They were all recognizable names yet none of them landed the gig. It's a monumental task given how the previous two attempts at making Spider-Man an ongoing and growing franchise concluded, and given how important the brand is to Marvel and Sony who are partnering on this next effort.
Spider-Man, the most popular Marvel Comics character of all-time, was finally coming home and would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Who would the studios deem worthy of launching this new take on a younger version of the friendly neighborhood web-slinger?
Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car) was the surprise name that came attached with the official announcement that Tom Holland had been cast as Peter Parker. When Parker a.k.a. Spidey shows up next year in Captain America: Civil War, the untitled Spider-Man standalone film will already be in production, helmed by Watts who won over the approval of Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige with his own unique and creative ideas for bringing Spider-Man to life in a new and relevant way.
Speaking with Collider while promoting Ant-Man over the weekend (our set interview here!), Feige talked about the process and who was involved in finalizing the director's choice.
"It was myself and Amy Pascal and Tom Rothman, and also Jeremy Latcham and Louis D’Esposito at Marvel where involved in that. We met with a lot of people and came down to a couple of very, very, very good finals candidates. Jon just—we really liked his movie Cop Car, we met with him four, five, or six times, and each time he had more and more interesting things to say. And at Marvel, it always comes down to ultimately, 'We can make a movie with this person for two years, we could spend almost every day with this person for two years. Let's go.'"
More than anything, whoever Marvel and Sony pick must be a team player, which undoubtedly is one of the key benefits of bringing in less-established directors. This has been an issue for the MCU since it became clear that it was going to become an ongoing and expansive franchise. Each movie is not just a standalone story, it's a piece of a larger puzzle in the long-form story. It's because of that we see frequent cases of creative differences. It's what made Thor: The Dark World helmer Alan Taylor not approve of the Marvel formula; it's what made Jon Favreau not want to direct Iron Man 3; it's what knocked Edgar Wright out of his own project in Ant-Man; and it's what burned Joss Whedon out during Avengers: Age of Ultron.
On the flip side, Marvel has found perfect working relationships with James Gunn - who sings nothing but praise for how he's able to work and get support for Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2 - and the Russo brothers who are not only back to direct Captain America: Civil War, but will continue on to the next two Avengers movies.
Ant-Man opens in theaters July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.
Avenging Spider-Man #5 art by Leinil Francis Yu.