At the end of 2009, the notion of a Marc Webb-directed Amazing Spider-Man reboot starring Anton from The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (aka Andrew Garfield) would have seemed like a stretch for the Screen Rant front page. Back then, director Sam Raimi was firmly at the helm of Spider-Man 4 with Tobey Maguire expected to return for more red and blue spider-suit action.
Yet, as film fans said goodbye to 2009 and hello to 2010, Spider-Man 4 productions delays turned into a full-on cancellation of the film - making way for Sony to tell "The Untold Story" of Peter Parker and his crime-fighting alter-ego. Now, with the release of the director's latest film Oz: The Great and Powerful, and Marc Webb beginning production on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Raimi is reflecting on the Spider-Man 4 cancellation and what could have been - including Anne Hathaway as Black Cat.
Speaking with New York Magazine entertainment blog Vulture, Raimi once again put to rest long-running speculation that his split with Sony during Spider-Man 4 pre-production was a bitter one - asserting that he just couldn't deliver the right story on schedule:
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.
While Raimi takes responsibility for encouraging Sony to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, longtime fans will remember that, as the director hints at in the interview, there was a lot of disagreement on the set of Spider-Man 3. The studio reportedly pushed for Venom to take a bigger role even though Raimi wasn't initially a fan of the character (or expanding his part in Spider-Man 3). For that reason, it's possible that the relatively quiet demise of Spider-Man 4 was actually the result of already strained tensions from production on the prior film - as if Raimi simply left the project before he found himself in another tight spot with Marvel and Sony executives.
Now that three years have passed, Raimi is also a lot more forthcoming about certain aspects of the film - specifically a mysterious role for Anne Hathaway, long believed to be the Vulturess (alongside John Malkovich as the Vulture) until it was later revealed she would have played renowned cat burglar, Black Cat. No doubt the auditions with Raimi payed-off when Christopher Nolan cast the actress in The Dark Knight Rises one year later as Catwoman.
In the interview Raimi confirms that Hathaway was cast in the role of Felicia Hardy, then praises her audition work:
I didn't get to see Batman yet, because I've been working nonstop on Oz, but I hear she's great in it. I'm not surprised, because I loved what she was doing with the auditions for Spider-Man 4.
Fans of both Catwoman and Black Cat will point out that there are major differences between the two characters - so, while we're certainly grateful for her work in The Dark Knight Rises (especially after the standalone Halle Berry Catwoman film), it would still be fun to see what Hathaway had planned for Felicia Hardy.
In addition to Spider-Man 4, the director also provided insight in to why he left the World of Warcraft adaptation (which is now being helmed by Moon director Duncan Jones) after three years developing the project:
Robert Rodat was working on the script, and it was taking a long time. I think they were getting a little antsy at Legendary, the production company. Actually, what happened was even more complicated, so let me go back a little bit. First, they asked me if I wanted to make it, and I said, "Yes, I love World of Warcraft, and I think it would make a great picture." So I read a screenplay they had that was written by the guys at [Warcraft developer] Blizzard, and it didn't quite work for me. I told them I wanted to make my own original story with Robert, so we pitched it to Legendary and they accepted it, and then we pitched it to Blizzard, and they had reservations, but they accepted it. Then Robert wrote the screenplay, and only once he was done did we realize that Blizzard had veto power, and we didn't know that. And they had never quite approved the original story we pitched them. Those reservations were their way of saying, "We don't approve this story, and we want to go a different way," so after we had spent nine months working on this thing, we basically had to start over. And Robert did start over, but it was taking too long for the people at Blizzard, and their patience ran out. Honestly, I think it was mismanagement on their behalf, not to explain to us that the first story was vetoed long ago. Why did they let us keep working on it? Were they afraid to tell me?
Regardless of his history with World of Warcraft and Blizzard, fans of the game can take one bit of solace - Raimi has a lot of confidence in Jones:
I loved his movie Moon, and I think he's a strikingly talented director. I bet that if anyone can do a great job with it, it's him.
That said, Spider-Man fans hoping for Raimi to once again return to the webslinger if Marc Webb opts to pass on the near-inevitable Amazing Spider-Man 3, will find that Raimi isn't interested in sharing the franchise. The director politely delivered kind words about everyone involved but freely admitted that a different take on Spider-Man still hits too close to home:
I didn't see the Spider-Man reboot. I know Marc Webb is a great director, and I love Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, but as much as I love those people and Amy and Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad, I just don't want to go to my girlfriend's wedding, with all due respect. I guess that means I'm a bad loser? I just love her too much! I just have to wait. It would be hard to see her with someone else … with all those other men!
As we've previously reported, Raimi's wife has seen the film - and the director assured reporters that she enjoyed it!
Passionate fans of comic book characters are understandably protective of their favorite franchises - so it's easy to forget that filmmakers sometimes just need to go in a different direction. Even though the Spider-Man faithful remain divided on whether or not they would have preferred The Amazing Spider-Man or Spider-Man 4 (or neither), for now, the best thing to do is wait and hope that Marc Webb wows everyone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Raimi fans also have a lot to look forward to: the director's Oz: The Great and Powerful opens this weekend - followed closely behind by labor-of-love producer work on the Evil Dead remake set for release on April 5th 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 releases May 2, 2014.
Oz the Great and Powerful will be in theaters on March 8, 2013. Evil Dead hits theaters on April 5th, 2013.