Back in 2017, Spider-Man fans finally got to see the first-ever live action version of Adrian Toomes a.k.a. The Vulture on the big screen, played by Michael Keaton in Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming. As many of those same fans know, however, we almost got a different interpretation of the same character years ago in what would have been Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4.
Prior to being cancelled by Sony, the never-made blockbuster actually made it deep into development, and this included casting an actor to play its lead villain: John Malkovich. Sadly, it's an interpretation of the Vulture that we'll never get to see, but Sam Raimi recently explained why he was so high on the idea 10 years ago.
While promoting the theatrical release of Nicolas Pesce's The Grudge (which he produced), Sam Raimi took to Reddit on Friday for an Ask Me Anything session, and one member of the platform used the time to ask a blunt, no-frills question about Spider-Man 4: "Why John Malkovich as the Vulture?" The filmmaker responded,
Because he's such a powerful actor. I could fear him and worry for Peter Parker. And it's just the craft of casting. Basically it boils down to this: I believe that he could be that guy.
Casting is an artform by itself in Hollywood, particularly when it comes to finding the right performer to play a character with a pre-existing image in pop culture, but in this case it's not exactly a hard stretch to imagine John Malkovich working wonders with the part of Vulture. For starters, he probably would have had a look closer to the comics just because of his shaved head, but more important is the fact that Malkovich is an actor renowned for his intensity.
Michael Keaton is certainly no slouch when it comes to striking fear, as perfectly demonstrated in the scene where Adrian Toomes confronts Peter Parker after driving the teenager and his daughter to the dance in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but John Malkovich has a more "repeatedly pokes a finger in your chest as his voice gets louder" energy. He strikes a kind of fear where you hesitate to look away because you know that he could seriously lose it at any moment.
As Sam Raimi put it, you could totally believe John Malkovich's Adrian Toomes intimidating Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker even away from his technology and wingsuit, and that made him a great choice for the role.
A las, it's not a project that came together in the end. It was almost 10 years ago to the day - January 10, 2010 - that John Malkovich confirmed he was joining the cast of Spider-Man 4... and then one day later Sony officially cancelled the film and started working on what would become Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man.
Malkovich (who is actually two years younger than Michael Keaton) has been in a few comic book movies since then, namely Jonah Hex and both Red and Red 2, but if you had to cast him as a Marvel Cinematic Universe or DC Extended Universe character now, who do you think he should play? Hit the comments section below with your ideas!