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The casting of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is arguably one of the best bits of comic book film casting. (And, I mean specifically in the spirit of the cigar-smoking Daily Bugle editor-in-chief). To this day it’s his most famous role but, when he auditioned for the character, there were no guarantees he’d nab the part. In Simmons’ words:
The producers and the people at Sony, they needed to be convinced, because obviously, there were a lot of much more high-profile actors that they had in mind that would help with the box office. It was very nerve-wracking.
Some of the actors under consideration for J. Jonah Jameson at the time were House’s Hugh Laurie, Bill Paxton, Stan Lee and Michael Keaton – who would go on to play Vulture in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Simmons already had connections with Sam Raimi when Spider-Man was in pre-production since he worked with the filmmaker on The Gift and For the Love of the Game just prior. But it wasn’t enough. The actor had to prove it to Sony.
Simmons went on to describe the audition process to People TV’s Couch Surfing:
It included a scene where the Green Goblin breaks through the windows and picks me up by the throat, lifts me up in the air, and is strangling me. I'm holding the script pages, reading the scene on the audition, but then at the same time, trying to…’ (here he makes a hilariously cartoonish strangling noise)’… pretending I'm being lifted by the neck and choked.
He obviously nailed it. J.K. Simmons’ Spider-Man role is so iconic that Spider-Man: Far From Home director Jon Watts didn’t even think about recasting the role for the character’s surprise cameo at the end of the film. Simmons' Jameson showed up in a breaking news broadcast during which he revealed Spider-Man’s identity to the world and pinned Mysterio’s London drone attack on Peter Parker.
While Simmons' future with the franchise may be uncertain right now, maybe he could find himself reprising his famous role outside of a Spider-Man film. Spidey alum Sam Raimi is also set to join the MCU as the director of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Chances are his frequent collaborator Bruce Campbell will show up, but could the filmmaker maybe find a way to bring back J. Jonah into the craziness, too?
Of course, J. Jonah Jameson isn't the only point of speculation in J.K. Simmons' superhero future. A few years ago, he was also briefly part of the DCEU as Commissioner Gordon in Justice League. Now, after years of campaigning from fans, the Snyder Cut is officially coming to HBO Max next year, but Simmons isn’t sure there will be much more of his short-lived character.
J.K. Simmons currently stars in Apple TV+’s Defending Jacob with Marvel star Chris Evans, which is streaming now.