It has been 20 years since Sam Raimi introduced the world to Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker in the 2002 smash hit Spider-Man. Two successful sequels — Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 — followed in the years following, and things were looking up for the friendly web-slinger with the planned Spider-Man 4. But, sometimes, plans fall through and we are left asking what happened.
So, what happened to Spider-Man 4 and why did the highly-anticipated movie stop before it really got started? Well, just like how The Amazing Spider-Man 3 fell apart years later, the fourth installment in Sam Raimi’s series was doomed to never see the light of day. Here’s what happened…
Columbia Pictures Was Already Planning A Sequel To Spider-Man 3 Before The Film’s May 2007 Release
In May 2007, Spider-Man 3 swung into theaters and ended up making just shy of $895 million worldwide, per Box Office Mojo, despite receiving mixed reviews from critics. The powers that be at Columbia Pictures were, apparently, so high on the third entry in Sam Raimi’s franchise that executives began early talks with screenwriter David Koepp about a fourth installment before the third movie even opened in theaters.
Back in January 2007, Variety reported that Columbia was already in early negotiations with the Spider-Man scribe to return to the franchise after not writing the second and third installments. This officially kicked off the story of Spider-Man 4.
Tobey Maguire And Sam Raimi Signed On For Spider-Man 4 In September 2008
Spider-Man 4 began to build momentum in September 2008 when Deadline reported that Sony Pictures not only ordered a new script by Zodiac screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt, but that Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire were locked in for the franchise’s fourth installment, as well. At the time, there was no word on whether or not Kirsten Dunst would be coming back as Mary Jane Watson, though it is hard to imagine the movie without her.
It is stated throughout the report, however, that Spider-Man 4 would have stayed true to previous installments and would not be influenced by The Dark Knight, which came in and changed the superhero game just a few months earlier.
In 2009, Sony Pictures Officially Gave Spider-Man 4 A Release Date Of May 6, 2011
In March 2009, Marvel fans around the world were in for some good news when the Sony Pictures Twitter account announced that not only was Spider-Man 4 happening, but it would be opening in theaters on May 6, 2011, nearly four years to the date after the Spider-Man 3 release.
But, as we all know now, this date ended up not sticking and Spider-Man 4 was never produced, leaving fans wondering what happened and what could have been. Before we dive into the death of Sam Raimi's franchise, let’s first touch on what was supposed to go down in Sam Raimi’s fourth Spidey movie.
The Spider-Man 4 Plot Would Have Reportedly Featured Multiple Villains, Including Vulture, The Lizard, And Mysterio
If you thought Spider-Man 4 would have taken a cue from its predecessor and avoided having multiple villains, I don’t know what to tell you, because several members of the Sinister Six were reportedly going to show up to take on Peter Parker in the franchise’s fourth installment. In 2016, Jeffrey Henderson, who worked extensively on the unreleased movie, shared a collection of storyboards he had drawn up for it, which showed Vulture and Mysterio getting in Spider-Man's way.
According to a subsequent report by Gizmodo, Mysterio, played by Bruce Campbell, would have been part of a group of “C and D-list villains that also included the Shocker, the Prowler, and Rhino who gave Spider-Man trouble in the beginning of the movie. The movie’s big bad, Vulture, would have been played by John Malkovich (if Sam Raimi had his way). Even though we never got to see any of these villains in action (at least not in Raimi’s franchise), a Spider-Man 4 animatic showing Vulture and Spider-Man in battle has since leaked.
It was also rumored way back in January 2007 that Dylan Baker would be back as Dr. Curt Connors, this time as the Lizard, per IGN.
Production Was Scheduled To Start In Early 2010, But Issues With The Spider-Man 4 Script Kept Causing Delays
Production on Spider-Man 4 was originally slated to get underway in early 2010, but the goalposts kept getting moved back due ongoing issues with the film’s script. In January of that year, Deadline reported that the movie officially didn’t have a start date because of those problems, citing an email that had been sent to the special effects crew one month earlier. At the time, it appeared that the production was still on and Sony Pictures executives were still high on the project, it’s just that no one knew when the lingering issues would be resolved.
According to the same article, Jamie Vanderbilt, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Gary Ross had also worked on the script at various points, and Raimi and Sony were waiting for yet another version by Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 writer Alvin Sargent. At this point, it appeared that the May 2011 release wouldn’t stick, though Sony executives were still intending on a summer release.
Sony Made The Decision To Cancel Spider-Man 4 And Instead Reboot The Franchise In January 2010
Less than a week after news broke that production on Spider-Man 4 was being delayed by issues with the script, Sony Pictures pulled the plug on the movie, officially ending the Sam Raimi franchise. According to Deadline, Raimi told Sony he couldn’t move forward creatively with the project and the powers that be decided to just scrap the project instead of finding a replacement.
At the same time, Sony Pictures decided the best course of action would be to just start fresh with a new, rebooted franchise. This new franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man, would end up suffering a similar fate a few years later.
Sam Raimi Wanted Spider-Man 4 To Be The ‘Best Spider-Man Of Them All’
Several years after the whole situation was over and done with, Sam Raimi opened up about Spider-Man 4 and its failings in a 2013 interview with Vulture, where he described the cancellation as “amicable” and “undramatic" before getting into the details:
But, Sam Raimi just couldn’t get it to work, and so he told Sony Pictures he didn’t want to make a “less than great” movie and that they should move on with the reboot that he knew they were planning.
All in all, everything has a way of coming back full-circle, especially in the realm of comic book movies. Tobey Maguire returned in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Sam Raimi is in the director's chair for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, one of the most anticipated upcoming Marvel movies.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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