Spider-Man: 12 Behind-The Scenes Facts About The Sam Raimi Movies

Spider-Man 2
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Everyone has an opinion of which iteration of Peter Parker’s crimefighting alter ego is the best to ever swing onto the big screen. It's why we worked up a list of every Spider-Man movie, ranked. However, the first depiction to really bring one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic superheroes into the cinematic mainstream is Tobey Maguire’s portrayal in 2002’s wildly successful Spider-Man and its two sequels.

The action-packed trilogy — which some might consider to be among the all-time greatest superhero movies — genuinely marked a major turning point in how comic book movies were perceived and also saw director Sam Raimi take a big step from indie horror auteur to the big budget Hollywood filmmaker many know him as today. The story of how this trilogy came to be is just as fascinating as what unfolds on screen. Learn all about it with these behind-the-scenes facts about the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies — starting with one of the more infamous trivia bits about the first film.  

Recalled Spider-Man teaser trailer

(Image credit: Sony)

A Spider-Man Teaser Poster Featuring The World Trade Center Was Recalled After 9/11

Months before was it released in May 2002, Sony put out a teaser poster for Spider-Man that featured the reflection of New York City’s World Trade Center in the titular hero’s eye and a trailer in which Spidey foils a bank heist by trapping the thieves’ helicopter in a web between the Twin Towers. According to a report by IGN, just two days after the tragic events of September 11, 2022, the teaser was recalled from all theaters and the one-sheet was also pulled from circulation. The trailer can be found today on YouTube and the poster is now considered a rare collector’s item that can be bought online (opens in new tab) for a small fortune.

Spider-Man 2 costume in trash

(Image credit: Sony)

Four Spider-Man Costumes Were Stolen From The Set Of The First Movie

Speaking of rare collector’s items, I imagine that is how the original, authentic costumes that disappeared from the set of the first Spider-Man movie would have been described had they not been found and properly returned. 

Indeed, as SlashFilm recalls, a collection of four outfits that were made for Tobey Maguire to wear in the film were stolen and an investigation lasting 18 months eventually led authorities in the direction of former Sony and Warner Bros. security guard, Jeffrey Gustafson, and his conspirator, Robert Hughes. According to an additional report on the subject by LA Times, the pair were apparently also linked to a missing copy of Val Kilmer’s suit from 1995’s Batman Forever that was valued at $150,000.

Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Sony)

Peter’s Impressive Catch And Balance Of Mary Jane’s Lunch Tray Was Filmed Practically

While locating those missing suits sounds like a tiresome and agonizing process, it sounds like nothing compared to what Tobey Maguire had to endure filming one of Spider-Man’s most iconic scenes. 

Some might be quick to assume that the sequence in which Peter Parker manages to stop a slipping Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) from falling and subsequently catch the entire contents of her lunch tray in a perfect balancing act was achieved with CGI, but that was not the case. According to VFX artist John Dykstra’s comments on the DVD commentary (via Independent), which are backed up by Dunst herself, Maguire actually pulled off this stunt with the aid of a special adhesive attaching the tray to his hand and the advantage of having a total of 156 takes to nail it.

Spider-Man kiss

(Image credit: Sony)

Sam Raimi Gave Kirsten Dunst A Scrapbook Of Famous Movie Kisses To Inspire Her Kiss Scene Performance 

Perhaps, arguably, the absolute most iconic scene from Spider-Man is when an upside down Spidey shares a kiss with a recently rescued Mary-Jane as a heavy rainfall fills a New York alley way. The steamy sequence was another one that was important for director Sam Raimi to get right, according to an interview with Rolling Stone in which writer Brian Hiatt mentions how Dunst once said that the filmmaker gave her a “scrapbook” of some of cinema’s most iconic lip-locks. Raimi said he wanted to give the actor something that would help her prepare for what was going to be a particularly special moment in the film and, in his opinion, it paid off.

J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in 'Spider-Man'

(Image credit: Sony)

J.K. Simmons Learned About His J. Jonah Jameson Casting From A Random Fan

As far as who deserves credit as the most iconic performer in any of the Spider-Man movies, I think it has to go to J.K. Simmons, who appears in the films as a dead ringer for how Daily Bugle Editor-in-Chief J. Jonah Jameson was originally drawn in the comics. The future Academy Award winner recalled to Kyle Brandt on The Ringer’s 10 Questions (via Twitter) podcast the following unusual story about how he learned that he landed the role when auditioning for a voiceover job at Grey’s Advertising:

I’m walking following the person through the cubicles and this desk chair comes flying out in front of me, backwards, with some kid who was probably 28 and he goes, ‘Oh my God J.K., congratulations!’ and I go, ‘Thank you. For what?’ and he goes, ‘Are you kidding me? Spider-Man! J. Jonah Jameson, that’s so cool!’ and I was like, ‘I did not know that...I found out I got the part because of some kid who was so connected to the internet fan sites that they had that information on a Spider-Man website before my agent called me to tell me I got the job. He called me like three hours later and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know.’

Simmons’ portrayal of Jameson was so beloved that he later played a modernized variation of the role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — first in 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and later, alongside some of his original Spider-Man trilogy co-stars in the universe-splicing hit, Spider-Man: No Way Home, in 2021.

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine with adamantium claws out

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Hugh Jackman Almost Cameoed In Spider-Man As Wolverine

Speaking of alternate universes, we could have seen Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man crossing paths with another Marvel character outside his main “web” in the first film had things gone differently. While speaking to the Huffington Post to promote the release of 2013’s Prisoners, Hugh Jackman revealed that there were plans to see him show up for a brief moment as his X-Men role, Wolverine, but the idea was scrapped because his suit was unobtainable at the time. It sounds like the original Spider-Man was plagued by a strange amount of on-set mishaps related to costuming.

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2

(Image credit: Sony)

A Back Injury Almost Prevented Tobey Maguire From Starring In Spider-Man 2

Jake Gyllenhaal joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe by playing the villain of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio, but, apparently, he almost made his Spider-Man movie debut as Tobey Maguire’s replacement for Sam Raimi’s 2004 follow-up. 

The future Oscar nominee was considered to play the superhero when Maguire’s chances of reprising the role in Spider-Man 2 were threatened by a back injury he suffered on the set of Seabiscuit, which (according to Mirror) had medical experts fearing he might end up paralyzed. Luckily, Maguire healed up well enough to star in the acclaimed sequel which, coincidentally, contains a scene in which Peter Parker injures his back.

Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2

(Image credit: Sony)

The Shot Of Doc Ock Drowning In Spider-Man 2 Was Entirely CGI 

One of the key reasons why Spider-Man 2 was so well-received at the time and is still admired today is its Oscar-winning visual effects that are so convincing you often cannot tell what is real or what is CGI. One of the more stunning examples of this is Dr. Otto “Doctor Octopus” Octavius’s death scene — the creation of which VFX artist Anthony LaMolinara explains in a DVD featurette involved taking a scan of Alfred Molina’s body and entirely recreating it digitally for the shot of the lifeless villain slowly drifting in the water, which was fully CGI. It’s good to know that the actor did not actually have to be submerged for that climactic moment, but they easily could have fooled me.

Tobey Maguire Spider-Man suit

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

A Camera Rig Called The Spydercam Was Used For Practical Aerial Shots In All Three Movies

Spider-Man 2 was also lauded for its astonishing practical shots that make it feel like you are swinging through the air above the Manhattan skyline right next to ol’ Spidey. According to another featurette included on the sequel's 2004 DVD release, those shots were achieved with a special camera rig known as the Spydercam, which is designed to achieve high-concept shots at all different angles and at various speeds, and was actually used in the making of each installment from Sam Raimi’s trilogy. 

With a name like that, you might think it was created specifically for the Spider-Man movies, but according to its official website, the Spydercam has been used since the early ‘90s on feature-length projects like Cliffhanger, as well as for commercial ads and at sporting events.

Topher Grace in Spider-Man 3

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Topher Grace Initially Thought He Was The Wrong Choice To Play Eddie Brock

The least beloved installment of the Spider-Man trilogy is the third film from 2007 — one reason being fans’ belief that Topher Grace was miscast as Eddie Brock, who becomes Venom. Well, the former That ‘70s Show cast member apparently agreed at first, having revealed on MovieFone’s Unscripted that, as a fan of the comics himself, he found it strange that he was being cast as a character who was middle-aged and far more physically imposing that he was. What convinced him otherwise was Sam Raimi’s vision of making Brock an evil doppelgänger to Peter.

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3

(Image credit: Sony)

Sam Raimi Was Disappointed By How Spider-Man 3 Turned Out  

Speaking of Sam Raimi, the harshest critic of Spider-Man 3 is, probably, the director himself. As a guest on the Nerdist Podcast (via Collider) in 2015, the filmmaker went as far as calling it “awful,” but elaborated on his feelings about the infamous threequel with the following:

It’s a movie that just didn’t work very well. I tried to make it work, but I didn’t really believe in all the characters, so that couldn’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man. If the director doesn’t love something, it’s wrong of them to make it when so many other people love it. I think [raising the stakes after Spider-Man 2] was the thinking going into it, and I think that’s what doomed us. I should’ve just stuck with the characters and the relationships and progressed them to the next step and not tried to top the bar.

One of the characters that Raimi didn’t really believe in, in particular, was supposedly Venom, which is, apparently, why he opted to make Vulture — a personal favorite Spider-Man villain of his — one of the main antagonists of his next installment and cast John Malkovich in the part. Unfortunately, that would never happen.

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Plans For A Fourth Spider-Man Movie Were Cancelled

Sony was in the process of developing, not just a Spider-Man 4, but also a fifth and sixth installment, before the third film had even come out in 2007, and Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire had both signed on for it in 2008 with Sony announcing a 2011 release date the following year. However, plans for the sequel were cancelled in 2010, following multiple delays in production caused, mainly, by the issues involving the script. It was also announced then that the franchise would be restarted from scratch, which became the Andrew Garfield-led Amazing Spider-Man movies.

J.K. Simmons later revealed that he was heartbroken over Spider-Man 4’s cancellation, but at least he was able to return to the world of web-slingers as J. Jonah Jameson later on. In fact, I think most fans can agree that we have returned to this world in wonderful ways ever since, especially with Tom Holland’s portrayal in the MCU. However, the Tobey Maguire years will always have a special place in our hearts, which is why his return in Spider-Man: No Way Home was such a monumental occasion.