Since 2002, there have been seven standalone Spider-Man films, three different Spider-Men (and many more, if you count the numerous Spideys of Into the Spider-Verse) and billions in dollars of box office profits. Basically, Spider-Man is a cash cow that Hollywood isn’t willing to give up any time soon, and now rejuvenated thanks to the character’s introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As Sony and Marvel push on with Tom Holland as Peter Parker, here are 27 fascinating facts you didn’t know about the Spider-Man films that came before the Brit youngster donned the suit.
27. Tom Cruise nearly played Spider-Man
The Spider-Man franchise could have looked very different back in the 1980s when a film was originally being developed. Production company Cannon Films almost made a Spidey film back in the 80s after buying the rights from Marvel for $225,000. The catch? The rights would expire if they didn’t make the film by April 1990.
A script was produced with Dr. Octopus as the main villain, and casting agents wanted none other than Top Gun star Tom Cruise to appear as the red and blue title character. Hollywood veterans Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn were also considered for the role of Aunt May, the production team clearly serious about getting some big names on board. Sadly though, the filmmakers couldn’t get enough funding together and the project dissolved, meaning we never got to see the Cruiser play Marvel’s finest webslinger.
26. The upside-down kiss scene was almost unfilmable for Tobey Maguire
Even if you haven’t seen Spiderman before, you’ve definitely seen the upside-down kiss scene. At one point in the first of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, Peter Parker rescues Mary Jane during a New York downpour. In the iconic scene, she thanks him by rolling back his mask and giving him a kiss as the (Spider-)man himself hangs upside down.
Unfortunately for actor Tobey Maguire, filming this moment wasn’t a pleasant experience at all. Apparently, due to all of the rainwater falling on top of him, Maguire’s sinuses kept filling up with water, which made filming nigh-on impossible. Thankfully, Maguire managed to power through and film the perfect shot of Spider-man enjoying an upside-down kiss with Mary Jane. The scene became an iconic moment in the hugely successful first Spider-Man, which was the first ever film to gross $100 million on its opening weekend.
25. The first Spider-Man movie changed because of 9/11
9/11 profoundly impacted several aspects of the first Spider-Man movie. Remember, for example, the scene where hundreds of New York citizens start throwing objects at the villainous Green Goblin? This was inserted into the film by the producers as a way to illustrate the unity of NYC in the face of attack. Moreover, even though the movie was released in 2002, some of the Spider-Man promotional materials also changed to reflect the attack.
These included a teaser trailer in which some criminals making a getaway in a helicopter are thwarted by a giant spider’s web suspended between the two World Trade Center buildings. That wasn’t all. Just before 9/11 occurred, Sony released some film posters which showed a close-up of Spider-Man’s face. The New York skyline is clearly visible in Spidey’s reflective eyes – including the World Trade Center’s famous Twin Towers. In the wake of the 2001 terrorist atrocity, Sony recalled these posters to avoid giving offence. However, not all of the posters were recalled, and any that still feature the iconic World Trade Center have now become highly valuable collector’s items.
24. Alfred Molina gave pet names to his tentacles
In 2004’s Spider-Man 2, Alfred Molina took on the role of the evil Dr. Octopus – and he had a very strange response to his elaborate costume. Apparently, Molina became so fond of his ‘tentacles’ that he gave them all names: Larry, Harry, Flo and Moe. Flo earned her nickname because Molina felt that particular tentacle was the most ‘motherly’ in the group (it was used to remove Dr Octavius’ sunglasses for him and feed him drinks, for example).
Harry and Larry, meanwhile, were the two toughs that did most of the heavy lifting, holding Octavius in place when hurling large objects. Despite each tentacle having a different purpose, each one required the same effort to operate: four puppeteers working each arm, with 16 people in total responsible for puppeteering the mad scientist.
23. The studio wanted Heath Ledger to play Spider-Man over Tobey Maguire (while Freddie Prinze Jr auditioned)
Six years before he would become a comic book movie icon thanks to his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger could have been Peter Parker. Considered along with the (very early-00s) likes of Chris Klein, Wes Bentley and Freddie Prinze Jr, Ledger was reportedly studio Sony’s first choice. Raimi instead wanted Tobey Maguire for the role, but he needn’t have worried: Ledger wasn’t interested in taking the part anyway.
Ledger’s agent, Steve Alexander, last year revealed that Ledger told him after he was offered the role: “‘It’s not for me. I would be taking someone else’s dream away’.” Ledger wasn’t the only one who got close – James Franco also auditioned to play Peter, but was offered the role of Harry instead when it was decided that role was a better fit.
22. So much material was shot for Spider-Man 3, it was almost released as two films
One complaint that many critics and fans had of Spider-Man 3 was that the film was, with its multiple villains and crisscrossing storylines, overstuffed. It all makes sense when you realise that Spider-Man 3 was so huge, with so much footage shot, it was at one point planned as two films. Initially shot over 100 days, between January and July 2006, the film also underwent reshoots from August to October of that year, followed by more reshooting in early 2007.
There was, ultimately, so much movie in the can come the end of shooting that producers considered splitting Spidey 3 into two halves. There were numerous excised scenes and plotlines, including one in which Captain Stacy confronted Eddie Brock and a montage in which Peter fights crime in the black suit. Others included a vision Peter had of the symbiote screaming at him from a mirror, the Sandman seeking help for his daughter from a scientist (played by Adrian Lester, entirely cut from the final film) and Harry discovering his butler is just a figment of his imagination.
21. Kirsten Dunst permanently dyed her hair red outside of the movies to attract ‘nerdy dudes’
Mary Jane may be every sci-fi nerd’s favourite red head, but in the first Spider-Man movie, natural blonde Kirsten Dunst had to wear a wig to cover up her normal blonde hair and get the look 100% right. However, this all changed with the second film. Dunst decided to dye her hair red for the sequel and go for a more permanent look in between filming takes. Why? Apparently nerdy guys really liked it.
The actress explained in an interview: “I attract a different kind of boy when my hair’s red. I get more quality men – like a more thoughtful, nerdy dude.” Meanwhile Bryce Dallas Howard, who appeared in Spider-Man 3 as Gwen Stacy, had the opposite problem. Howard is a natural redhead, but in order to play the role of Stacy, she had to dye her hair blonde. The actress then appeared in a number of publicity interviews for the movie with her platinum blonde hair still present.
20. One scene took 156 takes to get right
2002’s Spider-Man has plenty of great action scenes, but arguably one of the most impressive displays of Peter Parker’s newfound skills can be seen in a scene set in the high school canteen. As Mary Jane, passing Peter, slips on a carton of spilled juice, throwing her lunch into the air, she begins hurtling towards the ground herself.
His Spidey senses tingling, suddenly Peter Parker comes to the rescue, catches MJ and manages to use the tray to catch all of the falling items. You might assume that the shot was achieved using special effects, but it was really nothing more than a combination of Tobey Maguire and some serious patience from everybody involved in the shooting of the scene. The tray-catching trick didn’t involve any kind of CGI or camera tricks – Maguire actually performed the feat. Apparently the scene took over 156 takes to get right, but Spider-Man-esque timing saw the actor finally nail it in the end.
19. Thomas Haden Church broke his knuckles filming Spider-Man 3 after a stunt went wrong
Thomas Haden Church, aka the Sandman in the third Spider-Man film, unfortunately ran into a bit of trouble filming one scene. Remember the moment when Sandman punches the wall in rage? Well, that hurt Church a lot more than it would have hurt his amorphous, granite-powered character in the troubled climax to Raimi’s trilogy.
Before the cameras started rolling, the effects team told Church that the top and bottom bricks in the ‘fake wall’ were real, but that those in the middle were duds. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the effects crew – not to mention Church – the prop team hadn’t installed the fake bricks yet. On the first take, Church smashed his fist into the ‘fake’ bricks with all his might… and broke three knuckles. Ouch.
18. The Sandman’s ‘sand’ is actually mashed up corn-on-the-cob
Some of the special effects in the Spider-Man franchise were truly ground-breaking at the time. But not all of what we see on screen was developed using digital techniques. In fact, the Sandman’s ‘sand’ was represented largely using physical props. Most of Sandman’s sand was created using actual grains of sand, which makes a lot of sense.
However, sometimes we see characters being buried in the sand, and as a result, actual sand was deemed too dangerous for use in these particular scenes. Instead, any time someone had to be buried in the Sandman’s wake, the prop department used ground-up corn on the cob to achieve a similar effect. There’s more room for air between the grains compared to sand, and ingesting is far less dangerous.
17. Andrew Garfield cried the first time he put on the Spider-Man costume
The Amazing Spider-Man, released in 2014 after a long big screen absence for the character, acted as a reboot to the previous three movies. And so, with a new film came a new leading man, Andrew Garfield stepping up to the role after Tobey Maguire departed from the franchise. A secret super-fan of the character, Garfield has revealed that he got more than a little emotional the first time he had to put on the iconic red and blue costume for filming.
Garfield admitted that he cried when he first stepped into the Spidey outfit (he must be a more sensitive soul than we realised). The actor now has perhaps plenty more reasons to cry, after it was revealed that he departed the Spider-Man franchise thanks to a dispute with Sony executives. More on that later in this article!
16. Emma Stone helped to write The Amazing Spider-Man
Appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man as Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone did more than just act in the film. At one point in the movie, we see Stacy giving a stirring graduation speech, one that was written by none other than the actress herself, who managed to bag herself a mini writing credit during filming. Stone met Andrew Garfield during screen tests for the movie and the pair soon became a couple in real life.
It’s unclear how long they dated for because both actors are notoriously private… Still, they definitely lasted for at least a couple of years together, because the pair adopted a pet. Remember the dog that Stacy is walking in the movie while Peter Parker spies on her? The actors ended up adopting the pooch and taking it home.
15. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was supposed to cameo in the 2002 Spider-Man
Back in 2002, there was no Marvel Cinematic Universe – no shared superhero universes at all for that matter. Still, an early Marvel crossover almost came in 2002 with the very first Spider-Man movie, six years before the MCU even came into existence. With the first X-Men film having arrived two years before and that film’s sequel just around the corner, producers thought it would be fun for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to make a cameo in Spider-Man.
Luckily, Jackman also happened to be in New York whilst Sam Raimi was shooting his first Spidey film. Though Jackman was down, and though Spider-Man exec producer Kevin Feige wanted Jackman’s Wolverine to make a brief cameo, the sticking point was something rather mundane. Says Jackman: “we really tried to get me to come on and do something, whether it was a gag or just to walk through the shot or something. The problem was, we couldn’t find the suit.” With the suit “stuck” elsewhere, Jackman never got to make his cameo, scuppered by a mere wardrobe malfunction.
14. Willem Dafoe did most of his own Green Goblin stunts
Despite being 47-years-old at the time of shooting Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe had no intention of letting his Green Goblin stuntman have all the fun without him. Insisting that he did as many of his own stunts as possible, Dafoe ultimately ended up doing 90% of his Green Goblin stuntwork himself. This was all down to Dafoe’s instincts as an actor: he wanted the villain to be consistent, and to have Norman Osborn/Dafoe’s body language, not that of a stuntman.
Such was Dafoe’s commitment, the original, bulkier Green Goblin costume was changed to something slimmer and lighter, to give Dafoe more room to perform in it. And so, the heavier animatronic rig was replaced by the now-familiar Green Goblin mask worn by the character throughout Raimi’s trilogy. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
13. Tobey Maguire and James Franco really hated working together
Tobey Maguire reportedly was so mean to Charlize Theron during the shooting of The Cider House Rules that even the studio heads at Miramax, which at the time was Bob and Harvey Weinstein mind you, stepped in and asked the actor to “cool it”. Basically, Maguire doesn’t have a great track record of working with other actors – and he brought that same energy to Spider-Man, and his relationship with James ‘Harry Osborn’ Franco.
After Franco made fun of Maguire’s ‘frog-like’ features, Maguire was – in Franco’s words – “mad at me for a while”. Franco later explained his behaviour to Spider-Man director Sam Raimi: “I felt you gave Tobey Maguire so much attention during Spider-Man…that I didn’t get as much of your love as he did”. Add to that Maguire’s own reputation for deliberately antagonistic behaviour (during a poker game he once ordered Molly Bloom, a fellow player, to “bark like a seal” for a $1,000 chip), and you have a real-life feud between Peter and Harry.
12. Jake Gyllenhaal almost replaced Maguire on Spider-Man 2
In Spider-Man: Far from Home, Brokeback Mountain and Nightcrawler star Jake Gyllenhaal plays Peter Parker’s nemesis, Mysterio. It’s Gyllenhaal’s first superhero movie, and his introduction to the Spider-Man series. If things had turned out just a little differently, though, Gyllenhaal’s Spidey intro would have come much sooner.
After the first Spider-Man movie was so successful, Maguire started making demands for a payday so large that the studio decided to turn to another actor altogether. Jake Gyllenhaal, fresh off Donnie Darko, was cast as Peter Parker, but just as he began preparing for the role, he was bumped. When he was offered a final fee of $17 million, Maguire stopped frustrating the process and decided to make the film after all. Gyllenhaal would have to wait another 15 years for his chance to take a crack at a Spider-Man movie.
11. Willem Dafoe’s Spider-Man 2 cameo happened by accident
Depending on who tells the story, Willem Dafoe either ended up in Spider-Man 2 as a result of a joke or the actor just happening to be in the right place at the right time. According to Dafoe, Norman Osborn only appears in the sequel because Dafoe jokingly told Sam Raimi to bring the character back, ‘Hamlet-style’, during the first film’s press tour.
Says Dafoe: “the genesis of it was me hanging out and kind of teasing him and saying, ‘Sam, you’re gonna miss me. Bring me back!'” Another version of the story, producer Avi Arad’s, was that it was rather down to a simple twist of fate that Dafoe appeared in the film at all. According to Arad, it wasn’t Dafoe’s idea that convinced Raimi to include Norman Osborn in Spider-Man 2. As Arad tells it, it was rather that he bumped into Dafoe when he was in town at the time of shooting. Dafoe was asked to shoot a scene right then and there, and happily accepted on the spot.
10. There’s one actor you didn’t realise was in all three of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films
A fair few famous faces appear across all three films in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy – Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and Willem Dafoe among them. There’s another, generously-chinned actor, however, who you may not have realised features in all three films. Bruce Campbell, a school friend of Raimi’s who became a cult star thanks to his lead role in Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, features as a different character in each of Raimi’s Spidey movies.
In the 2002 Spider-Man, Campbell plays the ring announcer for Peter Parker’s cage fight, while in Spider-Man 2 he plays an obnoxious theatre usher. Spider-Man 3 features Campbell’s finest Spidey moment, though, with the actor playing the over-the-top French maître d’ who helps arrange Peter’s proposal to MJ. Did you spot him in all three roles?
9. James Cameron almost made an R-rated Spider-Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doc Ock
Before Sam Raimi took the reins of the Spider-Man franchise, another major Hollywood director almost took a crack at it himself. For years through the 1990s, Aliens and Titanic filmmaker James Cameron was attached to a live-action Spider-Man feature as writer and director, with Leonardo DiCaprio a frontrunner to play Peter Parker.
In Cameron’s version, Sandman, Electro and Doc Ock – reportedly to be played by his Terminator and True Lies star Arnold Schwarzenegger – would feature. Cameron’s original script was also R-rated, including profanity and even a Brooklyn Bridge sex scene between MJ and Peter Parker. Cameron was finally dropped from the project in 1999, but elements of his script, like Peter developing organic web-shooters in his wrists as a result of being bitten, made it into Raimi’s film.
8. Chris Cooper was considered for Doctor Octopus before he was The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Norman Osborn
In 2003, when production on Spider-Man 2 was underway, character actor supremo Chris Cooper was a hot property in Hollywood. Having won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year for his performance in Adaptation, Cooper jumped onto Sony’s wish list for Spider-Man’s latest nemesis. According to Alfred Molina, who was ultimately cast as Doctor Octopus, the actors in consideration for the part were “me, Christopher Walken, Chris Cooper, Ed Harris”.
Sadly for Cooper, Molina proved a better fit for the character (“I’m sure I got the part because all the other guys are thin”, speculated Molina in 2004). Still, the Spider-Man universe wasn’t done with Cooper just yet. The actor eventually appeared in a later Spidey film, albeit in a completely different role: as Harry Osborn’s father, Norman Osborn. Popping up in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Cooper took over from Willem Dafoe in what would be a brief, uncredited role, before the character’s untimely death.
7. Sam Raimi had serious plans for Spider-Man 4
After the gruelling shoot and muted reception of Spider-Man 3, you wouldn’t blame Sam Raimi for dropping out of the franchise for the follow-up. Only he didn’t, at least not initially, with the film getting as far as storyboarding and casting. In 2007, after Spider-Man 3 wrapped, Spider-Man 4 went into development with Raimi as director, and Maguire, Dunst and the rest of the regular cast set to reprise their roles.
That first year, Raimi mentioned bringing Dr Curt Connors aka Lizard into the mix, having teased the villain since Spider-Man 2, with Dr Connors played by Dylan Baker since that film. From 2007 to 2010, however, the film went through several rewrites, all of which Raimi “hated”. Still, a version of the film got close to happening: John Malkovich had been cast as Vulture, Anne Hathaway would be Black Cat, while Bruce Campbell would make his obligatory cameo as Mysterio. But then Raimi was asked by the studio if he could make a May 6, 2011 release, he said no, and the film was cancelled just before production began.
6. Bryce Dallas Howard did her Spider-Man 3 stunts while pregnant
When Bryce Dallas Howard joined Spider-Man 3 as Gwen Stacy, she like Willem Dafoe came on board eager to do her own stuntwork. For the film’s centrepiece action sequence, in which Spider-Man saves Gwen from a falling crane, Howard was game to perform the scene herself. What Howard didn’t know was that she was actually pregnant at the time of filming the setpiece, to Salem actor Seth Gabel.
The pregnancy wasn’t planned: Howard and Gabel had decided to have kids in their 30s, but Howard became pregnant aged 25, just seven days after their wedding. All was well in the end: Howard finished her Spider-Man 3 part, then gave birth to son Theodore in 2007. A daughter, Beatrice, came along in 2012. Howard would go on to greater fame in the Jurassic World series of films, as well as directing episodes of The Mandalorian.
5. Thomas Haden Church worked out for two years to play Sandman
Considering the Spider-Man comics version of Flint Marko has a bodybuilder’s physique, it might not have made immediate sense that the somewhat schlubby guy from Sideways was cast in the role. Oscar-nominated though he was for his performance in the Alexander Payne comedy, Church wasn’t exactly in the best physical shape.
So, during pre-production for Spider-Man 3, Church decided to rectify that, and then some. Training for nine months prior to shooting, Church dropped 10 pounds of fat and gained 28 pounds of muscle. Then, as the shoot dragged on and on, Church was forced to keep maintaining his new bulked-up physique – for as long as filming continued. In the end, Church kept up his workout regime for a whole two years to play Sandman.
4. Sam Raimi hates Spider-Man 3
For all its many interesting ideas and intriguing characters, Spider-Man 3 isn’t exactly the most beloved of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Critics at the time were mixed, praising the visuals and performances but bemoaning the film’s overstuffed narrative. It was one of the main reasons why Sam Raimi pulled out of Spider-Man 4: when he realised he couldn’t produce a satisfactory product by the 2011 release date, he walked away, not wishing to disappoint fans again.
Since the film’s release, Raimi has gone on record about what he really thinks of Spider-Man 3, and it isn’t positive. In a 2015 podcast, Raimi called the film “awful”, elaborating that “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.” It certainly divided critics and audiences alike.
3. Shailene Woodley shot scenes as MJ for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but they were cut
With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 so stacked with characters, especially the villains, it makes sense that producers wanted to streamline the film in post-production. Much that was shot was cut from the film, with Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin and Felicity Jones’ Felicia getting the worst treatment in the editing bay. Still, at least you can still see them in the final film, which can’t be said for Shailene Woodley.
Woodley, then already on her way to becoming a star thanks to the Divergent films, shot scenes as a new Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst in the original trilogy. Ultimately, however, the character was lifted from the film altogether, to avoid overcomplicating an already complicated film, something which had previously plagued Spider-Man movies.
2. Andrew Garfield was fired as Spider-Man after he insulted the head of Sony
Even before Tom Holland was cast as the MCU’s rebooted Spider-Man, it seems that Andrew Garfield was – according to emails from the 2014 Sony leaks – already out of a job anyway. After Garfield had publicly expressed his displeasure at some of his favourite work being cut out of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, rumours began to spread that Sony chiefs weren’t happy.
This was confirmed in the Sony emails, which also disclosed that Garfield had insulted the head of Sony, Kaz Hirai, by failing to turn up to a publicity event. One email from a disgruntled Sony employee read: “Here we are about one hour away from our Gala event and Andrew decides he doesn’t want to attend. “He has a rather scruffy beard and he just wants to be left alone.” It was considered “a slight to Kaz and the Sony hosts on the ground” that Garfield dropped out at the last minute. Garfield was reportedly let go from the franchise after the incident.
1. Homecoming’s Martin Starr is the only actor to appear in the MCU as two different characters
Considering the MCU is now so huge, with such an enormous cast of characters, it’s no surprise that Disney is running out of actors to play the roles. Though Josh Brolin (Deadpool), Peter Dinklage (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Michael B Jordan (Fantastic Four) have all starred outside of the MCU as characters in other films based on Marvel properties, only Martin Starr has played two different characters in MCU films.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Starr plays Mr Harrington, a teacher at Midtown School of Science and Technology. It’s a promotion from Starr’s role in The Incredible Hulk nine years previous, in which he had the minor role of Amadeus Cho. However, given the enormity of the MCU, we’d be surprised if Starr ends up sharing this accolade in the near future.