After appearing in three successful Spider-Man films, actor Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi were prepping to return for Spider-Man 4, but a variety of reasons put an end to those plans.
Shortly after the release of Spider-Man 3 in 2007, Raimi and Maguire signed on to return for the fourth film, with Maguire rumoured to be making $50 million for the job. Raimi even discussed the possibility of making Spider-Man 4 and 5 back-to-back, and told MTV in a 2008 interview, “It would be a real endurance test. Probably only Peter Jackson knows how hard something like that would be… If Tobey and me, and all the producers, like the story for two pictures and Amy wanted to do it, then we would do it.”
With James Vanderbilt hired to write the screenplay, an August 2011 release date was set, and casting began. Anne Hathaway auditioned to play Felicia Hardy in the film, and left Raimi impressed. In 2009, it was reported that John Malkovich was in talks to appear as the Vulture.
But in January 2010, Deadline reported, “Sony Pictures decided today to reboot the Spider-Man franchise after franchise director Sam Raimi pulled out of Spider-Man 4 because he felt he couldn’t make its summer release date and keep the film’s creative integrity. This means that Raimi and the cast including star Tobey Maguire are out.”
Maguire released a statement the same day and said, “I am so proud of what we accomplished with the Spider-Man franchise over the last decade. Beyond the films themselves, I have formed some deep and lasting friendships. I am excited to see the next chapter unfold in this incredible story.”
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It would take years for the dust to settle and more information to be released publicly. As it turned out, a Deadline article was partially correct in stating that Raimi ‘hated’ the Spider-Man 4 scripts. But another major reason was that Raimi didn’t like Spider-Man 3, and wanted to better with the fourth film.
In an interview to the Nerdist podcast in 2015, he said about Spider-Man 3, “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.”
Spider-Man 3, despite being the most commercially successful of Maguire and Raimi’s trilogy, received the worst reviews.
Speaking about the decision to quit, Raimi told Vulture in 2013, “It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: It was simply that we had a deadline and I couldn’t get the story to work on a level that I wanted it to work. I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all. But I couldn’t get the script together in time, due to my own failings, and I said to Sony, ‘I don’t want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn’t make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you’ve been planning anyway.’ And [Sony co-chairman] Amy Pascal said, ‘Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio’s money, and I appreciate your candour.’ So we left on the best of terms, both of us trying to do the best thing for fans, the good name of Spider-Man, and Sony Studios.”
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Sony rebooted Spider-Man in 2012, with Andrew Garfield in the lead role and Marc Webb in the director’s chair. Garfield appeared in two films before he was replaced by Tom Holland in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of the character.
But Raimi still doesn’t appear to have got over what may have been. In a 2019 interview to Yahoo Movies, Raimi said, “I think about it all the time. It’s hard not to, because each summer another Spider-Man film comes out! So when you have an unborn one, you can’t help but think what might have been. But I try to focus on what will be, and not look into the past.”
And after more than a decade, Raimi will return to the superhero genre with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, for Marvel Studios.
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