Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood reports that Sony has locked in director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire for two more “Spider-Man” films. She also says Kirsten Dunst is likely to return but that a deal hasn’t been finalized.
Who will be the villain? I’d love to see the Vulture or Electro (or both), but if Finke’s unnamed sources are right, it will be the Lizard (which is fine and hardly a surprise given the careful setup in previous films) or Man-Wolf (which leaves me a bit cold and could be too close to the upcoming “The Wolf-Man“). Anyway, here is what Finke reports:
Sony is taking its time officially hiring the movie’s villain since principal photography doesn’t start on Spider-Man 4 until next fall because of the recently postponed May 2011 release. I am told, however, that “once you find out who the villain is, you’ll know who’s playing it.” That should lead to speculation that Dylan Baker’s character of Dr. Curt Connors will ultimately turn into The Lizard as he did in the comic books. There’s one other character that’s been set up but is a real longshot — Daniel Gillies, who plays John Jameson, the astronaut fiance of Mary Jane in Spider-Man 2. In the comics he becomes the villain Man-Wolf. Raimi has said in the past that he wants the best actors to play the villains in the movie, not necessarily the most famous.
I’m also told that, right now, the studio is trying to figure out if it can feasibly shoot Spider-Man 4 and 5 at the same time because doing that is so cost effective and “it wasn’t so easy to get everybody back together.”
She also says there is ramping interest in a Venom movie. This is one I just don’t get. I never much cared for the character, and I was surprised that Raimi, a die-hard devotee of Steve Ditko, kowtowed to pressure to put him in the films. Finke:
And Sony has hired a pair of screenwriters to get going on the Spider-Man 3 spinoff movie Venom. Given that comic book artist/writer and action figure maker, Todd McFarlane, who is one of the creators of the Marvel villain, doesn’t think a Venom movie could do well with a villain as the central character, my sources think Sony should let Topher Grace, even though he was blown up at the end of Spider-Man 3 (yet a portion of the Venom costume survived), stay in the role because the likeable actor could be a a sympathetic evildoer.
I’d be very happy to see Raimi and Maguire back together on Spidey. The third film was muddled and oddly indulgent (it also seemed rushed to me, like it needed a few more edits) and I hated the way it undermined its own history (both on screen and in the comics) by rewriting the murder of Uncle Ben and putting the gun in the hand of Sandman. Terrible idea. Despite that, I still consider Raimi the gold standard as far as filmmakers adapting comics. I also think he learned from the mistakes of “Spider-Man 3.”
The reason I’m confident that Raimi won’t make another “Spider-Man 3″ is he openly regretted what he had done with the film before it even came out. Here’s what he told Comic Book Resources back in April 2007 a few weeks before the release “Spider-Man 3″:
There are so many fears I have making this movie, that’s just one of them. That’s just one in my vast array of things that I’m terrified people won’t like. I had worked on the story with my brother Ivan. Primarily, it was a story that featured the Sandman. It was really about Peter, Mary Jane, Harry and that new character. When we were done, Avi Arad, my partner and president of Marvel at the time, came to me and said “Sam, you’re not paying attention to the fans enough. You need to think about them. You’ve made two movies now with your favorite villains and now you’re about to make another one with your favorite villains. The fans love Venom. He is the fan-favorite. All Spider-Man readers love Venom. Even though you came from ’70s Spider-Man, this is what the kids are thinking about. Please incorporate Venom. Listen to the fans now.”
So, that’s really where I realized, “Okay, maybe I don’t have the whole Spider-Man universe in my head. Maybe I need to learn more about Spider-Man. And maybe incorporate this villain and make some of the real die-hard fans finally happy.”
Well, thanks, Mr. Arad, for derailing the momentum of the franchise that you brought to Hollywood. This next time it won’t matter who is talking in Raimi’s ear, he will do the right thing.
Back when I visited the set of the first “Spider-Man” film, Raimi told me a story about the big gift he got on his 12th birthday: His mom drew a Spider-Man mural on the wall of his bedroom in their suburban Detroit home. He fell asleep for years looking up at the hero and making “movies” of his adventures in his mind. Sam, you are the die-hard fan you should be trying to make happy. That’s why the first two films were so great, and why a fourth and fifth have a chance to be wonderful.
– Geoff Boucher
Image: Columbia Pictures