Nikki Finke clears up some rumors that have been leaking out lately and finds that Spidey 4’s February start date has been canceled, jeopardizing its planned May 2011 opening.

Spider-Man 4 was supposed to start filming in February, and star Tobey Maguire echoed that repeatedly in publicity appearances for Brothers. Then it pushed to March. Then late March/early April. And now there’s no date at all, according to my Sony insiders who emailed me: “Some decisions have been made over the holiday about Spider-Man 4. We will be extending the production hiatus on the film. The studio is firmly committed to this franchise but, for us, the script must come first. We intend to notify members of the crew immediately. As you know, Alvin Sargent is currently working on the screenplay. When we have more news, we will keep you posted.”

The delay is due to script trouble: director/auteur Sam Raimi reportedly “hates” the current version by Jamie Vanderbilt, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Gary Ross, and veteran Alvin Sargent is working on a new polish.

There had been some chatter on the net that Raimi and the studio have been clashing over who would be the villain in the film — Raimi wanted the Vulture and the studio wanted a more contemporary foe. The fans seem to want The Black Cat in the movie—and every hot starlet has been rumored for the role —but how Raimi feels about Felicia Hardy is anyone’s guess.

One thing’s for sure, when Raimi is forced to use a villain he doesn’t like, the result is stinky..

Sony and Marvel’s Avi Arad shoved Venom down Raimi’s throat for Spidey 3 and we all know how THAT turned out. The scenes with Thomas Hayden Church’s Sandman had real emotion, while the entire Venom storyline bored viewers as much as it obviously bored Raimi. A few months ago Raimi was still smarting from Venom-gate:

“The best way for me to move forward on films,” Raimi continued, “is that I’ve got to be the singular voice that makes the creative choices on the film.”

These comments would appear to echo the director’s purported dispute with Sony Pictures regarding the symbiotic villain’s involvement in “Spider-Man 3,” despite rumored plans for a Venom spin-off.

“I love Spider-Man so much that I’d like to continue telling Spider-Man stories,” Raimi concluded. “But only under those circumstances where I think I can honour him.”

For better or worse, Sam Raimi has a lot of empathy with bad guys who are sad old men in wifebeaters or other ugly shirts — villains like Doc Ock and the Sandman. The Vulture — rumored to be played by John Malkovich — would certainly fit into this category: dude wears a feather boa. It’s Raimi’s quirks that have made the part of the Spidey franchise that worked, work, so mess with the formula at your peril, Sony.


  1. Here’s my treatment:
    Replace Felicia Hardy with Gwen Stacy.
    Gwen Stacy, part time model, full time college student, discovers a strange amulet while taking part in a university sponsored excavation in Africa. The amulet gifts her with catlike grace, sensuality, and the ability to affect probabilities. Gwen soon becomes a fixture in the modeling/party world, using her new gifts to succeed.
    Like Spider-Man, her father, the comissioner (?), is brutally murdered, causing Gwen to rethink her priorities.
    Soon, she is crime-fighting as The Black Cat, gaining the notice and assistance of Spider-Man. What begins as a professional partnership soon develops into something more personal, creating suspicion in Mary Jane. (I’m thinking a sexy pas de deux of Spidey and Gwen swinging across Manhattan, the skyline aglow beneath them.)
    During the film’s climax, Gwen dies heroically, Peter is in the hospital. The final shot replicates the comics panel, as we see MJ enter Peter’s hospital room closing the door behind her.
    Epilogue: the morgue attendant is seen handing the amulet to a well-dressed gentleman with an African-European accent. Kraven? T’Challa? Ka-Zar?
    No major villains, although perhaps the Vulture could be a minor adversary.
    The major spine of the story is the Love Quadrilateral between Peter and MJ and Spidey and Black Cat. Themes: duplicity, the sharing and hiding of secrets, fidelity, self truth.

  2. I just hope there’s more punching and less costume ripping at opportune moments.

    Oh, and with that many names involved in the script, how could it possibly be a horrible mess? Maybe Mr. Raimi was right to punt it back (and I say this not being Mr. Raimi’s biggest fan by a mile.)

  3. Hey Torsten,

    Your S4 treatment makes way too much sense and sounds too wonderful to ever be produced. I felt the same way after reading an Alien vs. Predator screenplay submitted to Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street Web site. It was wonderful, made tons of sense, introduced a Ripley-like heroine, read like the best of the DH Comics mashups, and it was better than the A vs. P movies that have been made but would still never be produced.

    Your ideas, however, give me the basis for which to critique S4. Good for us, as HMD points out, that Sam Raimi is the gatekeeper for good Spidey movies, as Chris Nolan has with Batman.


  4. Of all the great Spider-Man villains left to adapt for film — Electro, Kraven, the Chameleon, Mysterio, the Lizard, etc. — the mere suggestion of using a weak villain like the Vulture, especially if played by a subdued actor like John Malkovich, should have Sony execs scrambling for the red, shiny, candy-like Stop Production button.

    Personally, I think the creative team needs reloaded. Tobey Maguire is 36, Kirsten Dunst has become increasingly annoying as Mary Jane, and Sam Raimi is seemingly more interested in making villains sympathetic for their actions than making Spider-Man heroic by defeating them.

  5. “Raimi wanted the Vulture and the studio wanted a more contemporary foe”

    What? New foes? I thought Spidey was supposed to keep fighting the same dozen guys for 60 years. Other than Venom (mid 80s) what are major contemporary foes Sony could use?

  6. I heard Ben Kingsley was supposed to play the Vulture – if memory serves from listening to the Spidey 3 commentary.

    and Sam, if you’re reading this….




  7. I agree with Charles above, and can’t think of a less visually interesting Spider-Man villain than the Vulture. Hey Kids – let’s go watch Spider-Man fight a 50ish year old man in a skintight flying bird suit!

    I actually liked the third film, despite its flaws. I think using Venom was a no-brainer, and the problem wasn’t that they used him but that they tried to shoehorn him into the script as an afterthought. They should have built the entire movie around him and used Bendis’ ultimate origin (or at least a variation of it).

    I also think it may be time to just reboot the franchise.

  8. So, use two Spider-Man villains — just put them in a good script. I vote for Chameleon and Mysterio … a master of disguise and a master of illusion working together (from the very beginning) … not one of these lame storylines where, when the writers can’t think of how to end it, the two villains randomly bump into each other and decide “Let’s team up and kill Spider-Man!”

    Throw in a third villain if you like … Kingpin, Crime Master, the Big Man, Whomever … as the mastermind behind it all. My idea has got to have some merit … make it a BIG plot … get S.H.I.E.L.D. involved. Whatever.

    As for the franchise, I think it’s time to show Mary Jane the door and perhaps make Gwen Stacey a major player. Let it culminate in the Hobgoblin (having stolen the Green Goblin’s getup) recreating the climactic battle between Spidey and GG atop the bridge. Only this time Gwen is the hostage … and only this time, whereas Mary Jane was rescued … well (sniff) you know …

    I think the mistake is the movie series was the relationship between Peter and MJ … the first two movies were great, but it seemed as though in the third film, Raimi was wondering, where do we go from here? They either marry, or they don’t … MJ reconsidering her future with a super-hero would have been far more interesting (and mature) than the romantic tug-of-war between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn, which was also covered in the first film.

    Ah, the hell with it …

  9. Will you folks make up your mind — in the comics you LIKE Spidey and MJ … but in the movies you want MJ to fall off a bridge somewhere.

  10. Well, the role of MJ would have been suited for Alicia Witt, as THEY ORIGINALLY PLANNED.

    At least she looked like MJ.

    Making a blonde like Kristen Dunst into a redhead was lame, and they turn around and hire a redhead like Ron Howard’s daughter and turn her into Gwen Stacy was even lamer.



  11. Heidi … I like MJ … but for the purposes of the film franchise, I don’t think they have anyplace left to go. Time to usher her out and begin a new trilogy with Gwen.