Morbius: Could Jared Harris Be Playing Spider-Man Villain Doctor Octopus?

The first trailer for Sony Pictures' Morbius revealed a connection to Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe when it ended with Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) meeting Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) in a surprise cameo appearance, and there could be another Spider-Man foe left to be revealed: Dr. Otto Octavius, a.k.a. the metal-armed Doctor Octopus. Supporting cast includes Adria Arjona as Morbius’ fiancée Martine Bancroft, Matt Smith as villain Loxias Crown, Morbius’ colleague afflicted by the same rare blood disease that forces the scientist to turn to illegal and unnatural means for a cure, and Tyrese Gibson as FBI Agent Simon Stroud, who hunts Morbius when he becomes endowed with vampire-like powers; noticeably, the role played by Mad Men and Chernobyl star Jared Harris remains under wraps.

When Harris was announced as a cast member in early 2019, reports said only Harris' role was being kept secret. A March report from The Hollywood Reporter identified Harris' role as "Morbius' mentor," confirmed by the film's first trailer.

There a sickly, younger Morbius is seen in the care of Harris' unnamed character, who is at one point seen in a lab coat surrounded by other young patients, indicating Harris' character is a type of doctor:

Morbius trailer Jared Harris
(Photo: Sony Pictures)

Later, Harris’ character is seen discussing the ailment of a now-adult Morbius, who asks, "How far are we allowed to go to fix something that’s broken?" The answer, Harris' character says, is "until the remedy is worse than the disease."

In most Spider-Man media, Octavius is typically depicted as a somewhat tragic figure whose genius results in four metal appendages being fused to his body; becoming Doctor Octopus, Octavius uses his mechanical tentacles to commit crimes, often in the pursuit of maniacal achievements frequently thwarted by the meddlesome webhead.

Harris has sometimes been nominated as a potential candidate to play the famed Spider-Man villain, including in fan-casts dated as far back as 2013. More recently, in Chernobyl, Harris played chemist Valery Legasov, a role that won Harris both a Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe nomination, again putting him at the top of speculative lists to bring the character to life in live-action for the first time since Alfred Molina's one-off turn as the character in 2004's Spider-Man 2.

Sony has had long gestating plans to bring Doc Ock back to the big screen in live-action: Octavius' unmistakable tentacles were spotted in 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a since abandoned continuity that intended to set up the arrival of the Sinister Six. In the Marvel Comics, the group assembling a half-dozen of Spider-Man's deadliest foes is often commanded by Doctor Octopus.

A Sinister Six spinoff movie has been in the works for more than half a decade, with Sony once dating the movie for late 2016 as part of the Amazing Spider-Man franchise. (The credits sequence for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proposed a lineup that would have included Dane DeHaan's Green Goblin and Paul Giamatti's Rhino, with vacancies for Doc Ock, Vulture, Kraven the Hunter and Mysterio.)

In a 2015 interview, attached writer-director Drew Goddard envisioned the project as a “summer annual,” one where "you didn't have to worry about continuity."

"It was just, 'We take Peter, put him on an adventure, we put him back in his life.' I intentionally wanted a movie that didn’t have to worry about mythology and continuity," Goddard said. "It was important to me to make a movie that could stand on its own. So the good news is, you know, it slots in very well to any plan anybody ever wants. We just need to let a couple years go by, I think."

Goddard in 2018 remained hopeful the shelved project could "still see the light of day," and Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home producer Amy Pascal indicated the project was still alive when she said she was waiting on the filmmaker to "be ready to direct it."

Keaton's involvement in Morbius as Toomes, a.k.a the Vulture, was kept under wraps until he appeared in the final seconds of the Morbius trailer released Monday. He reprises the role he first filled in Spider-Man: Homecoming, where the blue collar worker menaced Tom Holland's wall-crawler, who is now tethered to 'Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters' as result of a renewed pact with Disney-owned Marvel Studios.

Morbius appears to be set after the events of Far From Home, where Spider-Man was framed for the supposed death of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal): Morbius is seen walking past a Spider-Man poster defaced with graffiti labeling the superhero a "murderer."

With Keaton's involvement, it seems Sony is working towards realizing its long-gestating plans for the Sinister Six, a group that could so far include Keaton's Vulture, Leto's Morbius, Tom Hardy's Venom, Michael Mando's Scorpion and Bokeem Woodbine's Shocker.

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Gyllenhaal's Quentin Beck would be the sixth member, assuming he did indeed fake his death as suspected; conversely, that spot could go to Harris if the actor turns out to be playing Doctor Octopus or another secret Spider-Man character.

Sony Pictures releases Morbius July 31.