Today would mark the ten-year anniversary of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4 releasing in theaters - if the movie hadn't fallen apart in the production process. By now the story of Spider-Man 4's fall is infamous - but for those who don't know, here's a recap of that bit of comic book history: After Spider-Man 3 hits theaters in 2007, Sony immediately went to work on developing Spider-Man 4 in 2008, for release in 2011, with rumors stating plans for Spider-Man 5 (and possibly a whole second trilogy) were also in the wings (those production plans have since been refuted by Raimi). Zodiac writer James Vanderbilt was handling the script, and Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and the other trilogy actors were coming back - with some exciting new additions, as well.
Marvel fans probably remember that John Malkovich was circling a role as Vulture in Spider-Man 4. There were also rumors that Bruce Campbell (who did various cameos in the Spider-Man films) would get a villain role as Quentin Beck/Mysterio, and Dylan Baker (who played Peter Parker's teacher/mentor Dr. Curt Connors) would get play out his arc of becoming The Lizard. It was later confirmed that Anne Hathaway was considering joining the franchise as Felicia Hardy, before she ironically ended up play Selina Kyle/Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. There was some backlash from fans when it was leaked that Hathaway's Felicia Hardy would become "Vulturess," instead of her comic book alter-ego of Black Cat; however, according to Raimi Black Cat was always the end goal. Concept art released in the mid-2010s also revealed a Sinister Six-type scenario for Spider-Man 4, with Spider-Man fighting no less than Mysterio, The Shocker, The Prowler, Rhino - with even Stilt-Man on the table as a possibility.
So why did Spider-Man 4 ultimately fall apart? Here's what Sam Raimi has said in the past:
"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," Raimi told Vulture in 2013. "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 candor.' 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."
Ultimately, what would have been Spider-Man 4's release became the launch of Andrew Garfield's The Amazing Spider-Man reboot. Unfortunately, that "fresh start" stalled after two films - but all of those struggles ultimately led us to the brighter days of Tom Holland taking on the role, and Marvel Studios taking the reigns of the Spider-Man films.
R.I.P. Spider-Man 4, we'll always wonder what could've been. Until then, fans are holding out hope that Tobey Maguire is going to show up as Spider-Man again, in Marvel's Spider-Man: No Way Home. That film hits theaters on December 17th.