Had Spider-Man 4 gone forward with filmmaker Sam Raimi, way back in 2010, the film would have featured John Malkovich as The Vulture, a role that would not end up onscreen for another few movies and would ultimately go to Michael Keaton in Jon Watts's Spider-Man: Homecoming. Malkovich, who produced the 2001 comic book adaptation Ghost World, has never had a major superhero hit in his career, although between 2010 and 2013, he would appear in three movies based on comic books: Jonah Hex, RED, and RED 2. Like Keaton, Malkovich has a decades-long career that includes serious dramas (Dangerous Liaisons), broad comedies (RED), and the occasional truly weird indie film (Being John Malkovich).
In other words, a perfectly good explanation for wanting John Malkovich as The Vulture could have been just, "he's John Malkovich." But during a Reddit AMA in support of his new horror movie The Grudge, Raimi gave a fan a slightly more thoughtful response than that to the question of what made Malkovich right for the part.
"Because he's such a powerful actor," Raimi explained. "I could fear him and worry for Peter Parker. And it's just the craft of casting. Basically it boils down to this : I believe that he could be that guy."
Believability and menace would be big components of the role, since it would have been the fourth movie and Peter was, by then, a seasoned veteran at the whole superhero thing. He would also, by virtue of appearing in Raimi's movies, be inevitably compared to heavy hitters like Thomas Hayden Church, Willem Dafoe, and Alfred Molina, who played villains in previous installments.
Ultimately, Raimi's franchise lost momentum and Spider-Man was rebooted in 2012 with The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Rhys Ifans as The Lizard. That franchise would last only two movies before being rebooted again with 2017's Spider-Man: Far From Home, which pitted Tom Holland's Spider-Man (having debuted in Captain America: Civil War) against a version of The Vulture played by Keaton, and whose backstory was closely tied to the events of the first Avengers movie.
The next (untitled) Spider-Man movie from Marvel and Sony is expected to hit theaters on July 16, 2021. First, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow will finally get her own solo movie, due out May 1, 2020. Other upcoming Marvel Studios projects include The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in Fall of 2020, The Eternals on November 6, 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, 2021, WandaVision in Spring 2021, Loki in Spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If…? In Summer 2021, Hawkeye in Fall 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021.
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