Marvel and Sony's Tug of War Over Spider-Man Director Jon Watts Was About Fantastic Four

Three-time Spider-Man director Jon Watts will reboot Fantastic Four at Marvel Studios, which began courting Watts during the public divorce between Disney and Sony that nearly pulled Tom Holland's wall-crawler out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Last August, industry trade Deadline reported a looming tug of war between Spider-Man studio Sony Pictures and Disney-owned Marvel over Watts, who signed a two-movie deal that ended with that summer's Spider-Man: Far From Home. The report came just days after Sony and Disney declined to renew their partnership that brought a rebooted Spider-Man into the MCU under a five-picture pact that started with Captain America: Civil War and expired with Far From Home.

Weeks later, Sony and Disney agreed to a new deal keeping Holland's Spider-Man in the MCU. Under this second pact, Marvel chief Kevin Feige would take creative charge and stay on as producer, and Disney would supply a quarter of the box office and receive 25% of the profits.

The two studios would partner on the untitled Spider-Man 3, again directed by Watts for a theatrical release in December 2021, and Holland would commit to at least one more appearance in an as-yet-revealed Marvel Studios movie. Like the preceding pair of Spider-Man films, which paired Holland's Spidey with Marvel's Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and then Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the third movie would co-star Marvel's Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).

The identity of Watts' unconfirmed Marvel Studios project would remain a mystery until December 10, when Feige confirmed the Watts-directed Fantastic Four reboot during a reveal-heavy Disney Investor Day 2020. The announcement came amid growing signs that Watts' Spider-Man 3 is a live-action Spider-Verse teaming Holland with Spider-Men played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

There is now a question of whether Watts hinted at his F4 reboot towards the end of Far From Home, where Spider-Man swings past a sign reading: "We are so excited to show you what comes next," with the numbers 1, 2, and 3 followed by a question mark where a "4" should be.

During San Diego Comic-Con last July — where Feige revealed feature films Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and the Mahershala Ali-starring Blade — Feige held off on announcing Fantastic Four or X-Men projects but name-dropped both properties newly acquired from 20th Century Fox months earlier.

When ComicBook.com asked Feige about the tease after the star-studded presentation, Feige responded, "That means that we have them back and we are working towards it."

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Feige and Marvel on Thursday did not reveal release or casting details behind Watts' Fantastic Four, which remains undated. Spider-Man 3 swings into theaters on December 17, 2021.