In the early 1990s, Avatar filmmaker James Cameron nearly directed a Spider-Man film, and his plan was bonkers. Several versions of the story were created as the rights for the film traded hands in an expensive legal nightmare that ultimately killed the project. FandomWire reports that had Cameron’s vision materialized, it would have featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doctor Octopus.
Before Avatar and Terminator 2, James Cameron wanted to make Spider-Man with Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At that point, James Cameron had worked with Schwarzenegger on The Terminator, effectively launching the Austrian heavyweight’s career as an action star. Schwarzenegger was not the only Cameron alum the director had in mind for his Spider-Man film.
The Terminator actor Michael Bien was slated to join the project as Sandman, and Lance Henriksen, who plays Bishop in Aliens, was to be Electro. The film would also feature 90s bombshell Nikki Cox as Mary Jane Watson, Katharine Hepburn as Aunt May, Michael Douglas as J. Jonah Jameson, and Kevin Spacey as Norman Osborn.
James Cameron selected Leonardo DiCaprio for the role of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Cameron did not get to work with DiCaprio on the film, but the pair would later team up for the smash hit Titanic.
Screenwriter David Koepp retained some elements from James Cameron’s work on Spider-Man. Writers Ethan Wiley, Leslie Stevens, Frank LaLoggia, and Neil Ruttenberg were also involved at various stages of the story’s development.
The James Cameron Spider-Man film would have been darker, edgier, and sexier than the version that eventually made it to theaters in 2002. Leaked versions of the story online have excited many fans about the Spidey film that could have been.
James Cameron’s vision for Spider-Man included Kevin Spacey as Norman Osborn and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doctor Octopus.
Despite any brilliance that resides in the forgotten pages of Cameron’s Spidey film, the movie had a fraught existence. Carolco Pictures purchased the film rights for Spider-Man from producer Menahem Golan in 1990. Carolco was involved in Cameron’s 1991 hit Terminator 2: Judgment Day and hired the filmmaker to work on Spider-Man.
James Cameron delivered a Spider-Man script and continued to develop the story for a while after. The project reportedly ceased development in 1992. Industry trade reporting on the film apparently left out Golan, who was still involved in the project.
Golan filed legal action against Carolco Pictures, setting off a legal powder keg; Carolco and Marvel went bankrupt in 1996. Marvel was back online by 1998 and licensed film rights for Spider-Man to Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures. Sony has been the web-slinger’s big screen home ever since, appearing in Marvel Studios films thanks to a tense and fragile inter-studio agreement.
James Cameron submitted a darker, grittier, and sexier Spider-Man script than what Sam Raimi eventually brought to screens a decade later.
The James Cameron version of Spider-Man would have looked a lot different from the story delivered by screenwriter David Koepp and director Sam Raimi in 2002. The film would also have completely reshaped the career of Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio has avoided franchise films, and his selectivity has garnered him one of the most impressive filmographies of any actor in Hollywood history. Had he made it to the screen as Spider-Man, his reputation may have been colored quite differently.
Marvel fans will never get to see what James Cameron was going to do in his version of Spider-Man, but with a little digging, they can read it. The movies that could have been are an endlessly fascinating subject, especially when such high-profile filmmakers and intellectual properties are involved. Nothing in Hollywood is guaranteed to stick – not even Spider-Man.