No matter how many years go by, the love for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films doesn’t fade. Like helpless flies, we are all caught in its nostalgia-woven web. A recent IGN poll only makes this more apparent – Tobey Maguire is the best Spider-Man, they say.
As with any Hollywood blockbuster, a lot went into making the Spider-Man trilogy. So much so, that you wouldn’t realize how much just by watching the movies themselves. Behind the scenes, many story choices were nixed, actors mixed on returning, and other drama.
Thus, true believers, here are 10 behind-the-scenes facts you didn’t know about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
1) The Moondance Cafe
In the Raimi movies, when Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane isn’t getting kidnapped by Spider-Man’s foes, she’s pursuing her acting career. In the case of the first Raimi Spider-Man film, it’s a neat fact that the Moondance cafe she briefly works at was a real New York diner that ran from 1933 to 2012. Funnily enough, the diner is famous for being the temporary workplace of a real-life theater legend – Jonathan Larson (who is, even more amusingly, portrayed by Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield in 2021’s Tick, Tick…BOOM!). Like MJ, Larson did eventually find enough success to leave his day job in 1995. And to whoever’s reading this, one day, you will too!
2) Gwen Stacy Was Nearly the Main Love Interest
In an interview with Collider in 2020, Spider-Man (2002) screenwriter David Koepp revealed he had completely different plans for the trilogy at first. The plans in question cast Gwen Stacy as Peter’s first love as opposed to Mary Jane Watson, who ended up being Peter’s romantic interest in the finished film. What’s more, Koepp would have killed Gwen off halfway through the second movie as per her comic counterpart. As Koepp notes:
Basically [my trilogy idea] was the telling of the Gwen Stacey/Harry Osbourne story but I spaced everything out differently. I wanted Gwen to be killed in the middle of the second movie, because that follows sort of the Empire Strikes Back model, and I had different villains I wanted to use. Just a different way to tell that story.”
3) Gwen Stacy Was Nearly Absent from Spider-Man 3
Bryce Dallas Howard is the first actress to bring Gwen Stacy to life on-screen. However, there was a time when Howard – and her character – were not going to appear in the movie at all. In a 2007 interview with Collider, director Sam Raimi revealed that while Peter was always going to have a rival love interest in Spider-Man 3, it wasn’t going to be Gwen – at least, at first. “My brother and I had written in the story about another woman that recognized Peter and knew who he was at this dinner and that Mary Jane got jealous of her,” he explains, “But Laura Ziskin, my producer, said let’s make it Gwen.”
Raimi was initially reluctant to do so – introducing Gwen meant fans would have high expectations of this famously tragic character in the Spider-Man comics. Laura Ziskin, however, suggested that he could introduce Gwen in SM3 and then kill her off in 4. Raimi eventually wrote her in, connecting Gwen “to a policeman on the periphery of the scenes” – Captain George Stacy.
4) Peter Was About to Have Mechanical Web-Shooters
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is well-known for giving Peter Parker organic web-shooters as opposed to the character’s traditional mechanical versions. As Raimi affirms in a 2007 SuperheroHype interview, he got the idea from James Cameron’s unproduced Spider-Man script and ran with it because he felt Peter building such advanced devices would harm his everyman reliability.
That said, there exists evidence that Spider-Man’s mechanical web-shooters were under consideration at some point behind the scenes. As seen in the above teaser trailer for Spider-Man 2002, there are brief shots of mechanical web-shooters on Peter’s wrists. This appears to take place during the bedroom scene where Peter practices his web-aiming. Alas, somewhere between this trailer and the finished film, these comic-faithful versions were scrapped. The only leftover evidence of this in the finished product are certain scenes (i.e. the rooftop scene where Spidey chats to MJ after rescuing her for the first time – you can see the shooters protruding from his wrists).
5) There Was A Movement Dedicated to Reviving the Web-Shooters
The internet is widely known for allowing passionate fandoms to voice their complaints to the world. And it appears that this was a thing in the early 21st century circa Spider-Man 2002’s release. In a 2002 article with acidlogic.com, writer Wil Forbis interviewed Joe O’Malley, a prominent figure of No-Organic-Webshooters.com. The site in question – now-defunct – rallied against the organic webs via petitions and message boards. O’Malley, a big Spider-Man fan, was worried the organic web-shooters “will have Peter acting differently than he would in the comics”. Given how far Spidey movies have come, one wonders what Mr. O’Malley thinks now. After all, the Powers-That-Be must’ve been listening behind the scenes, because the two live-action movie iterations of Spider-Man have employed the mechanical versions.
6) The Vulture Originally Appeared in Spider-Man 3
As a fan of the 70’s comics, Raimi stuck to the classic villains. Hence the reason we see Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and Sandman in his trilogy. However, Thomas Haden Church, who plays the latter villain in Spider-Man 3 (and No Way Home) revealed in a 2018 JoBlo interview that the Vulture was initially considered for the third film instead of Venom. “They introduced at the very beginning the character of Vulture,” says Church, “but he was only in it briefly and then at the very end of that picture they were gonna bring The Vulture back just to sorta set the stage that he was probably going to be the main villain in Spider-Man 4“. Of course, Vultie didn’t make the grade, with Venom taking his place. However, storyboards exist revealing plans to use Vulture in the canceled fourth film (pictured). Of course, that film was never to come to fruition, either.
7) Spider-Man’s First Teaser Posters Recalled After 9/11
It seems like a world away, when the Twin Towers stood proudly in New York City. In fact, the towers themselves were used in early Spider-Man 2002 marketing material. There was a short teaser of Spidey apprehending crooks at this location. Alongside that, the towers featured heavily on theatrical posters. In a 2002 interview, Raimi even admitted he was going to use the teaser shots in the movie, complementing the work of his 2nd Unit director. However, he ultimately cut the scene altogether because he felt it was inappropriate after 9/11. But this doesn’t stop us from wondering how the Spider-Man movie might’ve differed if not for this behind-the-scenes snip.
8) Tobey Maguire Got Fired Between Spider-Man 1 & 2
Here’s a twist for you – Tobey Maguire got fired from Spider-Man 2. Well, not permanently…because, you know, he’s in the movie. However, things got so bad that Sony began considering his replacement – Jake Gyllenhaal being among the names. But why was Maguire fired for a brief time? Well, it depends on who you ask. Reports at the time claimed it’s because Maguire was playing up a back injury to coax more money out of Sony and that he was angry producer Laura Ziskin made more money than him. Meanwhile, others (including Maguire himself) claimed that the spinal injury was serious and almost cost him the role. Behind the scenes, Raimi rang Maguire up and told him he might not be working with him anymore because he needed a healthy Spider-Man to lead the movie. But man…how different would things be if Jake Gyllenhaal played Spidey in SM2?
9) The Peter-MJ-Harry Love Triangle Was Real
Peter and Harry both fight over MJ in the first movie. However, you might not know that they were fighting over her in real life, too! That’s right – both Tobey Maguire and James Franco had the hots for Kirsten Dunst behind the scenes of the first Spider-Man movie. And, if you know your Spidey film history, you’ll know that Maguire won the rivalry. However, Franco’s crush on Kirsten intensified his friendship with Tobey for some time. “Tobey and Kirsten became a couple around that time. I had a crush on Kirsten,” said Franco in a 2013 Playboy interview, “and I think I was upset about that as well… Tobey was mad at me for a while”. Luckily, the pair patched things up by the second movie, but gee – talk about real-life imitating art…
10) Elizabeth Banks Auditioned for Mary Jane Watson
If you’re a Raimi fan, you’ll recognize Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant, Jameson’s long-suffering secretary. However, before Banks won the role of Brant, she tried to audition for MJ. Alas, there was one thing wrong – the Powers-That-Be deemed Banks too old to play Spider-Man’s girlfriend. “Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s what I’ve signed up for”, Banks commented in a 2016 Glamour magazine interview. Indeed, Maguire was 25-26 during the time of Spider-Man’s filming and Banks was 28, just a couple of years older. That said, it should be noted that Raimi and the crew were initially after a young man aged 18-24 to play the role. Raimi only broke the rules upon seeing Maguire in the 1999 drama The Cider House Rules.
What is your favorite Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie behind-the-scenes fact? What are your thoughts on the latest Spidey film, No Way Home?