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James Cameron Almost Directed a Spider-Man Movie, and Here’s What It Looked Like

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BY February 10, 2021

One of these things is not like the other: Sam Raimi, Marc Webb, Jon Watts, James Cameron. Clearly, it’s James Cameron. The former three have all directed hit Spider-Man movies, but what you don’t know is that James Cameron was almost on that list. That’s right! The legendary director could have made a Spider flick before even Raimi had the chance. Here is the story of how James Cameron almost directed Spider-Man.

James Cameron Almost Directed Spider-Man. Key Word: Almost.

Carolco Pictures, a film production company, is responsible for some pretty big hit movies. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the first three Rambo films, and Total Recall are some of their biggest hits. Despite making movies you’ve definitely seen, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the company. That’s because they went bankrupt.

Before their collapse, Carolco Pictures managed to acquire the rights to Spider-Man in the early 90s. James Cameron, who was a frequent director for films of Carolco Pictures, was pretty eager to direct a movie of the beloved character. Cameron worked on two scripts for the film. The first had Cameron as a co-writer, along with John Brancato, Barry Cohen, Joseph Goldmari, and Ted Newsom. The second was a new 57-page scriptment with a whole new story with new villains.

Tobey Maguire Spider Man Image via Sony

What James Cameron’s Spider-Man Would Have Looked Like

The co-written, complete screenplay by Cameron and co. featured Peter Parker as a college kid who gets bitten and ends up with his signature powers. Arnold Schwarzennegger, another Carolco alum, was considered for the role of Doctor Octopus. While Alfred Molina did a more than fine job in Spider-Man 2, a Doctor Arnie-pus doesn’t seem like that wild of an idea.

Cameron’s later scriptment (a mixture of a script and an outline) sounds even more intense. Much of this scriptment has been released for fans to imagine what it would look like. While some elements are in Raimi’s Spider-Man films, the story as a whole is a lot darker and deals with more mature themes than we’ve seen covered throughout the franchise.

This version saw Peter as a high school student. He gets bit by a genetically altered spider and soon discovers powers that include web-shooting wrists and the ability to stick to walls. Villains would have included Electro (known as Carlton Stand in the scriptment) and Sandman, referred to by Cameron as Boyd. There would have also been plenty of profanity, and even a Brooklyn Bridge love scene in this film.

We usually think about Tobey Macquire, Tom Holland, and sometimes even Andrew Garfield when we picture our favorite arachnid. Though, Leonardo DiCaprio could have been added to that list. The star was reportedly in talks to join Cameron’s version. He was also later offered the role in Raimi’s trilogy before the part went to Macquire. We’ve seen DiCaprio in plenty of sticky situations, but never in a super suit. Despite still never appearing in a superhero film, the star has said that he would consider it if the concept was right.

Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio DiCaprio. Image via Warner Bros. Pictures.

Everything That Went Wrong With This Hero Flick

Everything sounds great, right? A leading director with A-list names attached to the projects. What could go wrong? Well, a lot, actually. An intense litigation battle went down, and a lot of major companies were involved, including 21st Century Film, MGM, Marvel, Viacom, 20th Century Fox, Sony/Columbia, and Carolco. The rights to the film were at the forefront of these battles.

Menahem Golan had split the rights and sold them to Carolco, Sony/Columbia, and Viacom earlier in the decade. Golan wanted producer credits for the eventual film, but James Cameron wasn’t so eager to give them up. Everybody started suing each other, which lead to Fox refusing to take on the rights to Spider-Man. Marvel ended up with the rights by the end of the battle, and almost everybody else was left bankrupt. As we all know, the rights to Spider-Man have been with Sony since then, which has caused some more character troubles over the past few years.

Tom Holland as the MCU Spider-Man Image via Marvel Studios

A Complicated Character With A Complicated History

Spider-Man seems to bring complications everywhere he goes. Despite the film never making it very far, almost everyone involved (except for the studios) managed to go on to do great things. If Spider-Man had been made, we might never have seen James Cameron’s Titanic, which starred our almost-Peter Parker, Leonardo DiCaprio. The trajectory for both the director and the actor’s careers would have been changed forever.

How do you feel about a Spider-Man film directed by James Cameron? Can you envision DiCaprio as Spider-Man, or Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doctor Octopus? Let us know your theories for the never-made film in the comments below!

Featured image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.


Meghan Hale is the kind of movie lover that has a "must watch" that is a mile long... and growing. When she isn't talking about the latest film and television news she is writing one of her many in-process novels, screaming film trivia at anybody who will listen, and working as a mental health care professional. Follow her on Twitter @meghanrhale for some fun theories and live reactions to all things entertainment.


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