This July sees the return of one of cinema’s most beloved comic-book characters. Our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is back in Spider-Man: Homecoming, his first solo outing as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after his debut in last summer’s blockbuster Captain America: Civil War.
Donning the signature red-and-blue suit for the second time is Tom Holland, the third actor to play the character on the big screen after Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man 1-3) and Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2) did so previously. It’s certainly been a much-coveted role over the years since the first film in 2002, so here are five actors who almost played the heroic webslinger…
The first attempt to bring Spider-Man to the big screen was in the mid-1980’s by Cannon Films, led by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.
They optioned the rights from Marvel (there’s even a teaser trailer on YouTube if you look hard enough) and directors including Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Michael Winner (Death Wish), linked to the project.
However it was filmmaker Joseph Zito who came closest to making it. He had suggested the late Bob Hoskins as Doc Ock, Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn as Aunt May and Peter Cushing as a scientist but for Spider-Man a few names were mentioned - including Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise.
At the time, the 20-something actor had appeared in Risky Business and All The Right Moves but after the project collapsed, he went on to become, well, Tom Cruise. Indeed, Cannon Films collapsed years later after the box-office failures of many of their films.
After the collapse of the Cannon versions, Carolco Pictures (who made films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Cutthroat Island) bought the rights and that James Cameron (Avatar) would direct.
After a few script iterations, the film was still stuck in production limbo but Cameron had sought out DiCaprio to play the lead role with Arnold Schwarzenegger touted to play Otto Octavius/Doc Ock in the film. Ultimately, legal wranglings, amongst other things, halted the film and it was eventually scrapped - indeed, it would be almost ten years before all the legal problems were sorted.
Strangely, some of Cameron’s ideas, namely the more organic webshooters over the Peter Parker-made ones, were kept in David Koepp’s script for the film. DiCaprio and Cameron would eventually team up on 1997 blockbuster, Titanic.
First there was a long legal battle, which actually involved a tradeoff of rights for James Bond with MGM. Finally a Spider-Man movie got underway in March 1999, with director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), a long-time fan of the comic-book, signed to direct.
His task was huge but biggest of all was finding the right person to fill the red and blue suit and there were many actors who wanted the role - eventually Maguire, who had bulked up for his screen-test, won out but not before his eventual co-star Franco had also tested for the role.
He wasn’t quite right for the role in the same way Maguire was, but so impressed with him was Raimi that he cast him as Harry Osborn in the film, eventually becoming the New Goblin in Spider-Man 3.
After the success of Spider-Man in 2002, which was the first film to gross over $100million in its opening weekend, Sony immediately set up pre-production on a sequel. Raimi, Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco would return and classic villain Doc Ock would make his debut appearance in the franchise, played by British actor Alfred Molina.
But just as pre-production was starting, word came from the set of drama Seabiscuit that star Maguire had suffered back injuries during filming and there was a real possibility that he wouldn’t be ready in time for the sequel.
He even went so far as to perform many of his own stunts, as well as convincing Raimi to put a joke in the film about his injury (the scene where he falls down a building into an alleyway and says “My back… my back!”)
After the critical disappointment and behind-the-scenes issues of Spider-Man 3, Sony had pushed for Raimi, Maguire et al to make Spider-Man 4, which had reportedly cast Anne Hathaway and John Malkovich as its villains.
But in 2010, everyone parted ways and the studio decided to reboot the series with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. As ever, a wide range of actors tested for the role, one of whom was new Han Solo star Ehrenreich, who did a screen test alongside others including Jamie Bell (Fantastic Four), Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson) and the late Anton Yelchin (Star Trek).
Eventually, it was British actor Andrew Garfield who ran out the winner, and he would play the title character in the film and its 2014 sequel before he was replaced with Tom Holland.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is released on 7th July.
Scott J. Davis is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.