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Cannon Films Nearly Made a Spider-Man Horror Film in the 1980s

June 19, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

Superhero films were not in a great place in the mid-1980s. The high created by Superman was long past over, and films like Supergirl, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Swamp Thing were the prime examples of how comic books were treated on the big screen.

That said, it could have been much worse. Exhibit A: the Spider-Man horror film that almost happened. Digital Spy reports that Cannon Films — best known for iconic low-budget action flicks like Missing in Action and horror films like The Company of Wolves, had an option in 1985 to make a Spider-Man movie, having paid $225,000 for a five-year option on the franchise. They never made a film, but they came close with a movie to be directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Leslie Stevens (Outer Limits).

As the site reports, the script for the film saw Peter Parker’s origin story reimagined in a fashion that can charitably be called “loosely faithful.” In this version, Peter is an ID photographer and not a student or journalist. He ends up being deliberately bombarded with radiation by Doctor Zork, a corporate scientist, and is turned into a giant eight-armed spider/human hybrid. The character becomes suicidal, but when he is encouraged to lead the scientist’s race of mutant creatures, he instead ends up fighting them.

To no one’s surprise, Stan Lee didn’t like this take and convinced Cannon to toss that take. A new version was put together by Ted Newsom and John Brancato, in which Doctor Octopus is created by the same accident that turns Peter into Spider-Man. Octopus is Peter’s teacher and mentor and becomes his enemy in the film, which was budgeted at $20 million. Cannon ultimately cut the film to $10 million, after which Joseph Zito, who had replaced Hooper as director, walked away.

Interestingly, Cannon had high hopes for the film with a desired cast including Tom Cruise (pre-Top Gun, post-Risky Business) as Peter, Bob Hoskins as Doctor Octopus, and silver screen icons Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn for Aunt May. Christopher Lee was sought for a supporting scientist role and STan Lee would have potentially played J. Jonah Jameson.

Scott Leva, a stunt man, was up for the role of Peter, and had read each draft of the script. “Ted Newsom and John Brancato had written the script,” he said. “It was good, but it needed a little work. Unfortunately, with every subsequent rewrite by other writers, it went from good to bad to terrible.”

The project was eventually shut down after $1.5 million was spent in development.

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Spider-Man, Jeremy Thomas