Movies That Never Were – Cannon Films Spider-Man Part 2

If you remember last week we left our story with Stan Lee demanding a rewrite to make the proposed 1980s Spider-Man film better reflect the character that the company, Cannon Films, had actually licensed.

With Newsom and Brancato on board as writers we had an origin story that saw Otto Octavius as teacher and mentor to college student Peter Parker. An accident involving an exploding cyclotron (a very small particle accelerator) was to give Pete his Spider-powers and deform Otto Octavius in to Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock was then hellbent on proving that a mythical “Fifth Force” exists. A quick note modern physics has 4 universal forces, gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear, but does allow for the possibility of a fifth force. This one would take some explaining in a low budget popcorn movie wouldn’t it?

Doc Ock repairs the cyclotron which unleashes electromagnetic anomalies as well as anti-gravity effects on those near it. It also causes something called bilocation that as we shall see the writers of this era had an unhealthy addiction to. Essential think of it as teleportation where by a building would instantly move from one place to another with massive destructive effects. This destruction threatens New York and ultimately the world. Joesph Zito, a man famous for directing Chuck Norris movies, was brought in to replace Tobe Hooper.

Zito’s first move was to hire Barney Cohen (creator of the TV version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch) in to rewrite the script. This version of the script added plenty more action scenes, changed Doc Ock’s goal from a search for the Fifth Force to the far more understandable quest for anti gravity, and gave him a villanous catch phrase. That catch phrase? “Okey-dokey.”

Locations were scouted for the filming, storyboards were drawn up, and Cannon allocated the movie a $20million budget which in the 1980s was a hefty sum of money.

A teaser trailer of sorts was released which you can see below in all it’s 1980s glory.

Zito wanted a guy called Scott Leva to play Spider-Man. Scott Leva was the guy wearing the suit in the already released poster for the movie, was a well known and respected stunt man, and had been used by Marvel themselves since 1985 in a series of limited edition photo-covers including The Amazing Spider-Man issue 262 (see below). He was also the guy wearing the suit in the trailer above.

Scott Leva wasn’t the only actor who was scouted for the leading role however. An up and coming actor by the name of Tom Cruise was also proposed to star in the title role and the possibility of having Tom Cruise play Peter Parker whilst keeping Leva in the suit as Spidy was also mooted. Tom Cruise… Hmm I wonder what ever happened to him?

One time potential Wolverine Bob Hoskins was wanted as Doc Ock, Stan Lee demanded that he play J. Jonah Jameson, and Katharine Hepburn was considered as Aunt May. Peter Cushing was also wanted to play a rival scientist to Doc Ock.

Then something happened at Cannon films that scuppered the chances of this take of Spider-Man ever happening. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe, both made by Cannon, were also both running massively over budget leaving the film company facing a cash flow crisis that would ultimately cause the demise of Cannon. Short term however it lead to Spidey’s budget being halved in an instant. Director Zito decided to leave as he felt that a low budget version of the script really wasn’t going to be worth the effort.

This lead to Cannon commisioning a wealth of rewrites from writers Shepard Goldman, Don Michael Paul, and then Ethen Wiley all with the sole purpose of reducing the budget. Albert Pyun, an infamous low budget directer of B-Movies like The Brainmasher, was brought in to direct and he too rewrote the script.

Scott Leva was still on board to star as Spidey (Tom Cruise’s now sky rocketing career had by now long since ruled him out) and was given each subsequent script to read. His thoughts were that the original was Newsom and Brancato script was good, but needed polish, and that each rewrite made the script worse and worse leading to it being “terrible.”

By this point Cannon films, after spending around $1.5million dollars on the project, decided to pull the plug as the film studio was about to go bust. Pathe films stepped in and bought out most of what Cannon Films had left. The cousins Globus and Golan, the guys if you remember were behind Cannon, seperated. Globus went with Pathe whilst Golan left to take over another struggling studio which was 21st Century Film Corporation. Golan however kept the Spider-Man rights and brought them to 21st Century. He kept the film rights, along with those of Captain America (THAT film got made but was truly awful), instead of receiving cash when Pathe took over.

He also somehow managed to persuade Marvel to extend his Spider-Man rights up to January 1992.

Golan went back to the original script they had and attempted to get financing for what was now an independent production. His idea was that he had a script that was already budgeted for and for which the storyboard was laid out. At the 1989 Cannes film festival Golan announced that filming would begin in September 1989 and took out trade adverts to promote the film.

This is where are story starts to get messy so we’ll leave it here for now and hopefully finish this tawdy tale next week.