Spider-Man (Cancelled James Cameron Movie; 1994)
Spider-Man is a cancelled film based on The Amazing Spider-Man comic book that was to be directed by James Cameron in the mid 1990's. Several plot elements from Cameron's adaptation project were kept by David Koepp in his script for the 2002 film Spider-Man that was directed by Sam Raimi. If it was made, it would’ve been the first R-rated Spider-Man film.
In 1990, Carolco Pictures originally bought the rights to Spider-Man from Menahem Golan for $5 million and were planning a $50 million budget version of the film. Carolco then hired James Cameron to write, direct produce, but Carolco wouldn't pay if Cameron submitted a script. Toward the end of shooting True Lies, Variety carried the announcement that Carolco Pictures had received a completed screenplay from James Cameron. This script bore the names of James Cameron, John Brancato, Ted Newsom, Barry Cohen and "Joseph Goldmari", a typographical scrambling of Golan's pen name ("Joseph Goldman") with Marvel executive Joseph Calamari. The script text was identical to the one Golan submitted to Columbia the previous year, with the addition of a new 1993 date. Cameron stalwart Arnold Schwarzenegger was frequently linked to the project as the director's choice for Dr. Octopus along with rumors that Leonardo DiCaprio was cast to play Spider-Man.
Months later, Cameron submitted an undated 47-page "scriptment" with an alternate story, part screenplay, part narrative story outline. The "scriptment" told the Spider-Man origin, but used variations on the comic book characters Electro and Sandman as villains. This "Electro" was named Carlton Strand, instead of Max Dillon and was a megalomaniacal parody of Donald Trump. Instead of Flint Marko's character, Cameron’s "Sandman" was simply named Boyd and was mutated by an accident involving a Philadelphia Experiment-style bilocation and atom-mixing, in lieu of getting caught in a nuclear blast on a beach.
The story climaxes with a battle atop the World Trade Center and had Peter Parker revealing his identity to Mary Jane Watson. In addition, the treatment was also heavy on profanity, and had Spider-Man and Mary Jane having sex atop the Brooklyn Bridge.
Litigation and Cancellation
When James Cameron agreed to make Spider-Man, Carolco lawyers simply used his previous Terminator 2 contract as a template. A clause in this agreement gave Cameron the right to decide on movie and advertising credits. Show business trade articles and advertisements made no mention of Golan, who was still actively assembling the elements for the film. In 1993, Golan complained publicly and finally instigated legal action against Carolco for disavowing his contractual guarantee credit as producer. On the other hand, Cameron had the contractual right to decide on credits. Eventually, Carolco sued Viacom and Columbia to recover broadcast and home video rights, and the two studios countersued. 20th Century Fox, though not part of the litigation, contested Cameron’s participation, claiming exclusivity on his services as a director under yet another contract. In 1996, Carolco, 21st Century, and Marvel went bankrupt.
Via a quitclaim from Carolco dated March 28, 1995, MGM acquired 21st Century's film library and assets, and received "...all rights in and to all drafts and versions of the screenplay(s) for Spider-Man written by James Cameron, Ted Newsom & John Brancato, Menahem Golan, Jon Michael Paul, Ethan Wiley, Leslie Stevens, Frank Laloggia, Neil Ruttenberg, Barney Cohen, Shepard Goldman and any and all other writers." MGM also sued 21st Century, Viacom, and Marvel Comics, alleging fraud in the original deal between Cannon and Marvel. In 1998, Marvel emerged from bankruptcy with a reorganization plan that merged the company with Toy Biz. The courts determined that the original contract of Marvel's rights to Golan had expired; returning the rights to Marvel, but the matter was still not completely resolved. In 1999, Marvel licensed Spider-Man rights to Columbia, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment. MGM disputed the legality, claiming it had the Spider-Man rights via Cannon, 21st Century, and Carolco.
The rights to Spider-Man were eventually picked up by Sony Pictures Entertainment and the film written by David Koepp and directed by Sam Raimi was released on May 3, 2002.
Despite being cancelled, an animated series was made to accommodate James Cameron’s Spider-Man movie.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series aired on FOX Kids from 1994 – 1998. The beginning of the series lacked an origin episode that explained how Spider-Man got his powers. This was done because the series was expected to premiere alongside Cameron’s movie in 1994. Since the film included an origin story, the animated series didn't include their own to prevent redundancy. In part to make up for this, the third season episode "Make a Wish" contained an extended sequence in which Spider-Man explains his origin.
Because Cameron’s film was set to feature the villains Electro and Sandman, they were completely left out of plans for the series. When the movie was eventually cancelled, Electro was added to one of the later episode's, but Sandman remains one of the most prominent members of Spider-Man's villain gallery not to appear in the cartoon.