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James Cameron Says His Spider-Man Was ‘The Greatest Movie I Never Made’

James Cameron Says His Spider-Man Was ‘The Greatest Movie I Never Made’

James Cameron tried for years to get a Spider-Man movie off the ground, which he says was the best movie he never made.

Hannah Blackiston

Hannah Blackiston

James Cameron, the man behind Titanic and Avatar, once tried to get a Spider-Man movie off the ground.

It was the late '90s, the only Marvel movie in existence was Harold the Duck and we were still dealing with Batman's suit having nipples.

Cameron had made Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but hadn't yet brought us Rose refusing to make room for Jack on a raft, and he was desperately working to get the superhero film made.

Rich Gold / Alamy Stock Photo
Rich Gold / Alamy Stock Photo

In his new book, Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron, Cameron reflected on the process, including two illustrations of what his dream would have looked like.

He goes on to call Spider-Man 'the greatest movie I never made'.

Screen Crush spoke with the director about what it was that would have made his film so spectacular.

He started by saying it would 'have been very different' and that he had Stan Lee's blessing for his vision.

"I didn't make a move without asking him permission," he said. "The first thing you've got to get your mind around is it's not Spider-Man.

"He goes by Spider-Man, but he's not Spider-Man. He's Spider-Kid. He's Spider-High-School-Kid. He's kind of geeky and nobody notices him and he's socially unpopular and all that stuff," Cameron said.

He saw Peter Parker's powers as 'a great metaphor' for an 'untapped reservoir of potential that people have that they don't recognise in themselves'.

Mim Friday / Alamy Stock Photo
Mim Friday / Alamy Stock Photo

"And it was also in my mind a metaphor for puberty and all the changes to your body, your anxieties about society, about society's expectations, your relationships with your gender of choice that you're attracted to, all those things," he said.

This brought about changes to Spider-Man, including switching his web-shooters from technology invented by the character to a biological power.

This was supported by Lee and formed part of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man in the later films.

"I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it," he said.

He had big plans for Leonardo DiCaprio to star as Peter Parker, Kevin Spacey as Green Goblin, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doctor Octopus and Nikki Cox or Robyn Lively as Mary Jane Watson.

Cameron also saw Michael Douglas or R. Lee Ermey playing Daily Bugle editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson and Bill Paxton as The Burglar.

AA Film Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
AA Film Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The director said superheroes came off a little 'fanciful' to him and he wanted to do something more like Terminator and Aliens but with a webslinging high school student.

He liked that it was set in New York City and not 'some mythical Gotham City' or 'Daily Planet and all that sort of thing'.

Cameron said he thought it would be a 'fun film' to make, but he never got the chance.

Spider-Man had been sold by Marvel to Cannon Films in the 1980s, which then went under.

That's when Cameron convinced Terminator 2 backers Carolco to buy the rights, but that studio also went under before the film was made.

AA Film Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
AA Film Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

"I tried to get Fox to buy it, but apparently the rights were a little bit clouded and Sony had some very questionable attachment to the rights and Fox wouldn't go to bat for it," Cameron told Screen Crush.

Spider-Man: Far From Home alone brought in $1.1bn in box office takings, so you can see why Cameron is a little salty about this one.

But, he said the loss was the kick he needed to work on his own projects, which include Titanic and Avatar.

Let your haters be your motivators James Cameron.

Featured Image Credit: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Entertainment, TV and Film, Spider-Man