The year was 2002. Spider-Man, the comic, was 40 years old that year, so it was about damn time somebody finally made a good movie about a character that had been iconic for decades. The movie rights had been in limbo for years, but with Sam Raimi, a dedicated comic book collector, in the director’s chair, it finally came together.
I was married to the wrong guy at the time, and none too pleased about being dragged to the midnight viewing of a movie I was sure I wouldn’t care for. I bet lots of you were there too: Spider-Man set the record for highest gross in a single day, and then broke the record for achieving $100 million dollars the fastest – in just 3 days.
Raimi had liked Tobey Maguire in The Cider House Rules, feeling that character embodied a lot of what Peter Parker should be. The studio, however, was thinking more along the lines of Tobey’s pussy posse playmate, Leonardo DiCaprio, who James Cameron had wanted for the part when he was working on it in the 90s (Charlie Sheen campaigned hard for it, but Cameron didn’t bite). Failing that, maybe Freddie Prinze, Jr.? James Franco tried out for the part, and so did Scott Speedman. Wes Bentley was rumoured to be the favourite. Stan Lee had always envisioned John Cusack for the part, but the in end, Raimi got his way, and Tobey Maguire hit the gym.
Spider-man’s suit went through about a billion different designs before they landed on the one seen in the movie. The suit itself was one piece (except for the mask), excruciating to peel on and off; eventually the costume department relented and built in a little slit so Maguire could pee.
Kirsten Dunst got the part of Mary Jane after Kate Hudston turned it down to make Four Feathers. Alicia Witt, Mena Suvari and Elisha Cuthbert all auditioned for the role. Eliza Dushku’s screen test can be seen in the DVD’s special feature. In the end, Dunst got word that Maguire had been cast and thought the project sounded just indie enough for her taste.
The Green Goblin was maybe hardest to cast of them all. The role was intended to be played by Billy Crudup, who dropped other projects to be available before eventually being told he was too young. Robert De Niro and John Travolta both turned down the part. Nicolas Cage and John Malkovich were also considered. Finally Bill Paxton was settled upon, but a few meetings later, Sam Raimi was convinced Willem Dafoe was right for the part, so they dyed James Franco’s hair brown to make them look more like father and son, and the rest is history. Bill Paxton got the shaft of course, but his dad still appears in the film, as the Osborns’ elderly housekeeper. The Goblin costume was no picnic either. Originally designed to be quite bulky, it was streamlined when Dafoe decided to do his own stunts (reportedly about 90% of them). In the end, the suit was made up of 580 pieces that took a teak half an hour to put on him.
JK Simmons seemed a perfect fit for J. Jonah Jameson, but it’s not who Stan Lee would have chosen. His first choice? Himself! He’s very complimentary of Simmons’ portrayal, however. And Jameson’s costume was much simpler, of course, though it did necessitate Simmons’s donning of a wig. Not content to have just one iconic comic book role, JK will soon be appearing as Commissioner Gordon in The Batman and Justice League.
Hugh Jackman was supposed to have been in the movie, in a Wolverine cameo, but on the day he showed up in NYC to film, the crew couldn’t get his costume from the X-Men set!
The CGI in this movie was really advanced for its time, and the special effects wowed the pants off audiences worldwide. Sadly, post-911, some effects had to be used to digitally remove the World Trade towers from several scenes. And a couple of scenes were done the old fashioned way. In one, Tobey Maguire magically catches Mary Jane’s tray full of food. It took 156 takes and a little crazy glue on the tray, but eventually he got it! In another, during that famous upside-down kiss that capture romantic imaginations, Maguire suffered big time, the pouring rain filling up his nostrils and flooding his nasal cavities, making it hard to breathe.
Spiderman is Sean’s favourite super hero. We didn’t get to see these films together, but we did get to see Julie Taylor’s Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark on Broadway. The mounting of it was plagued with difficulty because the stunts were so technical and precise, but seeing Spiderman actually swinging from webs and being dazzled by aerial fight scenes was worth it. With music from U2’s Bono and The Edge, it was a rock-opera-circus show, and a lot of fun. Reeve Carney played Peter Parker, who you may know from Penny Dreadful.
What Sean and I have seen is basically every other comic book movie released since we were together, including those not-very-good Amazing Spider-Man ones with Andrew Garfield. Sean is a comic book lover from way back, having spent hard-earned paper route money on them every time he could convince his dad to drive him to his favourite store in Toronto. His mother made costumes for him and his brothers, and he even got suspended from school over a comic that he drew when he was a teenager (one of his co-conspirators now writes for Marvel and has his own graphic novel series).
So what better way to celebrate Sean’s 40th birthday than with a super hero party? The dude’s in good company. Joe Manganiello, who played Flash Thompson in the 2002 Spider-Man, also turns 40 this year (and will play Deathstroke in The Batman). Corey Stoll, who played Yellowjacket in Ant-Man, turned 40 this year, and so did Michael Pena from the same film. Alicia Silverstone, aka Batgirl, turned 40, and so did Colin Farrell, who played Bullseye, a character that first appeared in the Daredevil series 40 years ago this year. Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr Strange himself) also turned 40 this year, as did Green Lantern\Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds. So it’s a big year for lots of super heroes, but I’m most proud of the one who wears a suit to work rather than tights and fights for justice in a courtroom instead of in the sky. We’ll be toasting him with cocktails like Spidey’s Love Potion, and Superman’s Kryptonite, and they’ll come in little caped cups, just a friendly neighbourhood shindig to celebrate my favourite Asshole. xo
Huge Happy Birthday to Sean have a great spidey~time xx
One of your most enticing reviews. Pass on a happy birthday to Sean; the forties are so under-estimated.
Happy Birthday Sean, who is, in my book, a writing super-hero! ❤ you all
Happy Birthday Sean!
I thought Toby’s Spiderman was the best … jury’s still out on the new kid on the block, but I’m optimistic. 🙂
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I hadn’t known that about Simmons – he stole every scene he was in for me!
Nice blast-from-the-past review Jay! I really enjoyed the first Raimi’s Spidey movie though the second one in the franchise is my fave. Happy 40th Birthday, Sean!! Many happy returns!
First two Raimi Spider-Man flicks were ace. Second was the highlight… Third one not so much. Haven’t seen the ‘reboot’, though a friend assures me it should have been titled Decidedly Average Spider-Man. The live action experience sounds ace!
… and happy birthday Sean!
Wow, this review took me way back. In some ways it seems so long ago, and in others, not so much. I remember how huge these films were when they came out.
Happy Birthday to Sean. Hope you guys have a great time!
Great origin story and it’s still fun to watch, I kinda slightly prefer Amazing Spiderman over this version but I’d happily watch both any time they’re on tv.
I really enjoyed this review! The first Spider-Man was so good, brings back memories.
Happy birthday to Sean! 🙂
Happy Belated Birthday, Sean!
On a side-note, I really want a Spider-Man movie with Charlie Sheen in the role. I don’t mean 80s Sheen. I mean have him, and Peter Parker, right now as an old through-with-the-world burnout. Add in Nic Cage as a batshit insane Goblin with at least 2 or 3 scenes of him going Nic Cage and I’m there. It would be so awesomely awful!
You know, this really really intrigues me in a weird way. Awesomely awful is probably right on the money.
p.s. You aren’t belated yet – we celebrated with friends early because we’ll be in Hawaii for the actual birthday.
I loved this spiderman film so much, I’ll never forget going to see it. I think it set a great standard for all other superhero films. Tobey has been the best spiderman for sure!