James Cameron’s Unmade Leonardo DiCaprio Marvel Movie Could’ve Annihilated an $8.9B Franchise /d

It is possible that James Cameron’s shelved Spider-Man project in the 1990s could have destroyed Sam Raimi’s $8.9 billion franchise.

James Cameron’s Unmade Leonardo DiCaprio Marvel Movie Could’ve Annihilated an $8.9B Franchise

A plethora of Spider-Man films have been released. Several acclaimed filmmakers have contributed their signatures to this web-slinging superhero, including Sam Raimi, Jon Watts, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and others. What you may not know, though, is that James Cameron also had his sights set on Peter Parker’s character in his superhero movie.

He was the one who first desired to see the webslinger on the big screen, long before Sam Raimi revolutionized comic book movies with his 2002 Spider-Man film. But Cameron’s plan to produce a Spider-Man film with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role was a failure. He even insisted that his vision for the comic book movie was “very different” from other Spider-Man films.

Raimi was able to give Peter Parker the emotional maturity necessary to realize that ‘great power comes with great responsibility’. On the other hand, it is possible that Cameron’s Spider-Man couldn’t have had such a complex emotional arc.

James Cameron (via Flickr)

James Cameron (via Flickr)

James Cameron Wanted to Make Spider-Man Film With Leonardo DiCaprio

James Cameron was so dedicated to making the Spider-Man movie that he even put pressure on 20th Century Fox to purchase the film rights. Despite his insistence that Spider-Man would be a huge hit for the studio, he would later remember that Fox was unwilling to deal with all the complex legal issues surrounding the character (via TheWrap). Fox declined to pursue the property’s film rights, according to the LA Times, and MGM eventually came to an out-of-court agreement with Marvel for the film rights.

The film rights to Spider-Man were immediately snapped up by Sony/Columbia Pictures after MGM pulled out of the picture and Fox decided not to pursue the character. Also, according to Inside the Magic, Cameron disclosed that he had originally planned for Leonardo DiCaprio to play Spider-Man/Peter Parker.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon

Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon

As the key leading man in this director’s career, the idea of these two collaborating seemed intriguing. “There was a screenplay”, DiCaprio once recalled in an interview with Empire Magazine (MensXP). He went on to say,

“I know he was semi-serious about doing it at some point, but I don’t remember any further talks about it. We had a couple of chats. I think there was a screenplay that I read, but I don’t remember. This was 20 years ago!”

Cameron felt that nobody was a better fit for the role than the Killers of the Flower Moon star. He also argued that his take on the character was different from the many Spider-Man films that have been made to date.

James Cameron’s Unmade Spider-Man Film Could Have Destroyed the $8.9 Billion Franchise?

Even though James Cameron’s adaptation of Spider-Man was never released on the big screen, it is interesting to consider how it might have been different. Speaking at a roundtable interview that ScreenCrush attended, the director discussed the project and said that his idea for the comic book movie was “very different” from what other past Spider-Man films had:

“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.”

Spider-Man and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy

Spider-Man and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was a representation of emotional maturity rather than just a web-slinging superhero. He added a depth seldom found in superhero flicks by focusing on Peter Parker’s undeniable development and his deep awareness of the responsibility that comes with great power. Meanwhile, it is possible that character development couldn’t be as emotionally deep in Cameron’s Spider-Man.

A number of sequels and spin-offs were made possible by the franchise’s critical and commercial success. Currently one of the most lucrative movie franchises in history, Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise has amassed an astounding $8.9 billion in revenue.

Thus, Raimi created a web-slinger with a strong sense of responsibility that connected deeply with audiences. As a result, this emotional depth served as the cornerstone that enabled the Spider-Man franchise to achieve phenomenal success.

Spider-Man is available on Disney Plus.