Wednesday, June 27, 2012
|Andrew Garfield dons the red-and-blue in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man|
Even though Marvel Comics Webhead's has now become a valued, signature property for Sony Pictures, he spent more than a decade lingering first in development hell, then in legal limbo, as multiple interests all jostled for a piece of the cinematic goldmine he would prove to be. Development on a movie version of Spider-Man first began in earnest in the mid-1980s under the auspices of famed shlock producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, whose Cannon Films had built its rep by then on cheapie exploitation fare like the various Death Wish, Delta Force and American Ninja flicks (in a sign of just how highly undervalued comic properties were back then, Cannon had licensed the Spidey rights for the ridiculously low sum of 225K for five years).
|Actor Scott Leva suits up|
As Golan fruitlessly continued his efforts to try and get the project off the ground, the next big move in Spidey's Hollywood journey came in 1991 when writer/director James Cameron, a longtime comic book fan who'd spent the better part of the '80s cultivating a rep as one of the preeminent action directors in the biz, presided over one of the biggest hits of the year, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. At that point, the future "King of the World" had his pick of any property in town, and he set his sights squarely on the ol' Webslinger. Thus, Carolco, the independent behind the Rambo movies, Total Recall, and T2, acquired the rights from Golan on Cameron's behalf, and the director then set about busily drafting his definitive Spider-Man opus.
By the mid-'90s, it finally looked like the Spider-Man movie was set to sail under Cameron's guidance, with the trade press at the time trumpeting it as his next project after 1994's True Lies. For those of you keeping score at home, by now the companies reaching for a piece of the Spider-Man pie numbered at a half-dozen, including the defunct Cannon, the still-extant 21st Century, current licensees Carolco, and also Viacom and Columbia Pictures, who'd separately purchased the broadcast and home video rights from Golan in his quixotic bid to drum up fiancing. Also in the mix was 20th Century Fox, who had an exclusive contract with Cameron, thus entitling them to some manner of payout should the director make Spider-Man for Carolco.
Then, in 1996, the whole house of cards collapsed. With the rapid-fire bankruptcies of Carolco, 21st Century, and -- most shocking of all -- Marvel Comics itself, the already-tangled legal mess got even more tangled. When MGM acquired all of 21st Century's assets following the latter's liquidation, they claimed the Spider-Man rights for themselves, in turn suing anyone else trying to lay a claim -- including Marvel. The comic giant, on the other hand, felt that all previous deals had been mooted by the passage of time, and that all rights reverted to them following the bankruptcy. With the courts on their side, the reorganized Marvel made a deal with Sony Pictures, signing over the Spider-Man film rights in perpetuity even as MGM threatened to launch a rival series.
In the end, what broke the deadlock between Sony, which had finally pulled together the many, many tangled strands of the Spider-Man rights, and MGM, still clinging desperately to its packet of rights from 21st Century, was an entirely different cinema icon: James Bond. For several decades, the immortal secret agent had been the most dependable source of income for MGM, with a new installment every few years refilling the perpetually-ailing studio's coffers with clockwork regularity. Then-MGM president John Calley had worked tirelessly to bring Bond back to the screen after a long layover in the first half of the '90s, and his efforts were rewarded with GoldenEye's release in 1995 giving a jolt of enthusiasm thanks to Pierce Brosnan taking over the iconic role.
It was 1999 now. Almost fifteen years since Cannon first got the ball rolling on a hypothetical Spider-Man movie. And while James Cameron may have priced himself right out of the director's chair after helming the most successful film of all time two years earlier, Sony had a movie to make, and a lot of lost time to make up for.
To Be Continued...