The wise cracking, hard working, hard luck hero is a young actor’s dream. The number of guys who have wanted to get in that mask earned by Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland could fill a Spider-Verse movie packed with Miles Morales, Doc Ock, Spider-Gwen and every other comic version of the wall crawler. Here, we look at 10 Actors who were almost cast as Spider-Man. For whatever reason, they just didn’t make it into that costume.
We should all be thankful that the Tom Cruise Spider-Man was never made. This is no dig at Cruise’s acting chops. It’s just that we’re talking about the 1980s, decades before the critical and box-office badassery of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Comics are filled with cinema quality stories, but for years, most attempts to get something made stalled in development hell. When movies did make it across the finish line, they tended to be cheesy disasters like 1990’s Captain America. When the low rent production house responsible for Masters of the Universe, American Ninja, and Superman IV grabbed the rights to Spider-Man for less than a quarter million dollars, they went through several screenplays and directors, as they dreamt of luring Cruise. Thankfully, the Cannon Group lost the rights altogether after one of their checks to Marvel bounced shortly before cameras were set to roll.
During a 2012 appearance on Jay Mohr’s podcast, Charlie Sheen revealed that he’d once campaigned to play Spider-Man. He was a big deal at Orion Pictures, who had released his Oscar winning film Platoon. Sheen says he had an office there and pitched them Spider-Man, but they weren’t interested. “They said ‘comic books are not the future’ and I said, ‘But it’s Spider-Man, I’m perfect,'” he told Mohr. He didn’t have the rights, but he was looking to buy them. Orion filed bankruptcy in 1991.
The production company responsible for Rambo, Showgirls, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day were ready to take a crack at Spider-Man in the early 90s, with James Cameron writing and directing. He was set to reunite his T2 star Edward Furlong with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would have been Doctor Octopus, but Carolco went bankrupt before Spider-Man could get made. Cameron moved on to Titanic. (Eddie’s comic book movie was 2005’s The Crow: Wicked Prayer, with Tara Reid.)
The Spider-Man rights were next snatched up by Sony Pictures, who wanted to make something from the script James Cameron had developed at Carolco, but with his Titanic star in the lead. Leonardo DiCaprio, however, had other plans. He said no to suiting up as Spider-Man just as he’d said no to playing Robin in Batman Forever.
Andrew Garfield wasn’t the first English actor in the running to play New York’s web-slinging hero. Jude Law’s performance in 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and according to his reps, Columbia Pictures had made “some overtures” to him about Spider-Man. He was later offered the lead in Superman Returns, but turned it down over the costume.
Freddie Prinze Jr.
A report from Entertainment Weekly published in June 2000 mentioned DiCaprio, Jude Law, and Freddie Prinze Jr. as Spider-Man hopefuls, which by that point had Sam Raimi attached to direct. Several years after the fact, Prinze told Howard Stern that he was the studio’s first choice, but that Raimi lobbied Sony for Maguire instead. Hey, as Star Wars Rebels fans know, at least Prinze got to be a Jedi, right?
James Franco co-starred in all three of Raimi’s Spider-Man films, as Peter Parker’s best friend. But he initially auditioned to play the lead, before he was ultimately cast as Harry Osborn, the son of the Green Goblin. It’s kind of like Cillian Murphy in the Dark Knight trilogy, who played the Scarecrow, but had auditioned to play Batman.
Freddie Prinze Jr. wasn’t the only teen heartthrob to get close to the role. Scott Speedman, one third of the love triangle that drove J.J. Abrams’ teen TV soap Felicity, screen tested for Raimi. He later made his way into the Underworld movies.
Did Tobey Maguire really throw out his back before Spider-Man 2? Or was it a negotiating tactic to get more money for the sequel, as was rumored at the time? Either way, Sony wasn’t screwing around. They had Jake Gyllenhaal waiting in the wings. Maguire showed up for what became one of the best superhero movies ever. There was a sort of reference to this on TV’s Entourage, when “Gyllenhaal” replaced the show’s fictional A-lister in the show’s Aquaman franchise. (Directed, in the show, by James Cameron!).
When Sony abandoned plans for a fourth entry in the Sam Raimi franchise and opted to reboot the character with music video director turned filmmaker Marc Webb, Josh Hutcherson was one of the actors strongly rumored for the role. There’s even a kickass audition floating around online. While Andrew Garfield beat him for The Amazing Spider-Man, Josh did just fine in a little series called The Hunger Games.