Sony overhauls 'Spider-Man' sequel; Raimi, Maguire out
A few days after Sony Pictures said it was postponing production on "Spider-Man 4" because of creative concerns, the studio on Monday said it was sending the entire franchise in for a major overhaul without star Tobey Maguire or director Sam Raimi involved.
Sony said the next Peter Parker film will also be released a year later than originally scheduled, with the fourth installment in its blockbuster franchise (worldwide gross to date: nearly $2.5 billion) now set to premiere in the summer of 2012.
In a backstory twist reminiscent of the evolution of "Superman" into "Smallville," the studio said in a statement that the new web-slinger film will focus "on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises." The movie is being written by James Vanderbilt, whose credits include "Zodiac" and "The Rundown." The new film, which does not yet have an announced star or director, will be produced by "Spider-Man" veterans Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad of Marvel Studios.
"This is a bittersweet moment for us because while it is hard to imagine Spider-Man in anyone else's hands, I know that this was a day that was inevitable,” Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, said in a statement.
“Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me," Raimi said in a statement. "While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job."
Added Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment: "We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots."
The last "Spider-Man" movie was released in May 2007. It's not the only setback for the arachnid crime-fighter. A "Spider-Man" Broadway musical (in which Sony is an investor) has been delayed by creative and financial problems, and with a budget in excess of $50 million is the most expensive musical in theater history.
Update (11 PM): For more on why "Spider-Man 4" is being revamped -- including why a proposed $230 million budget wasn't enough for director Sam Raimi -- and what its delay means for Sony Pictures, see the story in tomorrow's Times.
Photo credit: Melissa Moseley for Columbia Pictures