If producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad have their way, the release of Venom this Friday will launch an entirely new Marvel film franchise — dubbed “Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters” — that will almost exclusively feature characters, mostly villains or anti-heroes in nature, who have crossed paths at some point with Spider-Man.
Silver Sable. Jackpot. Morbius. Black Cat. Silk. Nightwatch. These names may not be very familiar to the general public, but comic book fans know them from the pages of Marvel Comics, where some of them have enjoyed decades of adventures in print and others are relatively new to the vast Marvel canon. They share Spider-Man as a common link, which is how Tolmach, Arad and Sony Pictures have the rights to use them — even as Spidey himself continues to spend most of his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (his standalone pictures are, for now, a co-production of Sony and Marvel Studios/Disney).
Of course, all this rides to a large degree on Venom being a big enough hit that more Sony-Marvel movies go forward. When we sat down recently at the press junket for Venom with Tolmach and Arad, we asked about the status of two of those projects: Silver and Black, which is now being split into two separate movies instead of one (about female anti-heroes Silver Sable and Black Cat), and Morbius the Living Vampire, about a biochemist turned vampire who becomes a kind of superhero in his own right.
“Morbius is very real,” says Tolmach about the latter, which recently landed Jared Leto for the lead role of Dr. Michael Morbius. “That’s the next thing that we’re going to be working on. Everything you mentioned is in the works. There’s an ambition to keep making these movies, and to figure out where each of these characters connect.”
As for that latter point — whether we’ll see these characters interact with each other, similar to the way they do in the MCU — Arad hints that it could happen: “If you take Morbius, who is a doctor and a genius scientist with an affliction, and he’s trying to do the right thing, and he comes across Venom…there’s so many ways. These characters interacted in the comics forever. It’s about what the studio wants to do next, what the actors want to do, and what we want to do.”
One interesting element of this is how the characters can be doled out between Sony’s Marvel-based films and those of the MCU. Spider-Man is theoretically shared between the two (more on that in a sec), but Venom makes no mention of either the webslinger or any of his friends in the Avengers.
By the same token, the new Marvel Studios-Sony production, Spider-Man: Far From Home, is deploying classic Spidey rogue Mysterio on the big screen for the first time. But what if the universe being overseen by Tolmach and Arad wanted to use him first? Will there be negotiations over who gets which villain going forward?
“It’s a very good relationship,” says Arad, who was, incidentally, a critical player in saving Marvel during the 1990s and turning the company’s published and celluloid fortunes around. “If Mysterio makes sense for the Spider-Man movie and would make a good story, it’s in our best interest — all of us, Disney, Sony, and us. We want it to succeed, be fun, continue. So there’s no like, ‘If you want this, you have to do this.’ It’s what’s good for the story. Because at the end of the day, that’s what sells movies. If the story is good, everything is forgiven.”
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So is the potential there to see the two Toms — Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Tom Hardy as Venom — eventually face off onscreen?
“Why not?” says Arad. “There are things we cannot tell you about, yes or no, but–“
“We made a standalone Venom movie, that now allows us to do many things, you know what I mean?” interjects Tolmach. “We’ve landed this character, and now we get to decide what to do with him. So, all that stuff is doable.”
Stay tuned for more from Tolmach and Arad on the development and making of Venom itself, which opens this Friday (October 5).
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye