On May 2, 2002, Columbia/Sony Pictures released Spider-Man, the culmination of a long, torturous road to the big screen for Marvel’s best-known and most popular superhero. Starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi, the film told the classic origin story of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man and set him in battle against Spidey’s most feared nemesis, Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe).
Spider-Man earned a then record-breaking $114 million in its first weekend of release and went on to rake in a global total of more than $825 million. Coming on the heels of 2000’s hit X-Men – another film based on a classic Marvel title – Spider-Man confirmed the viability of not just Marvel Comics on the big screen but of superhero movies in general, which had largely gone dormant in the previous five years.
This chain of success – both Spider-Man and X-Men were followed by even more acclaimed and successful sequels — paved the way for game-changers like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, TV’s Arrowverse, and even a Sony offshoot galaxy based around Spider-Man villains.
In addition to Raimi, one other person was involved with Spider-Man who later became an irreplaceable part of superhero cinema: Kevin Feige. Now the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel – overseeing the MCU, the Disney+ shows, the comics, and all other iterations of the brand – Feige had worked as an assistant to producer Lauren Shuler Donner on X-Men before being hired by Marvel as a producer and second-in-command to CEO Avi Arad.
Earlier this week, Feige was asked how it felt to reunite 20 years later with Raimi, who has directed the new MCU movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. “It is surreal,” he said. “And particularly surreal that it’s full circle with Mr. Raimi. I was a young producer who just felt lucky to be in the same room with him, and now I’m an old producer that just feels lucky to be in the same room with him.”
At the same press conference with Feige, Sam Raimi recalled the environment in which Spider-Man was made. Marvel was not a full-fledged studio at the time and did not own the film rights to many of its major characters; Spider-Man was owned by Sony, the X-Men and Fantastic Four by Fox, and so on. Yet Raimi said that even then, Feige was involved on the Marvel side of things and was starting to put the pieces in place for Marvel to eventually create its own films.
“There were really a lot of Marvel movies being made when we made the Spider-Man movies,” Raimi explained. “Kevin was also working, I think, on the X-Men movies and eventually the Iron Man movie. Kevin and his boss, Avi Arad, were already developing the Marvel Cinematic Universe even back then. So I was very fortunate to get that directing job. I love Spider-Man, and I’m glad it had a moment in helping and being one of the first MCU movies.”
Although Raimi’s version of Spider-Man, played by Tobey Maguire, recently returned for an encore in the MCU film Spider-Man: No Way Home, Raimi himself stepped away from the superhero genre after 2007’s Spider-Man 3. He abandoned plans for a Spider-Man 4 and is only now returning to the Marvel fold with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Asked how the production of superhero films has changed since the days of his Spider-Man movies, Raimi replied, “The technology has changed and it’s just become a lot easier. But the thing that didn’t change, the most important thing, is having great actors…and them knowing that the most important thing they can do is recognize the humanity within themselves. That’s how people connect to our superheroes.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens this Friday (May 6).