James Cameron teases his unmade ‘Spider-Man’ movie

Before Sam Raimi finally got Spider-Man over the finish line in the summer of 2002, the iconic superhero had spent decades lingering in development hell, during which time the rights bounced across various studios in Hollywood as countless filmmakers tried to get the project off the ground.

Perhaps the single most famous was James Cameron’s 40-page treatment, which is both widely available to read on the internet and totally bizarre. There’s plenty of heavy-handed puberty metaphors, no shortage of profanity and a scene where Peter Parker seduces Mary Jane Watson on top of the Brooklyn Bridge after winning her over with the detailed tales of arachnid mating rituals.

It’s all pretty strange, but during an interview with ScreenCrush, Cameron outlined how his approach to Spider-Man would have been a more grounded and gritty take on the web-slinger that leaned into the humanity and duality of Peter’s struggles with being a hero.

“I wanted to make something that had a kind of gritty reality to it. Superheroes in general always came off as kind of fanciful to me, and I wanted to do something that would have been more in the vein of Terminator and Aliens, that you buy into the reality right away. So you’re in a real world, you’re not in some mythical Gotham City. Or Superman and the Daily Planet and all that sort of thing, where it always felt very kind of metaphorical and fairytale-like. I wanted it to be: It’s New York.

It’s now. A guy gets bitten by a spider. He turns into this kid with these powers and he has this fantasy of being Spider-Man, and he makes this suit and it’s terrible, and then he has to improve the suit, and his big problem is the damn suit. Things like that. I wanted to ground it in reality and ground it in universal human experience. I think it would have been a fun film to make.”

Cameron reportedly wanted young up-and-comer Leonardo DiCaprio to be his Spider-Man, with regular collaborator Arnold Schwarzenegger said to be the number one choice to play Doctor Octopus. The game-changing filmmaker working with those two on a mid-1990s Spider-Man blockbuster would have been an intoxicating prospect, but fans seem to be happy with the movies they ended up getting instead.