It’s time to end once and for all the rampant speculation. Sony doesn’t want any info to leak but I’m told that both star Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi will be returning to make Zodiac screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt’s script of Spider-Man 4. Sources tell me that Sony has recently locked in both veterans of Spider-Man 1 through 3. And I do mean recently because just a few weeks ago sources told me that Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal was openly discussing Tobey’s potential replacements with various Hollywood agents because Tobey was hanging tough about a deal. “She was looking around to cover herself because Sony wanted him badly and Tobey wasn’t sure he wanted to do it,” an insider explained to me. (Later today, a Sony Pictures spokesman claimed to me on the record, “There was never anyone considered for the role but Tobey.”)
There’s no deal yet for Kirsten Dunst but Mary Jane Watson will be in the movie again. I’m told Sony “would never recast her” despite her rehab problems. But expect another gal part, too.
Gone is the black costume from Spidey 3, even though “dark” is all the rage in superhero movies right now given the enormous success of The Dark Knight. But I’m told the filmmakers won’t be borrowing from the latest Batman installment because “Spider-Man is its own thing,” one insider tells me. “Sam Raimi made the first serious superhero movie, and others followed. The difference between Spider-Man and Batman is that Batman is duelling with a dark side of himself, and that’s not what Peter Parker’s struggle is. Peter Parker has no dark side himself. In Spider-Man 3 it was the black costume. Peter Parker’s struggle is about sacrifice.”
Sony is taking its time officially hiring the movie’s villain since principal photography doesn’t start on Spider-Man 4 until next fall because of the recently postponed May 2011 release. I am told, however, that “once you find out who the villain is, you’ll know who’s playing it.” That should lead to speculation that Dylan Baker’s character of Dr. Curt Connors will ultimately turn into The Lizard as he did in the comic books. There’s one other character that’s been set up but is a real longshot — Daniel Gillies, who plays John Jameson, the astronaut fiance of Mary Jane in Spider-Man 2. In the comics he becomes the villain Man-Wolf. Raimi has said in the past that he wants the best actors to play the villains in the movie, not necessarily the most famous.
I’m also told that, right now, the studio is trying to figure out if it can feasibly shoot Spider-Man 4 and 5 at the same time because doing that is so cost effective and “it wasn’t so easy to get everybody back together”.
Meanwhile, Sony is moving forward on its Spider-Man Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge of U2 to be directed by Julie Taymor, the Tony Award-winning director of The Lion King. I’m still in a state of shock that Amy Pascal and Julie Taymor are working together again after the knock-down, drag-out fights they had over Sony/Revolution’s Across The Universe. This is one of those showbiz moments when the Hollywood maxim, “I’ll never work with you again until I need you”, comes true.
And Sony has hired a pair of screenwriters to get going on the Spider-Man 3 spinoff movie Venom. Given that comic book artist/writer and action figure maker, Todd McFarlane, who is one of the creators of the Marvel villain, doesn’t think a Venom movie could do well with a villain as the central character, my sources think Sony should let Topher Grace, even though he was blown up at the end of Spider-Man 3 (yet a portion of the Venom costume survived), stay in the role because the likeable actor could be a a sympathetic evildoer.
Meanwhile, you can snag a walk-on role on the movie via an eBay auction that ends at 7 PM PDT today. That’s an hour before the broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC collaborate to air a historic, live and commercial-free television event, Stand Up To Cancer. Yes, Sony is allowing the charity to sell off the “Spider-Man 4 VIP Experience” which includes: a visit to the set of Spider-Man 4 (one shooting day, location of visit will be determined by Sony Pictures based on scheduling of visit), a meet-and-greet with the cast (1 hour), a walk-on/extra role in the film for the auction winner only (role and length of screen time to be determined by Sony Pictures), a trip to the New York premiere (location of U.S. premiere may be changed at Sony Pictures’ discretion), designer outfits to wear to premiere for winner and guest from top designers (designers to be chosen by Sony Pictures; winner and guest may keep the outfits; winner and guest will walk the premiere’s red carpet).