Back before Tobey Maguire won himself a pair of red tights, and even before Leonardo Di Caprio and James Cameron attempted to get Peter Parker his own movie, Charlie Sheen was trying to put “Spider-Man” on the big screen.
Talking to Jay Mohr on the podcast Mohr stories (via The Hollywood Reporter), the “Anger Management” star explained that, way back when, he had tried to get Orion Pictures (“Best Seller”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Dances with Wolves”) to cast him in a “Spider-Man” movie. At the time though – guessing, the late ’80s – comic book movies weren’t considered a viable… anything.
“I had an office at Orion at the time, and I brought them Spider-Man,” the “Anger Management” star said. “I said, ‘Look, in a couple of years, I’ll be too old to play Peter Parker.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, we’re just thinking that cartoons are not the future, comic books are not the future.’ And I said, ‘But it’s Spider-Man, I’m perfect.’ And they were like, ‘Nah, we’re gonna wait.’”
Sheen had some pull at Orion, he had made “Platoon”, “No Man’s Land”, and “Eight Men Out” for them at the time, and would later headline their films “The Arrival” and “Navy SEALS”.
“I had a guy in my pocket who was going to get [the rights] for me,” he assured Mohr, adding that Orion had no idea how to run a movie company (which would explain why they’d go bankrupt a few years later), “They didn’t know shit.”
Sheen may have been right. Because a year or so after his plea to play Parker, Warner Bros comes out with Tim Burton’s “Batman” – - one of the highest-grossing ‘comic book’ movies of all time.
Canon Pictures, shortly after the release of “Batman”, attempted to get a filmish incarnation of “Spider-Man” off the ground. They had until April of 1990 to make a film version or the rights would revert to Marvel. Canon worked with a number of filmmkaers on trying to make it happen, including Tobe Hooper and Joseph Zito (Zito even had Tom Cruise interested at one stage). The last person to work on the Canon version of “Spider-Man” would be “Cyborg” director Albert Pyun.
Pyun’s low-budget ($6m) take on the comic-book blockbuster nearly happened, too. They had built the sets for the film in Wilmington, North Carolina, and had costumes and props ready to go. And I believe the only reason it didn’t happen was because Canon had bounced the rights cheque to Marvel, so Marvel was able to walk in and reacquire the film rights.
“Spider-Man” would ultimately return to the screen – for the first time since the TV series and telemovies, starring Nicholas Hammond in the title role – in 2002, with Sam Raimi at the helm and Tobey Maguire donning sticking digits.
Ironically, Charlie’s father Martin Sheen played ‘Uncle Ben’ in this year’s “Amazing Spider-Man”.