Unlike quite a few snow-sniffing filmmakers, ones who seemingly just adopt projects so they can eradicate the possibility of someone else making a win of their loss, Sam Raimi usually only commits to projects he can envision himself bringing ‘something’ to. That’s how I see it, anyway. And that rule, the ‘if you can bring something to it, do it’ one, is essentially the reason we only ever get a new Raimi project every few years (“Oz : The Great & Powerful” is Raimi’s first since “Drag Me to Hell”) but more so, are yet to see a fourth “Evil Dead”; Sam’s not a ‘just for the sake of it, let’s do it’ guy. Many are. Many claim not to be.
Not to say Raimi hasn’t been attached to dozens of projects that have never come to fruition, he has. Thing is, Raimi felt he could bring something to each of those projects, and was enthusiastic about each of them for different reasons; if they fell apart, it wasn’t necessarily because he couldn’t make them happen – in most cases, he walked because things went awry, or his original vision for said film was mucked. For instance, he was a huge fan of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, and was enthusiastic about doing a spy film, so was – for a while there – toying with the idea of doing a Jack Ryan reboot movie (long before Kenneth Branagh came aboard). And the only reason Raimi abandoned the project was because a fourth “Spider-Man” movie was on the cards, and the filmmaker felt he owed ‘Spider-Man’ fans – having disappointed them with “Spider-Man 3” – so chose to do it over the Ryan project.
“World of Warcraft” is another project Raimi was very excited about doing. It’s still happening, but with “Moon” director Duncan Jones steering the ship. What happened there is that the filmmaker felt uneasy about how production co was handling things. As a result, he felt he had to walk away.
Raimi spoke of the “WOW” kerfuffle in a new interview with Vulture.
Robert Rodat was working on the script, and it was taking a long time. I think they were getting a little antsy at Legendary, the production company. Actually, what happened was even more complicated, so let me go back a little bit. First, they asked me if I wanted to make it, and I said, “Yes, I love World of Warcraft, and I think it would make a great picture.” So I read a screenplay they had that was written by the guys at [Warcraft developer] Blizzard, and it didn’t quite work for me. I told them I wanted to make my own original story with Robert, so we pitched it to Legendary and they accepted it, and then we pitched it to Blizzard, and they had reservations, but they accepted it. Then Robert wrote the screenplay, and only once he was done did we realize that Blizzard had veto power, and we didn’t know that. And they had never quite approved the original story we pitched them. Those reservations were their way of saying, “We don’t approve this story, and we want to go a different way,” so after we had spent nine months working on this thing, we basically had to start over. And Robert did start over, but it was taking too long for the people at Blizzard, and their patience ran out. Honestly, I think it was mismanagement on their behalf, not to explain to us that the first story was vetoed long ago. Why did they let us keep working on it? Were they afraid to tell me??
I remember speaking to Raimi shortly before “Spider-Man 4” was to get underway and I could tell he was under an enormous amount of pressure to get that film prepped, shot and ready for a release date that was already set. There was some definite worry in his voice.
Not surprisingly, and despite having lined up a good cast – including Anne Hathaway and John Malkovich as the villains – for the third sequel to his “Spider-Man”, Raimi quit the project. He wasn’t going to be able to deliver something decent in the amount of time he had to do it so decided not to do it at all. And much respect to him.
In the same interview with Vulture, Raimi explained that he and Sony parted ways very amicably.
It really was the most amicable and undramatic of breakups: It was simply that we had a deadline and I couldn’t get the story to work on a level that I wanted it to work. I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all. But I couldn’t get the script together in time, due to my own failings, and I said to Sony, “I don’t want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn’t make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you’ve been planning anyway.” And [Sony co-chairman] Amy Pascal said, “Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio’s money, and I appreciate your candor.” So we left on the best of terms, both of us trying to do the best thing for fans, the good name of Spider-Man, and Sony Studios.”
Raimi’s “Oz : The Great & Powerful”, which I really enjoyed, opens this week.