WHAT WE KNOW:Edit
In 1985, after a brief option on Spider-Man by Roger Corman expired, Marvel Comics optioned the property to Cannon Films. Cannon chiefs Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus agreed to pay Marvel Comics $225,000 over the five-year option period plus a percentage of the film’s revenues. The rights would revert to Marvel if a film was not made by April 1990.
Tobe Hooper, then preparing both Invaders From Mars and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, was mooted as director. Golan and Globus misunderstood the concept of the character ("They thought it was like The Wolf Man", said director Joseph Zito) and instructed writer Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits, to write a treatment reflecting their misconception. In Stevens’ story, a corporate scientist intentionally subjects ID-badge photographer Peter Parker to radioactive bombardment, transforming him into a hairy, suicidal, eight-armed monster. The human tarantula refuses to join the scientist’s new master-race of mutants, battling a succession of mutations kept in a basement laboratory.
Unhappy with the debasement of his comic book creation, Marvel’s Stan Lee pushed for a new story and screenplay, written for Cannon by Ted Newsom and John Brancato. The variation on the origin story had Otto Octavius as a teacher and mentor to a college-age Peter Parker. The cyclotron accident which "creates" Spider-Man also deforms the scientist into Doctor Octopus and results in his mad pursuit of proof of the Fifth Force. Ock reconstructs his cyclotron and causes electromagnetic abnormalities, anti-gravity effects, and bilocation which threatens to engulf New York and the world. Joseph Zito, who had directed Cannon’s successful Chuck Norris film Invasion USA, replaced Tobe Hooper. The new director hired Barney Cohen to rewrite the script. Cohen, creator of TV's Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Forever Knight, added action scenes, a non-canonical comic for the villain, gave Doc Ock the catch phrase, "Okey-dokey", and altered his goal from the Fifth Force to a quest for anti-gravity. Producer Golan (using his pen name "Joseph Goldman") then made a minor polish to Cohen's rewrite. Zito scouted locations and studio facilities in both the U.S. and Europe, and oversaw storyboard breakdowns supervised by Harper Goff. Cannon planned to make the film on the then-substantial budget of between $15 and $20 million.
While no casting was finalized, Zito expressed interest in actor/stunt man Scott Leva, who had posed for Cannon's promotional photos and ads, and made public appearances as Spider-Man for Marvel. The up-and-coming actor Tom Cruise was also discussed for the leading role. Zito considered Bob Hoskins as Doc Ock. Stan Lee expressed his desire to play Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson. Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn were considered for Aunt May, Peter Cushing as a sympathetic scientist, and Adolph Caesar as a police detective. With Cannon finances siphoned by the expensive Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe, the company slashed the proposed Spider-Man budget to under $10 million. Director Zito opted out, unwilling to make a compromised Spider-Man. The company commissioned low-budget rewrites from writers Shepard Goldman, Don Michael Paul, and finally Ethan Wiley, and penciled in company workhorse Albert Pyun as director, who also made script alterations.
Scott Leva was still associated with the character through Marvel (he had appeared in photo covers of the comic), and read each draft. Leva commented, "Ted Newsom and John Brancato had written the script. It was good but it needed a little work. Unfortunately, with every subsequent rewrite by other writers, it went from good to bad to terrible." Due to Cannon's assorted financial crises, the project shut down after spending about $1.5 million on the project. In 1989, Pathé, owned by corrupt Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti, acquired the overextended Cannon. The filmmaking cousins parted, Globus remaining associated with Pathé, Golan leaving to create 21st Century Film Corporation, keeping a number of properties (including Spider-Man) in lieu of a cash buy-out. He also extended his Spider-Man option with Marvel up to January 1992.
Golan shelved the low-budget rewrites and attempted to finance an independent production from the original big-budget script, already budgeted, storyboarded and laid out. At Cannes in May 1989, 21st Century announced a September start date, with ads touting the script by "Barney Cohen, Ted Newsom & John Brancato and Joseph Goldman." As standard practice, Golan pre-sold the unmade film to raise production funds, with television rights bought by Viacom and home video rights by Columbia Pictures, which wanted to establish a studio franchise. Stephen Herek was attached as director at this point. Golan submitted this "new" screenplay to Columbia in late 1989 (actually the 1985 script with an adjusted "1989" date) and the studio requested yet another rewrite. Golan hired Frank LaLoggia, who turned in his draft but grew disenchanted with 21st Century. Neil Ruttenberg was hired for one more draft, which was also "covered" by script readers at Columbia. Columbia’s script analysts considered all three submissions "essentially the same story." A tentative production deal was set. Said Stan Lee in 1990, "21st Century [is] supposed to do Spider-Man and now they're talking to Columbia and the way it looks now, Columbia may end up buying Spider-Man from 21st Century."
21st Century’s Menahem Golan still actively immersed himself mounting "his" Spider-Man, sending the original "Doc Ock" script for production bids. In 1990, he contacted Canadian effects company Light and Motion Corporation regarding the visual effects, which in turn offered the stop-motion chores to Steven Archer (Krull, Clash of the Titans).
Toward the end of shooting True Lies, Variety carried the announcement that Carolco Pictures had received a completed screenplay from James Cameron. This script bore the names of James Cameron, John Brancato, Ted Newsom, Barry [sic] Cohen and "Joseph Goldmari", a typographical scrambling of Golan's pen name ("Joseph Goldman") with Marvel executive Joseph Calimari. The script text was identical to the one Golan submitted to Columbia the previous year, with the addition of a new 1993 date. Cameron stalwart Arnold Schwarzenegger was frequently linked to the project as the director's choice for Dr. Octopus.