The up-and-down series of news reports on the status of a third sequel to Sony Pictures' beloved "Spider-Man" movie franchise may be over today as word is out that plans for "Spider-Man 4" have been scrapped in favor of a franchise reboot. Popular tinseltown insider blog Deadline Hollywood reported this afternoon that director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire had left the planned project in order for the studio to move forward towards its ideal production start this year.
The news comes after a series of reports casting the creative direction of the superhero sequel in doubt. First, word hit that Raimi and the studio were at creative odds over which villain to feature in "Spider-Man 4" with the director championing the elderly thief The Vulture, which eventually caused the studio to announce that the film would no longer open on its expected May 5, 2011 release date. Yesterday, word hit that rumored Vulture actor John Malkovich was tentatively lined up for the role.
However, it seems that thoughts of the award-winner donning the feathery collar and wings of the supervillain were premature as Deadline Hollywood reports that the studio's need for production to start this year caused Raimi to say, "I can't make your date. I can't go forward creatively."
A reboot script by Jamie Vanderbilt ("The Losers," "Zodiac") is reportedly at the ready for a new director and cast to take the story of Peter Parker in an all-new direction. Raimi may move next to a film based on the popular "World of Warcraft" online game.
UPDATE 3:05 PM PST: Sony Pictures has released the following Press Release.
Official Press Release
Culver City, CA (January 11, 2010) -- Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012. Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.
The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4 was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.
"A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three Spider-Man films that set a new bar for the genre. When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. Peter Parker as an ordinary young adult grappling with extraordinary powers has always been the foundation that has made this character so timeless and compelling for generations of fans. We're very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots and we look forward to working once again with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin on this new beginning," said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
"Working on the Spider-Man movies was the experience of a lifetime for me. While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job," said Sam Raimi.
"We have had a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration and friendship with Sam and Tobey and they have given us their best for the better part of the last decade.This is a bittersweet moment for us because while it is hard to imagine Spider-Man in anyone else's hands, I know that this was a day that was inevitable," said Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, who has served as the studio's chief production executive since the beginning of the franchise. "Now everything begins anew, and that's got us all tremendously excited about what comes next. Under the continuing supervision of Avi and Laura, we have a clear vision for the future of Spider-Man and can't wait to share this exciting new direction with audiences in 2012."
"Spider-Man will always be an important franchise for Sony Pictures and a fresh start like this is a responsibility that we all take very seriously," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures. "We have always believed that story comes first and story guides the direction of these films and as we move onto the next chapter, we will stay true to that principle and will do so with the highest respect for the source material and the fans and moviegoers who deserve nothing but the best when it comes to bringing these stories and characters to life on the big screen."
The studio will have more news about Spider-Man in 2012 in the coming weeks as it prepares for production of the film.
Check back to CBR later as more official word comes on the future of the Spider-Man movie franchise.