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The First 'Spider-Man' Film Was Released 20 Years Ago Today Setting Precedent For Superhero Movies

The First 'Spider-Man' Film Was Released 20 Years Ago Today Setting Precedent For Superhero Movies

Wow! Was it really that long ago?

The first Spider-Man movie starring Tobey Maguire came out in 2002 and was directed by Sam Raimi from a screenplay by David Koepp. The film was the first to reach $100 million in a single weekend as well as the most successful film based on a comic book at the time. It set the precedent, in a way, for future superhero movies to make it big. Especially from the Marvel comics. It has been exactly 20 years since it came out in theatres and since then the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come a long way and full circle.

Source: Getty Images/Franco Origlia / Stringer

Variety spoke to the people behind the scenes of the film who made it possible for the superhero movie to become such a massive hit. Raimi met the people who could help him bring life to the comics he had read growing up. In an hour-long meeting, he managed to convince Sony Pictures CEO John Calley, Columbia Pictures chair Amy Pascal, Marvel Studios chief Avi Arad, Sony film executive Matt Tolmach and the film’s producer, Laura Ziskin that making a film about Peter Parker would be a great idea. “I was very aware of how they didn’t want me,” he recalled. “So I really didn’t want to also overstay my welcome.” But they did give him the job that turned out to be a huge success.

TOKYO, JAPAN - APRIL 16: (L to R) Sony's Amy Pascal, producer Avi Arad, producer Laura Ziskin, director Sam Raimi, Sony's Howard Stringer, and actress Rosemary Harris attend the World Premiere of "Spider-Man 3" with the film staff at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower on April 16, 2007, in Tokyo, Japan. The film opens on May 1 in Japan. (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

Speaking about why the Spider-Man movie managed to make an impact, Tolmach explained, "You had to get through this perception that comic books were for kids. It really was how these things were thought about. Given what you knew it was going to cost, right away it was like, 'Well, how big an audience can we expect for these things?'" He added, "I think everybody was like, let’s do this and just go with it because there isn’t a lot of research to support it one way or the other, other than it is a character that has been beloved in the comics for years and years and years and years."

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: Director Sam Raimi poses with a Spider-Man impersonator onstage at the Spider-Man and Papa John's Pizza's announcement of "Hometown Super-Heroes" in Times Square on October 29, 2007, in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Pascal, who produced the latest Spider-Man trilogy starring Tom Holland noted: "We didn’t have a lot of those kinds of characters, but in those days, to be honest, I didn’t really think about things that way. You know, nobody talked about IP. Nobody said 'content.' Nobody said you need superhero movies. People didn’t talk like that. We fell in love with Peter Parker. I am not a comic book person. I wasn’t thinking, 'Oh, my God, all my life I’ve wanted to make comic book movies.' What I was thinking is 'This is a really fantastic character.'"

Source: IMDb/Spider-Man

Pascal is still attached to the Spider-Man franchise and after the latest Spider-Man: No Way Home, has mentioned that there will be more of Spider-Man to come. "This is not the last movie that we are going to make with Marvel – [this is not] the last Spider-Man movie," she said. "We are getting ready to make the next Spider-Man movie with Tom Holland and Marvel. We're thinking of this as three films, and now we're going to go on to the next three. This is not the last of our MCU movies." 

Spider-Man No Way Home

Since the first Spider-Man movie, there have been two sequels to the original as well as the reboot of the two Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield. There have been animated series after that followed by the 2018 3D film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. After this is the Holland trilogy that managed to break box-office records after its release in December 2021." I knew that, wow, they really, really love this character even more than any of us thought," Raimi said of Maguire's Spider-Man. "It was more about that than 'Oh, the movie’s so good.'"

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