10 Scrapped Marvel Movies That Almost Happened

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

It might not seem like it now when you look at the all-time box office records, but for decades, it was nearly impossible for Marvel to get a movie off the ground. This was a time, mainly during the 1980s and '90s, when Hollywood executives didn’t quite understand the comic book industry and even Marvel itself wasn’t in control of the movie rights to its own characters, which were spread across a number of different studios.

The result of these cannibalized movie rights was that the House of Ideas had very little say in the development of their own movies—most of which ran into so many logistical and creative road blocks that they barely got through the initial pitch stage. But a few of these films got tantalizingly close to production—and with some top-flight Hollywood talent attached, too. Here are 10 scrapped Marvel movies that almost happened.

1. JOE CARNAHAN’S DAREDEVIL

Even after Ben Affleck’s tepid 2003 Daredevil left the public consciousness, 20th Century Fox still had the license to the Man Without Fear and were set on giving the character another shot. And apparently director Joe Carnahan (The Grey)‏ was on the doorstep of helming not just one Daredevil film, but a whole trilogy as a period piece set in 1973, 1979, and 1985, respectively. The plan was to incorporate the music of the time as a thematic backbone that evolved as the series progressed through the years, focusing on a much grittier and violent New York City.

“So the first one would be Classic Rock, the second one would be Punk Rock, and the third film would be ‘New Wave,’” Carnahan said in an interview with Movie Pilot. “The problem was, the option was almost set to lapse so we made an eleventh hour bid to Marvel to retain the rights for a bit longer so I could rework the script.”

Ultimately, it was time that wound up being Carnahan's undoing. Before he could finalize the script, the studio’s option on the property expired and the rights reverted back to Marvel, which then gave the character his own Netflix series. If you want just a taste of the tone Carnahan was aiming for, the director released a “sizzle reel” of what his Daredevil period piece would have felt like:

2. NICK CASSAVETES AND TOM CRUISE'S IRON MAN

Almost all of the pieces were in place in the early 2000s to move forward with Iron Man, which was to be written by Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar. Or at least they seemed to be in place. In November 2004, New Line Cinema and Marvel Studios were so certain that they had landed director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) that executives were openly talking about it in the press, with Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad proclaiming that, “Being able to work with such an acclaimed writer/director as Nick Cassavetes to bring one of our preeminent superhero franchises to the big screen is really special.”

The news hit all the big websites at the time … and then there was nothing. It turns out the celebrations were a bit premature; there was no deal in place, and by April 2005, Arad was singing a much different tune. “We want Nick to make the movie. We had him," he said during an earnings call. "He's an Iron Man aficionado. Everything was fine and then negotiations got delayed. We lost a year."

But it wasn't just a director who was tentatively in place; it was the star, too. During this time, Tom Cruise’s name became attached to the role of Tony Stark, but there was never any firm commitment on his side. 

"There have been discussions over the last several years and there are a number of factors involved," producer Kevin Feige explained of Cruise’s involvement in 2004. "All we know is that we're putting all the pieces in place and then we'll find the best Tony Stark that we can get."

When none of this got off the ground, Marvel restructured and 2008’s Iron Man would hit theaters without New Line, Cassavetes, Millar, Gough, or Cruise being involved.

3. DAVID HAYTER’S BLACK WIDOW.

How dedicated was David Hayter to making his Black Widow movie a reality for Lionsgate? He named his daughter Natasha after Natasha Romanova, the character’s real name. The script, according to Hayter, would have involved the Widow stopping some nukes that got loose, set to the backdrop of a “splintered Soviet Empire.”

The movie was in production during the mid-2000s, when Hayter was hot off writing the first two X-Men movies and the script that would eventually be turned into Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (he’s also the voice of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid video game series, for you trivia buffs). Unfortunately, this was also a time when female-led action movies like Æon Flux were flopping at the box office, and the studio just didn’t believe there would be a market for the film.

So the film was scrapped and the character was stuck in development hell until the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought Scarlett Johansson onboard to play her, beginning in 2010’s Iron Man 2. And it’s been all but confirmed that she’ll get her own solo outing within the next few years.

4. KURT SUTTER’S PUNISHER

Sons of Anarchy fans might want to avoid reading about this one, lest your heart break in two. After Thomas Jane’s original outing as the Punisher met some decent box office returns in 2004, Lionsgate and Marvel were keen on a sequel. And who better to craft Frank Castle’s next adventure than Sons creator Kurt Sutter? It sounds like the perfect pair on paper, but it all fell apart when the company rejected Sutter's script.

In an interview with Looper, Sutter explained that he tried to “motivate the absurd violence with some kind of meaning” in the Punisher’s character, while also giving him a love interest. When his original script was rejected, producers Gale Anne Hurd and Kevin Feige had him do another go-round, which went worse than the first.

“So they tried to guide me back, and like I said, I did another pass, but poor Gale Anne Hurd—I think she's the one who sort of championed me in that process,” Sutter recalled. “And Kevin … We were sitting at a big table, and I think she started glancing over at Kevin, going [whispering under breath] ‘I don't know what happened!’”

Sutter’s script was scrapped in favor of 2009’s Punisher: War Zone, which replaced Jane with Ray Stevenson and was a failure for the studio. Now, though, the character can be seen on his own Netflix series played by Jon Bernthal.

5. JAMES CAMERON’S SPIDER-MAN.

The most well-known—and perplexing—scrapped Marvel movie remains James Cameron’s attempt at Spider-Man in the years after Terminator 2 was released. This one was pretty far along at Carolco Pictures, with Cameron writing an extensive treatment focusing on Peter Parker developing his super powers, falling in love with Mary Jane Watson, and taking on villains like Electro and Sandman.

Though those sound like the pillars for any Spidey origin story, there were plenty of off-brand moments in the film, such as its heavy profanity and the infamous sex scene between Peter and Mary Jane atop a bridge tower. This take on the Wall Crawler probably wouldn't have found its way into your Happy Meal. The whole project fell apart when Carolco went under, which gave way to Sam Raimi's mega successful 2002 Spider-Man.

6. SAM RAIMI’S SPIDER-MAN 4.

Following Spider-Man 3’s divisive 2007 release, director Sam Raimi was admittedly tired. The third installment of the series had upped the scope, the action, and the cast, but it had failed to live up to the expectations of critics and audiences. Even Raimi was openly disappointed with it, saying that he "didn’t really believe in all the characters, so that couldn’t be hidden from people who loved Spider-Man."

Still, the director was onboard for a fourth and final installment in the series, going so far as to work on a script that included John Malkovich as the villainous Vulture and Anne Hathaway playing Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. the Black Cat from the comics (though she’d be playing “The Vulturess” in this version).

With pressure mounting and deadlines looming, Raimi decided to call it quits, telling Vulture that he told 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."

The studio soon made news of Raimi’s departure public, but, in a still-strange move, they then immediately announced The Amazing Spider-Man reboot for 2012 in the same exact press release, explaining what Raimi meant when he said he knew they were planning a reboot anyway. This is a case of both sides half-heartedly planning a movie that was always doomed to failure.

7. WESLEY SNIPES’S BLACK PANTHER

The early 1990s were a wasteland for scrapped Marvel movies. There was Oliver Stone’s attempt at bringing Elektra to the screen, which was soon replaced by Natural Born Killers, and an early draft for a Luke Cage movie that was floating around. One of the most high-profile of these failed films was a Black Panther project, starring Wesley Snipes.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snipes recalled one conversation with director John Singleton, who he was trying to convince to helm the project: "I am loosely paraphrasing our conversation. But ultimately, John wanted to take the character and put him in the civil rights movement. And I’m like, 'Dude! Where’s the toys?! They are highly technically advanced, and it will be fantastic to see Africa in this light opposed to how Africa is typically portrayed.' I wanted to see the glory and the beautiful Africa. The jewel Africa."

Finding a director wasn’t the only problem—there were script issues and the fact that in the early ‘90s, CGI technology hadn’t yet caught up with a world like Black Panther’s Wakanda.

"Ultimately, we couldn’t find the right combination of script and director and, also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in the thinking, the technology wasn’t there to do what they had already created in the comic book," Snipes said.

Though Black Panther fizzled, Snipes kept an interest in the Marvel Universe, which eventually led to the title role in the Blade trilogy.

8. BO DEREK AS DAZZLER

X-Men mainstay Dazzler was originally conceived as a partnership with Casablanca Records for a debut in an animated film. Those plans soon fell through when Casablanca was bought out, but the treatment for the animated movie, and the rights to the character, remained with Marvel. The next idea was a no-brainer: Turn that treatment into a live-action movie.

The treatment was written by former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, and it was presented to none other than Bo Derek, who agreed to star in the project. Because the treatment was originally intended as an animated partnership with Casablanca, it had roles for all of the record company’s biggest names, like Cher, Rodney Dangerfield, KISS, Robin Williams, and Donna Summer (though these would have likely been all dropped for live-action).

A bidding war over the project ensued, but Shooter explained on his website that a combination of a lackluster final script—not written by anyone with a background in comics—and Derek’s insistence that her husband, John Derek, direct the movie caused the project to fall apart. Dazzler eventually became a regular in the X-Men universe during the 1980s, but the disco-loving mutant with the ability to create light shows from her hands never quite reached A-list level.

9. THE REVOLVING DOOR OF DOCTOR STRANGE

Hollywood’s interest in Doctor Strange began decades before the Sorcerer Supreme’s 2016 big screen debut. In 1978, actor Peter Hooten donned the mystical mantle of Strange for a live-action TV movie that was meant to spawn its own show. Well, that never quite materialized, and soon after, movie studios began showing an interest in bringing the character to theaters.

Two well-known names took cracks at Doctor Strange with no luck. The first was Bob Gale, one of the minds behind the Back to the Future series. He wrote a script in 1986 that eventually found its way online a few years ago. After that project failed to get off the ground, writer/director Wes Craven was attached to bring the character to life at Savoy Pictures until it went bankrupt.

After that, writers and directors like David Goyer, Guillermo del Toro, and Neil Gaiman were all linked in some way to Strange until Marvel eventually hired director Scott Derrickson to direct Benedict Cumberbatch as Strange in 2016.

10. X-MEN ORIGINS: MAGNETO

Before Magneto’s early days were recounted in 2011’s X-Men: First Class, the Master of Magnetism was going to get his own feature film in the same vein as X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The movie was to take a look at the character’s time as a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II and show how that experience shaped his views toward humanity in the decades after.

The script was written by Blade and Batman Begins writer David Goyer, who was also tapped to direct the project. This was until director Matthew Vaughn was hired to do First Class. When asked if his Magneto script was part of the inspiration for Vaughn’s take on Magneto’s origin, Goyer told Mandatory, “It was sort of that but expanded. I was a little bummed. They definitely took some elements from our script.”

Netflix Is Testing Commercials, and Subscribers Aren't Happy

iStock
iStock

Save the occasional "Are you still watching?" message popping up between episodes, it's possible to watch an entire Netflix series in one sitting with little to no distractions. Now, the streaming service is testing something that could upend that: As CNN reports, Netflix has quietly started sprinkling advertisements into its programming, something the subscription-based service has been able to avoid up to this point.

The promotional content Netflix is experimenting with differs from conventional cable commercials in some fundamental ways. The promos won't be advertising third-party brands, Netflix promises: Rather, they'll exclusively show off Netflix original content, like seriesGlow and Stranger Things (though one Reddit user did report seeing an ad for Better Call Saul, which Netflix licenses from AMC). And instead of inserting ads throughout the program, as some non-subscription streaming services do, Netflix will only include them at the end of some episodes with a "skip" button similar to the one that allows viewers to bypass a show's opening credits. And each promo subscribers see will be personalized based on their viewing habits, hopefully turning them on to new shows and not just annoying them in the middle of their binge-watching sessions.

Despite these assurances from Netflix, viewers aren't happy. Many customers have taken to social media threatening to cancel their service if the promos become the norm, which likely may not happen: They've only been shown to a select number of test viewers so far, and based on user response, Netflix may decide to pull the plug on the experiment.

The good news is that as long as the ads are still in the test phase, you can choose to opt out of them. Just go to Netflix.com/DoNotTest and toggle off the switch next to the words "Include me in tests and previews." Now you're ready to resume your binge-watching marathon without interruption.

[h/t CNN]

10 Things You Might Not Know About Columbo

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

For more than 40 years, Peter Falk entered living rooms around the world as Lieutenant Columbo, an unconventional L.A. homicide detective known for his ruffled raincoat and trademark cigar. The actor would go on to win four Emmys for the role, while the series itself remains a benchmark for television crime dramas. But if series creators William Link and Richard Levinson went with their initial choice, the iconic role of Columbo would have gone to a syrupy-smooth crooner rather than the inelegant Falk. Get familiar with one of TV's most unique heroes with facts about Columbo.

1. BING CROSBY WAS ORIGINALLY EYED FOR THE ROLE.

Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link's first choice to play their low-key detective was crooner Bing Crosby. Der Bingle loved the script and the character, but he feared that a TV series commitment would interfere with his true passion—golf. It was probably providential that Crosby turned the role down, since his death in 1977 occurred while the series was still a solid hit on NBC. 

2. PETER FALK WAS AN UNEXPECTED SEX SYMBOL.

Peter Falk in 'Columbo'
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Character actor Lee J. Cobb was also considered for the role, until Peter Falk phoned co-creator William Link. Falk had gotten a copy of the script from his agents at William Morris and told Link that he’d “kill to play that cop.” Link and Levinson knew the actor back from their days of working in New York, and even though he was the opposite of everything they’d originally pictured for Lt. Columbo, they had to admit that Falk had a certain likeability that translated to both men and women. Falk was described by a certain female demographic as “sexy,” and males liked him because he was an unthreatening, humble, blue-collar underdog who was smarter than the wealthy perps he encountered.

3. FALK WAS A GOVERNMENT WORKER BEFORE BECOMING AN ACTOR.

Peter Falk wasn’t too far removed from the character he played. In real life he tended to be rumpled and disheveled and was forever misplacing things (he was famous for losing his car keys and having to be driven home from the studio by someone else). He was also intelligent, having earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University, which led to him working for the State of Connecticut’s Budget Bureau as an efficiency expert until the acting bug bit him. He was also used to being underestimated due to his appearance; he’d lost his right eye to cancer at age three, and many of his drama teachers in college warned him of his limited chances in film due to his cockeyed stare. Indeed, after a screen test at Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn dismissed him by saying, “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”

4. COLUMBO'S DOG WASN'T A WELCOME SIGHT AT FIRST.

Columbo's dog
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Columbo was renewed for a second season, NBC brass had a request: they wanted the lieutenant to have a sidekick. Perhaps a young rookie detective just learning the ropes. Link and Levinson were resistant to the idea, but the network was pressuring them. They conferred with Steven Bochco, who was writing the script for the season opener, “Etude in Black,” and together they hatched the idea of giving Lt. Columbo a dog as a “partner.” Falk was against the idea at first; he felt that between the raincoat, cigar, and Peugeot his character had enough gimmicks. But when he met the lethargic, drooling Basset Hound that had been plucked from a pound, Falk knew it was perfect for Columbo's dog.

The original dog passed away in between the end of the original NBC run of the series and its renewal on ABC, so a replacement was necessary. The new pup was visibly younger than the original dog, and as a result spent more time in the makeup chair to make him look older.

5. FALK'S REAL-LIFE WIFE PLAYED A ROLE IN THE SERIES.

Falk first met Shera Danese, the woman who would become his second wife, on the set of his 1976 film Mikey & Nicky. The movie was being filmed in Danese’s hometown of Philadelphia, and the aspiring actress had landed work as an extra. They were married in 1977, and she was able to pad out her resume by appearing on several episodes of Columbo. Her first few appearances were limited to small walk-on parts—secretaries, sexy assistants, etc. By the time the series was resurrected on ABC in the early 1990s, she was awarded larger roles.

She originally auditioned for the role of the titular rock star in 1991’s “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star,” but her husband adamantly refused, since the role included a scene of her in bed making love to a much younger man. She instead played the role of a co-conspiring attorney, and was also allowed to sing the song that was the major hit for the murdered star.

6. THE CHARACTER'S TRADEMARK RAINCOAT CAME FROM FALK'S CLOSET.

The initial wardrobe proposed for Columbo struck Peter Falk as completely wrong for the character. To get closer to what he wanted for Columbo, the actor went into his closet and found a beat-up coat he had bought years earlier when caught in a rainstorm on 57th Street. And he ordered one of the blue suits chosen for him to be dyed brown. The drab outfit would become one of the trademarks of the character for decades.

7. STEVEN SPIELBERG GOT AN EARLY BREAK ON COLUMBO.

“Murder by the Book” was the second Columbo episode filmed, but it was the first one to air after the show was picked up as a series. Filming was delayed for a month, though, when Falk refused to sign off on this “kid”—a 25-year-old named Steven Spielberg—to direct the episode. Finally he watched a few of Spielberg’s previous credits (all of them TV episodes) and was impressed by his work on the short-lived NBC series called The Psychiatrist. Once filming was underway, Falk was impressed by many of the techniques employed by the young director, such as filming a street scene with a long lens from a building across the road. “That wasn’t common 20 years ago,” Falk said. He went on to tell producers Link and Levinson that “this guy is too good for Columbo."

8. COLUMBO'S FIRST NAME WOUND UP THE SUBJECT OF A LAWSUIT.

Fred L. Worth, author of several books of trivia facts, had a sneaking feeling that other folks were using his meticulously researched facts without crediting him. He set a “copyright trap” and mentioned in one of his books that Lt. Columbo’s first name was “Philip,” although he had completely fabricated that so-called fact. Sure enough, a 1984 edition of the Trivial Pursuit board game listed the “Philip” Columbo name as an answer on one of their cards, which led to a $300 million lawsuit filed by Mr. Worth.

The board game creators admitted in court that they’d garnered their Columbo fact from Worth’s book, but the judge ultimately determined that it was not an actionable offense. By the way, years later when Columbo was available in syndicated reruns and HD TV was an option, alert viewers were able to freeze-frame a scene where the rumpled lieutenant extended his badge for identification purposes in the season one episode “Dead Weight” and determine that his first name was, in fact, “Frank.”

9. THE SERIES DIDN'T FOLLOW A STANDARD MYSTERY FORMAT.

The premise of Columbo was the “inverted mystery,” or a “HowCatchEm” instead of a “WhoDunIt.” Every episode began with the actual crime being played out in full view of the audience, meaning viewers already knew “WhodunIt.” What they wanted to know is how Lt. Columbo would slowly zero in on the perpetrator. This sort of story was particularly challenging for the series’s writers, and they sometimes found inspiration in the most unlikely places. Like the Yellow Pages, for example. One of Peter Falk’s personal favorite episodes, “Now You See Him,” had its genesis when the writers were flipping through the telephone book looking for a possible profession for a Columbo murderer (keep in mind that all of Columbo’s victims and perps were of the Beverly Hills elite variety, not your typical Starsky and Hutch-type thug).

A page listing professional magicians caught their eye, and that led to a classic episode featuring the ever-suave Jack Cassidy playing the role of the former SS Nazi officer who worked as a nightclub magician. When the Jewish nightclub owner recognized him and threatened to expose him, well, you can guess what happened. But the challenge is to guess how Lt. Columbo ultimately caught him. 

10. THERE WAS A SPINOFF THAT KIND OF WAS BUT THEN WASN'T.

The 1979 TV series entitled Mrs. Columbo was not technically related to the original Peter Falk series. In fact, Levinson and Link opposed the entire concept of the series; it was NBC honcho Fred Silverman who gave the OK to use the Columbo name and imply that Kate Mulgrew was the widowed/divorced wife (the series changed names and backstories several times during its short run) of the famed homicide detective. The “real” Mrs. Columbo was never mentioned by her first name during the original series, but actor Peter Falk possibly slipped and revealed that her name was “Rose” when he appeared at this Dean Martin Roast saluting Frank Sinatra and asked for an autograph.

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