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12 Amazing Facts About Spider-Man

Marvel/Sony
Marvel/Sony

This summer, Sony and Marvel will launch Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first in a new film series starring the third big-screen incarnation of the title character. Today it seems like we’ll never stop seeing Spider-Man at the movies, but 15 years ago, it seemed amazing that we ever saw him there in the first place. The original Spider-Man film was a massive cinematic endeavor, and it took 17 years, multiple screenplays, a costume theft, and a very convincing CGI performance to complete.

So, to celebrate 15 years of the webslinger on the big screen, here are a dozen facts about Sam Raimi's Spider-Man.

1. IT TOOK 17 YEARS TO GET IT MADE.

Spider-Man is about to launch his third big-screen franchise in 15 years, but before superhero mania took over, it was a 17-year journey just to get the character onto the big screen the first time. In 1985, amid lagging studio interest in superhero movies (at the time the only major franchise was Superman, and his series was lagging), cult film powerhouse Cannon Films acquired the movie rights to the character from Marvel for $250,000.

After several script attempts, Cannon folded, and producer Menahem Golan moved the rights to his successor company, 21st Century Films. By 1991, 21st Century was also finished, and Carolco Pictures picked up the rights, which they held until filing for bankruptcy in 1995. The Spider-Man rights then went to MGM, but Marvel—which was undergoing bankruptcy troubles of its own—filed suit, claiming they were due the rights back because the original Carolco option had expired in the summer of 1996, before MGM put a film into production.

Further complicating matters was the fact that 21st Century Film had, once upon a time, sold off home video and television rights to Columbia and Viacom, respectively. Finally, in 1999, the web was untangled when a court dismissed MGM’s claim to Spider-Man. Marvel, with the rights back at home, struck a new deal with Sony Pictures, which released Spider-Man through Columbia Pictures in 2002.

2. JAMES CAMERON CAME CLOSE TO MAKING HIS OWN VERSION IN THE 1990S.


Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

When Carolco secured the rights to Spider-Man, they handed the project over to James Cameron, fresh off the success of the Carolco-produced Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Cameron, a lifelong fan of the character, produced a 57-page “scriptment” detailing his vision for the character. The scriptment, which included a romance with Mary Jane Watson and Spider-Man facing off against Cameron’s version of Electro, was well-received, and earned the director the approval of Spidey’s co-creator, Stan Lee. After turning in his version of the story, Cameron set off to make True Lies. In interviews to promote that film, Cameron seemed to indicate that his next project would indeed be Spider-Man, but Carolco’s bankruptcy halted those plans, and he moved on to Titanic instead.

3. SEVERAL MAJOR DIRECTORS WERE CONSIDERED.

By the time Columbia began production, Cameron was no longer interested in Spider-Man, preferring instead to devote himself to his own original creations. Hoping to land a big-time director for their big-time film, Columbia considered Roland Emmerich, Chris Columbus, and David Fincher, who wanted to gloss over Spider-Man’s origin and focus on the famous Death of Gwen Stacy storyline from the comics.

“My impression [of] what Spider-Man could be is very different from what Sam [Raimi] did or what Sam wanted to do. I think the reason he directed that movie was because he wanted to do the Marvel comic superhero. I was never interested in the genesis story,” Fincher told io9. “I couldn't get past a guy getting bit by a red and blue spider. It was just a problem … It was not something that I felt I could do straight-faced. I wanted to start with Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin, and I wanted to kill Gwen Stacy.”

Eventually, the job was given to The Evil Dead director Sam Raimi, who impressed executives with his passion for the classic Marvel Comics version of the character.

4. THE GREEN GOBLIN WAS NOT THE ORIGINAL VILLAIN.

Though Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is as much an essential part of the film now as Spider-Man himself, he was not the original choice for the webslinger’s nemesis. Back in the days when Cannon was going to produce the film, original drafts featured Doctor Octopus as the main antagonist. James Cameron ditched that idea and concocted his own version of Electro, with the Sandman as his sidekick. When Sony and Columbia began developing their version, screenwriter David Koepp introduced the Green Goblin, which Raimi favored because of his personal connection (being the father of Peter Parker’s best friend Harry Osborn) to Spider-Man’s alter-ego Peter Parker. Initially, the Columbia version was planned to feature the Goblin with Doctor Octopus as a secondary villain, but Raimi nixed that idea, believing that introducing two supervillains and a superhero in the same movie would have “compromised” all three characters.

Doctor Octopus wound up being the main villain in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, and the Sandman appeared in Spider-Man 3. Electro also eventually got his big-screen moment, appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014.

5. IT CHANGES A KEY COMPONENT OF SPIDER-MAN’S ORIGIN.

When Cameron composed his treatment for the film in the early 1990s, he altered one key part of Spider-Man’s origin and power set: his webshooters. In the comics, Peter Parker fashions the webshooters himself, using a super-strong, super-sticky fluid of his own design, but in Cameron’s version, the webs are organically produced by Peter’s body after he gains his powers. Raimi liked Cameron's idea, and opted to keep it.

“He sticks to walls; he can leap; why does he then have to invent a web fluid?” Raimi said in an interview with Fangoria. “Why not just mutate him far enough into a spider to produce webbing?”

6. TOBEY MAGUIRE WAS NOT THE STUDIO’S FIRST CHOICE FOR PETER PARKER.

When casting the lead role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Columbia initially seemed to be looking for a more classic leading man type, considering stars including Colin Farrell, Heath Ledger, Ewan McGregor, Scott Speedman, and Wes Bentley. Raimi, on the other hand, wanted Tobey Maguire—and eventually got his way after the star turned in some convincing screen tests. After an intense diet and exercise regimen to give him a superhero body, Maguire was ready for the part.

7. WILLEM DAFOE WAS NOT THE ONLY CHOICE FOR THE GREEN GOBLIN.

In casting Spider-Man’s nemesis, the studio looked at several major stars with villainous expertise, including Nicolas Cage and John Malkovich, who turned down the role for a number of reasons.

"It was everything," Malkovich told Empire in a 2000 interview. "Way too much time, not enough money, not enough of anything. I mean, if I'd have loved it, obviously I would have done it, but those sort of films aren't art films, they're business propositions."

Willem Dafoe eventually won the role.

8. THE CGI SPIDER-MAN FOOLED STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

One of the chief hurdles in producing Spider-Man was creating the convincing illusion of a man swinging between New York City skyscrapers. The production called on Industrial Light & Magic pioneer John Dykstra, who realized that some shots would require a fully computer-generated version of the title character. The shots Dykstra and his team came up with were so convincing that producer Laura Ziskin decided to see if they could fool Columbia chair Amy Pascal and Sony chair John Calley.

“I called up John Calley and Amy Pascal and told them we’d put Tobey [Maguire] in the suit and had him crawling up a building, and we’d shot a test and wanted to show them,” Ziskin recalled. “We went to the screening room and I showed the test of CGI Spider-Man—they thought it was Tobey! Then I told them that was the computer-generated Spider-Man.”

9. SEVERAL SPIDER-SUITS WERE STOLEN FROM THE PRODUCTION.

Making Spider-Man was a massive undertaking involving 100 sets and hundreds of crew members. It also required several costumes for Maguire, four of which went missing from a locked building on the Sony Pictures lot. The handmade suits were valued at around $50,000 apiece, so Sony was very eager to get them back. Eventually, a former Sony security guard was caught after authorities received a tip from his ex-wife. When his home was searched, police also discovered that he’d stolen a $150,000 Batman costume from the Warner Bros. lot in 1996.

10. A SHOT FROM ANOTHER SAM RAIMI FILM APPEARS IN THE MOVIE.

Raimi originally intended to shoot all-new material for the sequence early in the film in which Peter Parker has a fever-addled nightmare the night after his life-altering spider bite. Budgetary restraints prevented this, so Raimi instead cut together shots from the film’s opening, along with one from his 1990 superhero film Darkman.

11. THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS CUT FROM MARKETING MATERIALS AFTER 9/11.

The very first teaser trailer for the film, released in the summer of 2001, feature bank robbers escaping in a helicopter pulled into a giant web spun between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The teaser was a major hit, but after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Sony executives opted to pull the footage from distribution (though bits of it still exist in a montage in the final film). A teaser poster featuring the Trade Center was also pulled.

12. IT’S PACKED WITH CAMEOS.

Superhero movies and cameo appearances are basically synonymous now, but Spider-Man has a particularly large number of special guests. Spidey co-creator Stan Lee made his now-customary appearance in the film, pulling a girl away from falling debris during the Times Square action sequence, but he’s far from alone. Wrestling legend Randy Savage wrestles Peter Parker as Bonesaw McGraw, Raimi’s brother Ted appears as J. Jonah Jameson’s assistant Hoffman, and frequent Raimi collaborator Bruce Campbell appears as the ring announcer. Also featured are Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless (“Punk Rock Girl”) and Raimi’s Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel (“Marine Cop”). Plus, as longtime Raimi fans know, Spider-Man also includes a cameo by a well-known car. The Oldsmobile Delta 88 driven by Uncle Ben is “The Classic,” Raimi’s college car, which he has featured in almost all of his films, most prominently The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II.

Additional Sources:

Comic Book Movies by David Hughes

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16 Fun Facts About The Carol Burnett Show
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CBS

After a short stint in the New York theater world, comedienne Carol Burnett landed a job as a regular on The Garry Moore Show in 1959. She caught the attention of CBS executives, who offered her her own series in 1967. With her husband Joe Hamilton at the helm, Burnett broke new ground as the first female host of a TV variety show. The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 seasons and earned a handful of Emmy Awards in the process. To celebrate the legendary comedienne's 85th birthday, here are some fun facts about the show and the folks who made it so side-splittingly hilarious.

1. CAROL BURNETT’S MOTHER WANTED HER TO BE A WRITER.

As Carol Burnett painfully recalled later in life, whenever she’d expressed an interest in a career in the theater as a teen, her mother would always dissuade her and recommend that she would have better luck studying to become a writer. “You can always write, no matter what you look like,” she would add.

2. A TOTAL STRANGER HELPED TO LAUNCH BURNETT’S CAREER.

As she was nearing graduation from UCLA, Burnett and several fellow drama students were invited to a departing professor’s house to perform at his bon voyage party. She performed a scene from the musical Annie Get Your Gun and later that evening, while she was standing in the buffet line, a man she’d never seen before approached her and complimented her performance. He then inquired what she planned to do with her life. She confessed that she dreamed of going to New York one day for a career on the stage, but seeing that she barely had enough gas money to drive back to Los Angeles that evening, it would be a very long time before she’d make it to Broadway. The man told her he’d be happy to lend her $1000 to get her started, with three conditions: that she repay him without interest in five years, that she was never to reveal his identity, and that once she was successful she must pass a similar kindness along to another person in need. (After pondering the offer over the weekend and consulting her mother and grandmother—who advised her to steer clear of the strange man who was probably involved in human trafficking or something worse—she took a chance and accepted his check.)

3. VICKI LAWRENCE CAUGHT BURNETT’S ATTENTION BY WRITING HER A FAN LETTER.


CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When Vicki Lawrence cut her hair in a short “pixie” cut as a high school senior, many of her classmates commented on her resemblance to Carol Burnett. Lawrence’s somewhat overbearing stage mother encouraged her to write Burnett a letter, which she did, enclosing a photo and a newspaper article that mentioned her upcoming appearance in the Inglewood, California Miss Fireball Contest. To her surprise, a seven-months-pregnant Burnett showed up at the pageant to cheer her on. When Burnett had her baby, Lawrence took some flowers to the hospital, thinking she’d just drop them off. But when the nurse on duty saw her, she immediately mistook her for Burnett’s real-life half-sister Chrissie and exclaimed, “Wait until you see the baby!” and ushered her into Carol’s room.

4. LAWRENCE ENDED UP PLAYING BURNETT’S SISTER ON THE SHOW.

When they were casting The Carol Burnett Show, the star remembered the teen and hired her despite her lack of experience. At first her only role was in the recurring “Carol and Sis” sketch, in which Lawrence played “Chrissie,” Burnett’s younger sister. Lawrence recalled in her 1995 autobiography that Burnett was very nurturing to all her co-stars, making sure everyone got their share of the best jokes, but it was Harvey Korman who took her under his wing in the beginning and taught her about timing, dialects, and working with props.

5. THE Q&A AT THE BEGINNING WAS BURNETT’S HUSBAND’S IDEA.


By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Joe Hamilton was not only Carol Burnett’s husband, he was also the show’s executive producer. It was traditional at the time (and still is, in some cases) to have a stand-up comic step onstage before a show to tell some jokes and “warm up” the audience. Hamilton was wary of going that route, however; as Burnett later recalled, “He worried, ‘What if the guy is funnier than the rest of you?’” He thought it would be a good ice-breaker if Burnett herself went out front before the proceedings to welcome the audience and answer a couple of questions. Over the next 11 seasons, the question that she was asked the most was “Can you do your Tarzan yell?”

6. BURNETT ONCE USED HER TARZAN YELL AS A FORM OF IDENTIFICATION.

While shopping for nylon stockings at New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman one day, the saleswoman recognized Burnett and asked for her autograph for her grandchildren. When it came time to check out, Burnett realized that she didn’t have her credit card or driver’s license in her wallet. She inquired if she could write a check. “I’ll have to see some ID,” replied the woman who’d requested an autograph just moments before. The floor manager intervened and told Burnett that she’d accept her check if Burnett would do her Tarzan yell. Burnett complied, prompting a security guard to kick open a nearby door, burst in and point his gun at her.

7. LYLE WAGONNER WAS THE FIRST CENTERFOLD IN PLAYGIRL MAGAZINE.

Joe Hamilton was looking for a handsome, “Rock Hudson-type” when casting the announcer for his wife’s show. Former encyclopedia salesman Lyle Waggoner landed the job not only due to his devastating good looks, but also because he had a good sense of humor about how pretty he was. He was even good-natured about the teasing he got from his castmates after posing for the centerfold of Playgirl magazine’s premiere issue in 1973.

8. HARVEY KORMAN WAS THE FIRST CAST MEMBER HIRED.

The producers wanted a “Harvey Korman-type” for Burnett’s second banana, but didn’t bother to actually ask Korman if he was interested in the job because he was already a regular on The Danny Kaye Show, and most likely he wouldn’t leave a steady job for an unproven new show. Burnett herself spotted Korman in the CBS parking lot one day and “practically threw him over the hood of a car” begging him to join her show. Unbeknownst to her, Kaye’s show was about to get the axe after a four-year run, so Korman cheerfully accepted her offer shortly after that first meeting.

9. TIM CONWAY RARELY FOLLOWED HIS SCRIPT.

Conway had been a frequent guest star on the show, and when Lyle Waggoner decided to leave the show in 1974 (he felt that he was being “underused”), Conway was hired to replace him the following year. Conway was legendary for veering off-script and ad-libbing for lengthy stretches, to the amusement of some of his co-stars (Korman) and annoyance of others (Lawrence, who sometimes resented Conway’s disruptions and spotlight-hogging). Lawrence finally slipped her own ad-lib in on one memorable occasion, as Conway rambled on and on about an elephant during a “Family” sketch. Her NSFW remark brought the rest of the cast to their knees and was said to be Dick Clark’s favorite all-time outtake on his Bloopers and Practical Jokes TV show.

10. MRS. WIGGINS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AS AN ELDERLY WOMAN.

Conway created the Mr. Tudball/Mrs. Wiggins characters and wrote (or ad-libbed) many of their sketches. His original concept had Mrs. Wiggins being ancient, slow, and forgetful. But costume designer Bob Mackie decided that Burnett had played too many “old lady” characters on the show and designed a very voluptuous look for her instead. He explained at the time that he had certain “ditzy” CBS secretaries in mind when he stitched the curvy costume together.

11. THE SHOW THAT BECAME MAMA’S FAMILY STARTED OUT AS A MUCH DARKER ONE-OFF SKETCH.

A sketch called “The Reunion,” which originally aired in March of 1974, featured the characters that eventually became known as “The Family.” In this initial installment, Roddy McDowall played Phillip Harper, the successful younger brother of Eunice, returning home for a visit after winning a Pulitzer Prize. The family members were far crankier and more argumentative (and perhaps more representative of actual family life as they talked over one another and changed topics as soon as a thought occurred to them) than the cartoonish characters they eventually came to be on the syndicated series Mama’s Family. The piece proved to be so popular that 30 more “Family” sketches appeared over the next four seasons, with such guest stars as Alan Alda and Betty White turning up as members of the extended Harper family.

12. IT WAS BURNETT’S IDEA TO MAKE EUNICE AND HER FAMILY SOUTHERN.

The creators of "The Family" sketch were The Carol Burnett Show staff writers Jenna McMahon and Dick Clair. McMahon hailed from Kansas City, Missouri, and envisioned the Harpers to be of typical Midwestern stock, but as Burnett read the initial script she heard her own Texan and Arkansan family members speaking. She started speaking the lines with a pronounced Southern drawl, and Vicki Lawrence soon followed suit.

13. DICK VAN DYKE WAS A REGULAR FOR A SHORT TIME.

Harvey Korman left The Carol Burnett Show at the end of season 10 to star in his own sitcom on ABC.  (The Harvey Korman Show was cancelled after five episodes.) Dick Van Dyke was brought in as a replacement, but he was never a very good fit. As Burnett commented after the fact, “When Harvey put on a wig and a dress, he became a woman; when Dick Van Dyke did it, he was Dick Van Dyke in a wig and a dress.” Van Dyke wasn’t overjoyed with the job, either; he lived in Arizona at the time and the monthly 4000-mile commute was exhausting. He was released from his contract in November 1977.

14. BURNETT’S “WENT WITH THE WIND” CURTAIN ROD DRESS WAS BOB MACKIE’S BRAINSTORM.

Burnett’s Gone with the Wind parody has made many “funniest shows of all time” lists over the years, and one of the defining moments of the sketch was when Carol (as "Starlett O’Hara”) descends the stairs at Tara wearing the green velvet drapes with the curtain rod still in them and admits, “I saw it in a window and I couldn’t resist.” The original script called for Burnett to have the curtains tossed haphazardly over her shoulders, but Mackie decided that it would be funnier to create an actual dress and leave the hanger intact across her shoulders. He is slightly bitter all these years later that of all his magnificent creations, that “joke” dress has become his signature piece; of all the memorable glamorous gowns he’s created for celebrities over the decades, that curtain rod dress is the one that hangs in the Smithsonian.

15. CONWAY’S FAMOUS “DENTIST” SKIT WAS BASED ON AN ACTUAL INCIDENT.

When Conway was in the Army having some work done on his teeth, the dentist accidentally injected his own thumb with Novocain. Conway exaggerated the experience to hilarious effect in a classic skit that left Harvey Korman struggling to contain his laughter. During a 2013 interview, Conway told Conan O’Brien that Korman actually wet himself from laughing so hard.

16. THERE WAS ONLY ONE CELEBRITY GUEST THAT BURNETT WAS NEVER ABLE TO BOOK.

Over the 11 seasons the show ran, a veritable “Who’s Who” of the entertainment industry did a guest turn, from Steve Martin to Julie Andrews to then-governor Ronald Reagan to Robin Williams to Ethel Merman. The only guest who Burnett dearly wanted to have but never did get was Bette Davis. Davis was willing to appear but demanded more money that the show had budgeted. Joe Hamilton advised his wife that if they gave in to Davis’s demand, it would set an unpleasant precedent.

Additional Sources:
Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, by Vicki Lawrence
This Time Together, by Carol Burnett
Let’s Bump Up the Lights (The Carol Burnett Show DVD extra)

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The 1988 BBC Report That Spelled the End for Doctor Who
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BBC

Given the amount of excitement, and press, surrounding the July 2017 announcement that Jodie Whittaker would be taking the keys to the TARDIS from Peter Capaldi to become Doctor Who's Thirteenth Doctor (and its first female Doctor), it’s hard to imagine that audiences could ever tire of the iconic sci-fi series. But, as Den of Geek reports, television-watchers in 1988 had a rather different opinion of the regularly-regenerating Time Lord.

A "not for publication" Television Audience Reaction Report discovered in the BBC Archive, compiled shortly after Sylvester McCoy made his debut as the Seventh Doctor, revealed that Whovians weren't buying what McCoy was selling. While viewership was up a tick (.1 million over the previous year's average), the show's Appreciation Index—which measured a series' popularity on a scale of one to 100—was a 60 which, according to the report, was "much lower than the average of 69 for the 1986 series. It is also considerably lower than the average of 75 for UK Originated Drama: Other Series and Serials between BARB Weeks 37 and 50."

Though the series' core fan base was mostly sticking around, "their number seems to be decreasing with each successive series," with a mere 46 percent of the sample audience saying that they'd want to see another season of Doctor Who (which, at that time, was in the 24th season of its initial run):

"Under half the sample audience (47%) agreed with the statement that Doctor Who was an entertaining program. Just over a quarter (28%) agreed that the stories this series had been good, while 49% disagreed with this statement. The stories' attention holding qualities received a similarly poor rating."

Ouch!

As for McCoy, the report stated that he "was not proving to be a popular Doctor. He received a personal summary index figure of 46 at the end of the series … Sylvester McCoy's predecessor in the role—Colin Baker—although only moderately popular himself, received much better ratings than these, as his personal index figure of 66 shows. A popular character, such as Jim Bergerac played by John Nettles, can receive a personal index rating of around 90."

But The Doctor wasn't even the biggest problem: His companion, Mel, was even less popular with viewers:

"Bonnie Langford, who played the Doctor's assistant Mel can only be described as unpopular with respondents. Indeed 56% of respondents who answered a questionnaire on the 'Paradise Towers' story wished she had been eaten—as seemed likely at one point during the course of this adventure. Her summary index rating of 34 compares unfavourably with the 47 she received at the end of the 1986 series. Both figures, it should be noted, are extremely low."

It should hardly be surprising that the memo (which you can read in full here) spelled the beginning of the end of Doctor Who's original incarnation. The series came to a conclusion in December 1989, with McCoy still in place as The Doctor. Fortunately, the BBC didn't hold a grudge.

In 1996, they attempted to revive interest in the series with a TV movie/backdoor pilot that featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. It didn't work. Nearly 10 years later, after lots of rallying, longtime series fan Russell T. Davies was given the greenlight to bring Doctor Who back with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor in 2005. Though Eccleston's tenure was short-lived—David Tennant took over the very next season—audiences have not looked back since.

[h/t Den of Geek]

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