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12 Amazing Facts About Spider-Man

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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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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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