delays spidey

This is a story I’ve been working on ever since I saw this December 11th email that went out to the Spider-Man 4 special effects crew that day:

Hey there–

We were just notified that our schedule is pushing. We will NOT be starting as planned. I’m terribly sorry for this news, and I hope this email reaches you in time to find other options. We do not know how long we are pushing, and we will not know until mid-January. By mid-January, we will be told how long the push is, whether it be 2 weeks, 2 months, or something else. The studio has every intention of making the movie, but we no longer have a confirmed start date.

Again, I’m terribly sorry, but Sam Raimi has story issues [that] need to be resolved before we are ready to shoot.

Feel free to call me if you have any questions.

VFX Team

Sony_pictures_logoAt that point, it wasn’t well known that the Spider-Man franchise director who also is helming the 4th installment had huge problems with the script that has run through screenwriters Jamie Vanderbilt, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Gary Ross. I’m even told Sam Raimi had been very vocal inside Sony that he “hated” it. Now Raimi and Sony are anxiously waiting for still another version from screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who wrote Spidey 2 & 3 and is married to Spidey franchise producer Laura Ziskind. ”It is unlikely that May 11, 2011, date will be made,” a Sony insider just told me today. “It depends on how quickly the script can get in.” However, agents have told clients in the movie to already expect the film to be pushed back.

My sources say Sony still intends to release that summer, even if the new date is July 2011. But Spider-Man has always owned that coveted early May date. Even as far back as September 2008 when I reported my exclusive that Sony Locks In Sam Raimi & Tobey Maguire in ‘Spider-Man 4′. And now this is a giant opportunity for other studios planning their 2011 schedules to grab this big opening.

Spider-Man 4 was supposed to start filming in February, and star Tobey Maguire echoed that repeatedly in publicity appearances for Brothers. Then it pushed to March. Then late March/early April. And now there’s no date at all, according to my Sony insiders who emailed me: “Some decisions have been made over the holiday about Spider-Man 4. We will be extending the production hiatus on the film. The studio is firmly committed to this franchise but, for us, the script must come first. We intend to notify members of the crew immediately. As you know, Alvin Sargent is currently working on the screenplay. When we have more news, we will keep you posted.”

I do know that Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal and Columbia Pictures president Matt Tolmach, who have shepherded the Spider-Man franchise from Day One, has been wrestling with this script problem for months. “I’m going to do everything I can to make May,” she has repeatedly told Hollywood types involved with the movie. “But I’m not going to start a movie where the script isn’t right yet. Not unless I want my career to be over.”

Fortunately for Pascal, Sony is not yet “pay or play” on some of the talent negotiations which were still only at the tail end. Raimi is insisting that John Malkovich play the villain, so that won’t change. But I do hear that it’s now unlikely Anne Hathaway will be cast.  ”I’m not so sure we’re going in that direction,” an insider told me recently. Sony had been hot for her until bigwigs realized she’d cost too much and they probably don’t need “such a big star” for the pic, I’m told. (See my previous, Anne Hathaway Wanted For ‘Spider-Man 4′)

As for those repeated rumors that Spider-Man 4 will and won’t shoot in 3D, I’ve got to figure that’s uppermost on Sony minds given the post-Avatar climate. Back in April, Sony Pictures’ co-chairmen Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton told Forbes magazine they were considering making the 4th Spider-Man in 3D. Here were the quotes: “Could be,” said Pascal. Lynton added: “People are paying a premium to see movies in 3-D and that’s a very big deal. It’s never been done before that someone says you have to pay more to see Spider-Man than a romantic comedy.” More as I get it…

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.