Reading through more of the Sony emails made available by WikiLeaks is not unlike taking a tour through a sausage factory, only without the smell and with more hilarity than disgust. Last time, we read through a November 15, 2014 proposal from Executive Director of Creative Advertising at Screen Gems, Juan Capdet suggesting Sony should work on up to seven Amazing Spider-Man sequels and spin-offs over a five year period, along with the one tie-in film which they had already green-lit.
That film, as some of you may know, was The Sinister Six, which was to be written and directed by Drew Goddard and originally planned for a November 2016 release date. And apparently, Goddard was so eager to do this movie he defected over to Sony during the production of the Netflix TV series, Daredevil, in spite of being the series’ show-runner–a move which, as reported by Bleeding Cool, almost resulted in Marvel taking legal action against him. Guess he and Sony had a lot of faith in this film because, based on the content of the e-mails, Sinister Six had the potential to be the most insane comic book superhero movie ever made.
Aside from the comics, Goddard drew inspiration for his treatment from such films as The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), and especially Willaim Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977), which he suggested Pascal and Senior VP Rachel O’Connor watch as part of their research. One of the reasons Sony was so eager to do this film, aside from wanting to expand their “Spider-Man Universe,” was to have a team-up film to compete with Marvel Studios. In addition, it also became apparent, as stated by screenwriter and producer, Michel De Luca, in a forwarded e-mail dated October 1, 2014, that Sony needed something to potentially compete with DC Comics and Warner Brother’s upcoming Suicide Squad movie:
They are using the new superman to intro the justice league and then hope to do one off movies after justice league, sort of the reverse of Marvel. They don’t have a Feige, they sort of have Nolan and Goyer and Zack Snyder. Plus the dc characters are corny and it remains to be seen how this all works out. Ayers suicide squad is dc’s version of sinister six so we shouldn’t dilly dally.
Of course, the big question was just which unsavory villains would comprise the Sinister Six? Would it be the original line-up as first introduced in the very first Amazing Spider-Man Annual? If it tied into The Amazing Spider-Man 2, would the team include Paul Giamatti’s Rhino? The return of Jamie Foxx’s Electro? Dane DeHann’s Harry Osborn/Green Goblin? Well, combing through various e-mails, it appears Sony’s version of the Sinister Six would have been:
- Doctor Octopus (as the leader, of course)
- The Vulture
- The Black Cat, and…
Yep, in what appears to have taken it’s cue from Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Six mini-series, Spidey would have been forced to join forces with the bad guys. And the partnership between Spidey and Doc Ock was something O’Connor suggested should have greater emphasis, comparing and contrasting Otto Octavious’ story arc to that of Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy:
I think Michael Corleone is the greatest birth of villain/ protagonist as villain…not sure it exactly analagous to Ock but I like the idea of Ock as a character you are totally rooting for even though he is doing bad things…and obviously the transformation from innocence to experience. Also both characters are essentially motivated by family.
Second I was thinking about the iconic rivalry btw Ock and Spidey and I think it would be great if after Spidey helps Ock, And you really feel they are friends and want them to be on the same side Ock has to do something that makes Spidey and the audience realize that they will never be able to be on the same side again…b/c the birth of doc Ock story is only complete if you end it with the establishment of the iconic Spidey rivalry.
As for bit about Doc Ock being “motivated by family?” Well, as contained in another e-mail (one which will get to later on), this version of Doc Ock, just like in Spider-Man 2 (2014), lost his wife in what appears to have been the same tragic accident which bonded him to his mechanical arms. But who could Sony get to play the egotistical mad scientist with a tragic past? Well, it depended upon whether or not Andrew Garfield would be in the final film. Very early on in his negotiations with Pascal, Goddard offered a rather…interesting choice for the role:
I’m really feeling that for a SS movie to work without Spidey in it, we need a movie star in the lead role. (I’m not sure I could convince him to do it, but someone like Matt Damon as [sic] Dock Ock?)
And apparently, Tolmech loved the idea of Mr. Good Will Hunting and “Jason Bourne” as Doc Ock, too. Either that or the “Matthew” he’s talking about is referring to Matthew McConaughey:
Matthew feels totally alive to me. I believe he loves this woman so much that it drives him mad. And also that he’s a genius in the dancing wu li masters kind of way (anybody?). I’ve just never seen it. And he can also kick a little ass…
Other suggestions for Doc Ock (or at least possible actors for the film) included Sean Penn, Denzel Washington, Colin Firth (who they also considered could play the Vulture) and apparently (since only their first names are given) Will Smith, George Clooney and “James Bond” himself, Daniel Craig.
For the role of Felicia Hardy, their choices included Ruth Wilson, Emily Blunt (who Goddard favored), Kerri Russell, Rose Byrne, Emilia Clarke, Elizabeth Olsen, and–in what only could have been an inside joke–Jared Leto (?!). Keep in mind this was all before Capdet’s own proposal for a Black Cat film. Also, after reading an article by Hitflix.com entitled “11 Criminally Underused Lady Villains The Amazing Spider-Man Is Wasting,” Goddard and Pascal briefly entertained the idea that, instead of having the Black Cat as the female member of the Sinister Six, it could be Shriek, Kraven the Hunter’s daughter Ana Kravinoff, or a female version of the Scorpion.
As Sinister is laying out, I don’t think we need [Scorpion] for this one. But… F***… Even as I type this… Picture Emily Blunt with a Scorpion tail on…
Oh goddamn it now I might need her for Sinister Six. Or, at least, Sinister Six Two.
As for other actors, Sony considered having parts for Idris Elba, Francis McDormand, Byran Cranston, and Jackie Chan. For the role of Sandman (who apparently was “where [they] were getting the comedy” for the film), some names they tossed around included Woody Harrelson, Channing Tatum (who they also were considering for Venom), Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Chris O’Dowd, Michael Peña, Seth Rogen, and Danny McBride. The only concern Tolmach apparently had about the cast was he didn’t “just [didn’t] want everyone to be 50.”
However, there was one actor Goddard was bound and determined to play the part of Sandman: Tom Hardy. Goddard even offered advice to Pascal and other execs on how they should approach him:
I’m gonna write him up a note this weekend. But, off the top of my head, some possible talking points are:
— We’re doing something different — it’s time to celebrate the bad guys for once.
— We’re inspired by the classic team/mission of movies: Dirty Dozen, Magnificent Seven, Guns of Navarone. We want that spirit, that SWAGGER.
— If the Spider-man franchise is the Beatles, then we’re the Sex Pistols
— Flint Marco is gonna steal the show
— The character is pure id — the anarchic enthusiast of the team. A chance to have FUN while celebrating being bad.
— Tom embodies that anarchy, that triumphant nihilism — we’ve seen him tap into that spirt before in roles like Bronson, but now we have the chance to crank the volume up to ELEVEN.
— He’s gonna storm through London at the end like God-f***ing-zilla. That is not purple prose. He’s going to be AS TALL AS A SKYSCRAPER in the third act of the movie. What does Dr. Strange have? Magic tricks? F*** you, magic tricks — we’ve got a skyscraper Tom Hardy knocking down buildings!!!!
And sure enough, much of this exact wording ended up in the letter Pascal sent to Hardy, especially the part about how Sony was making “The Sex Pistols of superhero movies.”
As for the proposed plot of the film, the story appeared to involve breaches in the space-time continuum (either caused by Doc Ock or someone else), Pandora’s Box, “huge sequences in ‘Paris,'” and London, and a major plot development and scenes taking place in…The Savage Land. Yep, Goddard wanted to have the Sinister Six fighting dinosaurs in Antarctica!
However, because it first debuted in Marvel Mystery Comics #22 (1941) was first called “The Savage Land” in X-Men #10 (1965), Sony wasn’t sure if the rights belonged to Fox or Marvel Studios. But once they found out the Savage Land was a Marvel property, Pascal was none too happy:
I suggest you guys get in a room this morning and go over drews pitch and what is in savage land comics and make sure we are okay and not in a situation where they can find any foot faults. We have known for weeks that drew was setting his story on a tropical island with dinosaurs and time travel portals. We can not be in a vulnerable position in anyway
In this story. This is top priority
Also, you regular readers of the Crawlspace may recall back when the Sony e-mail hack first broke last December, one of the reported e-mails included former Spider-Man film producer Matt Tolmach suggesting they tie the Spidey’s black costume saga with The Sinister Six film, a suggestion Pascal seriously considered:
LETS TALK THIS IS REALLY SIMILAR TO WHAT MATT [Tolmach] PITCHED ME THIS AM ABOUT VENOM WHICH HE DOESNT THINK IS A MOVIE ON ITS OWN BUT THAT SPIDERMAN ANS SS ARE THE TEAM IN THE NEXT MOVIE HE GOES TO THEM FOR HELP/……MAYBE FIGHTING CARNAGE IR HE WEARS THE BLACK SUIT BUT ALL THE SS GUYS THINK ITS LAME AND HE TAKES IT OFF AND IT FALLS INTO THE WRONG HANDS
Of course, Tolmach’s co-producer, Avi Arad, believed Venom was popular enough to have a solo film based on Arad’s personal research:
My favorite thing on the weekends is to watch the circulars. This time of the year, the circulars tell me what is hot and what is not. I have been doing it all my adult life. If you look at the Toys R’ Us circular, you will see that the Disney Infinity game features Venom as a character. I think Venom will be one of the biggest movies we can ever make. By the way, all the Infinity advertising features Venom. I would like you to bless it for me to get going and get Venom together. Ed Solomon is not even in the neighborhood as far as what we want to do. As you know I am a believer of following the comic to a T. If it is ok with you, I would like to be very aggressive with it. Please let me know.
In any case, the incorporation of the black costume for Spidey in The Sinister Six and having it lead to a possible Venom film was apparently an alteration to Goddard’s original plot for the film. Because instead of Carnage, the original “big bad” the Sinister Six would end up facing–someone who Doc Ock was secretly planning to recruit for his own nefarious purposes–was going to be…Gog!
And no, “Gog” wasn’t their abbrevation for The Guardians of the Galaxy. Gog is an alien monster who, after crashed-landing in the Savage Land, is raised by Kraven the Hunter, andfirst appeared in the infamous Roy Thomas/Gil Kane two-part Spidey/Kazar team-up in Amazing Spider-Man #103 and #104. He also appeared in an Erik Larsen Spider-Man story involving–you guessed it!–Doc Ock freeing him from a parallel dimension to recruit as a new member for the Sinister Six.
Along with confusion as to whether or not Sony had permission to use Gog as well, there were folks like De Luca who, while offering some possible narrative suggestions, was a little concerned it was too “cosmic.”
Gog is tough because then you’re into a giant humanoid creature from another dimension. Feige has had success with the cosmic side of things but it’s a tricky line to walk, the shitty fantastic four movies’ treatment of the silver surfer and galactus are the cautionary tale
Doc Ock could always just be trying to get his hands on weapons tech that masks a true, more nefarious mission that could involve springing gog. And maybe the six have a puppet master that is a twist reveal like Redford in Cap 2
There were other concerns, however, aside from rights issues. Along with the obvious budgetary concerns for such an ambitious project, it appears Andrew Garfield was confused as to whether or not The Sinister Six counted as the third Amazing Spider-Man film, as he only agreed to do three movies. As stated in an e-mail exchange between Tolmach and producer, Doug Belgrad, during June of 2014:
Weber and Lubin called me to say that Andrew asked them whether S Six is the 3rd ASM movie.
I thought what they might be driving at was that he wants to be paid as if it were ASM3 so I said we didn’t really see as the 3rd ASM, it’s a stand-alone in which the character is appearing.
But then they seemed to suggest that he wants to know if this would fulfill his obligation under the original ASM deal as the 3rd Spider-man movie.
I think I gave the right answer, but I told them we’d get back to them with some clarity and it feels like the game is on.
Also, even before Sony was able to hire Goddard as the director, there was concern over the use of the word “Sinister” in the title when it came to overseas distribution. Mexico and the UK were “ok using it,” but other countries like Australia, Italy, Russia, and Spain reported that “Sinister has a very dark meaning they would like to avoid,” that it could “alienate [Sony’s] family audience as…[feeling] scary,” and that “kids would not understand it.” There also appeared to be some difficult discussions Sony had between Hasbro and Disney over the Sinister Six when it came to merchandising. There were even issues with Sony’s press releases for Sinister Six and other future Spider-Man film projects, as Arad insisted on getting top-billing over Tolmach when came to producer credit:
Avi Arad: The order for Sinister Six with Matt first and me second does not sit well with me. I think we need a further discussion. Please do not release it yet.
Amy Pascal to Doug Belgrad: pleaseeeeeeeee deal with this
Now I mentioned in part one how I would also talk about some of what Sony may have been planning for their possible female solo film, but since there’s already so much to digest, I’ll save it for next time. Suffice to say, one of those ideas for a female solo Spider-Man film came from screenwriter, Lisa Joy, and it was also a direct tie-in, if not a sequel, to Sony’s Sinister Six project. And just to give you folks a hint, it was not a Black Cat film. Until part three.