How Stan Lee And Spider-Man Ruined Plans For A James Cameron X-Men Movie 

After eight live-action Spider-Man movies, the most recent of which made unbelievable profits, the webhead is well and truly established as an icon of the superhero genre. We all know how things started, with Sam Raimi's 2002 "Spider-Man" giving us our first proper live-action Spidey film. But things could have looked very different if James Cameron's Spider-Man movie ever got made.

There's been a lot written about the director's ill-fated "Spider-Man," which would have been a much more adult, R-rated experience than Raimi's effort. The script was peppered with profanity and featured a love scene between Peter Parker and Mary Jane, who were supposed to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Nikki Cox respectively. Cameron was working on the project after the now-shuttered Carolco, which produced multiple blockbusters including Cameron's own "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," acquired the rights to Spider-Man in 1990. Had the director followed through with the project, the history of Spidey on-screen would have looked a lot different.

But, as it turns out, there's more to the story. At the time Carolco acquired the rights to the web-slinger, Cameron was already attached to another gestating Marvel project that would have seen the X-Men brought to the big screen a whole lot sooner than with Bryan Singer's "X-Men" in 2000. Unfortunately, it seems that this particular project wasn't killed by any studios going bankrupt, but rather by Cameron himself and his eagerness to direct a Spider-Man movie.

Wolverine and the X-Men

These days we're used to Marvel being the blockbuster juggernaut it is, though lately, we've had a bit too much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But back in the '80s, DC and Warner Bros. were ruling the comic book adaptation market, after 1978's "Superman" and 1989's "Batman." But that didn't mean Marvel wasn't trying to get their heroes onto the big screen. 1986's "Howard the Duck" — which actually wasn't the first time Marvel tried to adapt their IP — might have been a box office flop, but it hinted at Marvel's desire to compete with some cinematic projects of its own.

An "X-Men" movie was one of those projects. Development had begun on a movie based on the mutants as early as 1984, but it wasn't until writer Gary Goldman, famous for his work on films such as "Total Recall" and "Big Trouble in Little China," penned a script that the whole thing seemed like it could actually get off the ground. The draft screenplay, entitled "Wolverine and the X-Men" can be found online, dated June 18, 1991. If you take a look at the cover page, you'll see that the script names Lightstorm Entertainment — James Cameron's production company which he launched in 1990 — and Carolco Pictures.

According to The Wrap, which covered comic book writer and "X-Men" legend Chris Claremont speaking at a 2012 Columbia University panel, this "X-Men" project was set to be directed by Cameron's then-wife Katherine Bigelow, with Cameron producing. The book "MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios," reveals how Claremont and Marvel legend Stan Lee went to Cameron's office to discuss the "X-Men" movie, but that very meeting would be the beginning of the end for the project.

'Cameron's eyes lit up'

In the book, Chris Claremont recalls how in 1990 he and Stan Lee met with James Cameron with the intention of securing his involvement with the "X-Men" movie. But once they were there, the director very quickly got sidetracked by another idea. As Claremont remembered:

"So we're chatting and at one point Stan looks at Cameron and says 'I hear you like Spider-Man.' Cameron's eyes lit up. And they start talking. And talking. And talking. About twenty minutes later, all the Lightstorm guys and I are looking at each other, and we all know the X-Men deal has just evaporated."

Cameron is an unabashed Spider-Man fanboy, telling Collider in 2014, "When I was a kid: to me there were all the superheroes and then there was Spider-Man." So it makes sense that he was more interested in directing a movie about the wall-crawler than producing one about the X-Men. Still, it seems there was still some interest in the project from Cameron and Lightstorm, if Gary Goldman's 1991 script is anything to go by.

According to Claremont, however (via The Wrap), following the meeting with Lightstorm, Kathryn Bigelow went off and wrote her own treatment for "X-Men" but that was evidently "eaten alive by all the idiots who have a piece of Spider-Man." So, that was the end of that. Cameron invested his energy in a "Spider-Man" movie that never came to be, and Bryan Singer eventually brought the mutants to the big screen in 2000.

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