Aside from 1998’s “Blade” and 2000’s “X-Men,” which both had great audience reception in their own right, it wasn’t until director Sam Raimi’s 2002 movie “Spider-Man” starring Tobey Maguire that one can argue cinema’s superhero era truly began. Made on a $139 million dollar budget, “Spider-Man” grossed over $821 million dollars worldwide. Not to mention, the movie was well-received by critics, especially considering this was a time when superhero movies weren’t as big a pop culture fixture as they are today.
By now, fans have seen many of the highest-grossing films of all time, some of which feature the comic book characters they know and love dazzlingly brought to life — like Maguire’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This wouldn’t have been possible without the late Stan Lee. As many comics and superhero movie fans know, Lee is the creator of many Marvel characters, including nearly all of the Avengers, villains like Doctor Doom and Loki, and of course, Spider-Man (via TIME).
Lee was involved in the process of creating the first big “Spider-Man” movie in 2002, including filming a cameo and being one of the first folks to see early footage of the film, to which he had a hilarious reaction.
Lee wasn’t exactly impressed with the early Spider-Man visual effects
This week, Variety published an oral history of 2002’s “Spider-Man” to mark the movie’s upcoming 20th anniversary. The incredible profile featured first-hand accounts of production from much of the team behind the Sam Raimi-directed feature, with many reflecting back on the amazing and stressful parts of bringing “Spider-Man” to the big screen.
Avi Arad, former Marvel Studios president and CEO, explained some of the greatest moments he had while working on the film — one of which specifically involved Stan Lee. Arad told Variety that, at one point in production, he showed Lee some “pre-viz” footage of Spider-Man soaring through New York City. Of course, Arad was referencing pre-visualization footage, which serves as a kind of digital storyboard that Raimi and the editors can use to complete their shots.
Arad explained that Stan Lee didn’t realize that this was the case or seem to understand the intricacies of the “pre-viz” stage, so he whispered in Arad’s ear, “That’s it?” Arad noted that he was so upset that Lee didn’t approve that he almost cried.
He continued to tell Stan Lee not to worry because no fan had ever seen anything like it, but Lee merely stated, “Yeah, but it doesn’t look cool.” Fortunately, for the “Spider-Man” cast and crew, Arad said that when Lee saw “Spider-Man” in theaters, completely finished, he was the one who had tears in his eyes.
Of course, Lee would go on to cameo and be part of nearly every adapted film of a character that he created until his passing in November 2018. His legacy certainly lives on, and many actors who have portrayed the characters that Lee created have noted how much they loved having him on set.