Sam Raimi Almost Made 'Thor' In 1991, Originally Didn't Want Stan Lee In 'Spider-Man'

Nowadays you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a comic book movie in theaters every few months. Hell, nowadays you can't swing a dead cat period. But at one time, comic book movies were not considered to be lucrative prospects at the box office, and plenty of opportunities to bring some of the biggest superheroes of the big screen today to theaters were turned down without hesitation.

In fact, long before he got a chance to bring Spider-Man to the big screen for the first time, director Sam Raimi was lined up to bring another Marvel Comics superhero to theaters instead: the god of thunder himself, Thor.

The Hollywood Reporter has a statement from Sam Raimi following the passing of Stan Lee, and the director revealed that the Marvel Comics legend reached out about working together all the way back in 1991. Raimi recalled:

"After I did Darkman, Stan Lee called me and was like, 'Hey, kid, I liked your movie.' He took me out to lunch and said we should work together. I said I'd like to make a movie about Thor. We worked together writing treatments and took it to Fox and pitched it. And they said, "Absolutely no. Comic books don't make good movies."

As we all know, Thor has gone on to be one of the signature superheroes on The Avengers, even if his solo franchise wasn't much to write home about until director Taika Waititi recently spiced things up with Thor: Ragnarok. But Thor has turned Chris Hemsworth into a Hollywood superstar. Even so, it's a shame we never got to see what Sam Raimi might have accomplished with Thor in the '90s.

It's insane to think there was a time when movie studios didn't see the box office potential for doing big budget superhero movies. But then again, even after the release of Superman: The Movie over a decade earlier and the popularity of Tim Burton's Batman, comic books were still seen as a niche medium, one with a small audience that wouldn't result in a big turnout at the box office.

Of course, once X-Men hit at the box office, all that changed, and by that time Sam Raimi was already working on another Marvel project for theaters, another character that Stan Lee co-created. But that wasn't enough for the director to want him in the movie.

Sam Raimi Didn't Want Stan Lee in Spider-Man

It's a signature trait of most movies based on Marvel Comics to feature a cameo from Stan Lee. It was something fans looked forward to all the time, but early on when comic book movies were on the rise, it wasn't something that was expected. And Sam Raimi initially didn't want it to happen at all in the first Spider-Man movie in 2001.

Raimi recalls being told by Marvel Entertainment chief creative officer Avi Arad that Stan Lee should appear in the movie. After Stan Lee appeared in X-Men, Arad wanted to start a trend. Raimi remembered:

"I got the job for Spider-Man in 1999. And [Marvel head] Avi Arad said, 'I want you to put Stan in the movie.' And I was like, 'No. I know Stan, and he can't act.' And Avi was, 'I want him in the movie. We did it for X-Men, we're doing it here.' Now imagine you're a minor director in England doing Macbeth and you're told, 'Put the writer in the play.' It sounds absurd. 'Fine, you want Shakespeare in the play, I'll put Shakespeare in the play.' Now it's one of my favorite parts in the movie."

That cameo in the first Spider-Man is actually one of the more subtle appearances by the Marvel Comics legend. Now we can't think about having a Marvel movie without a Stan Lee cameo where he says some funny line. Sure, he's not the best actor, but that was actually part of his charm in those quick appearances. And since Raimi ended up loving the cameo, Stan Lee went on to appear in both Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3, and the rest is history.