The Big Money Heist That Hit The Set Of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man

Ladies and Spider-Men, I have the perfect idea for the next movie starring the web-slinger. Picture this: someone pulls off a heist of Spider-Man suits in an international conspiracy to sell them to collectors, and it takes a thorough investigation to round them back up before too much chaos ensues. It's a way of circling back to the plot of "Spider-Man: Homecoming," wherein the villainous Vulture caused havoc in Peter Parker's life as he aimed to collect stolen high-tech gear. 

Also, for added spice, Batman is involved. 

I have to admit it — I didn't think up this plot all on my own. Instead, I was inspired by a real piece of "Spider-Man" movie history.  

Spider Heist

During production of Sam Raimi's first of three "Spider-Man" films, multiple Spidey costumes disappeared, and at the worst possible time: in the middle of production. You couldn't just go down to the local Joann's Fabrics to get the materials to make replacements for these suits. The fabric was more complicated, made with a detailed design that allowed for a more 3-D look, and were costly to produce. Each were estimated to be worth $50,000. 

Sony wanted those suits back, offering a $25,000 reward for their recovery. The film managed to continue production, thanks creative filming choices that shot around the suits while the costumes could be speedily replaced. The film debuted in 2002 as one of the biggest films of all time, and started the endless obsession over "Spider-Man" costume details for every movie that would come afterwards. 

Meanwhile, the search for the suits continued. It wasn't until 18 months after the theft was pulled off that answers were finally found, thanks to the most classic of mystery clues: a tip called in from an ex-wife of Jeffrey Gustafson, a security guard working for Sony and Warner Bros. at different times from 1996 to 2001. His ex-wife, for motives unknown, decided to point investigators in his direction. The search then expanded, taking them from New York, Texas, Los Angeles, and all the way to Japan. Eventually, four Spider-Man suits were recovered. Three were with collectors, and one was found in the home of Robert Hughes, who was deemed to be Gustafson's conspirator. 

In the cameo of all cameos, one of Val Kilmer's Batman suits for "Batman Forever," estimated to be worth $150,000, was also recovered in the investigation into the stolen costumes. It had been missing since 1996. 

Hey — Marvel and D.C., this is where you join forces in the ultimate franchise tentpole movie to end all tentpole movies. It writes itself!

Hollywood Thieves

In 2003, Gustafson and Hughes were sentenced. Gustafson plead no contest to the felony of receiving stolen property and received nine months in jail. Hughes was sentenced to a misdemeanor and received probation and community service. Gustafson was also ordered to pay a sizable restitution to one of the collectors he sold the suits to. Prosecutors were not able to prove that the theft of the Batman suit was linked directly linked to Gustafson, but no one ever came forward with other options. 

Theft of props isn't uncommon in Hollywood. Memorabilia sells well, both in legitimate and illegal ways. Pieces of Peter Parker's mentor's suit from the 2008 "Iron Man" film were also stolen in 2018, so the Spider-Boy is in good Marvel company. There are more terrifying prop heists, like when real guns were stolen from "Rambo: First Blood" by Canadian militiamen. A pair of Dorothy's ruby slippers seemingly walked away by means unknown from an exhibit in 2005. 

Sometimes, props just disappear into the great mysterious black holes that are storage units. But, the most common way props and costumes make their way off of sets seems to be by the actors themselves. From Daniel Radcliffe to Chadwick Boseman, some of the people playing movies' greatest heroes have found themselves with sticky fingers when it comes to sneaking away with iconic pieces from their films. 

Even Spider-Man himself is guilty of it. Or, perhaps more flagrantly proud. Tom Holland ("Spider-Man: No Way Home"admitted to taking several props from Marvel movies, including web shooters. 

This proves the old saying to be very true: with great access to Hollywood prop closets comes great temptation to snatch dope memorabilia.