Although Spider-Man made his film debut in 2002, there had been efforts to bring Marvel Comics’ web-slinger to the big screen prior to director Sam Raimi coming aboard. In addition to James Cameron developing his own take on Spidey in the early 1990s, David Fincher of Fight Club and The Social Network fame had his own chance to tackle the character. As it turns out though, calling Spider-Man’s origin story “dumb” ended up costing him this directing job.
Fincher is back on the filmmaking scene with The Killer, the Michael Fassbender-led movie that Netflix subscribers will be able to stream following its limited theatrical release. While discussing the movie in an interview with The Guardian, Fincher revealed that he pitched a Spider-Man movie idea that would have skipped over Peter Parker’s origin and begun with the superhero as an adult, as the director didn’t care for the “bitten by a radioactive spider” aspect. He continued:
They weren’t fucking interested. And I get it. They were like: ‘Why would you want to eviscerate the origin story?’ And I was like: ‘Cos it’s dumb?’ That origin story means a lot of things to a lot of people, but I looked at it and I was like: ‘A red and blue spider?’ There’s a lot of things I can do in my life and that’s just not one of them.
So Fincher was perfectly fine telling the story of a man who has the proportional strength of a spider, can crawl on walls and has a special sense alerting him to danger, but showing Peter being bitten by the radioactive/genetically-altered spider was going too far for him. To be clear, not actually showing Spider-Man’s origin story on film isn’t strange, as this was done for Tom Holland’s Spidey in the MCU. However, at least the source of Peter’s powers remained the same, so it’s unclear if Fincher’s Spider-Man movie would have simply not been addressed the spider or if he would have changed the reason for why Peter became a superhero. Who knows, maybe Peter’s set of abilities also would have changed.
Whatever the case, the studio heads were not keen on David Fincher deviating this far from the source material, so they decided he wasn’t the person to helm a Spider-Man movie. Although it’s unclear when specifically Fincher pitched his idea, it’s reasonable to assume it was sometime in the mid-late 1990s, after he’d made Alien 3, Seven and The Game, and perhaps even following his work on Fight Club given that Sam Raimi didn’t board the project until the beginning of 2000. Raimi’s Spider-Man movie ultimately began filming in January 2001, came out on May 3, 2002, and quickly became a critical and commercial hit, spawning two direct sequels and kicking off a continuing line of Spider-Man movies.
Fincher still hasn’t made his superhero movie debut, and considering how critical he’s been of the genre, one shouldn’t get their hopes up of him lending his talents to Marvel or DC. That said, The Killer is based off the same-named French graphic novel by Alexis "Matz" Nolent, so he has at least dipped into the comics pool. You can see how The Killer turned out on Netflix starting November 10, and the next Spider-Man move up is the animated Beyond the Spider-Verse, which is currently undated after previously being set for March 29, 2024.