There were grand plans for the Spider-verse in 2014.
Along with Sony’s sequel tentpole The Amazing Spider-Man 2, producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad envisioned an expansive world beyond the proposed, core trilogy. On the lineup: Venom Carnage, from Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek); a female-driven Spider-spinoff written by Lisa Joy (Westworld); and perhaps the most alluring proposal to fans of the Marvel universe, The Sinister Six, a Suicide Squad-esque villain team-up movie to be helmed by Lost and Cabin in the Woods screenwriter Drew Goddard. The last movie felt like such a lock that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 even teased the rogues’ gallery with both a post-credit scene and a lineup photo call that could be unlocked by fans who Shazammed (!) Alicia Keys’ credit song, “It’s on Again.”
That timeline of movies exists in another corner of the multiverse. After modest box-office returns and internal changes at Sony, plans for Spider-Man shifted gears. A second Spidey reboot was brokered with Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios proper, folding the character into the Avengers lineup and paving the way for some . Tolmach and Arad went back to the drawing board on how to keep mining the characters, and make good on long-gestating Venom plans; the antihero’s self-titled movie arrived in theaters Friday.
Not part of the immediate equation was Goddard’s Sinister Six. And as more news comes out on what Tolmach, Arad and Sony have planned for Venom and the non-MCU Spider-Man universe — a Black Cat movie, produced by Gina Prince-Bythewood; Morbius, starring Jared Leto; a Kraven the Hunter solo picture from The Equalizer 2 screenwriter Richard Wenk; a Silk spinoff; and even a Nightwatch movie from Spike Lee — the much-buzzed-about script looks less and less like a possibility.
But as he told io9 in 2015, shortly after plans for the Amazing Spider-Man-led cinematic universe crumbled, Goddard says that even today it’s possible that his script could come to life. “I’ve learned, again, never say never,” he tells Polygon during press rounds for his latest writer-director effort, Bad Times at the El Royale. “No one will be happier than me if we were someday rolling cameras with that thing.”
Originally dated for a Nov. 11, 2016, release, Sinister Six, which Goddard calls his “love letter to Spider-Man and the Spider-Man universe,” skulked into the shadows after Sony switched gears. But as the public learned in the wake of the Sony hacks in late November 2014, the studio was still anxious about producing the script months after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit theaters. (Executives also considered roping in Sam Raimi and screenwriter David Koepp to produce a parallel trilogy set in the Silver Age, or adapting “epic storylines” like Death of Spider-Man or Doc Ock as Superior Spider-Man; every idea seemed to be in motion.) But the script was of great interest: In 2014, Sony officials were already wondering if Sinister Six would involve and impact Venom, and how they could carve sequels out of the concept.
Why it didn’t happen, and whether it still could, is just a fuzzy part of the business for a screenwriter. “When it comes to these types of decisions, they’re so far above my pay grade,” Goddard says. “These are billion-dollar franchise decisions, and they’re clearly doing great work with Spider-Man right now, but I also feel like I’m really proud of that script.”
Why Sinister Six could still make sense in this Venom-led cinematic universe is that Goddard never really wrote it as an extension of any one franchise idea. It’s a stand-alone movie, and the characters, while still a secret today, are all living their own lives.
”Part of the fun of the movie was discovering who was in the movie, but I’ll say this: It was very much a Spider-Man movie,” he says. “It was very much about why I love that character so much and what it means to be Spider-Man, and it was designed very much to be a stand-alone Spider-Man story.”
Being very aware of the business — company mergers, the general chaos of Hollywood and “all of the things that happened that I have no control over” — Goddard wrote Sinister Six to be a movie that could “plug in nicely” to any developing web of movies. “It’s all about timing,” he says of a potential relaunch of his script. “I’ve learned to be very Zen and patient about it.”
In the meantime, Goddard is putting the finishing touches on Bad Times at the El Royale — a movie full of villains, reveals and twists that’ll drop on Oct. 11 — then turning his attention to another comic property: X-Force. He’s writing and directing the Deadpool team-up movie for 20th Century Fox, and based on the character’s previous two box office outings, it should actually happen.
“I tend to focus very intensely on one time and we’re just sort of finishing up El Royale now,” Goddard says. “I think in the next couple of months we’ll get together and talk about what we want to do.”