Was There Nearly a Love Triangle Between Spider-Man, Mary Jane and DOCTOR OCTOPUS in Spider-Man 2?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was nearly a love triangle between Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and DOCTOR OCTOPUS in Spider-Man 2.

When it comes to major motion pictures, there are often a surprising amount of screenwriters involved in the writing of each film. There are complicated and often draconian systems in place to see who actually gets credited for the final film. Movies can have a dozen screenwriters but only have one or two actually credited when the film is released. As you might imagine, then, that leads to drastically different stories for films based on who was writing the story. In one draft of Empire Strikes Back, Luke had a whole other sister! In one draft of the Green Lantern film, Superman was going to get a chance at a Green Lantern ring! In one draft of Batman Returns, the villainous Max Schreck was the Penguin’s long-lost brother!

This system of drafts led to an interesting period when Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 was going to be part of a love triangle between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson!


After David Koepp wrote the screenplay for the first Spider-Man film, Sony hired Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to write a script for the sequel (work began on the sequel as soon as the first film was complete, as everyone was pretty confident that the film was going to be a hit). Gough and Millar’s script involved Doctor Octopus, the Lizard and the Black Cat as the villains. Once the film was released and was a massive hit, Koepp was brought back to work with Gough and Millar on their script in May 2002.

In the fall of 2002, celebrated novelist Michael Chabon, winner of the 2001 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction victory for his novel about two comic book creators, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, was brought in to rework the film’s story. Chabon’s take on the story streamlined everything and made Doctor Octopus the primary villain.

One of the changes in Chabon’s script is that Peter does not stop being roommates with Harry Osborn until midway through the film, as Harry’s Spider-Man obsession just gets worse and worse and worse.

The most notable change, though, by far, is Chabon’s take on Doctor Octopus. He has Otto Octavius be much younger, roughly the same age as Peter and Mary Jane. His Octavius is obsessed with Mary Jane, and she’s actually interested in him, as well. They go to an Ethiopian restaurant, as he tells her, “I like to eat with my hands.” He makes sure to also tell her that he’s “a little freaky.” Octavius doesn’t find himself merged with the arms until later in the film. Instead, he sort of gets off on the “endorphin push” he gets from wearing them. He ends up wearing them on a date with Mary Jane, which freaks her out. Even more so when he uses them to beat up some guys who are bothering them.

Octavius worked on the super-spiders that gave Peter his powers in the first film, and thus is able to develop a chip that can cancel out the spider-powers. Peter, who decides he wants to be “Spider-Man No More,” injects himself with the chip. Thus, this is Chabon’s actual explanation for why Spider-Man loses his powers in Spider-Man 2, rather than the film’s explanation of…well…no explanation, really. Similarly, he regains his powers when he removes the chip (in a rather gross little scene), rather than the film’s explanation of how his powers return of…well…no explanation, really. Octavius needs the chip himself to save his own life (as the arms are slowly killing him, so he needs to cancel out the effect with the inhibitor chip).

Much of the rest of the finished film is there, including the big energy ball ending, the famous train fight scene and Harry discovering Norman’s secret stash of Goblin gear.

Director Sam Raimi, working with screenwriter Alvin Sargent, sorted through the various drafts and then cobbled together his own take on the film. He kept much of Chabon’s ideas, but drastically rewrote Doctor Octopus, making him older and more of a mentor figure to Peter Parker.

In the end, Gough, Millar and Chabon were credited for the film.

The legend is….

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of films. Click here for more legends specifically about superhero films.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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