Well, despite studio denials that this was anything more than the usual holiday hiatus, now comes news (from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood blog, followed later in the day by Variety) that it is indeed true.
Finke posts what she says is an e-mail that was sent out to the visual-effects crew on Dec. 11:
We were just notified that our schedule is pushing. We will NOT be starting as planned. I'm terribly sorry for this news, and I hope this email reaches you in time to find other options. We do not know how long we are pushing, and we will not know until mid-January. By mid-January, we will be told how long the push is, whether it be 2 weeks, 2 months, or something else. The studio has every intention of making the movie, but we no longer have a confirmed start date.
Again, I'm terribly sorry, but Sam Raimi has story issues [that] need to be resolved before we are ready to shoot.
Feel free to call me if you have any questions.
Director Sam Raimi and Sony are reportedly at odds over the film's story, particular the choice of villains.
Here's what Finke said:
Now Raimi and Sony are anxiously waiting for still another version from screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who wrote Spidey 2 & 3 and is married to Spidey franchise producer Laura Ziskind. "It is unlikely that May 11, 2011, date will be made," a Sony insider just told me today. "It depends on how quickly the script can get in." However, agents have told clients in the movie to already expect the film to be pushed back.
Raimi supposedly wants John Malkovich to play the villain, the Vulture, but Finke adds that "it's now unlikely Anne Hathaway will be cast" as another female villain.