Though his greatest contributions to pop culture will always be the characters and worlds he co-created as a writer and editor at Marvel Comics, over the last two decades of his life Stan Lee -- who passed away Monday at the age of 95 -- became known to his widest audience ever thanks to movie cameos. Now, in his remembrance of Lee, one of the earliest Marvel movie directors has revealed that he initially didn't want to Stan The Man to show up in his movie at all.
Sam Raimi, who directed the first trilogy of Spider-Man films starring Tobey Maguire, originally met Lee in the early 1990s, after his own superhero film Darkman impressed the Marvel Comics legend. Together they developed and pitched a Thor film, which was rejected by Fox, and then reconnected years later when Raimi was hired in 1999 to direct what would become Spider-Man. Raimi was a lifelong comic book fafn and True Believer in Lee's Marvel Universe, but when then-head of Marvel Avi Arad insisted that Lee make a cameo appearance in his film, Raimi was reluctant.
"And [Marvel head] Avi Arad said, 'I want you to put Stan in the movie.' And I was like, 'No. I know Stan, and he can't act,'" Raimi recalled in a piece remembering Lee for The Hollywood Reporter. "And Avi was, 'I want him in the movie. We did it for X-Men, we're doing it here.' Now imagine you're a minor director in England doing Macbeth and you're told, 'Put the writer in the play.' It sounds absurd. 'Fine, you want Shakespeare in the play, I'll put Shakespeare in the play.' Now it's one of my favorite parts in the movie."
Though he had a slightly larger role in scenes that were later deleted, Lee's Spider-Man cameo is actually quite small and wordless. He plays a man who simply pulls a young girl away from falling debris as the Green Goblin is attacking. Lee's cameos would ultimately get much flashier and more conspicious as his film career went forward, but in the early 2000s seeing Stan in a movie was not yet the phenomenon it would become. Still, the Stan cameos might not have caught on quite as well if Raimi hadn't caved and made room for him in Spider-Man.
"Stan’s creations have the power of his humanity. And that power is geometrically increasing over time," Raimi wrote. "His legacy will not fade. People say that about a lot of people, but in his case it’s true."