Nowadays, Sam Raimi’Spider-Man is revered as one of the great superhero movies, and perhaps the single most important film of this century in terms of changing the way Hollywood looked at comic books. Before Spider-Man, comics were seen as kids stuff, and if you were going to make a movie out of one, you were expected to do whatever you could to minimize or even hide the comic book elements. That’s why Fox’s X-Men wore Matrix-esque black leather instead of blue and yellow tights. After Spider-Man, comic-book movies were allowed to embrace and celebrate their source material.

But just because it all worked out well, doesn’t mean the road to getting Spider-Man to the screen was simple or easy. Variety has a new oral history of the film in honor of its 20 year anniversary, and includes a lot of detail about Spider-Man’s long development. Raimi, for example, was a very surprising choice to direct the film in the first place. A beloved cult figure thanks to the Evil Dead franchise, Raimi had never really had a major blockbuster hit to that point in his career. In the article, Raimi explains that he was told by his agent “there’s about 18 directors they’d rather have than you on a list.“ To which Raimi, a lifelong Spider-Man fan, responded, “Okay, well, tell them I’m number 19.”

Some of the other contenders for the job included David Fincher and Tim Burton — who supposedly told Sony executive Amy Pascal “I guess I’m just a DC guy” as a very odd sales pitch — but when Raimi came in, his passion for the material blew everyone away. Pascal told Variety “He came in and said it’s a soap opera about a boy who loves a girl, and that’s what I want to focus on. John Calley and I just looked at each other and said, ‘Well, that’s the movie we want to make too.’”

Raimi got the job. And now, after more than 15 years away, his return to superhero movies, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is opening in theaters on Friday, May 6.

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