Speculations mount on who will be the next Spider-Man

The decade-long wait for a big-screen Spider-Man has sent fans crawling up walls. But Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan) is finally locked to direct the first film in Columbia’s big-budget Spider-Man franchise, with shooting to begin in December for a fall 2001 release. The big question now: Who will fill the superhero’s leotard? The Web has spun countless casting rumors, citing everyone from Batman sidekick Chris O’Donnell to Raimi’s Army of Darkness star, Bruce Campbell. Not likely, says a highly placed studio source.

Instead, the source tells EW, Leonardo DiCaprio, Freddie Prinze Jr. (Down to You), and Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley) have all expressed interest and are all contenders. Responds DiCaprio rep Ken Sunshine, ”He’s obviously approached all the time about great-sounding ideas, but he’s gotta see the script.” Prinze’s publicists couldn’t be reached for comment. As for Law, his rep says: ”There have been some overtures about it. Jude has been a Spider-Man fanatic since he was a kid.”

He’s not the only one: Raimi’s devotion to the Marvel man may have helped him land the gig over Fight Club director David Fincher. Raimi ”had everything we were looking for,” says Columbia head Amy Pascal. ”He was incredibly stylish, he had tons of heart, and he’s a total Spider-Man geek.” ”Geek” may be the operative word in casting, since the screenplay by David Koepp (Jurassic Park) is faithful to the original comic, which portrays Spidey alter ego Peter Parker as a shy high school student. ”Peter Parker as I had conceived him was an average young man,” says Stan Lee, who created Spider-Man and will exec-produce the film. ”He wasn’t Tom Cruise.” Guess that shortens the casting call.

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