Originally conceived as "Spider-Man 4," a direct sequel to the original film trilogy, Sony Pictures had actually begun pre-production before opting to make this film as a reboot instead. Sony re-negotiated contracts with director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst (each receiving a reported $30 million) for a three picture deal with the intention of starting a new trilogy in the series. Scripts were commissioned from writers James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, David Koepp and Gary Ross, with each writer earning upwards of $1 million or more for their services. The story would have introduced the Vulture as a new villain: Raimi initially approached Ben Kingsley for the role before casting John Malkovich. Malkovitch was actually slated to play Norman Osborne in the original film series, but had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts. In addition to the Vulture, the film would also introduce the villainess Felicia Hardy, with Anne Hathaway set to play the character. In the initial story, Hardy would become her comic book alter-ego Black Cat, though later script rewrites recreated Hardy as an original character called Vulturess (after her departure, Hathaway would take on a similar role in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)). Raimi also expressed interest in having Dylan Baker return as Dr. Curt Connors, who would transform into the villain The Lizard, though Executive Producer Avi Arad vetoed this idea. With development costs skyrocketing in excess of $100 million, Raimi unhappy with repeated versions of the script, and tensions rising between Raimi, Maguire and the studio, Sony opted (in January 2010) to cancel the film and reboot the series instead. Raimi, for his part, has said it was for the best, as the director had been unhappy with Spider-Man 3 (2007) citing studio interference, and "hated" the storyline concocted for the proposed fourth film.
Before filming, Rhys Ifans researched his role by meeting several real handicapped people (who have missing limbs). He also spent one month performing his daily activities using only his left hand - it includes tying a tie. There script has small snippet written where Connors ties a tie but it was not filmed as it was too time consuming.
On selecting Andrew Garfield to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man, director Marc Webb said, "Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor's work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker."
To prepare for his role as Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield studied the movements of spiders and tried to incorporate them as much as he could: "Parker is a boy/spider in terms of how he moves, and not just in the suit."
In this film Spider-Man uses artificial devices to shoot webs, inspired from the original comics where he possessed similar devices for his webbing (only later would he gain the superhuman ability to shoot webs). Marc Webb explained the web-shooters were a creative decision to showcase Peter's intellect: "We wanted to emphasize that these are things that Peter Parker made and that he is special himself even if he feels like he's an outsider."
After Denis Leary was cast, his friend Jeff Garlin, a Spider-Man fan, said "I knew you would get the part." To which Leary replied "Why? Because I'm such a great actor?" Garlin then said, "no, because you look just like Captain Stacy."
It was a creative decision by the filmmakers to have most of the stunts performed practically on rigs by actors/stuntmen, rather than extensively use CGI animation. Marc Webb explained they wanted to make the film more physical and thus more realistic. While filming in New York the crew built a whole rig hundreds of feet long over Riverside Drive in Harlem, and Andy Armstrong built a car rig with a series of wires to help with VFX which required an incredible wealth of acrobatics
During one scene in Peter's bedroom, a photo of actor/comedian Donald Glover, is visible. In 2010, when the movie was first announced and initial casting for the role of Spider-Man was underway, Glover used Twitter to somewhat jokingly campaign for an audition.
This is the first "Spider-Man" film to not feature Spider-Man's perennial love interest Mary-Jane Watson (in Sam Raimi's three films played by Kirsten Dunst). Instead, Peter Parker's original girlfriend Gwen Stacy appears (who had been played by Bryce Dallas Howard in Spider-Man 3 (2007)).
All four Spider-Man films have filmed on the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot. Ironically symbolic of the series itself, portions of the back lot burned down on June 1, 2008, meaning that first three used the old back lot while this reboot uses the new back lot.
According to costume designer Kym Barrett, the Spider-Man costume was specially designed to resemble an acrobat costume: "We wanted a design that would make the body longer and more lithe, someone incredibly agile; the legs of the spider-symbol on the chest were used to emphasize that."
The pop culturally misquoted line by Ben Parker "With great power comes great responsibility", prominent in the Sam Raimi movies, is not once uttered in this film. The voice-mail left by Ben alludes to this, but never directly quotes it. This is actually more in keeping with Amazing Fantasy #15, the first telling of the story, where it was merely a text box that said "With great power, there must also come great responsibility" in Amazing Fantasy #15. Marvel Comics' universe has been frequently revised and rebooted, giving us the more famous version of the line.
The first film to use RED's Epic series digital cameras. Originally, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) was going to be the first feature to use it but a delay at the start of the production instead gave this film the distinction. However, when shooting began in December 2010, the camera model was still in its prototype stages so an engineer from RED had to be on standby throughout the shoot for immediate technical assistance and support.
Originally there was suppose to be two other villains with The Lizard in the film Proto-Goblin, and Big Wheel (both old comic book villains). But they were both cut (Big Wheel was just an idea before being cut) because the movie would have been too long, there would have been too many origins, and there would have been too many fight scenes. Irrfan Khan plays Dr. Rajit Ratha, the character who would have been the Proto-Goblin.
The film noticeably borrows a few story elements from the first seven issues of the Ultimate Spider-Man series. A few examples are that not only was Spider-Man's mutation connected to OsCorp like in the comics, but also Spider-Man battled the villain in his school after the villain discovered his secret identity.
This film marks the first time Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) becomes The Lizard on film. Although Curt Connors appeared in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007), played by Dylan Baker, the character never became the Lizard despite some strong hints, and was set to become the Lizard in some script treatments which were never green lighted.
There are several aspects of this film's interpretation of Spider-Man that resemble the comic book Spiderman much closer than the Sam Rami films' Spider-Man. Obviously, his abilities differ from the first series regarding web slinging. The concept of Parker building devices for shooting webs was the original concept in the comic books. Spider-Man also does much more taunting and smack-talk with his opponents than in previous films. In the Marvel Universe while Deadpool is known as the "Merc with the Mouth", to Spiderman's villains he held the same reputation. Most of Spider-Man's villains shared the same hatred of his talking so much junk.
the Carjacker from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002) series appears as Dr. Ratha's driver Alfred. Papajohn is the only actor to appear in both live-action versions of Spider-Man's origin.
In this film Captain George Stacy is strongly opposed to Spider-Man's activities, (although he does admit that he was wrong at the end), and Gwen Stacy is both aware and supportive of Peter Parker's role as Spider-Man. This is in stark contrast to the mainstream comics, where George Stacy was a strong supporter of Spider-Man, and confessed on his death bed that he was aware of Peter's identity, while Gwen Stacy blamed Spider-Man for her father's death, and as such Peter never informed her of his identity (After comic book continuity was rebooted, Gwen did eventually learn and accept Spider-Man's secret identity in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" series).
The Daily Bugle newspaper office (and all associated characters) do not appear in this film, a first for the Spider-Man feature film franchise. However, there is a shot of the newspaper's front page offering a reward for proof of the Lizard's existence following his rampage on the bridge. The Daily Bugle logo can also be seen later in the film in the bottom corner of a newscast featuring the Lizard.
Marc Webb describes the theme of the movie as "the missing piece within all of us: Peter has no parents, and he fills that void with Spider-Man. Curt is not as strong as Spider-Man on the inside, but he wants to get back his arm and fill that void, and essentially he becomes a big bully."