Stan Lee has shuffled off this mortal coil, but his legacy lives on. Although he’s best known for Marvel Comics and the ever-expanding cinematic universe based on them, the superhero legend had his fair share of unrealized projects as well. Among them was “The Monster Maker,” a sci-fi screenplay he worked on with “Hiroshima Mon Amour” and “Last Year at Marienbad” auteur Alain Resnais. (Incidentally, the French luminary wanted to direct a Spider-Man movie that one imagines would have been fairly different from Sam Raimi’s.)
In a short documentary produced by the Criterion Collection about the thwarted collaboration, Lee reveals that he became “very, very close friends” with Resnais after receiving a letter from the filmmaker. Resnais even stayed in Lee’s guest house while visiting America. “He actually talked me into writing a screenplay about pollution, the evils of it,” Lee said. Doing so took three weeks, with “The Monster Maker” being fashioned in the style of a Roger Corman movie: inexpensive and pulpy.
“Resnais was really a pleasure to work with,” Lee said of their process. “He was always thinking of new story plots and how to fix them and make them better…Alain was so wrapped up in what he did, and he envisioned everything, every scene. It was thrilling being with him and discussing these things. Suddenly I was working with someone who made movies, and I was just a guy doing comic books, so it was thrilling for me.”
“The Monster Maker” was to be filmed on Rat Island, a small island in the East River, where all the pollution in New York would congeal and form a monster that the film’s hero would have to combat. The duo took it to a production company that wanted them to cut a third of the dialogue; Lee agreed, but Resnais refused, and so “The Monster Maker” was never made.
Watch the short Criterion documentary below.