LOS ANGELES — As of this week, "Spider-Man 3" is the 11th-highest-grossing film worldwide of all time — and like its web-headed hero, it's still climbing. The fans have spoken, the critics have been silenced and there's plenty more Peter Parker to come.
But in his first post-"Spidey 3" interview, series director Sam Raimi went out of his way to leave the door open for someone else to take the reins.
"Sony Pictures is going to be making many more 'Spider-Man' pictures," Raimi told MTV News Friday night. "I just don't know what [my] future holds yet."
In Los Angeles to honor young filmmakers whose Spidey spoofs won a contest sponsored by Target, Raimi admitted that the collection of eager-eyed directors reminded him of "better-looking, smarter versions of myself." With several of the winners' speeches referencing Raimi's '80s career of low-budget flicks like "Crimewave" and the "Evil Dead" movies, it was hard not to appreciate that Raimi had ascended to the opposite end of the spectrum.
But from what he told us after the ceremony, it sounds like the filmmaker is setting the stage to bow out while he's on top. "If I can't find the right story that would work for me and that I could tell really well, I would like someone else to tell that story," he said of the already-announced "Spider-Man 4."
Amending his statement, he added, "But if it's a great story and Sony will bring me back to the screen, I would love to."
Indeed, it might be Sony that ultimately chooses to end the partnership, which could be a result of Raimi's still-standing pact with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst that either they all return or none of them does (see "Kirsten Dunst On Singing, Spidey's Future, 'Idol' — And Having Eight Kids?"). "It would be really hard for me to make a movie without Tobey and Kirsten playing the two leads," he said. "I would seriously think about James [Franco] too, but he bit the dust in this last one."
Ultimately, if Sony considers the price tag too high for another Raimi/Maguire/Dunst collaboration, then the negotiations would turn to keeping Raimi onboard as a producer only. "I would still hope that Sony would offer it to me [to direct] first," he said. "But that is not my place to say; it would be more about if Sony decided not to go with me. If not, it would be really up to them to come to a solution [for me to still be involved as a producer]."
Either way, if this tangled web does still involve the filmmaker, Raimi has been busy brainstorming about the villains he'd like to get into the next flick. "I would love to see Electro, Vulture, maybe the Sinister Six as a team," he said.
Those three possibilities wouldn't necessarily cancel each other out. Since both were founding members of the Six, the Soviet supervillain and high-flying supergenius could appear in the next flick, be teamed with a returning Doctor Octopus and Sandman and form a supergroup to also introduce Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter.
Whether that story line works out or not, Raimi hopes to finally reward Dylan Baker's patience with a villainous payoff similar to what Franco enjoyed in "3." "I love Dylan Baker as a person, and I really like the character he is developing," the filmmaker said of Dr. Curt Connors, Parker's one-armed, screen-time-challenged professor in the first three flicks.
"The Lizard is probably one of my favorite characters," he said of the baddie Connors eventually became in the comics. (He joined the Sinister Six when they became the Sinister Twelve, by the way.) "But ['Spider-Man 4'] will probably have to start with the central journey of the main character to arrive at the proper villain."
Regardless of the future, the present "Spider-Man" universe is still being overseen by the affable filmmaker. Appearing at the Friday event with series producers Avi Arad and Grant Curtis to kick off this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, Raimi handed the top prize to boisterous Minnesota filmmaker Justin Marshall, who won with a stop-motion action-figure short called "Rise of the Super Venom, Part 1."
"These filmmakers show a tremendous amount of promise," said Raimi, who judged the contest alongside his "Spidey" producers. "They have a lot of craftsmanship skills that are very developed for their early ages. They have a good sense of presentation, camera angle, oftentimes good pace, and they know how to put a soundtrack together. I thought it was very impressive."
After the awards were handed out, Raimi spent a very generous amount of time posing for photos, signing autographs and having individual conversations with Marshall and the runners-up. As the winners milked him for advice, Raimi spoke to every single person who approached (and he didn't even realize that a reporter was watching from a few feet away!).
"It's great having the Los Angeles Film Festival as a meeting ground where young filmmakers can meet other artists and share their ideas and other resources," Raimi said, moments after posing for his umpteenth picture. "I don't think there was ever anything like this, especially when I was in the early years of my career."
Check out everything we've got on "Spider-Man 3."
Visit Movies on MTV.com for more from Hollywood, including news, reviews, interviews and more. For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com. Want trailers? Visit the Trailer Park for the newest, scariest and funniest coming attractions anywhere.