Sony is reportedly going forward with VENOM, a SPIDER-MAN spinoff based on a villain from the comics who appeared in last year's SPIDER-MAN 3, per THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Venom, played by Topher Grace in SPIDER-MAN 3, could be played by a new actor, because Venom is essentially a substance that attaches itself to a host that gives that host special powers. Sony is hoping to reenergize the aging franchise the way Fox has used Wolverine to add legs to the X-MEN oeuvre.
Additionally, with Heath Ledger's Joker drawing huge attention to THE DARK KNIGHT, Sony wants to center a new film on a villain.
The studio had commissioned a draft of the script from Jacob Estes, writer of MEAN CREEK from Paramount Classics and who is attached to Plan B drama THE GIFTED. But Sony is considering going in a different direction and is seeking writers for a new draft. They also have doubts Grace can carry a tentpole picture, and are eyeing new actors.
Neither Sony or Marvel comment to the REPORTER on the matter.
The rights to VENOM came about as part of a licensing deal between Marvel and Sony for the SPIDER-MAN movies, which allows for the use of spinoffs based on other Spider-Man characters.
Sony is developing a fourth SPIDER-MAN for 2011, nine years after the first debuted.