Norman Osborn (Sam Raimi film series)
|Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and|
Marvel Cinematic Universe character
|First appearance||Spider-Man (2002)|
|Last appearance||Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)|
|Adapted by||David Koepp|
|Portrayed by||Willem Dafoe|
|Occupation||Head of Oscorp|
|Children||Harry Osborn (son)|
Norman Virgil Osborn is a fictional character portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Sam Raimi's trilogy of Spider-Man films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). He is adapted from the comic book character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who is also known by his alter-ego, the Green Goblin.
Norman is introduced in the first Spider-Man (2002) film as the CEO of science company Oscorp, and the father of Harry Osborn. Norman has a strained relationship with his son and often neglects him in favor of Harry's best friend, Peter Parker, because he views himself as the only father figure in the boy's life after his Uncle Ben is killed. When Oscorp faces financial difficulties and Norman is pressured to secure a government contract to save it from bankruptcy, he tests an unstable performance-enhancement serum on himself, developing enhanced physical abilities and a split personality. This new persona, later dubbed the "Green Goblin" by the Daily Bugle, occasionally takes over Norman's body to exact revenge on their enemies, using advanced military equipment stolen from Oscorp. He later comes into conflict with Spider-Man after failing to recruit him to his side, and eventually discovers that the masked superhero is Peter, but accidentally kills himself while fighting him.
Norman's Green Goblin persona appears posthumously in the sequels Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007) as a hallucination enticing Harry, who assumes Spider-Man killed his father, to take revenge on the hero. Dafoe reprised the role in the Marvel Studios film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), in which Norman, right before what would have been his death, is transported into the MCU along with four other villains, and clashes with that universe's Spider-Man and his allies.
Dafoe's performance as the Green Goblin was universally acclaimed by critics and audiences, and the character is considered to be one of the most iconic villains in superhero films.
Design, casting and execution
During development of what would eventually become Spider-Man (2002), David Koepp's rewrites of James Cameron's original script had the Green Goblin as the main antagonist and added Doctor Octopus as the secondary antagonist. Incoming director Sam Raimi felt the Green Goblin and the surrogate father-son theme between Norman Osborn and Peter Parker, influenced by the Ultimate Marvel version of the character, would be more interesting, thus, he dropped Doctor Octopus from the film. In June 2000, Columbia Pictures hired Scott Rosenberg to rewrite Koepp's material. Willem Dafoe was cast for the role of Norman Osborn in November 2000. Nicolas Cage (who would later voice Spider-Man Noir in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Jason Isaacs, John Malkovich, and Jim Carrey turned down the role. Dafoe insisted on wearing the uncomfortable costume as he felt that a stuntman would not convey the character's necessary body language. The 580-piece suit took half an hour to put on.
Dafoe later called his role as the Green Goblin one of his favorites throughout his career, having enjoyed playing the unhinged character particularly due to his dual personalities, and balancing between a dramatic and comedic performance. In particular, he enjoyed the mirror scene in which Norman Osborn discovers and converses with the Green Goblin persona after murdering the Oscorp board of directors. Sam Raimi had given Dafoe a copy of Jekyll and Hyde to prepare for the scene, which was filmed in one take multiple times before Raimi decided to split it; to further differentiate the personas, Dafoe wore dental prosthetics providing the character straight teeth when portraying Norman, only exposing his natural crooked teeth when portraying the Goblin.
To prevent his involvement in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) from leaking and preserve the film's secrecy, Dafoe was required to walk around the set with a cloak covering his costume. Peter Parker / Spider-Man actor Tom Holland first met Dafoe when he accidentally bumped into Dafoe before filming, reacting surprised upon seeing who the cloaked actor was, Holland then-unaware of Dafoe's casting in the film.
Before settling on the look used in the film, the original headgear created for the Green Goblin was an animatronic mask created by Amalgamated Dynamics. The design was much more faithful to the comics than the finished product, and allowed for a full range of emotions to be expressed by the wearer. Ultimately, the mask was scrapped before an actor was chosen to play the Green Goblin, and a static, military-grade helmet was produced for the film instead, due to the animatronic concept being deemed "too creepy" by studio executives and due to technical difficulties and constraints.
Characterization and themes
This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2021)
As portrayed in the Sam Raimi film series, Norman Osborn is a workaholic scientist/businessman, who has a complicated relationship with his son Harry. A career-focused man who prioritizes science, business, and success above all else and despite genuinely caring for his son, he has a distant relationship with him and is quite disappointed in Harry, who is meant to be Norman's heir, but lacks his father's ambition, intellect, strength and will to succeed and control.
The Green Goblin is Norman Osborn's second personality, born because of exposure to the experimental performance-enhancing gas. The Green Goblin may perhaps be the unrestrained manifestation of Norman Osborn's ambition for power, desire to succeed, and hatred for anyone who may be a hindrance to his control, such as greedy contractors and board members, and his destined enemy, the superhero Spider-Man. He is a violent, sadistic and unhinged psychopath and an over-ambitious maniac who believes that his power gives him endless potential and places him above normal people. He even attempts to invite Spider-Man to join him, believing that as another powerful being, they both could accomplish many things together. He refuses to give any value to human life and kills whoever stands in his way without hesitation. Although his mental stability has been badly damaged, the Green Goblin is extremely intelligent and clever, making him even more dangerous.
In the comics, Norman Osborn is either depicted as having dual personalities (in original/classic depictions of the Spider-Man mythos) or utilizing the Goblin persona as a mask for his villainous deeds and being truly evil (as in later depictions), depending on the writer. The films went with the former route, making the Goblin personality separate from Norman's normal personality.
Writing in 2020, James Whitbrook of Gizmodo contrasts Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker / Spider-Man with Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn / Green Goblin and James Franco's Harry Osborn in the way they choose to exercise their power in the film series, as he notes that the leading men in the series appear to hold some form of power. While Peter learns to tame his abilities and accept the responsibility that comes with it, Norman gives into fear of losing his prestigious position at his company, choosing to pursue an alternate power in the form of inadvertently becoming the Green Goblin. As a result, he attacks his former colleagues and the people he cares about, namely Harry and Peter, while descending further into madness and insanity.
Fictional character biography
Norman Osborn is the founder of Oscorp Industries, doubling as CEO. He is the father of Harry Osborn, who he has somewhat of a strained relationship with. During a school field trip, Osborn is introduced to Harry's best friend Peter Parker, whose intelligence impresses Osborn.[a]
Becoming the Green Goblin
Later that day, Osborn hears his colleague Dr. Mendel Stromm reveal to military officials overseeing the super-soldier project that some of the test subjects have gone insane, he is threatened with a tight deadline, deciding to experiment on himself. The process develops an alternate, crazed personality of Osborn, who kills Stromm. Osborn, under the influence of his new "Goblin" persona, kills the military officials and Quest Aerospace scientists present at the super-soldier test. Although Quest's prototype is destroyed, the company decides to expand and assumes control of Oscorp on the condition that Osborn steps down as CEO. During a festival in Times Square, the Goblin kills the Oscorp board of directors, meeting Spider-Man in the process. The Goblin leads his next attack at the Daily Bugle editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson, who dubbed Osborn's split-personality as the Green Goblin, for who takes pictures of Spider-Man. Spider-Man shows up behind the Goblin, so the Goblin offers him a partnership and belittles his choice to become a hero, warning that, eventually, the city will turn against him. The Goblin baits Spider-Man to a burning apartment, asking if he accepted his offer, to which the latter refuses to work with him.
After Thanksgiving dinner with Parker, his aunt May, Harry and his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, Osborn deduces that Spider-Man is the dual identity of Parker[b] and despite begging the Goblin not to hurt him, attacks and hospitalizes May and later kidnaps Watson. The Goblin makes Spider-Man choose whether to save Watson or a Roosevelt Island Tramway car full of children, but Parker saves both. The Goblin brutally beats Spider-Man but Parker brutally counterattacks him, thinking to fool him by unmasking himself as Osborn. Osborn states that Parker was like a son to him, while the Goblin attempts to impale Parker with the glider but the latter dodges and instead, the glider fatally stabs Osborn, telling Parker not to tell Harry about his deeds done as the Goblin.
In the original timeline, Harry mourns the loss of his father at his funeral, and vows vengeance on Spider-Man after witnessing the vigilante bring Osborn's body dead, while Parker rejects Watson.[a] Octavius also attends his funeral.[N 1] Following his death, Osborn's identity as the Green Goblin and death was widely reported on, causing Harry to live in denial over his father's true identity for two years.[N 1]
It was only after Harry discovers Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker that he is haunted by a hallucination of Osborn demanding to be avenged, with Harry discovering a hidden lair containing Green Goblin’s arsenal and became the "New Goblin" a year later in his father’s memory. Osborn's presence later appears after Harry recovers his memories after his first encounter with Parker, reminding Harry to avenge him and to go after Parker's heart. However, Harry eventually finds out the truth about his father's death and gives up his vendetta against Parker, helping him in a battle against Marko and Eddie Brock / Venom and giving his own life to save his friend.
Entering an alternate reality
In an alternate reality, Dr. Stephen Strange casts a spell to make the world forget about Peter Parker's identity as Spider-Man, but the spell succeeds only in bringing to this reality those from other universes who know Spider-Man is Parker, including Osborn from moments before his death. The Goblin encounters the alternate Parker (nicknamed "Peter-One") and Octavius at the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, but they are teleported to the Sanctum Sanctorum before he can attack. Afterwards, Osborn abandons and breaks the Goblin mask, being retrieved by F.E.A.S.T. and treated by the alternate May Parker. Osborn works with Peter-One to cure the other multiversal visitors including Octavius, Flint Marko, Curt Connors, and Max Dillon. However, the Goblin retakes control of Osborn's mind, betraying Peter-One and battling him through Happy Hogan's apartment. The Goblin summons his glider and throws a pumpkin bomb, causing the apartment to explode. The Goblin fatally strikes May with his glider, before escaping.
After Connors, Marko, and Dillon are cured with help from Octavius, the Goblin attacks and destroys the contained spell from Strange, causing the barriers between universes to break. While Strange attempts to seal the barriers, an enraged Peter-One nearly kills the Goblin but is stopped by an older version of Parker from Osborn's universe (nicknamed "Peter-Two"), whom the Goblin stabs. Peter-One and another version of Parker (nicknamed "Peter-Three") inject the Goblin with a cure Parker developed, restoring him to a remorseful Norman Osborn. Afterwards, Strange casts a spell to make the world forget Peter-One's existence, causing everyone to return to the respective universe and point in time from which they came.
In other media
This version of Norman Osborn is mentioned in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, a CGI-animated television series which serves as a loose alternate continuation of the first Spider-Man film. As in the films, Harry holds a grudge against Spider-Man for his father's death and is not aware of Norman's criminal activities as the Green Goblin.
- Norman Osborn/Green Goblin appears in the video game adaptation of the 2002 film, with Willem Dafoe reprising his role in a vocal capacity, making him and Tobey Maguire the only two actors from the film to do so.
- This version of Norman Osborn appears in his Green Goblin persona in the 2007 game Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, voiced by Roger L. Jackson. In this alternative timeline where all the villains from the Spider-Man films survived their original deaths, the Goblin is present during their attempt to kill Spider-Man in the game's opening cutscene. Harry is also present and assists Spider-Man as the New Goblin. After the villains are defeated, the group is attacked by a swarm of P.H.A.N.T.O.M.s, and the villains, including the Goblin, are suddenly teleported elsewhere while Spider-Man is rescued by S.H.I.E.L.D. The Goblin is then brainwashed by the villainous mastermind behind the P.H.A.N.T.O.M.s and sent to Tokyo to retrieve one of the meteor shards used to create the P.H.A.N.T.O.M.s. There, the player fights him on top of the city's Oscorp tower, and Spider-Man destroys his mind-controlling amulet, restoring his free will. Afterward, the Goblin, seeking revenge on whoever brainwashed him, reluctantly joins forces with Spider-Man and becomes a playable character for the remainder of the game.
Reception and legacy
Willem Dafoe's role in the first Spider-Man film was widely well-received, including a New York Daily News reviewer who felt he put "the scare in archvillain" and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian who deemed him "strong support". However, the Green Goblin costume used in the first film was met with a mixed response, with IGN's Richard George to comment years later: "We're not saying the comic book costume is exactly thrilling, but the Goblin armor (the helmet in particular) from Spider-Man is almost comically bad... Not only is it not frightening, it prohibits expression."
Despite some criticism of the costume, Dafoe's rendition of the Green Goblin is now acclaimed as one of the greatest superhero film villains. Vulture ranked the Green Goblin 19th on the top 25 superhero film villains in 2018, while Collider ranked him the 5th greatest Spider-Man film villain in 2020. Steven Scaife of Vice wrote that "Dafoe's Goblin represents everything that’s fun about superhero villains, as well as everything that’s great about Raimi's campy films." He also commended Dafoe's voice and body language, which helped overcome the bulky Green Goblin costume that he compared to that of a Power Rangers villain. Looking back at the Sam Raimi trilogy, Tom Holland, who portrays Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in addition to his co-star Jacob Batalon, praised Dafoe's performance in the trilogy, calling the Green Goblin a "landmark villain". The two actors praised Dafoe's ability to "bring a difficult character to life" and particularly the mirror scene where he portrays both Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin persona. During the film promotion for Spider-Man: No Way Home, Jamie Foxx who plays Electro in the film and is Dafoe's co-star called Green Goblin the most terrifying Spider-Man villain and praised Dafoe's performance. 
A shot of the Green Goblin chasing down Spider-Man became a popular Internet meme in 2020. Osborn's line "I'm something of a scientist myself", which became a meme in the years preceding the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, was reprised during the film.
|2003||Spider-Man||MTV Movie Awards||Best Villain||Nominated|||
|Best Fight (with Tobey Maguire)||Nominated|||
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The plot description and characterization were adapted from Spider-Man (film), Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3 at Spider-Man films Wiki and Norman Osborn (Earth-96283) at Marvel Movies Wiki, which are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA 3.0) license.