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The Untold Truth Of J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson

Some actors are so connected to their roles it would be almost unthinkable to recast them. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. And, of course, J.K. Simmons as Spider-Man's longtime nemesis J. Jonah Jameson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Bugle.

Appearing first as Peter Parker's loud-mouthed boss in "Spider-Man" (2002), Simmons' rendition of Jameson has gone on to torture the webslinger with his editorials in multiple films, animated series, video games, and online series. Most recently, he's jumped cinematic universes, appearing as the owner of the MCU's controversial online news outlet TheDailyBugle.net, where he continues spreading his anti-Spider-Man propaganda via livestreams and other internet venues.

Over time, Simmons' many depictions of Jameson have added to the original comic book character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, creating a pop culture icon able to badmouth Spider-Man from seemingly everywhere in the multiverse. The depiction by Simmons has also done wonders in taking a fast-talking, "His Girl Friday"-like newspaper character who once felt so mid-20th century and reinventing him for an internet age of news "personalities" and perceived fake news. Here are some of the most amazing truths about J.K. Simmons fan-beloved efforts as J. Jonah Jameson.

Simmons intentionally played J. Jonah Jameson as a classic comic book character

Superhero movies often deviate from their source material — altering costumes, ethnicities, genders, and personalities of key characters to fit the film's story. When it came time to develop his J. Jonah Jameson character, however, Simmons made the conscious choice to remain as close to the character's comic book roots as possible.

"After seeing the script... he felt to me like the character that needs to, almost more than anybody else in the movie, just jump off the pages of the comic books and... have that 1950s, 1960s kind of vibe, even though we were updating the story," he shares in an interview on the "Happy, Sad, Confused podcast."

Fortunately, director Sam Raimi — who had previously worked with Simmons on the films "For the Love of the Game" (1999) and "The Gift" (2000) — "was completely onboard" with Simmons' take and worked to make the character look and act just like the cigar-chomping, loudmouthed editor-in-chief fans have been enjoying since 1963. Faithful recreations of classic characters don't always translate well from the page to the screen, but in Simmons' case, it's hard to see him playing Jameson any other way.

Simmons learned he got the part of J. Jonah Jameson from a random Spider-Man fan

Today, J.K. Simmons is an Academy Award-winning actor, a celebrated voice artist, and the face of countless Farmers Insurance commercials. But back in the early 2000s, Simmons was still a largely unknown character actor who regularly auditioned for small roles on TV shows, ads, and movies.

It was during one of those auditions that Simmons learned he'd been cast in "Spider-Man" — not from his agent, but from a random fan who'd read the news on a website.

"I'm walking, following the person through the cubicles," he recalls on the "10 Questions with Kyle Brandt" podcast. "This desk chair comes flying out in front of me, backwards, with some kid, who was probably 28, and he goes, 'Oh my God, J.K., congratulations!' And I go, 'Thank you! For what?' And he goes, 'Are you kidding me? Spider-Man! J. Jonah Jameson! That's so cool!' And I was like, 'I did not know that!'"

Simmons' agent finally called him — 3 hours later — with the "official" announcement, only to learn his client had already received the news. Social media doesn't always deliver the most accurate news, but in this case, it provided the inside scoop on one of Simmons' most iconic roles.

Simmons' Jameson has spent time in prison

J.K. Simmons made a name for himself as white supremacist Vernon Schillinger on the HBO series "Oz." But did you know his version of J. Jonah Jameson also spent some time behind bars?

In the novelization of "Spider-Man" (written by longtime Spider-Man comic book writer Peter David), readers learned that Sony's J. Jonah Jameson sees himself as a dedicated newsman who adheres to a fundamental rule followed by reporters: protect your source. According to the novel, Jameson went to jail two separate times rather than give up the people who provided him with key information.

It's this principle that leads to Jameson's finest moment. In Raimi's first "Spider-Man" film, a key scene has Green Goblin throttling the hapless publisher, demanding to know who has been taking Spider-Man's picture. Jameson stubbornly insists he doesn't know, giving Peter Parker enough time to make a costume change. It's an unexpected moment of bravery (and allyship to Spidey) from a man who, up until now, has been a greedy, opportunistic blowhard, Such unexpected depth has helped make Simmons' Jameson endearing.

Jameson hangs out with Norman Osborn

Oddly enough, while Jameson is threatened by the Green Goblin in "Spider-Man," in the novelization of the movie by Peter David, it's further revealed that the Daily Bugle's editor-in-chief and head of Oscorp are actually colleagues who belong to the same club.

In an early scene that never appears in the movie, Jameson bumps into Osborn and the two have an ironic conversation about modern day heroes. While Osborn argues nobody would want to be a hero today since media outlets like Jameson's will inevitably find dirt on them and tear them down, Jameson claims a real hero doesn't care what anyone thinks.

In the end, Jameson concludes, "The closest we come to heroes these days is some schmuck with bad timing who falls into it by accident!" prompting Osborn to comment that Jameson has "defined 'hero' for the ages." As this basically describes Peter Parker's origin story, both Osborn and Jameson accurately predict how Spider-Man will emerge — and how the media will treat him.

Jameson profits off of Spider-Man's villains

Despite his animosity toward Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson has been profiting off the web slinger since the early 1960s, at least in the comic books. Thanks to all the Spider-Man photos Peter has been taking of himself and selling to the Daily Bugle, Jameson's newspaper is the go-to place for Spider-Man stories, which boost circulation even as Jameson's editorials tear the wall-crawler down.

In the Raimi movies, Jameson's exploitation of superhumans goes beyond just Spidey to include his villains. In "Spider-Man," Jameson concocts the name "Green Goblin" to describe Norman Osborn's alter ego and then has the name copyrighted, insisting, "I want a quarter every time somebody says it!"

A few years later, after hearing "a guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs," he gets his staff to pitch some potential names, briefly considers "Doctor Strange" (until realizing it's "taken"), and finally decides on "Doctor Octopus" (aka "Doc Ock"). Considering Jameson's greed, it's likely he copyrighted this name as well — and possibly went on to come up with the theatrical names "Sandman" and "Venom" when those two showed up in "Spider-Man 3" (2007).

Jameson met the Raimi-Verse's Prince Namor, the Submariner

The Raimi-Verse may not have the plethora of superheroes and villains the MCU has (we know the Avengers aren't a thing where Tobey Maguire's Spidey hails from), but some early content hints this universe has a few classic Marvel heroes — even if they don't know who they are yet.

One of these superheroes is Prince Namor, the Submariner, an aquatic mutant hero from Atlantis who first appeared in "Marvel Comics #1" (and is largely considered to be the first Marvel superhero) way back in 1939. An ally of Captain America during World War II, Namor later lost his memory and wandered around America as a homeless man until the 1960s, when Stan Lee decided to revive the character in "Fantastic Four" #4 as an anti-hero. In the MCU, Namor is rumored to be making his first big screen appearance in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," scheduled to hit theaters November 11, 2022.

Sadly, in the Raimi-Verse, Namor is still amnesic — at least if you believe the novelization of "Spider-Man 2" by Peter David. Shortly after Peter Parker quits being Spider-Man and throws away his costume, a garbage man (played by actor/writer Brent Briscoe in the film) finds the suit and takes it to the Daily Bugle. Excited, Jameson agrees to buy it — but in typical JJJ fashion, he tries to lowball the guy by paying him only a hundred dollars and a bar of soap.

In the novelization, David adds an extra scene where Jameson's secretary Betty Brant secretly pads the man's check as he tells her he was once royalty but no longer remembers his kingdom. Betty suggests the man may have ruled Atlantis, prompting a thoughtful look from the man. No word yet on if Namor recovered his memory, but maybe Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man has already enjoyed a team-up with this Submariner.

Jameson secretly wants to be Spider-Man

Fans of Spider-Man comic books will know that way back in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #10, J. Jonah Jameson privately admitted the reason he writes so many anti-Spider-Man editorials is that he's secretly jealous of the wall crawler's nobility and wants to tear him down. However, in a deleted scene from "Spider-Man 2" (2004), Jameson's twisted obsession with Spidey reached new heights of absurdity when the audience learned that JJJ actually wants to be Spider-Man.

Shortly after getting his hands on Spider-Man's discarded costume, Jameson locks himself in his office ... so he can put on the suit, jump on his desk, and pretend to shoot webs from his hands. Unknown to the cosplaying publisher, his antics are secretly observed by secretary Betty Brant (Elizabeth Banks), editor Robbie Robertson (Bill Nunn), and office toady Hoffman (Ted Raimi), who can't believe what they're seeing.

Although the scene was removed in the theatrical version, it was re-inserted for the director's cut, giving new meaning to Jameson's later line, "He stole my suit!"

Simmons had the funniest wardrobe malfunction while filming Spider-Man 2

Simmons' physical transformation into J. Jonah Jameson is nothing short of astounding. While the newspaper publisher retains Simmons' distinctive facial features, the flat-top wig and scruffy mustache he wears makes him look like he stepped right out of a comic book.

But there's one other makeup appliance you may have missed — Jameson's false teeth. According to a 2014 Yahoo! Entertainment article, Simmons donned a set of white chompers to mimic the comic book Jameson's distinctive grimace. And they worked great — until the pivotal scene in "Spider-Man 2" when Spidey takes back his costume from Jameson's office, leading the irate publisher to declare, "He's a thief!"

The problem was, every time Simmons shouted "thief!" his false teeth would go flying right out of his mouth. After four takes full of flying dentures, Simmons decided to change the wording and call Spider-Man a "crook" instead of a thief. Oddly enough, the scene in the final cut actually does show Jameson shouting "thief!"— although the camera cuts away before he can complete the word. Most likely, it's some ADR wizardry at work.

Simmons fought to keep Jameson's mustache and cigar for Spider-Man: No Way Home

Fans of the Disney+ show "Loki" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" (2022) know that variants of certain Marvel characters can look very different from their mainstream counterparts (with Loki discovering that he's an alligator, a woman, and an old man in other universes). However, if you ask J.K. Simmons, certain things need to remain constant about J. Jonah Jameson, regardless of what world he hails from.

Shortly after being cast in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" (2021) to portray the MCU version of Jameson, Simmons was told this new Jameson would not have his signature flat-top haircut... or mustache and cigar. This prompted Jameson to request that the MCU retain some aspects of Jameson's classic appearance.

"Obviously the most important thing is that he's still the same blowhard and he does have the same damn mustache, close to it, and cigar at least," Simmons shared on the Happy, Sad, Confused podcast.

The negotiations proved successful, and Jameson continues to sport his famous mustache in the movie — even donning a hat in some scenes to cover his now-bald head so he more closely resembles his Raimi-Verse counterpart.

J. Jonah Jameson got his own MCU series

Jameson has become such a beloved character that some of Simmons' friends suggested he star in his own "J. Jonah Jameson" movie. While Simmons feels Jameson works better when used sparingly as comic relief, his MCU counterpart did receive his own online series that ran for two "seasons."

Airing as a set of short YouTube videos on TheDailyBugle.net, the videos helped promote both "Spider-Man: Far From Home" (2019) and "Spider-Man: No Way Home" by showing Jameson presenting his usual bombastic, biased tirades against the "Spider-Menace" (while requesting viewers "like and subscribe").

Jameson also popped up in a set of promotional TikTok videos featuring the MCU's Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), who began working at TheDailyBugle.net as an "unpaid intern" and offers her own take on the movie's events ... at least, until Jameson orders her to blame everything on Spider-Man. Who knew the Daily Bugle would be such a natural fit in modern social media?

J.K. Simmons plays Jameson in 16 different alternate universes (and counting)

Many moviegoers rejoiced when they saw Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson appear in the post-credits scene to "Spider-Man: Far From Home" (2019), marking the first time Simmons had played Jameson in live action since "Spider-Man 3" (2007).

However, fans of Marvel's animated shows and video games know that Simmons never really went anywhere — ensuring that wherever you go, Jameson would still look and sound like J.K. Simmons.

Simmons voiced Jameson in the 2005 "Spider-Man 2" PSP video game and 2007 "Spider-Man 3" video game. He popped up in "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" animated series' episode "Along Came a Spider..." He even portrayed a LEGO version of JJJ in "LEGO Marvel Superheroes: Maximum Overload."

Between 2013-2015, Simmons showed up in the animated series "Avengers Assemble," "Ultimate Spider-Man," and "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." to portray this shared universe's version of Jameson. Certain storylines had the characters journey to alternate universes where Simmons voiced multiple Jameson variants, including a robot J. Jonah Jameson 2099, a female J. Joanna Jameson, J. Jonah Jameson Noir, a medieval J. Jonas James' Son, J. Jonah Jackal, Vampire Jameson, the dinosaur J. Jonah Jameasaurus, and J. Jonah Jameson: Agent of HYDRA.

Even with shows that aren't set in the Marvel Universe, Simmons has kept answering the call to reprise his role. In "The Simpsons" Season 18 episode "Moe'N'a Lisa," we learn Jameson is the editor of a poetry journal in the Simpsons-Verse (but still demands photos and poems of Spider-Man). Then, in the "Robot Chicken" Season 9 episode "Gimme That Chocolate Milk," Simmons' Jameson shows up at a press conference alongside April O'Neil. While April wants the city to hire the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jameson only wants the city to ... arrest Spider-Man. Well, no one can say the guy isn't committed, no matter where you find him.