6:40 PM PT

[Editor's note: Sony Pictures announced Marc Webb would helm the three new "Spider-Man" pictures this afternoon, confirming rumors going around Hollywood the last week. The official press lease is as follows:

CULVER CITY, Calif., January , 2010 – Marc Webb, the director of the Golden Globe nominated Best Picture (500) Days of Summer,  will direct the next chapter in the Spider-Man franchise, set to hit theaters summer 2012, it was jointly announced today by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Written by James Vanderbilt, Webb will work closely with producers Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin in developing the project, which will begin production later this year.

Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, said, “At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world. The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker’s life. We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter’s shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man’s adventure. We believe Marc Webb is the perfect choice to bring us on that journey.”

Arad and Ziskin added jointly, “Over the years, the Spider-Man comics have been told with bold and creative new writers and artists who have re-calibrated the way audiences see Peter Parker. Marc Webb will do for the new direction of the films what so many visionary storytellers have done with the comic books. He is an incredibly talented filmmaker and we look forward to working closely with him on this new adventure.”

Webb said, “This is a dream come true and I couldn't be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi's virtuoso rendering of  Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon.  The first three films are beloved for good reason.  But I think the Spider-Man mythology transcends not only generations but directors as well.  I am signing on not to ‘take over’ from Sam.  That would be impossible.  Not to mention arrogant.  I'm here because there's an opportunity for ideas, stories, and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas, and creative voice to Spider-Man.”

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, added, “I’m excited that Sony has chosen a director with a real penchant and understanding for the character.  This is a brave, bold direction for the franchise, and I can’t wait to see what Marc comes up with next.”

Added Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, “The idea of re-imagining the on-screen story for one of the world’s most iconic superheros is sure to deliver an exciting new dimension to Spider-Man fans everywhere.  There are volumes of comics and material available to inspire fresh and compelling takes on Peter Parker and his journey as Spidey and we look forward to seeing this come alive onscreen.”

Marc Webb has won acclaim with his film debut (500) Days of Summer. He has several MTV VMAs™ including 2009's Best Director award for Green Day's "21 Guns," 2006 Best Rock Video for AFI’s “Miss Murder,” and Best Group Video for The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along.” The Music Video Production Association honored him in 2006 as the Director of the Year for his work with Weezer, AAR, and My Chemical Romance. 

In addition to two Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (musical or comedy), his first feature film, (500) Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, has been nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature.  Webb was also awarded the Spotlight Award, which honors outstanding directorial debuts, by the National Board of Review.

More updates on this story from HitFix and Drew as warranted.]

4:00 PM PT

Well, that was quick.

There was a virtual parade of filmmakers through the Sony offices last week, but it looks like one of the first rumored names is the one that stuck, and The Vulture broke the news just now that Marc Webb has signed on to direct not one, but a trilogy of new "Spider-Man" films.

I'm not buying any of the casting rumors out there.  Every one of the candidates I've heard rumored are just plain too old, like today's rumor at IESB that Jim Sturgess was offered the part.  First, they're still trying to get that stage musical version off the ground with Sturgess starring this fall, and there's no way he's doing both at the same time, but beyond that, I know Amy Pascal has a wicked crush on Sturgess and wants to make him a movie star, but the whole point of this "Spider-Man" reboot is to take him back to high school, and that's what you have to keep in mind with the casting.

Webb's an interesting choice, and he brings a strong skill set to the film.  He's got a breezy pop style as a filmmaker, and he's good with actors.  One of the things that I've heard as I've talked to people this week about the Jamie Vanderbilt scripts for "Spider-Man 5" and "Spider-Man 6" is that he was very true to the notion that Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson both present credible romantic interests, and Parker isn't tied down to one person from the very start. 

I've heard that the approach they're taking to this new "Spider-Man" film is very similar to what Josh Schwartz did with his drafts of "X-Men: First Class," playing to the idea that high school is the moment where you become the person you're going to be for the rest of your life, and that the emotional turmoil that seems so important to you in those moments is all-consuming.  Schwartz and Vanderbilt are evidently close friends, and there was definitely conversation about how they were approaching these two franchise reboots.

Keep in mind that until there's an official announcement, Webb's spot as director is a rumor, but based on these reports and what I've been hearing, it sounds like Sony found the guy with the most appropriate possible last name to bring "Spider-Man" back to theaters in 2012.

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