It's a tired cliche at this point to bemoan the obsession that film studios have on aping Marvel/Disney multi-media shared universe that's proven so successful, but what most casual audiences might not know is that this kind of inter-series crossover might've happened as far back as 2002.
In 2001, as Sam Raimi's Spider-Man was entering the swing of production, Marvel had already seen critical and financial success in one of its properties being adapted to the big screen, with the release of Bryan Singer's X-Men in July of the previous year.
The film (which would spawn a still-ongoing slew of sequels, prequels, and spinoffs) was one of Marvel's first attempts at a big-budget, studio-backed superhero adaptation, alongside the release of Blade in 1998. Previously, Marvel had been relegated largely to low-budget fare like the Dolph Ludngren-led Punisher film from 1989, the 1990 Captain America film from the director of Cyborg and starring an inexplicably-Italian Red Skull, and the infamously never-released 1994 Fantastic Four adaptation produced solely as a means for the studio to hold onto the rights.
The success of X-Men helped ensure
Spider-Man's greenlighting, which had spent years in development hell with names like James Cameron and actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger coming and going without progress. It was during principal photography in New York that future-MCU-shepherd Kevin Feige, then just a lower-level producer at Marvel, suggested that then-breakout star of X-Men Hugh Jackman appear in-costume for a cameo.
As Jackman described in a 2013 interview with HuffPo:
"We really tried to get me to come on and do something, whether it was a gag or just to walk through the shot or something."
And it very nearly happened. Jackman continues...
"So, you know, I actually asked some high level people about it. Because the optimist in me goes, 'Why not? Why can’t we do it? You know, a split cast or whatever?' And someone reminded that the amount of money Fox paid compared to the amount of money Disney paid is very different [laughs]."
Jackman even flew out to New York City to shoot his cameo, but ultimately, this crossover fell through at the last moment when Jackman's costume couldn't be sourced. As he tells it:
"We couldn’t find the suit. The suit was stuck in something. And so when they were in New York when I was there, we couldn’t get it together."
Though some might cry foul, this isn't entirely unfathomable. After all, the X-Men films were shot primarily in Canada, whilst Spider-Man was on-location in New York. Furthermore, X-Men was produced by 20th Century Fox (now just 20th Century Studios), whereas Spider-Man was by Columbia Pictures.
Besides the legal ramifications, who knows if audiences would've accepted the idea of an inter-series crossover in 2002. Remember, this was six whole years before Nick Fury first appeared in the post-credits sequence of Iron Man with talk of an "Avengers Initiative". Even if the cameo had been filmed and made it to the released version, who knows if it would've led to anything meaningful down the road. Even in 2020, Sony Pictures and Disney are in a constant tug-of-war over the status of Spider-Man characters in their properties. If inter-studio crossovers are unlikely in 2020, than they're even less likely in 2002.
Still, this wasn't the only time a crossover happened in a Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie. Rather infamously, Thomas Jane's stunt double from The Punisher (2004) appears uncredited in the background of Spider-Man 2 in a familiar-looking jacket. In the end, this episode will have to be filed under the folder of "what could've been".