One aspect of Spider-Man: No Way Home that was intentionally meta was the noted destruction of mask Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. Often critiqued as resembling a Power Rangers villain (aka low budget), the final design that Dafoe wore in the original Spider-Man film in 2002 has never been on that audiences warmed up to. It was for this reason that when Dafoe returned for No Way Home, he notably wore the mask only for his first scene before smashing it into pieces in a moment Osborn rejects his Goblin persona. However...it was almost much worse.
In a new interview with Dafoe, Variety got to discuss the original rubber mask design that was proposed for Goblin back in the 2002 film. While the design was comic book accurate, Dafoe comments why that design wasn't chosen:
The challenge was always to not make the Goblin ridiculous, make him a little scary. And I think, because technology was involved, they went with a very angular, very modern kind of look, more like an armor. Some of the early tests I saw, the Goblin looked more like a Halloween mask, this kind of puke green with bug eyes. It was kind of silly looking.
Back in October 2021, Instagram user @rhinoactual (Patrick Hearty), a collector of film props and costumes, revealed he had recently acquired the original prototype mask for the Green Goblin. He also revealed that the mask was developed by acclaimed special effects companies Stan Winston Studios and ADI (Amalgamated Dynamics) with the former going on to provide special effects for both Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). Hearty also mentions, and this might have contributed to the prototype being rejected, that the mask was developed prior to the casting of Dafoe. You can see Hearty's original post with the pictures of the mask below:
That mask in question, despite being only a prototype design, was so near-completed that it's actually still very well-preserved. And while the revelations of the prototype are nothing new, it's interesting to finally get Dafoe's thoughts on the original mask. Back in 2012, a video was released on YouTube that shows how the mask would have also utilized animatronics to move the muscles which would have hindered Dafoe's performance. Judging by the footage it's save to say fans dodged a bullet that would have been terrifying in a bad way:
The final design for Goblin was by no means perfect, but between Dafoe's wild, over-the-top performance and the more grounded setting that director Sam Raimi went for, perhaps it really was the better choice. I mean...it was either that or make Spider-Man's arch-nemesis look like Michael Myers. Stay tuned!