THE VILLAGE star Bryce Dallas Howard is set to join the cast of SPIDER-MAN 3 as the woman who takes MARY JANE's place in Spider-man's heart.

The actress will play Gwen Stacy, one of Mary Jane Watson's best friends, and will be the third part of a love triangle.

Gwen becomes the girlfriend of Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, but hates his Spider-Man alter-ego because her police captain father was killed during a battle between Spidey and his arch-foe DOCTOR OCTOPUS.

Filming of the next installment of the Spider-Man saga starts this week (16JAN06).

Howard, who is movie mogul Ron Howard's daughter, joins returning stars Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and new villains THOMAS HAYDEN CHURCH and Topher Grace in the new film.