Tobey Maguire As Peter Parker (A.K.A. Spider-Man)
By playing Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire has taken the comic book hero and made the character his own for the big screen.
Six years ago Maguire accepted the role of Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man for director Sam Raimi. Two blockbusters later and the pending release of the third film in the highly acclaimed series, Maguire reflects on the character that changed his life.
"I have changed and I guess we all have," says Maguire. "We've gone through all kinds of things together over the six years. As you know people more, and develop friendships, hopefully the work gets better too."
Director Raimi, the production crew, Maguire's co-stars, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and the infectious enthusiasm of new players, like Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace, all comprise the core creative team, which gives Maguire further inspiration to embark on a mammoth project like Spider-Man 3, which has dominated the last 18 months of his life.
"Getting together with all of the people that I've worked with before is terrific, said Maguire. "We're a little family and the camaraderie is great. There's a shorthand between us."
"Creatively I think we work well together. I've had more room to contribute as Sam has gained trust in me and given me more of a voice in each successive movie."
"We try to make a unique film with its own story, its own journey, with a tone and theme fitting under the umbrella of the Spider-Man franchise."
When we last saw Peter Parker, at the end of Spider-Man 2, life was good. He had defeated the villainous Doctor Octopus and had won the love of the girl he adores, Mary Jane Watson (played by Dunst) and what's more, she knew and accepted that Parker was Spider-Man.
The one cloud on the horizon is his troubled relationship with his long time friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco) who also knows Parker's secret identity and believes Spider-Man killed his father, Norman Osborn a.k.a. The Green Goblin, played so memorably by Willem Dafoe in the first movie.
"But everything else is perfect," says Maguire. "He's got the girl, he's handling school, work, Aunt May, everything. Even his super hero duties and public relations are good. People adore him. But eventually that starts to go to his head."
"He develops an arrogance and he starts to get a little too cocky and gets himself into a little bit of trouble. Then he learns something about Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) and he starts to feel anger and the desire for revenge."
Flint Marko is a small time hoodlum who has the power to transform himself into Sandman, a terrifying force of nature which can morph into various forms with awe inspiring powers of destruction - making him a formidable foe for Spider-Man. Spider-Man learns that Marko killed his beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and is set on vengeance.
If that wasn't enough, there's also Eddie Brock - played by Topher Grace - a rival photographer to Peter Parker. Brock, an ambitious go getter determined to succeed at any cost, is in pursuit of attention grabbing pictures of Spider-Man.
When a strange entity from another world, a symbiot, attaches itself to Peter it enhances his super-powers but also threatens to destroy his moral compass - he becomes a darker, more ruthless, selfish Spider-Man. When Spider-Man realizes that the symbiot is turning him into an evil version of himself, he struggles to break free from it. The creature eventually attaches itself to Eddie Brock who willingly embraces the invader and becomes one of Spider-Man's most feared opponents, Venom.
Meanwhile, the romance that Peter hoped would lead to marriage with Mary Jane, hits the rocks in spectacular fashion when, virtually out of the blue, she rejects Peter for the love of another - Harry Osborn. For Maguire, all of these elements add up to a crackling story.
"Well, first of all I think this film is a little funnier," says Maguire. "But it's also darker and we're dealing with issues of vengeance and pride and ego. Peter makes certain choices and there are consequences."
"His life is complicated and there are themes of forgiveness in the film as well as the responsibility and of growing up. But tonally from my standpoint it's funnier and darker and as an actor those are the things that I get to play with. And black symbiot Peter, or Black Spidey, was kind of fun because I got to explore the bad side of Peter."
"Losing Mary Jane is about as bad as it gets for him. He loves her and for her to tell him that she wants somebody else is a terrible blow."
"Working with new the players like Thomas Haden Church was a thrill," says Maguire. "The new guys, Tom, and Topher (Grace) and Bryce (Dallas Howard) did a fantastic job."
Church repays the compliment. "Tobey has made this role his own," he says. "He is Peter Parker."
The two men first met back in 2002 - of all places, on the basketball court. Maguire is a big Los Angeles Lakers fan and loves playing the game, too. "We both played (basketball) in an entertainment league that was sponsored by the NBA," recalls Church. "And I reminded him of our first encounter when I had to guard him and I had to block one of his shots. And he goes 'yeah, but I think I scored on you.' And he did! After I blocked one of his shots he actually hit a couple of three point shots on me which were a little painful because we lost!"
"We didn't have a hoop on the Spider-Man set but Tobey has a game that he organizes on the weekends. I was often invited and if I didn't show up I was berated on Mondays for not being there!" quipped Church.
Maguire believes that Sam Raimi has pushed the super hero genre into territory once never imagined. "Relationships, characters, story and emotional impact are all given as much weight in the film as the stunning action sequences," he says.
"Those are the things that you look for as an actor," he explains. "And that's why I first signed on for these movies because Sam was taking that approach right from the start. That's why I was interested. A few years back, it wasn't a genre that I was particularly interested in. But talented filmmakers like Sam, are making these kinds of movies now and therefore the movies have got better."
Each Spider-Man movie has achieved that rare feat of winning both critical praise and box office busting commercial success. Indeed, each has outdone the last and legions of avid fans out there are waiting for the next cinematic instalment.
For Maguire, this is not a factor. "I try to think about it from the point of view that we need to get it right to satisfy ourselves creatively and I know that this needs to be an entertaining film."
"It needs great action and I know that you have to be engaged with the characters and be moved by their stories and their journeys, all the while being entertained and having a good pace to the movie."
Making Spider-Man 3 was an 18-month long endeavour which required a huge physical commitment from the actors - not least of which was Maguire, who, wherever possible, performs his own action sequences as Spider-Man swings through the New York skyline or battles high up above Manhattan.
Filmed using wires and harnesses, the Spider-Man films have pushed the boundaries when it comes to blending stunt and action work with state of the art CGI. Spider-Man 3 will be no exception and features some extraordinary jaw dropping sequences. Those spectacular shots can take months to put together, as Maguire knows all too well.
"I'm more used to the training, but it is harder now. As I get older, I'm just hitting the gym constantly," says Maguire. "But I am trying to not go to such extremes. Before I'd prepare like a boxer trains for a fight. You know, an intensive period beforehand and then after the film, stop. I'm trying to find more balance where it's not so intense."
Topher Grace (Venom), who did action sequences for the first time on Spider-Man 3, was impressed by Maguire's commitment. "He's in that suit and up there doing those action sequences far more than anyone else and he's incredible at them. I've got nothing but admiration for the way that Tobey handles this role - and I say that as someone who has been a fan of Spider-Man since I was a kid."
Maguire, 31, was born in Santa Monica, California, and first discovered a love of acting in his mid teens. A good student, he had become disenchanted and disconnected with academic life after attending several different schools over a short period of time.
"I really was a good student, I loved school and had a good attitude but I really moved around a ton. I would make friendships and then never see or speak to those people again. I would just get adjusted academically, socially and then constantly move, move, move," he recalls.
"I was living in Palm Springs and midway through the seventh grade when I got yanked out of school. It just didn't sit with me well anymore and I didn't really have any direction. I totally withdrew from school, I gave up after that, which is sort of out of character for me, I don't give up. But I just withdrew. I wasn't going to do it anymore."
Maguire's mother suggested that he try acting classes, hoping that it would fire his imagination and rekindle his interest in school.
"It seemed like something I could just do on my own. I got into it. I started making friends and then, when I was 16, I made it my own. That's when I became really interested and I was reading acting books, watching movies from the seventies. And it just went on from there."
In the early 1990s, Maguire gained valuable experience appearing on numerous television shows and by 1997, gave a memorable portrayal of a lonely suburban teenager in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. From there, his career took off.
He played opposite Reese Witherspoon in the surreal comedy Pleasantville; a young man desperate to leave the orphanage where he has been raised in The Cider House Rules and a rebel southern fighter in the civil war epic The Devil Rides Out.
He joined an all star ensemble cast which included Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr in Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys and in between the first Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, played jockey Red Pollard in the depression era drama Seabiscuit. Most recently, in Steven Soderbergh's The Good German, he played a GI working the black market in post WWII Berlin opposite Cate Blanchett and George Clooney.
Recently, Maguire became a father. His fiancée, Jennifer Meyer, gave birth to their first child, Ruby, in November last year. He is, of course, the doting dad.
"You know, people say it's beyond your comprehension and it's true, the feelings are overwhelming and unlike anything I've ever experienced before," he says with a smile. "It's pretty amazing."
Fatherhood has coincided with the end of the Spider-Man trilogy and he has now entered a different phase in his life. "Having a family, of course, changes you. And it does feel different. But different in a good way."
"'I'm getting a little older and hopefully over the next five years I'll be able to transition into more adult type of roles. I know that I look pretty young, so we'll see what's out there. I'm looking forward to it."
The end of the trilogy does not mean the end of Spider-Man and Maguire's involvement with the series of films, which are ranked amongst the most popular of recent history. He could well be back for a fourth time.
"I think we've certainly wrapped up some storylines for the three pictures and you know, it wraps up nicely," he says. "Sony is having a script written and if there's a good movie that deserves to be made then I would be interested in doing it with the right team."
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