Even Spiderman has to audition sometimes.
Tobey Maguire's first big-time movie role was a sour disappointment. After failing to land the lead in Empire Records, he was given a small role. Not good for a young actor, who says of those days, "I was having a rough time communicating with people. I was a little self-destructive." He quit the movie during production and shut himself off from the audition circuit for months. Who would have guessed the things in store for him?
Born in 1975 in Santa Monica to a cook and a secretary, who would divorce before he was two years old, Maguire spent his formative years shuttling up and down the west coast between Washington and his native California, between his young mother and father--just 18 and 20 when he was born, respectively.
You may not remember his first gigs--a line on Roseanne here, a line on Blossom there, Dead Kid on an episode of Jake and the Fat Man, just to name a few. He tried out for The Wonder Years "about 10 times" before securing the titular role in a series of his own: Great Scott!Indeed!
Though the show was canceled after 9 weeks, it wasn't a bad start at all. Tobey bounced back from cancellation and then the disaster of his Empire Records role to star as Kate Capshaw's son in a short film called Duke of Groove. The film was nominated for an Oscar, raising Tobey's profile, as well as his pull in Hollywood. He took advantage of his new-found stature to star in 1996's Joyride, a stellar if underrated film about a seedy motel, a mysterious killer, and a big black convertible.
1997 also brought us Maguire's performance as a shoe salesman in Deconstructing Harry, directed by Woody Allen and leading to his breakout supporting performance in The Ice Storm, his first time working with director Ang Lee.
As the saying goes, starring roles come to supporting actors who wait. And Tobey's first lead came in 1998 in the black-and-white-and-some-color film Pleasantville, co-starring Reese Witherspoon as polar-opposite siblings transported via Don Knotts into a saccharine 1950s television show. They struggle to escape TV and end up teaching the citizens about art and pleasure and the joys of self-gratification.
How many actors can say they've co-starred with Jewel? Not many, but Tobey Maguire is one of them. His 1999 appearance with the hit-making dentistry-shunning poet-folkster in Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, though bold and ingratiating, was overshadowed by his nuclear-bomb of a role in another small film that year called The Cider House Rules.
That film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won for Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Though Tobey didn't walk out of the night with any golden statues, there was a truth in the air, and that was this:A star was born!
And that star next appeared in 2000's Wonderboys, as a troubled young student of troubled old college professor Michael Douglas, and the love interest of Robert Downey, Jr.
Not a bad way to kick off the new millennium. Though it would prove to be small bananas compared to the next outing from this once wanna-be Fred Savage.
Because has Fred Savage ever shot webs from his hands? Or climbed walls? Or kissed Kirsten Dunst? No. No, he hasn't.
Spiderman arrived in 2002 and proceeded to shatter milestone after milestone, putting Tobey and his new chiseled physique in the upper pantheon of the Hollywood elite. The film would gross $800 million worldwide and bring him to Australia, Germany, and England on a whirlwind media ride.
To cool down from the scald of the limelight, Tobey next starred in a small film--though any film would be considered small compared to Spiderman: 2003's Seabiscuit, the story of a half-blind ex-prizefighter (Maguire), a millionaire, and the undersized horse that they love.
A mere taste of Tobey to whet our appetites for the main course, the upcoming Spiderman 2! The sequel teams him up once again with writer Michael Chabon, the pen behind Wonderboys and the Spiderman 2 screenplay.
Big things are in store for this small (only 5'8") high school drop-out. And you can bet they include more than kissing Kirsten Dunst.