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Director scores in selecting Maguire for Spider-Man part

Next big casting move for the film: the 2 supervillains

SHARE Director scores in selecting Maguire for Spider-Man part

Well, what do you know? The studios and filmmakers don't always make bad casting decisions after all.

Early this week, the news broke that director Sam Raimi had finally picked an actor to play the roles of Peter Parker and his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man in the upcoming adaptation of the beloved Marvel Comics book.

The lucky actor? "The Cider House Rules" and "Wonder Boys" star Tobey Maguire, who beat out TV actors Scott Speedman ("Felicity"), James Franco ("Freaks and Geeks") and relative unknowns Jay Rodan and Colin Farrell for the much-coveted part.

According to Daily Variety, the 25-year-old actor will receive between $3 million and $4 million for what's expected to be the first of a movie trilogy. Though he's still in final negotiations, it's a "pay-or-play" deal that ensures he will get his money whether or not the film is made.

Not too surprisingly, there's already been some carping about the casting of the slight critical darling in the role. But those people must not be familiar with either the comic book or the character.

In the comic, Peter Parker gained his powers when he was still a rather geeky high school student. And unlike other heroes, he wasn't a popular or particularly studly student.

Also, Maguire has evidently buffed up and lost some of his baby fat — enough to the point that Sony officials finally signed off on the deal.

As a longtime fan of the comic, I couldn't be more thrilled. While I originally favored Nicholas Brendan (from TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), but it became clear that when picking someone to play the high-school-age Parker, Maguire just seemed like the right person.

It's also proof that Raimi is already doing something right, besides refusing to even test wooden actor wannabe Freddie Prinze Jr., who desperately wanted the role.

Raimi's next big casting move will be for the two supervillains in the film, the maniacal Green Goblin and mad-scientist Dr. Otto Octavius, aka the multi-armed Dr. Octopus.

There are already some names being bandied about, including Kevin Costner and Nicolas Cage for the former and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jeff Goldblum for the latter.

Ugh! Not that these guys are bad actors (well, the jury's still out on Costner and Ah-nult), but they certainly wouldn't be my first choices.

For the role of evil industrialist Norman Osborn and his cruelly mischievous, supervillain alter-ego, how about character actor William H. Macy ("Fargo," "Pleasantville"), who actually looks something like the character?

And if he's not too tired of playing villains, Anthony Hopkins could pull off Doc Ock and bring in at least one big name, which the studios always love.

As far as the other characters in the film are concerned, here's my wish list (Sam Raimi, are you reading?):

Mary Jane Watson. In the comic book, Spidey's love interest is a red-headed bombshell. But the actress with whom Maguire's shared the most on-screen chemistry is Katie Holmes, his co-star in both "The Ice Storm" and "Wonder Boys." (Oddly, in both films, her character shot down his character.)

Ben and May Parker. If the film needs big names to draw in non-comics fans, how about husband-and-wife team Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward to play Peter's ill-fated uncle and his beloved, worrisome aunt?

J. Jonah Jameson. There are a lot of good actors who could play Peter's newspaper publisher boss and Spidey's biggest critic, but for some reason I can't think of a better choice than John Mahoney (from TV's "Frasier").

Joe Robertson. The role of Peter's newspaper mentor is one of the hardest to cast, since there are so many talented black character actors. But the always likable Morgan Freeman might be the best choice.

Flash Thompson. Paul Walker's film work has been spotty (especially in "Meet the Deedles" and "Varsity Blues"), but the actor is a dead ringer for Peter's bullying classmate — who is, ironically, Spidey's biggest booster.

Harry Osborn. At least a few fans wanted to see former soap-star Jonathan Jackson ("General Hospital," as well as the film "The Deep End of the Ocean") play the lead role, but he'd be better suited to the part of Peter's brooding best friend, and the son of his greatest enemy.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It meant nothing to me at all. In fact, like a lot of people, the first thing I thought of was 'X-Files.' " — Actor Patrick Stewart, describing to the San Jose Mercury News his first reaction to the name "X-Men" when he was approached to be in the movie.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com