Elizabeth Banks was ‘too old’ to play Tobey Maguire’s love interest

Elizabeth Banks has had a wild career. Just glance through her IMDB if you don’t believe me. While Banks has worked consistently since the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, she didn’t really hit her career stride until the mid ‘00s, right around her 30th birthday in 2004. Meaning, fame and success came to Banks later than most actresses, and most of her best work and most memorable work came in her 30s and now her 40s. But in her early years, she probably auditioned for everything and got turned away for a lot of different stuff. And so here’s another terrible story about how an actress in her 20s was turned down for not looking or seeming young enough.

Pitch Perfect 2 director Elizabeth Banks has revealed that she was turned down for the role of Spider-Man’s girlfriend Mary-Jane Watson for the 2002 superhero movie for being “too old” – despite being at 28 only 16 months older than the film’s male lead Tobey Maguire.

Speaking to Glamour magazine, Banks said: “I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man movie, opposite Tobey Maguire … Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s what I’ve signed up for’.”

The role eventually went to Kirsten Dunst, who was 18 when filming began in 2001. Banks was cast in all three of the Spider-Man trilogy as Betty Brant, the secretary of Daily Bugle publisher J Jonah Jameson (played by JK Simmons).

[From The Guardian]

Banks was born on February 10, 1974. Tobey Maguire was born on June 27, 1975. She is basically 15 months older than him, which is TOO OLD to play his love interest? That’s a god-awful story. But, in context, I sort of understand it. The studio already skewed too old casting Tobey, who was then 27, as Peter Parker/Spiderman. Did anyone buy him as a high schooler? No. But we could buy Kirsten Dunst as a high schooler because she really was 18 years old when she was cast. So… was the problem really Elizabeth Banks’ age or the fact that Tobey was always sort of miscast as Spiderman?

Fun fact: Elizabeth Banks and Tobey Maguire went on to work together in Seabiscuit, which is the first time I really noticed Banks and thought “Oh, she’s going places!” She was cast as the trophy wife to Jeff Bridges’ character. Banks is 25 years younger than Jeff Bridges. I bet some people still thought she was an old crone.

Photos courtesy of Getty, WENN.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

39 Responses to “Elizabeth Banks was ‘too old’ to play Tobey Maguire’s love interest”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. roxane says:

    Of course.

  2. Ali says:

    I find this to be a terrible practice in Hollywood, but I’m kinda seeing how this one may be different. Tobey Maquire looked very young for his age. I can believe that Elizabeth Banks looked like a grown woman(which she was) standing next to TM who looked like…well, nothing nice to say. Charlize Theron looked laughable as his love interest in Cider House Rules. He just doesn’t work alongside any beautiful woman.

    • tracking says:

      Yeah, I love EB but she reads as much more mature compared to TM.

      • KB says:

        She’s an Ivy Leaguer. And she’s one of those women that just come across as intelligent and capable not vulnerable.

    • Mary says:

      @Ali, I understand where you are coming from but I kind of feel like….the bottom line is that the studio was willing to entertain the notion (twice because Garfield was almost 30 too) of casting an older actor in the title role but when it came time to cast the woman he loved, their instinct was, of course, to find a younger woman. And the fact that the woman they eventually cast opposite McGuire was literally 18 is just more of a stark reminder of how crappy this practice is. I just feel like we need to be hard on this stuff when we see it because it’s the only way it’s going to remotely change.

    • Kristen820 says:

      Agreed – It’s not that she looks “old”, HE just looks really young…

    • Jenna says:

      Yeah, I’m inclined to agree. It’s also partially what’s sunk Tobey Maguire’s career in the last couple of years. He still has that very boyish face and boyish voice, despite being… what, 40 now? Whereas Elizabeth Banks strikes me as somebody who’s always generally looked the same. Like I imagine at 18 she looked like she could be late-20’s. Which might have not gotten her work when she was younger, but really helped her once she actually started reading for older roles.

    • Pamela says:

      This one doesn’t bother me so much. Mary Jane was a high school student in the first movie. I love EB, and she is so, so naturally gorgeous but as others have said she looked like a woman more so than “girlish”. Yes, Tobey was her age, but he had such a boyish type of face. I honestly think he kinda passed as a high school kid.

      All that said, I don’t really think the studios the used my logic above. They were likely just being as gross as they usually are, deciding that all female love interests must look or be MUCH younger than their male counterparts.

    • lucy2 says:

      I’m OK with this particular one too. They were both technically too old for the roles (28 playing 18) but Tobey looked like a high school boy still at the time. It would have been an odd pairing.

      Agree about him and Charlize too. He didn’t match well with anyone who looked like a grown woman.

      • Nancy says:

        Agree. If they truly said she was too old, that sucks…..but he looked much younger than she did at the time and we’re talking about Peter Parker here. I guess actresses do feel the need to inform us continually how unfair Hollywood is with casting younger woman, but we already knew it. Time for change, but when who knows.

    • LAK says:

      Yep. CZJ had this problem too. Whilst she was a breakout star in the UK, once she transferred to America, she played period roles eg Titanic the TV movie (premiered around same time as the Kate Winslet version and completely ignored by everyone) where the fact that she looked like a woman and not a girl worked for her.

  3. Bluesky says:

    She was hilarious on “30 Rock”!

    • Naya says:

      She was so perfect in that role. Honestly Tina was a genius at casting that show.

    • lucy2 says:

      She’s been great in pretty much everything I’ve ever seen her in, but I think 30 Rock is when I really became a big fan.

      I still need to track down Love and Mercy to see, heard she was excellent in that.

    • KB says:

      Lol when I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack I think about Avery going into labor in Canada and Jack trying to reassure her by bringing up how Alexander Hamilton wasn’t born in the US and he went on to…”to what Jack? To lose a duel to a guy named AARON?!”

      30 Rock is the best. Great casting all around.

  4. Kiki says:

    Hollywood old white male studio executives are old perverts. This happens with Olivia Wilde and Margot Robbie. These men are old disgusting perverts. PERVERTS. I DON’T HAVE ANY WORD TO SAY OTHER THAT OLD DISGUSTING PERVERTS.

  5. Mary says:

    Ok…rant coming. If this was a one time thing then yes….we could toss it off like, “Oh well they just skewed too old with Tobey.” But this is a chronic and consistent problem regarding the merging of sexism and ageism with Hollywood (and culture in general) which is why we need to talk about it and need to keep talking about it because it’s a really big deal and just an example of a much larger cultural problem.

    The real issue is that studios REPEATEDLY have no issue casting men to be skewing older but immediately revert to the status quo wherein women need to be young ingénues. Tobey McGuire, at age 27, was probably too old to be play a teen. Ok fine…but he was cast. Audiences could suspend disbelief that he was a teen. But we’ve been trained that we can’t do it with women. Andrew Garfield was also almost 30 when HE played Peter Parker and he, too was cast with a woman who was younger than him. Robert Downey Jr. STARTED the Iron Man Franchise in his 40’s and has continued to play the character into his 50’s. Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo….half of the Avengers are in their 40’s and STARTED their careers in their 40’s. Even Chadwick Boseman was 37 when he was cast as Black Panther. Meanwhile, the women in these movies (unless they are playing mothers) are almost always in their 20’s or MAYBE early 30’s. But the dynamic of the older man/younger woman is always kept in place so that nothing could possibly rock the status quo. It’s sad, frustrating and not fair. Even Paltrow who was at least age appropriate for RDJ was still 8 years younger than him. So that status quo was not rocked. People love to bash and hate on Warner Bros and Zack Snyder’s Superman franchise but, you know, Amy Adams being cast opposite Henry Cavill is literally the ONLY franchise that has even remotely challenged this ageist crap. It’s vital and important that we see women over 35 and over 40 allowed to be that woman that someone loves and fights for. We need to shake this sexist brainwashing that basically trains us from a young age to assume that once a woman is over 40 she’s no longer “the one” worth having. So while this whole issue with Elizabeth Banks might seem like just a one off that we can brush off…it’s not. It’s part of a much larger problem.

  6. Pri says:

    IMHO, even Kirsten Dunst looked a lot older than 18 in these films.

  7. Ash says:

    Yeah right. She probably didn’t get the part because she lacks charisma. She’s been around for awhile now but I have no real opinion of her either way. She just seems boring and uninteresting.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I know she’s beloved round here, but I kinda agree. She just doesnt have “it”. She’s a great women by all acounts, but quite boring on screen. She was good as Effie, but that’s about it.

      Tobey was my favourite Spiderman so far.

      • Nancy says:

        LL: Tom Holland was awesome as Spiderman in Captain America: Civil War. Stan Lee said he was meant to be Spiderman and has been cast in the next Spidey movie. He really has it down.

      • Locke Lamora says:

        I heard praises for Holland, but I still haven’t seen Captain America, that’s why I said so far.

      • Nancy says:

        You’ve got to see it. He was great. Loved seeing Iron Man and young Spiderman together, great flick.

    • Kiliki says:

      I don’t know what body of work you’re watching.

      She oozes charisma. She has it in spades!

      • Tiffany :) says:

        I agree, I think she is consistently great and elevates what she works in. From Zack and Mimi to Modern Family, she is funny and can hit the emotional moments too.

  8. Lucy says:

    Their loss! Elizabeth rocks.

  9. JenniferJustice says:

    I really don’t see what the big deal is with this particular case. Mary Jane was/is suppose to be a highschool teenager when Peter Parker first falls in love with her. Banks was too old to play an 17/18 year old. The only reason Toby pulled off playing Peter Parker is becuase he has a very boyish look. Banks doesn’t look older than age. Kirsten happened to actually be the right age.

    I’m all for supporting female actresses and not aging them before their time, but this case isn’t a good example. Good for Banks anyway. Who wants to kiss nasty Toby McGuire the mysogynist? It was a blessing in disguise.

  10. Ollie says:

    It makes sense… I mean come on Toby has a baby face! He looks miscast with most of his female colleagues anyway.
    Elizabeth was way to mature and womanly to play the teeny next door.

  11. hmmm says:

    She looked mature (a grown up) compared to this eternally baby-faced kid. I can understand why she wasn’t chosen. She was too good for that movie anyway. LOVED her in “Seabiscuit” where she first came to my attention: I’ve followed her career ever since then.

    • Furbie says:

      She is mostly a character actress who just happens to be beautiful with sex appeal. You see her in movies and television all the time but her leading lady roles are few and far between. Kind of like Marisa Tomei.

  12. tacos and tv says:

    I will say this and may get a side eye for it, but she does have a mature face. Not an old face, but mature. She did not look like she was in high school, at all! She looked like a professional.

    • Beanie Baby says:

      I’m not side eyeing you at all. Elizabeth Banks does have a mature face and that’s a nice way of putting it. And I also don’t get her appeal but different strokes for different folks.

  13. Km says:

    Did she get a nose Job? Regardless, I think she looks even prettier in her 40s than she did in her 20s. She grew into her looks.

  14. fauxbello says:

    HE looks too young to play a man.