Michael Barbieri in Little Men[/caption]
Given the recent bombshell announcement of fan-favorite actor Donald Glover being cast in Spider-Man: Homecoming (maybe even as Miles Morales, the mixed-race Spider-Man who joined the comics family a few years ago), audiences can be forgiven for having forgotten that other bit of casting news from just the week before: 14-year-old Michael Barbieri, who is said to be playing “one of Peter Parker’s friends.”
Initial speculation focused on Barbieri’s part being at least partially based off of Ganke, Morales’s best friend from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, which in turn led to concern about Marvel Studios attempting to whitewash the cast of Homecoming (Ganke is Asian, and Barbieri is not). Now the film’s director is sounding off on the controversy.
Taking to Twitter (h/t CBM), Jon Watts definitively stated that the young actor’s character has absolutely no relation to Ganke whatsoever:
What The--?! Michael Barbieri was never playing Ganke... no idea how that rumor started... Ok, back to work!!!— Jon Watts (@jnwtts) June 16, 2016
What The--?! Michael Barbieri was never playing "a version of or a character based on/similar to" Ganke... Ok, back to work for reals now!!!— Jon Watts (@jnwtts) June 16, 2016
Who, then, could Michael Barbieri be playing in the first Marvel Studios Spider-Man film? It just may be that the initial casting report, which stated that he’s a brand-new character in the Spider-Man mythos, was accurate. After all, that’s something that Marvel had no reservation doing, to great effect, in its Ant-Man with the titular hero’s sidekicks of Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) all being original creations.
It just may be that Marvel – and, more than likely, Sony – wants to have as clean a slate as possible for this version of the Web Head, and giving itself as much distance from the lineup and composition of the previous franchises’ cast is the best way of going about that (which is precisely why Miles Morales himself might be making an appearance in this new adventure).
It could also be something that’s increasingly in the air with these superhero blockbuster releases, as even Warner Bros. is interested in making the upcoming Batman solo outing an entirely original story – maybe the pendulum on fidelity to the comic source material is finally swinging back the other way.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.