On July 7, Spider-Man will return to movie theaters with his latest film, Spider-Man: Homecoming. This version of the character, played by Tom Holland, made his debut in one of 2016’s biggest blockbusters, Captain America: Civil War. While it seems like Spider-Man’s finally got some solid footing under the stewardship of mega-producer Kevin Feige and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s easy to forget that things could have been very different for the wall-crawler.
Tom Holland marks the third actor to play Spider-Man in the last ten years. After three successful movies under director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Oz: The Great and Powerful), the series hit a snag during development of a fourth film, and the franchise was then rebooted. 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man did strong business, but failed to fully captivate audiences. Its sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, fared even more poorly, with critics and audiences expressing their disapproval. After ASM2 turned out to be the lowest-grossing Spider-Man film by a wide margin, Sony finally decided to play ball with Marvel and bring a re-rebooted version of the character into the MCU fold.
To viewers who grew up with the Sam Raimi films, it’s hard to believe that the first Spider-Man flick came out in 2002, a full fifteen years ago. While Marvel properties had seen success in previous years with titles like Blade and X-Men, Spider-Man was a gigantic hit, breaking records and jump-starting the superhero boom which continues to this day.
In the nine years since the Spider-Man trilogy wrapped up with the divisive Spider-Man 3, the cast of those films have gone on to achieve varying degrees of success on their own. Some actors became huge stars, while others would never again reach the lofty heights of their Spider-Man days. Let’s take a look at the cast with Where Are They Now? The Cast Of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy.
15. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson
Peter Parker’s favorite redhead is Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst. Prior to Spider-Man, Dunst already had a healthy resumè, including Jumanji, Interview with the Vampire, and Little Women, but her turn as Mary Jane launched her straight to the A-list. The perception of comic books being exclusively for nerds and kids was thrown out of the window by that iconic rain-soaked upside-down kiss. That scene was provocative without being forced, sexy without being desperate, and it’s become one of the Spider-Man film franchise’s signature scenes.
The past couple of years have been quite busy for Kirsten Dunst. In 2015, she starred in season two of FX’s Fargo series, and she was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her role as an affable housewife and accidental murderer. She also appeared in critically-acclaimed dramas Midnight Special and Hidden Figures. Next up for Dunst is a role in The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film. Directed by Sofia Coppola, this take is already generating early awards season buzz.
14. James Franco as Harry Osborn
The third wheel in Spider-Man’s core trinity of leads is Harry Osborn, played by James Franco. Throughout the trilogy, Osborn is Peter’s best friend, but a fervent hater of Spider-Man, who he mistakenly believes murdered his father Norman, AKA Green Goblin. The third film sees the character embrace supervillainy as a new Goblin before ultimately fighting alongside Spider-Man in the final battle.
James Franco quickly established himself as one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors following his breakout turn in the Spidey verse, with roles in comedies (Pineapple Express, The Interview), action films (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and dramas (The Iceman, Homefront). In 2016, he starred in Hulu’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel, 11.22.63.
Most recently, Franco appeared in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, and will next be seen in the highly-anticipated docudrama, The Disaster Artist. He will star as Tommy Wiseau, the infamous writer/director responsible for the cult film, The Room, which is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Mark your damn calendars, folks.
13. Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” This phrase is the guiding mantra of Spider-Man. In the original comic, they are presented in writer Stan Lee’s narration, but the 2002 movie gives these words of wisdom to Peter’s Uncle Ben, played by Cliff Robertson.
Prior to his work in Spider-Man, Robertson had been active in Hollywood for nearly sixty years, with a career stretching all the way back to 1943’s We’ve Never Been Licked. The 20-year-old actor went uncredited for his role in the WWII propaganda flick. Following this, he spent the next two decades taking on small roles in film and being a hardworking television actor. Arguably his finest hour came in 1963 when he starred as President John F. Kennedy in the biographical war film, PT 109. The movie came out just months before the President’s tragic assassination in November.
In the decades between PT 109 and Spider-Man, Robertson appeared in a variety of film and television programs, including the legendary spy thriller Three Days of the Condor, Renaissance Man, and Escape from L.A. His cameo in Spider-Man 3 was the his final film role prior to his death in 2011 (which is why we subverted our standard picture formula for this entry). He was 88 years old.
12. Rosemary Harris as Aunt May
Anyone even faintly familiar with the Spider-Man mythology knows that Peter Parker has no parents and was raised by his Aunt and Uncle. Interestingly, each time the Spider-Man film series gets rebooted, Aunt May gets younger. At 52 years old, Marisa Tomei will be the youngest actor to play the character in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, while Sally Field was 65 when she played Aunt May in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Originally, however, Rosemary Harris was 74 when she first took on the iconic role back in 2002.
Prior to her debut as Aunt May, Harris was best known as a stage actor; she was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning in 1966 for A Lion in Winter. On 1970s television, she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her performances in Notorious Woman and Holocaust, respectively.
Her most recent film is 2015’s The Von Trapp Family: A Life in Music, based on the memoirs of Agathe von Trapp. The lives of the von Trapps, of course, previously served as the inspiration for the legendary movie musical, The Sound of Music. The latest adaptation of their story wasn’t quite as successful.
11. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn
The antagonist of the first Spider-Man film was the Green Goblin. One of the great villains in the entirety of Marvel Comics, Norman Osborne is a menacing and intimidating baddie, so Willem Dafoe was a perfect fit for the character. Dafoe got his start as a Hollywood actor in the 1980s, starring in movies like Platoon, Streets of Fire, and The Hunger, starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon.
Today, Willem remains active in show business, with supporting roles in movies as varied as The Great Wall, John Wick, and The Fault in our Stars. Next up, the actor will lend his distinctive voice to Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note, as well as Kenneth Brannagh’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express, alongside Johnny Depp and Daisy Ridley. He’ also set to make his return to the realm of superheroes; Dafoe will co-star in Justice League and Aquaman as Nuidis Vulko, one of Atlantis’s leading political and scientific figures.
10. Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus
For 2004’s Spider-Man 2, Sam Raimi brought in Alfred Molina to play Doctor Otto Octavius, AKA Doctor Octopus. One of the actor’s first roles was as Satipo in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy’s traitorous and ill-fated guide through the ancient Peruvian ruins in the opening of the film. By the time he stole the show as Doc Ock, Molina had already become a popular actor, known for his performances in movies like Frida, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia.
Recently, Molina has appeared in films like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Little Men, and the scathing political parody, Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie, starring Johnny Depp. He also co-starred in FX’s television miniseries, Feud, and appeared as a regular in the zany TBS comedy, Angie Tribeca. Up next, the actor is set to appear in the biographical drama Saint Judy, about the real life of attorney Judy Wood. The film will also star Michelle Monaghan, Common, and Alfre Woodard.
9. Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman
For Spider-Man 3, the main villain was Flint Marko, AKA Sandman. The CGI used to portray his transformation from human to sand creature were groundbreaking in 2007, and it remains spell-binding to this day. While Spider-Man 3 is pretty over-stuffed with characters and subplots, there’s no denying that Sandman is a compelling character. His story is truncated more than it should be, but Thomas Haden Church delivers a stunning performance as the dangerous and conflicted character.
Church’s first breakout role was in the NBC sitcom Wings, where he starred for five seasons. In 2004, he co-starred alongside another future Spidey villain, Paul Giamatti, the comedic drama Sideways, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. After Spider-Man, he starred in movies like Killer Joe, John Carter (with Willem Dafoe!), and the religious drama Heaven is for Real. He currently stars on the HBO show, Divorce, alongside Sarah Jessica Parker.
8. Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom
As mentioned before, Spider-Man 3 is packed to the brim with characters and subplots, for better or for worse. Between Harry Osborne’s amnesia story, Peter’s revenge on Sandman, Mary Jane’s Broadway ambitions, the introduction of Gwen Stacey, and various other threads, it can be hard to keep track of it all.
Amidst the shuffle lies Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, AKA Venom. Topher was hot off of That ’70s Show, a popular Fox sitcom, and Spider-Man 3 was his first movie following his departure from the series. Looking back at his performance, it’s a shame that he is unfairly blamed for the film’s inability to live up to the first two entries in the minds of many fans; his take as Brock — a self-centered mirror image of Peter Parker who is all too willing to be corrupted by the alien Symbiote — is compelling and watchable, even if it’s not what fans wanted from the movie.
In the years since Spider-Man 3, Topher has made a name for himself as an in-demand character actor with roles in a variety of movies such as Predators, Interstellar, American Ultra, and the Netflix original, War Machine.
7. Joe Manganiello as Flash Thompson
These days, upon re-watching the original Spider-Man, many viewers have a tendency to say, “Hey, I didn’t know Joe Manganiello was in this!” Indeed, before he was on the Hollywood A-list (and Mr. Sofia Vergara), the actor made his motion picture debut playing a small – but pivotal – role in Spider-Man. Joe played Peter Parker’s high school bully, Flash Thompson. He was absent in the first sequel, but returned for a non-speaking cameo role for Spider-Man 3.
Over the years, Manganiello slowly went from a relative unknown to a hunky Hollywood heartthrob. His scene-stealing roles in Magic Mike and HBO’s True Blood certainly boosted his profile, especially among those who are into barrel-chested sex machines like Joe. More recently, he popped up, as himself, in the endearingly off-kilter Netflix revival, Pee Wee’s Big Holiday, and is reportedly slated to appear as Deathstroke in Justice League and the long-in-development solo Batman film.
6. J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is iconic, but it was rebooted just five years after part three, so it wasn’t exactly viewed as untouchable. However, one element of those movies was considered too perfect to even attempt to replicate in 2012’s so-called Amazing Spider-Man film, and that was the character of J.Jonah Jameson, editor of The Daily Bugle.
J.K. Simmons was so iconic in his role as the borderline-unhinged newspaper man that the character was deemed off-limits in the reboots, and is reportedly not going to appear in Homecoming. There’s just no way they can hire anyone to do a better job than Simmons, so they won’t even bother trying. However, J.K. did return to play the character in the popular animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man, which was a treat for longtime fans.
Outside of his work in the Spidey verse, J.K. Simmons was primarily known for his television work, particularly the HBO’s Oz and the hit TNT crime drama, The Closer. In recent years, though, he’s become an in-demand big screen performer, even winning an Oscar for his turn in Whiplash, which was also nominated for Best Picture. Next up, the versatile Simmons will be taking on the role of an equally iconic comic book supporting character: Commissioner Gordon in Justice League and, presumably, The Batman.
5. Bill Nunn as Robbie Robertson
Bill Nunn was a fairly well-known character actor before he appeared in the Spider-Man trilogy, having popped up in movies as varied as Regarding Henry, New Jack City, Do the Right Thing, and Kiss the Girls, as well the Denis Leary television police dramedy, The Job.
After concluding his work in the Spider-Man films, Nunn appeared in several more movies, including the acclaimed drama, Won’t Back Down, alongside Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal. His final role was as a regular in the Denis Leary-produced USA series, Sirens. In 2016, Nunn passed away after a struggle with Leukemia. He was 62 years old.
4. Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant
Although she had begun to develop a following thanks to her scene-stealing role in the cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer, Elizabeth Banks was still a virtual unknown when she was cast as Betty Brant, J.J.J’s long-suffering assistant, in the first Spider-Man film. In the years since then, however, Banks has evolved into one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies.
Her resume is as varied as it is stellar, with roles across television (3o Rock, Scrubs) and film, where she tackled comedies and dramas in equal measure. For the sake of comparison, in 2008, she starred alongside Seth Rogen in Zack & Miri Make a Porno and played First Lady Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s biographical drama, W.
Some of her more notable roles include Love & Mercy, a musical biopic about musical genius Brian Wilson, a scene-stealing performance as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games, and a villainous turn as Rita Repulsa in the recent Power Rangers reboot. She made her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2 (in which she also co-starred), which blew away expectations with a fantastic global box office haul of $287 million, nearly ten times its reported production budget. In addition to a second season of the Wet Hot American Summer revival on Netflix, Banks will also be appearing in – but not directing – Pitch Perfect 3, which is currently slated to debut in December 2017.
3. Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy
Some old-school comic book purists cried foul when the first Spider-Man skipped over Peter Parker’s doomed relationship with Gwen Stacy, deciding instead to dive right into his courtship of Mary Jane Watson. For the third film, the long-missing Stacy finally made her debut, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, esteemed actress and daughter of actor/director Ron Howard.
While the character was something of a non-entity in Spider-Man 3, Bryce Dallas Howard quickly became an A-list actor with roles in movies like Terminator Salvation (in which she replaced Claire Danes from T3), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (in which she replaced Rachelle Lefevre), and The Help. More recently, she appeared in the remake of Pete’s Dragon, as well as Colin Trevorrow’s dino-revival, Jurassic World. She’s slated to star in the upcoming sequel as well, due out in Summer 2018.
2. Bruce Campbell as Various
It wouldn’t be a Sam Raimi movie without “The Chin.” Bruce Campbell starred as Ashley J. Williams in Raimi’s first film, The Evil Dead, and has popped up in many of Raimi’s movies since then, as something of a lucky charm, and he appears in cameos in each of Raimi’s Spidey films. In the first one, he plays the MC at the amateur wrestling event who winds up giving Spider-Man his famous name. In part two, he is the usher at Mary Jane’s show who doesn’t let Peter Parker in to see the performance, and in the final chapter, he plays the French waiter who tries to help Peter propose to his beloved. Interestingly, had Spider-Man 4 actually made it to the big screen, Campbell may well have appeared as Mysterio, a famed member of the web-slinger’s rogues gallery.
Aside from these bit parts and The Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell is probably best known to audiences for his television work, from Burn Notice to The Adventures of Briscoe Country Jr, as well as the cult thriller, Maniac Cop, and the surprisingly poignant Elvis Presley tribute/horror/comedy film, Bubba Ho-Tep. Last year, Campbell triumphantly returned to his most iconic role in the Starz Original Series, Ash vs Evil Dead, which recently concluded its second season.
1. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
One of the most important aspects of a super hero film is its star. From Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton to Robert Downey Jr and Gal Gadot, these movies need a strong central figure to build a film around. For Spider-Man, Sam Raimi recruited Tobey Maguire to don the red and blue spandex, and it was pure cinematic magic.
Tobey Maguire won universal acclaim as Peter Parker, the teenage nerd who is given great power and tremendous responsibility. Some fans weren’t too keen on his emo turn in Spider-Man 3 (sweet dance moves notwithstanding), but Maguire’s role in helping to establish the modern trend of super hero mega-blockbusters cannot be overstated.
After his final turn as the web-head in 2007’s Spider-Man 3, Maguire decided to step back from big-budget blockbusters, though he did star alongside his friend Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s visually stunning 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. In 2014, he appeared in IFC’s parody miniseries, The Spoils of Babylon, and in 2015, he earned significant praise for his role as chess prodigy Bobby Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice. Most recently, he lent his voice to DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby.
What do you think? What are some of your fondest memories of the original Spider-Man trilogy? Share your memories of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s Spidey verse in the comments!
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