On the heels of last week’s confirmation that Emma Stone would be portraying Gwen Stacy in director Marc Webb’s forthcoming Spider-Man reboot, Sony has just revealed a similarly surprising but solid casting decision.

According to a studio press release, British actor Rhys Ifans has signed on to play the film’s villain. Ifans received a BAFTA nomination for his breakout performance in Notting Hill and has since appeared in films like The Replacements, Hannibal Rising, and Greenberg.

Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, praises Ifans and reveals what ultimately landed him the role:

“We have been very fortunate to attract some of the best actors working today to play the villains in the Spider-Man movies, and it is exciting to see that trend continue with Rhys Ifans.  After seeing his performance in our upcoming film Anonymous, we’re in awe of his talent and think he’s the perfect choice to take on this role.”

Director Marc Webb adds:

“What sets the Spider-Man villains apart is the complexity of theirrelationships with Peter Parker.  Rhys’ incredible ability to embody both warmth and rage makes him the ideal choice for this character.”

But which character is that exactly? Evidently we’ll have to wait a little bit longer to find out, as they’ve decided not to release that information for the time being. Rumors persist that The Lizard could be the web-slinger’s main adversary in the film, but recent rumblings also suggest Electro might might be the villain. Ifans would definitely be a better fit for the latter in my opinion, but at this point it really could be anyone.

While I continue to question the necessity of this reboot, I do appreciate the unexpected but promising casting choices they’ve made so far. Andrew Garfield was a left-field choice for the title role, but his work in films like the Red Riding trilogy and The Social Network show a great deal of potential. Emma Stone is also quite gifted and even though I think they dropped the ball by casting her as Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane, she’s definitely an upgrade from the love interests in Raimi’s Spider-Man films.

Which villain will Ifans play?

Even without confirmation of who he’s playing, Ifans is an extremely welcome addition in my book. He’s one of the most underrated scene-stealers working right now and the level of exposure a high-profile role like this could grant him would be more than deserved.

When Michael Fassbender was reportedly given the choice between X-Men: First Class and the Spider-Man reboot, I thought for sure that meant Spidey’s villain was The Lizard. Fassbender would certainly have been too old for Electro (ditto for Christoph Waltz) so it is possible there are two villains in the film? Or might it be someone else entirely? Vulture? Venom? Let the speculation commence!

The Spider-Man reboot was written by James Vanderbilt and is being produced by Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin. Filming starts in December and the film will be released in 3D on July 3, 2012.

Source: Sony Pictures.