There's a lot of pressure on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to deliver the goods, all the more so because director Marc Webb's superhero sequel has to get a lot right in order to start the developing Spider-Man shared universe off on the right foot. Like, setting up Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn (who may transform into Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man 3), having Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn become a Goblin creature before he (possibly) changes into Venom, and continuing Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) journey from confused teenager to self-made man.
In case you'd forgotten during the excitement of Sinister Six and Venom spinoffs being confirmed, Amazing Spider-Man 2 was also originally going to introduce the new screen version of Mary Jane, played by rising star Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now).
The actress' scenes ended up on the cutting room floor early in post-production, with the popular theory being that the reasoning behind the decision was to avoid distracting from the drama surrounding Pete's first love Gwen Stacy's (Emma Stone) infamous tragic fate from the comic books unfolding in the second Amazing Spider-Man installment. Shortly after news of Woodley's scenes being cut broke, Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold) was floated as her replacement for Mary Jane; other reports conflict with that claim, though Gadon did confirm that she will play a role in the Spider-Man franchise - what it is, that remains to be seen.
MTV caught up with Woodley at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where the actress is attending for her work on the film White Bird in a Blizzard. The site asked her if she'll be playing Mary Jane in a future Amazing Spider-Man movie, to which Woodley replied:
"I don't know anything, but seeing as how they picked up the next two 'Divergent' films, I don't know how I would keep my sanity with two big action films in one year. But anything can happen."
Divergent - the first chapter in a planned movie trilogy based on Veronica Roth's dystopian/sci-fi young adult books - opens this March, but its success isn't as surefire a guarantee as The Hunger Games' (to used a comparable example) was two years ago. As Woodley noted, the sequels Insurgent and Allegiant have already been scheduled for release in 2015 and 2016, but those followups could be put on indefinite hold if the first installment isn't a satisfactory box office hit (like what happened to The Mortal Instruments sequel).
Then again, if Divergent manages even half the pull of the original Hunger Games film (which grossed $691 million worldwide), that'll be more than enough to cover its $80 million budget; and thus, keep the franchise alive, while also keeping Woodley busy for the next few years in the process.
Woodley's availability isn't he only issue that could affect her involvement (or lack thereof) with Amazing Spider-Man 3 and beyond. The ex-Secret Life of the American Teeanger star has so far been inclined to make more intimate dramas in her film career, including Alexander Payne's The Descendants (which snagged her a Golden Globes nod) and another young adult adaptation releasing this year, with the cancer drama The Fault in Our Stars. So even if Woodley's schedule opens up to allow for future Spider-Man movies, there's no guarantee that her interest won't wane.
Of course, it's also possible that Woodley's already committed to Amazing Spider-Man 3 (and maybe Part 4) - or has essentially passed on the chance already - and just isn't allowed to say so yet (or is being careful not to burn any bridges, in the latter case). Another factor to consider is Gwen Stacy, whose death in Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems likely, but isn't a given at this stage; to mention nothing of a potential Ultimate Spider-Man inspired twist, where Gwen dies and is "resurrected" as Carnage.
Indeed, there's reason to wonder if the marketing for the Amazing Spider-Man sequel has involved a lot of misdirection, which (if true) could mean that many of our predictions about the film (and thus the future of the franchise) might be way off-base. We'll find out in time.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters on May 2nd, 2014, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 3 on June 10th, 2016 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 on May 4th, 2018. Release dates for the Venom and Sinister Six spinoffs have yet to be announced.