The name of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker successor was confirmed last week, with the news that British actor Andrew Garfield would be donning the red and blue spandex. We’ve heard many names mentioned since the as yet Untitled Spider-Man Reboot was announced several months ago, some well known, others not so much. That such a relatively unknown actor has been cast is not a great surprise, and that fact that he is British doesn’t really matter one way or the other, particularly as he was born in LA. What came as a surprise to some people, however, was the follow-up story that he would only be earning $500,000 for the gig.
A small amount for a lead actor in Hollywood terms generally, but when you consider that the previous Spider-man movies have all made around half a billion dollars each, it seems like a ridiculously low sum. Is this an outrage? Are Sony guilty of cynical greed? Or is it a fair figure for an unknown actor, in his first major movie production, who cannot offer any drawing power at the box office?
Clearly, there is a massive financial factor involved not just in this casting, but in the idea behind the reboot itself. Sam Raimi’s Spider-man series was hugely successful, but success can often come at a price. Whilst the first movie made $400m domestically, that amount decreased with each subsequent movie. Conversely, the money required to keep the franchise’s stars coming back was increasing each time. As the storylines had to become more elaborate to keep interest up, and outdo the last entry, production budgets will have inevitably increased too. Marketing costs probably also escalated. Sony were still making a profit, and a big one on the face of it. However, this profit was decreasing exponentially, and with Spiderman 4 on the horizon, and the expected payround discussions looming, you can begin to see why Sony decided to get out before the margin all but disappeared.
By starting from scratch, they can ensure a minimal production cost, with low salaries and a smaller scale production. They can also, and this is where the cynicism raises its head, trade off of the popularity and success of Raimi’s series to make a comparable gross profit to the preceding three films. A $400m gross looks infinitely better against production costs of $40m than it does against around $140m. Cynical, maybe, but is this too harsh a view to take of their actions?
The truth is, Maguire didn’t earn THAT much more for his first outing as the web slinging hero. Maguire wasn’t as well known as he is now, but was definitely more recognisable than Garfield to a mainstream audiences, having appeared in films such as Wonderboys and The Cider House Rules. If the studio had really wanted to be greedy, they would have cast a more well known, young actor for around the same amount, who they know would draw in fans based on their established celebrity. It may be that Sony’s decision is partly financially motivated, but if you look closer, you can see some promising signs.
Garfield hasn’t made many Hollywood movies before, having appeared in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus last year, and Fincher’s forthcoming The Social Network. He is an actor rather than a male model, however, and a respected one at that. By casting a young British actor with credits in TV and theatre, they are attempting to get someone who can well handle the drama and emotional turmoil that is inherent in the Peter Parker character, rather than just a pretty face that will look good on the poster.
They have already shown by their choice of director that they are looking to craft a serious, warm and engaging story. Marc Webb has only made one movie so far, but last year’s 500 Days of Summer was very well received, and was one of the best romantic dramas of recent years. He showed a sure hand, with some great unique ideas.
It is a bit of a gamble maybe, to take on such an inexperienced feature director, and his lack of credits will certainly mean that he was a cheaper option than someone who is more established. The important thing for me, though, is that Webb’s appointment holds the promise of something special. I am an advocate of bold rather than safe, solid choices when it comes to filmmakers, and if it pays off we could, potentially, have the most well rounded comic book adaptation, with a thrilling action movie anchored by compelling personal drama. The only potential sticking point with me is the choice of writer. James Venderbilt was responsible for Fincher’s decent Zodiac, but also wrote the brainless Welcome to the Jungle and The Losers.
I was originally against the idea of the Spider-man reboot, because i thought it was being done purely for the wrong reasons. The more i think about it, though, the more excited i am by the chance that we could get something unique, something great, rather than the overblown Spider-man 4 we could well have had, if Raimi had continued to direct, and the studio had continued to interfere due to their financial concerns. We will see with the choices of actors for the rest of the characters whether acting ability remains a central casting decision. If it does, then i think Sony should be given a pass. As always, we’ll keep you updated with the news as we get it.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann