How Many More Spider-Man Sequels Should Tobey and Kirsten Make?
Today's Variety story about the Fantastic Four reboot reminded me of reports that James Vanderbilt, who wrote the first draft of the upcoming, cast-reuniting Spider-Man 4, is scripting Spider-Man 5 and 6 to not only link together but to provide a reboot point for new actors and a new director if necessary. I can't imagine Sam Raimi would come back for Spidey 5 as he's supposed to make World of Warcraft next (then again, I was surprised by his virtually unprecedented decision to helm all four of the Spidey pictures thus far), but should Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? Let's consider their options.
Both actors are returning for at least Spider-Man 4, another deal that seemed deeply unlikely once upon a time. Maguire famously appeared ready to jump ship on Spider-Man 2 (which would have led to a Jake Gyllenhaal recast) until his wife's father, Universal CEO Ron Meyer, convinced him he'd be pulling a Shelley Long. For her part, Dunst wasn't exactly keen on the idea of doing a fourth sequel during press rounds for the last one.
Here's the thing, though: Both stars have seen their careers wane in the years since Spider-Man 3. Though principal shooting wrapped in 2006, Maguire's completed only one film since then: the Jim Sheridan drama Brothers, which still hasn't come out. All Dunst has released since Spidey 3 was the bomb How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, where she played Simon Pegg's love interest, for some reason. (And let's not even get started on Topher Grace -- Spider-Man 3 is still his only screen credit since leaving That 70's Show. If James Franco wasn't doing so well, we'd start to consider a Spidey 3 curse.)
Both Maguire and Dunst, then, need Spider-Man 4 to provide a jump-start to careers that have languished of late. But do they need Spidey 5 or 6? Maguire probably needs it the least -- he's got plenty of other films in development, and Raimi's likely abandonment of the franchise could give him the clean break he needs.
Dunst, though, could use a few guaranteed Spidey sequels; unfortunately, if Maguire and Raimi jump ship, Sony will probably enact a comprehensive reboot and recast the role of Mary Jane, regardless of Dunst's potential cooperation. By eliminating the franchise's three main players -- Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst -- Sony could shave off star salaries and steep back-end participation, keeping megabudgets manageable. That's why Gyllenhaal, who could command a Maguire-like paycheck at this point, shouldn't expect a call for Spidey 5. (Besides, he's got his own incipient franchise in Prince of Persia.)
And thus, I'm put in the interesting position of caring little about Spidey 4, yet eagerly anticipating the Spidey 5 recasting circus. Who might be approached to suit up and step into Hollywood's biggest sure thing? Let's start the rumors now: Megan Fox as Peter Parker!