Twenty years ago Tobey Maguire was on the rise in Hollywood.
Way before his tenure as Spider-Man, the actor had impressed in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, and was soon taking on meatier roles in Gary Ross’ Pleasantville and Lasse Hallström’s The Cider House Rules. Nowadays, he’s seemingly vanished from the cinematic landscape.
It’s hard to believe that a straight white actor with real talent would see roles dry up, though many believe his last outing as Peter Parker was a contributing factor. 2007’s Spider-Man 3 was a shock to audiences who had been so enthralled by the previous two movies in the franchise. Spider-Man 2 is still considered one of the best superhero movies ever made but its follow-up left a lot to be desired as Maguire debuted a “darker” Spidey that came across as corny, not cool.
Even Sam Raimi, the director of all three of Tobey’s Spider-Man movies, admitted he had really messed up on the film and was hoping he could correct his mistakes with a fourth instalment. That never came to pass as Sony chose to move on by rebooting the franchise with Andrew Garfield, but despite Maguire’s mocked Spider-Man 3 performance he still landed some significant roles.
In 2009, the actor starred in Brothers earning a Golden Globe nomination for his role as a soldier forced to do the unthinkable, after being caught by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, and the effect his PTSD has on his wife, daughters, and brother upon returning home. It was the sort of role that could reboot an actor’s career and for Maguire specifically, it proved to be a return to dramatic form for the man who earned admiration for his earlier turns in Seabiscuit, Pleasantville and The Cider House Rule.
Two years later, he took the lead in The Details, a romantic comedy that many critics felt had shown the baby-faced actor was finally “growing up,” though most reviews were mixed and it earned a measly $63,595 (around £48,000) at the box office. His next leading role wouldn’t come for another three years, having taken supporting jobs in The Great Gatsby (reuniting with his best pal and This Boy’s Life co-star Leonardo DiCaprio) and Labor Day in the time between.
Maguire produced and starred in Pawn Sacrifice as American chess player Bobby Fischer, which told the story of Bobby who took on Soviet chess masters during the Cold War. The film cost $19 million to make and earned positive reviews but it only made $5.6 million. Maybe the poor box office was down to the former Spider-Man not being the draw he once was before, or maybe something else had dimmed his spotlight.
The same year Pawn Sacrifice was released, “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom published her memoir. The 2014 autobiography – Molly’s Game – detailed the notorious high stakes poker games she ran in Los Angeles, which Maguire not only attended but allegedly had an active role in. The book wasn’t kind to him. Several celebrities were mentioned, including Leo and Ben Affleck, but when it came to Tobey he came across as an entitled, manipulative and spiteful participant.
According to the book, Maguire allegedly made Bloom bark like a seal for tips, was a sore winner who rubbed losses in his opponents’ faces and exploited a player by taking on his debt in an extortionately bad deal. This was a far cry from the heroic public persona he had cultivated since playing Peter Parker though, ironically, it’s the dark performance Spider-Man 3 was sorely missing.
Last year, his gambling dirty laundry was aired again as the book was given a Hollywood retelling in the Jessica Chastain-led film Molly’s Game. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said the Player X character – played by Michael Cera – was an amalgamation of several celebrities mentioned in the book, but you only had to look to Molly’s memoirs to see the parallels between her relationship with the ruthless Player X and her tortured time with Maguire.
Since 2014, Tobey’s only acting role has been in 2017’s The Boss Baby, doing voice work as the film’s narrator, but that doesn’t mean that he’s been shunned from the movie industry. Rather, he’s focused more on his career as a producer that began in 2002 with the critically-acclaimed Spike Lee joint 25th Hour.
Over the years he’s produced films like Country Strong, Rock of Ages, Z for Zachariah and The 5th Wave and currently has three films in the works including Rub & Tug. The biopic of Dante “Tex” Gill, a trans man who ran a Pitsburgh brothel, recently saw Scarlett Johansson drop out of producing and playing the lead following a backlash over her casting.
Though there are reports that the film might not get made after Johansson’s exit, it could still prove to be a pivotal moment for Maguire to reestablish his position in Hollywood. Many an actor has enjoyed film success without actually starring in the film; Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney and Jodie Foster are proof of that. So with the former Spider-Man producing a movie with a transactor as the lead, and support from an A-list cast, he could still make Rub & Tug an awards contender as well as show that he’s part of the progressive movement that wants Hollywood to be far more representative.
So as much as Tobey Maguire is not making bank as an actor anymore, he could as a producer and the recognition he would get from telling diverse stories like Gill’s could be just the redemption he needs.