After the success of Spider-Man in 2002, actor Tobey Maguire quickly became one of the biggest stars in the world. And he knew it. The actor, who was reportedly paid $4 million for the film, wanted a salary hike for the sequel. But little did he know that his negotiation tactics would blow up in his face after Sony reportedly fired him and reached out to Jake Gyllenhaal to replace him in the role.
In 2003, after learning that Sony was moving ahead with a sequel to Spider-Man, Maguire sent his doctor to a meeting with director Sam Raimi and producer Laura Ziskin, claiming that he had injured himself while filming Seabiscuit, and wouldn’t be able to perform the stunts in the sequel. His publicist even released the following statement: “After doing two physically demanding films in a row, Tobey has experienced mild discomfort in his back which is in the final stages of healing. With an April 12 start date around the corner, everyone involved wants to be certain he is able to do the intense stunts.”
According to a Variety report from 2003, Maguire was unhappy about the fact that Ziskin made more than him from the first film: approximately $30 million.
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But Sony called him on his bluff. The report went on to say that the studio told Maguire that because of his back problems, it couldn’t afford to delay the film much longer, and made an offer to Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal was reportedly dating actor Kirsten Dunst at the time. Dunst played Mary Jane in the first Spider-Man movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
At that point, Variety reported, Maguire’s representatives had to step in and save the day. They assured Sony that the actor would ‘behave himself’. The actor agreed to undergo medical tests to prove that he was ready for the sequel.
For his part, Maguire always maintained that the reports about this being a negotiation tactic were ‘ridiculous’, but he did admit to the Los Angeles Times that the situation had come to the point where he had to “look these people in the face and say, ‘I’m really sorry. I’m going to do whatever it takes.’”
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Maguire reportedly made $17 million for Spider-Man 2, often regarded as one of the best superhero films ever made. Gyllenhaal was cast as the villainous Mysterio in 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, opposite Tom Holland’s Spidey.
The entire incident was recreated in a season of the HBO series Entourage, in which the actor protagonist tried to pull a similar move and was about to be replaced, by Gyllenhaal, in a sequel to James Cameron’s Aquaman.
During Far From Home’s promotions, a Yahoo reporter told Gyllenhaal that they’d heard he was in the running to replace Maguire years ago, to which Gyllenhaal said, “I heard the same thing. The truth of the matter is, in the end, [Tobey Maguire is] Spider-Man. There are so many roles in my career where I was up against another actor, or there was something happened that possibly could’ve happened but didn’t happen but maybe it would have. Eventually my belief is when an actor’s played a character, particularly in a movie, the character’s theirs, and that’s that. But yeah there was talk, he hurt himself and there was talk. There was a slew of actors [possibly up for the part], and I was one of them.”
Maguire returned to play Spider-Man in one more film after Spider-Man 2, until he was replaced by Andrew Garfield, who, incidentally, was also reportedly fired.
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