It’s an interesting moment for Tobey Maguire.
When he was playing Spider-Man on a regular basis, Maguire was a movie star by default. If you star in a film that makes $800 million or so worldwide, you’re potentially bankable. If you star in two, you’re a potential star. You star in three? That’s a rare club. Maguire’s done it. Three giant giant movies.
But aside from those three films, has he ever really opened a movie? I like a lot of his work. I just wrote about “Ride With The Devil” the other day, and a big part of that film’s sucess is Maguire’s work. He’s very real, very sincere and sweet as a guy who does some brutal things during the Civil War. I’m hoping there’s a Criterion Blu-ray version of “The Ice Storm” coming soon, because I love that movie. That’s my favorite film of 1997, and the work of the young cast like Maguire and Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood is a big part of why I think the film is amazing. “Pleasantville” and “Wonder Boys” are both rich and interesting films I’ll happily discuss with anyone at length. Films that reward return visits. So Maguire’s got taste. He’s capable of doing really strong and challenging work. I root for him. I like enough of what he’s done to feel invested. You know how it is for some actors… you just plain like them on film.
But I do wonder… is Tobey Maguire a movie star by any conventional definition at this point?
If he’s not playing Spider-Man, what is he worth at the box-office?
That is, after all, part of the definition of “movie star”. If you open a movie… if your presence in the film means there’s a certain level of box-office… then you’re a movie star. You’re bigger than the movie you’re in. There are many people who appear regularly in big movies, and arguably make those big movies better, but they aren’t the reason the films open or play. Jeff Goldblum was a big part of why people loved “Jurassic Park,” but Jeff Goldblum isn’t why people went crazy going back to the theater all summer long, or what got them in to see the film in the first place. Tobey Maguire was well-liked in the “Spider-Man” films, but the films opened and played because they were “Spider-Man” films.
Maguire may have talked himself out of a chance to test his ability to carry a big movie away from the comfort of “Spider-Man” when he entered into talks with 20th Century Fox to star in “Rise Of The Apes,” the new reboot of the “Planet Of The Apes” franchise. According to HitFix sources, when Maguire came back to the table with script notes for the studio, the conversations abruptly stopped, and Fox moved quickly to close a deal with Franco, another of the final contenders for the lead role.
Movie stars have real weight when it comes to getting script changes made. The less pull you have, the less of a movie star you are. When the mere mention of script notes gets a studio to flip a switch on you, hot to cold in a flash, then they’re looking at you as a replaceable part of the equation.
Will Smith? Movie star. Brad Pitt? Movie star. Tom Cruise. Still a movie star. Tom Hanks. Perhaps the most beloved movie star.
But Tobey Maguire? After this incident, I’d say no. And for Franco, this is a good move, a good next step. Franco’s not a movie star, either, but he doesn’t seem in any rush to prove otherwise. Franco’s an actor. Just a working actor. He’s gotten much better over the years, but he started out really strong on “Freaks & Geeks.” He’s got a big role, and a good role, in “Your Highness,” which just shifted its release date from this fall to next spring. And who knows… if he strings enough of these together, then maybe Franco will find himself a full-blown movie star soon enough.
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