Elizabeth Banks is appearing in the upcoming Power Rangers film reboot as villain Rita Repulsa, and she’s no stranger to superhero franchise films. According to a recent interview, somewhere out there in the multiverse, there’s a world in which Elizabeth Banks played the role of Mary Jane Watson in the original 2002 Spider-Man film. The role, as many of you probably know, went to Kirsten Dunst, who was in her late teens at the time. What, you may ask, is the reason for Banks not scoring the role?
In a recent interview with Glamour UK, Banks revealed that she screen-tested for the role but didn’t get it. The reason? “I was told I was too old to play her…” Banks told the magazine. This is pretty confounding to hear. Banks, as she notes in the interview, was only 26 when she tested for the role. It’s possible to argue that Mary Jane is a high school student in the movie and that Banks was, in fact, too old. But that argument is pretty hard to hold up when you remember that, as Banks pointed out, Tobey Maguire was the same age as she was when she auditioned. The Spider-Man movies have had a habit in the past of casting actors significantly beyond the high school age range in the roles of Peter and Mary Jane (until the recent casting of 20-year-old Tom Holland in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but that’s no excuse.
Banks would go on to play Daily Bugle staffer Betty Brandt in all three of Sam Raimi’s original films. It’s safe to say that regardless of her age at the time of her audition, she clearly made a good impression, hence her being kept around in that capacity. And with the consistent de-aging of Aunt May over the three incarnations of Spidey on film, there’s always a chance she could score that role next week when the franchise inevitably gets rebooted for the fourth time.