In the early ’60s, Stan Lee was conscious of the surging popularity of comic books among teenagers, and wanted to create a superhero they could see as one of their own. Spider-Man, who first appeared in a comic book 50 years ago this summer, broke ground as the first teen hero who wasn’t a sidekick and who had to fumble through late adolescence on his own. Though various comic-book incarnations have seen Peter Parker depicted as a college student, freelance photographer and even high school teacher, both Spider-Man (2002) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) focus on the brainy New York high school outcast in two similar but distinct versions of the same character.
Andrew Garfield, 28, is a gangly six-foot British-American actor who studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama – its famous graduates include Vanessa Redgrave and Sir. Laurence Olivier. Though he acted onstage from the time he was 12, Garfield’s first television work wasn’t until seven years ago, and his breakthrough was in David Fincher’s The Social Network and, on Broadway, in Death of a Salesman.
Tobey Maguire, was 26 when he played Spider-Man a decade ago, when he was already a well-established actor, with a history of competing with Leonardo DiCaprio for parts. A child actor from the time he dropped out of school after ninth grade, the slightly built actor often played teenagers into his twenties. His breakthrough was as a dreamy student in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm.
GIRL ISSUES VS. DADDY ISSUES
Tobey Macguire, in his introduction to Spider-Man, leaves no doubt: “But let me assure you. This, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl.” In the midst of battles, he still likes to wisecrack and refer to himself as the “friendly neighbourhood hero.”
Director Marc Webb on the new Peter Parker’s motivations: “What we took for the beginning of the story is Peter being left by his father and mother, and what that does for him, and the emotion ripples through the movie, and subsequent movies as well.”
NERDS VS. BULLIES
In Spider-Man, Maguire’s Peter Parker is a sweet-natured and undersized nerd who everyone picks on. He runs for the bus every day and even the driver enjoys tormenting him. When he accidentally incites the wrath of bully Flash Johnson, he’s as surprised as anyone when he knocks the bully flying, but he still gets called a “freak.”
In The Amazing Spider-Man, Parker is a scrawny loner who stands up for kid who’s getting picked on by Johnson and Gwen Stacy, saves him from a beating. He takes pleasure in humiliating the class bully. The bully later wants to be his pal.
LEAN AND POINTY VS. SMALL AND STRONG
One of the reasons director Webb said he cast Garfield was because, as well as being a highly trained actor with athletic skills (gymnastics and swimming), he had a natural awkwardness that worked for the part: “He moved like a kid, his elbows were flying all over the place.”
Many young actors – James Franco, Jake Gyllenhaal and Leonardo DiCaprio – were considered for the original movie. The studio was reluctant to use Macguire until he bulked up for his screen test. After getting the part, he went on an exercise regimen and special diet for five months to develop Peter’s lithe, moderately muscular body.
THE WEB-SPINNER: MECHANICAL VS. BIOLOGICAL
Along with his suit and mask, few things define Spider-man more clearly than his “web-spinners,” allowing him to attach long threads to tall buildings or to lasso criminals. In the original Spider-man comic books, Peter Parker designed his own mechanical web-throwers with adhesive webbing, but in the first Spider-man movie, the producers opted to make the web-spinners part of Parker’s biological transformation. The idea, reportedly introduced by James Cameron in a early treatment for the movie, was that Peter shouldn’t be too exceptional. The new movie reverts back to the comic book, with the cerebral Peter creating his own web shooters.
MARY-JANE VS. GWEN
During the shooting of Spider-Man in 2001, director Sam Raimi discovered that stars Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were also a romantic couple. The relationship ended a couple of years later.
Though they haven’t officially confirmed it, Andrew Garfield and his co-star Emma Stone are also now considered a couple, after director Marc Webb noted their particularly strong chemistry on the first script reading.