The thinking person’s reaction to three-time Oscar nominee, one-time Oscar winner Marisa Tomei playing the role of Aunt May in Spider-Man: Homecoming is well summed up in this tweet:
In a Q&A with the New York Times, Tomei, 52, discussed playing a character who has been depicted as elderly in the film’s comic-book source material. (Rosemary Harris, who played Aunt May in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films of the early ‘00s, was 74 when Spider-Man hit theaters in 2002; Sally Field, who played May in the Andrew Garfield-led reboot films, was 65 when The Amazing Spider-Man bowed in 2012.) Here’s how that went:
How did you feel when you learned who Aunt May was and how she was depicted in the comics?
I was horrified. Talk about crushed. [laughs] I went through the whole negotiation without knowing. They just kept saying “an iconic character, an iconic character.” It sounds kind of ridiculous, but it all happened very quickly. It was right before “Captain America: Civil War” was shooting. Everything happened within maybe 10 days. But I was more focused on my deal, honestly. And then, the illustration was revealed to me.
But you didn’t feel they were asking you to play a dowdy widow?
You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that depiction of the character. I don’t want to be coming from an ageist point of view about that, at all. It was my own personal cross to bear at that moment. But in the scope of things, why not? I thought, maybe I should lean into that and go full-on silver hair. Instead, we gave her long hair.
She’s just trying to work, ya know?
Elsewhere in the Q&A, journalist Dave Itzkoff asked Tomei about the colossal fuck-up at the Oscars when Faye Dunaway declared La La Land Best Picture when in fact the award went to Moonlight. This is relevant because soon after Tomei won Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny in 1993, a rather tenacious rumor took hold that Jack Palance, who presented it to her, called out the wrong name. During the Moonlight/La La Land kerfuffle, we saw exactly how that would have played out, if true: Pacing suits, abandoned speeches, an immediate retraction, an utter tinseltown tizzy. Here’s what Tomei had to say about that:
You were the victim of a false, nasty rumor that you’d won your Oscar because a presenter said the wrong name. Did this year’s Oscars mix-up provide some validation: Now we really know what happens when the wrong name is announced?
When I was younger, it hurt my feelings. It made me quite ashamed, actually. But on the other hand, it’s a load of [expletive]. I think it had to do more with the role that I played — that it was comedic and that it wasn’t upper class. I think it was more of a classist thing, frankly.
I kind of wish Tomei addressed the question head-on about this year’s Oscar ceremony as opposed to talking generally about the controversy (a topic she has been talking about in interviews regularly for almost 25 years now). But the thing is, Moonlight’s ultimate triumph didn’t vindicate her because she’s been vindicated.