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At 28, Elizabeth Banks Was Too Old and Haggard to Play Mary-Jane Watson in Spider-Man

Illustration for article titled At 28, Elizabeth Banks Was Too Old and Haggard to Play Mary-Jane Watson in iSpider-Man/i

In an interview with Glamour UK, Elizabeth Banks said that she was turned down for the role of Mary-Jane Watson, the love interest in 2002's Spider-Man, for being “too old.” Banks was 28 at the time, only a year older than Tobey Maguire, who played Peter Parker/Spiderman.


Banks told Glamour:

“I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man movie, opposite Tobey Maguire...Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s what I’ve signed up for.’”


The role, of course, went to Kristen Dunst who, at only 18, was young enough to think that upside-down kiss in the rain thing was romantic. Banks was cast in a minor role in the series: she appeared as secretary Betty Brant in three of the franchise films.

There’s probably some takeaway from this about the trajectory of a women’s career in Hollywood: at 18, an actress is still a love interest and ingenue, but by 28, she’s a secretary in a bad wig.

Banks and Dunst at the 2002 premiere of Spider-Man. Images via Getty.

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Am I awful in thinking that the issue is less the non-casting of Banks and the casting of Maguire? Peter Parker is a high-school senior. At no point in Spider-Man does Maguire look like anything other than an older dude with large eyes pretending to be a high schooler.

So yes, it’s ridiculous and hypocritical of them to cast Maguire when they won’t cast Banks, but it’s also just ridiculous of them to cast Maguire. Tom Holland in Captain America:Civil War is the first actor in any Spider-Man movie to actually look and feel like a youth grappling with his powers.