Tobey Maguire for “Spider-Man 2”

Tobey Maguire is not one from shying away from how he feels about the media. Casually attired in jeans and t-shirt, Maguire is surrounded by a media keen, in part, to discuss the much-publicised problems with Spider-Man 2.

Consistently shy and awkward in front of the press, Maguire jokingly says that “talking to the media” is one of the frustrations he associates with the Spider-Man franchise, that managed to turn his world upside down, adding “I get overwhelmed and have all kinds of regular feelings about stuff, but if I get perspective on it, my problems are basically quality problems.”

Yet there is no doubt that for Maguire, who was already gaining success through smaller films such as The Ice Storm and Cider House Rules, nothing could prepare him for the frenzy that was initiated following the release of Spider-Man two years ago, though the actor admits to being slightly more comfortable these days with his new-found celebrity status. “I guess maybe I’m slightly more comfortable with it, but not much, as it just is what it is. I experienced some celebrity prior to Spider-Man, but after its release, I was jarred by it for literally two days. It was a little shocking, like ‘Oh my gosh, there are four or five cars following me around.’ There have been a few moments like that, where it was a little jarring to me. Now I pretty much just try not to pay attention to it. I don’t particularly love all that side of it, but it just is what it is,” Maguire says, somewhat philosophically.

Given the actor’s profile, there was more attention paid to the actor’s involvement with Spider-Man 2. Continual back problems resulted in rumours of him being fired from the film, coupled with stories of outrageous salary demands and negotiations. Regarding his back problems Maguire was determined to set the record straight from his perspective. “First of all, this is a back condition I’ve had for three or four years, on and off. Sometimes it doesn’t really bother me at all, while sometimes it bothers me a little or a lot. Coming off of Seabiscuit it was bugging me a lot, but not because of Seabiscuit. I saw the animatics and storyboards of the stunts I was to do on Spider-Man 2 and was a little concerned about it. I felt it was my responsibility to disclose my back discomfort to the studio, to the insurance company and to the filmmakers, which I did. They were understandably concerned and any of their actions that resulted in that report did not offend me or bother me in any way. I understood that they have a multi multi-million dollar investment that they had a start date for and an entire crew hired for, and everything was rushing towards a date five weeks away, to start this picture. We were all concerned about it. Then I went in with the stunt guys and worked on a few of the stunts to see how I was going to do. After I reported the stuff to them and told them about my condition my back started getting better. I told them about it and within about a week my back got better than it had been in three years, so it was much ado about nothing at that point. I did the film and it didn’t bother me throughout the whole filming. As a matter of fact it was easier than Seabiscuit and easier than Spider-Man 1, because having had the experience of doing it before made it easier for me and the harnesses that I wore were better and the wire rigs were easier for me, for some reason.”

Maguire vehemently denies that the re-negotiations for his Spider-Man 2 contract had anything to do with him being fired from the film. “We were renegotiating, but that was settled before any of the back stuff came up. So we were done with that at that point as far as I remember. Maybe some of the finer points of the deal were still being worked out, but the big issues were done. You know, the negotiations were fine. They were negotiations. I was asking for this and they wanted to give me that, and then we finally met somewhere.”

Maguire says he didn’t have any trepidation, pressure or concerns following the huge success that was Spider-Man, with its sequel. “It was a pleasure for me to do the sequel. None of my feelings had to do with the success of the first movie, in terms of making the second one. What it has to do with is that I really love working with Sam Raimi who is a lot of fun and a funny guy. Also, he’s very collaborative and open to me contributing my ideas, which I love and makes me feel like a greater part of the filmmaking process,” Maguire says. Asked how he might have changed between films, Maguire merely says that “I’m not sure how I’ve changed. I’m a few years older and I think I’ve changed a little bit, as one would, but I haven’t really thought about it.” On the other hand, his on-screen alter ego Peter Parker has changed and, the actor says, “Is just in a different place in his life. I think being Spider-Man is wearing on him, not having a life of his own. I always thought it was peculiar to me how this kid couldn’t see how he could just have a little balance in his life and things would be a little better for him. But there are complications to that, which I understand. He doesn’t want to put his loved ones in danger and just being honest with people, at first causes him pain. He wants a life of his own, wants to have some kind of balance in his life, but also has these gifts and wants to use them responsibly.” You would think, in some way, Maguire would be able to identify with Pete4r, but not so, says the actor. “It’s a bit of a stretch. I get really busy and can feel somewhat overwhelmed at times, but my life is not at all like his. I have friends and family that I’m close to, and I’m an actor,” he adds laughingly.

While Maguire’s co-star Kirsten Dunst has emphatically stated that she won’t do a fourth Spider-Man, Maguire is a tad more circumspect on the subject. “I don’t know that I would make a statement like that, but I don’t anticipate doing a fourth movie. I think that three is probably enough for me, but you never know. If they sent me a script that was better than any other script I’ve ever read and offered me a piece of Sony Corporation, maybe I’d change my mind”, Maguire says laughingly.” Never say never, you know? Sony is a big company.”

Maguire is now in a position to be choosy in what he takes on in the movie world, saying that he is not really sure what kinds of roles he really wants these days. “There are so many things I enjoy watching, in terms of movies and different kinds of movies. I love scary movies and really love thrillers. I like a Marathon Man kind of movie and The Shining. I like those kinds of films. I like romantic comedies, but I like the best of everything.”