Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!
Call it a comeback, or call it one of the worst-kept secrets ever. Either way, seeing former Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield join MCU mainstay Tom Holland was a dream come true (and an early Christmas gift) for longtime Spidey fans who helped propel Spider-Man: No Way Home to Sony’s biggest Marvel box office ever.
Before the movie’s Dec. 17 debut, tons of buzz surrounded the likelihood that Sony was getting ready to revive the spirit of Spideys past. But all that hype didn’t account for one key thing: How would these heroes look in the present day? What would their lives be like if their characters had remained on the same track where fans last saw them in those respective film series?
For screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, bringing Maguire and Garfield into No Way Home’s strange new multiverse posed a higher-concept story challenge than simply pleasing longtime fans. That meant Maguire’s Peter Parker would emerge from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films of the early 2000s still connected with MJ, while Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man hero would still be under a dark cloud from the loss of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
“As writers, we kept saying, ‘Where are these characters in their lives when they come into the movie?’” McKenna explained in a far-ranging talk with The Hollywood Reporter. “Where is Tobey? We’re not de-agifying him. He’s a guy who is 43, who is entering this movie, and Andrew Garfield, where are they in their lives?
“The last time you saw Andrew Garfield, it was the death of Gwen, and that must have sent him down a dark spiral, maybe he never got out of. We don’t know, because there wasn’t a third movie that we saw. Where did he go? Maybe a really dark place. We wanted to be true to the characters in those movies. Really having conversations about specifying where they are, without giving away too much. Not coming in, spilling all the beans. ‘Tobey’s Peter is running Peter Parker Industries!’ You just wanted to have little hints of that without it being all this exposition as fan service.”
Both actors might have done some of their best acting before No Way Home even made it to theaters, admirably deflecting endless questions about whether they would really be involved. But behind the scenes, they were super-invested in helping the writers achieve the kind of fraternal, mentor-like role their previous Spider-Man characters could play in guiding Holland’s MCU Spidey down the right path.
“They had thoughts, and it was really interesting and helpful to see their thoughts,” said Sommers. “No one knows the character as well as — or gives as much thought to the character — as someone who has to then embody it and sell it. It’s always valuable to hear what the actor is thinking. It definitely shaped what we did.”
Updating Garfield’s place in the present-day world posed an intriguing challenge, since The Amazing Spider-Man 2 left him hanging in a morally ambiguous limbo after Gwen Stacy’s death.
“Andrew really loved the idea of he’s still tortured over what happened in Amazing Spider-Man 2 and where that left him, and how they could bring that to Tom,” said McKenna. “…We thought it was cool that Andrew’s Peter was still in the midst of that darkness. [Maguire and Garfield] weren’t just here to go, ‘Two awesome Jedi knight heroes who show up and are going to help you take down the bad guys.’ They are going through their own things.”
As it turned out, a little life perspective from a pair of once-bitten heroes ended up being just what Holland’s Spider-Man needed. Catch all three Spideys in action on the big screen, where Spider-Man: No Way Home is still lighting up theaters nationwide.