Spider-Man: Far From Home Mysterio Quentin Beck Jake Gyllenhaal
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Credit: Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures

How Jake Gyllenhaal almost replaced Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man

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Jul 1, 2019, 10:01 AM EDT

Jake Gyllenhaal finally makes his superhero movie debut this Wednesday (Jul. 3) as Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home. But Gyllenhaal almost starred in a Spider-Man movie back in 2003 — as the webslinging hero himself.

According to reports at the time, Tobey Maguire wanted more money to come back for Spider-Man 2 following the success of 2002's mega-hit Spider-Man. He eventually got his cash — some $17 million — but also presented a list of demands that the studio (Columbia Pictures) balked at. Around the same time, Maguire also began suffering from back problems, threatening the start of production on Spider-Man 2.

No worries, said Columbia. If Maguire's back issues are going to stop Spider-Man 2 from making its release date, they would just hire this guy: 23-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal, who was just beginning to make a name for himself in a series of indie films. But, as history makes clear, Maguire's back issues went away and he went on to box office glory in Spider-Man 2.

When asked now by Yahoo! if he ever was in the running to replace an ailing Maguire, Gyllenhaal is, shall we say, a little evasive.

"I heard the same thing," he admits. "The truth of the matter is, in the end, (Tobey Maguire is) Spider-Man. There are so many roles in my career where I was up against another actor, or there was something happened that possibly could've happened but didn't happen but maybe it would have."

Gyllenhall adds, "Eventually my belief is when an actor's played a character, particularly in a movie, the character's theirs, and that's that. But yeah there was talk, he hurt himself and there was talk. There was a slew of actors, and I was one of them." (Incidentally, Gyllenhaal and Maguire later teamed up in 2009 drama Brothers.)

Whether or not there was a slew of actors might be up for debate, but the fact is that, had things gone differently 16 years ago, Jake Gyllenhaal could have played Spider-Man — and might have changed the trajectory of that series and the superhero genre.

So it's somewhat poetic that when he makes his entrance into the world of superheroes, it's in a Spider-Man movie — not as the hero but as the enigmatic Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio.

Do you think Jake Gyllenhaal could have been as successful as Spider-Man as Tobey Maguire was? How do you reckon such a major casting switch might have affected the franchise?