A TANGLED WEB
Tobey Maguire is about as sorry as a star can be.
The 27-year-old is currently in New York, shooting the sequel to last year’s $820 million-grossing “Spider-Man” – but he almost lost the part.
Maguire got himself dismissed from “Spider-Man 2” earlier this spring, and got his job back, thanks to some string-pulling by a major Hollywood power player – who happens to be his girlfriend’s father.
“I feel like I learned a lesson,” he says in his first public comments on the dust-up. “The movie is the most important thing.”
Maguire’s saga began in March, when he had the notion that Columbia Pictures would arrange the shooting schedule for this costly project on his terms.
Maguire has a bad back, which pained him on the original “Spider-Man” shoot and during the production of “Seabiscuit” (opening in July), in which Maguire plays a racehorse jockey.
But producer Laura Ziskin and director Sam Raimi did not react well when Maguire sent his neurosurgeon to meet them.
Maguire’s doctor went over “Spider-Man 2” storyboards, and said Maguire might not be able to perform certain scenes.
A few days later, the studio told Maguire he would be dropped.
Inside sources say the director was already dissatisfied with his star, who had neglected to undergo a computer scan needed by the special-effects team.
“I could have come in,” Maguire says, “but I was working [on ‘Seabiscuit’] six days a week, 14 to 15 hours a day. I was exhausted.
“If I had understood the importance of it, I probably would have kicked myself and done it anyway.”
Within days, Columbia replaced Maguire with Jake Gyllenhaal, another slender man-boy with large soulful eyes.
Many believe Maguire was especially replaceable as Spider-Man because, as with James Bond, the concept overshadows the actor.
Had he not returned to “Spider-Man,” says a leading agent, “Tobey Maguire the actor would have survived.
“But Tobey Maguire the multimillion-dollar movie star? I don’t know.”
Maguire says he was blindsided.
“There was a period when I didn’t know what I could do to work it out,” he says. “I felt a little bit at a loss.”
But Maguire has a powerful friend in Ron Meyer, the head of Universal Pictures, which is producing “Seabiscuit.” Maguire is dating Meyer’s daughter, Jennifer Meyer.
The mogul got on the phone and told Maguire to fight – reminding him of Michael Keaton, who walked away from a lucrative career mainstay when he refused to get back into the Batmobile.
Although Columbia Pictures head Amy Pascal minimizes Meyer’s role, inside sources say Meyer used a career’s worth of experience and good relationships to help get Maguire back into a film that is a major franchise for a rival studio.
The studio did not yield easily.
Maguire had to undergo a physical exam, swing from the harness to prove his fitness and make his peace with Raimi.
“I’m just glad it worked out,” Maguire says. “I’m glad I got to look these people in the face and say, ‘I’m really sorry. I’m going to do whatever it takes.’ ”
A knowledgeable source says the studio also built into Maguire’s contract a number of provisions under which he can be penalized financially if he fails to fulfill his obligations.
Soon after, Maguire fired his agent, Leslie Siebert of the Gersh Agency, and signed with CAA – the agency Meyer had co-founded.
He’ll be working with Richard Lovett and Rick Nicita, who represent Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.
That alone may have made a statement to Maguire, who regained his role – and possibly much more.
A TANGLED WEB