Yesterday, Sony Pictures sent out a press release announcing that director Sam Raimi and the cast of “Spider-Man 4” were no longer involved in making the next Spidey film, and a script from writer James Vanderbilt would reboot their Spider-Man franchise. With Raimi and his crew now out of the picture, Sony’s announcement provided few details about the project but did throw out one hint – the film that will replace “Spider-Man 4” when it hits theaters in 2012 will rewind to spotlight Peter Parker as a teenager.
Whether Vanderbilt’s script chooses mainstream Marvel Comics continuity, Brian Michael Bendis’ “Ultimate Spider-Man” world or something else entirely as its basis, Spidey’s high school life comes with a standard cast of characters who will need to be matched with appropriate actors. Here are a few possibilities, some of whom may be ready and willing depending on how real past rumors about their interests in the Spidey-verse have been.
Topping Tobey Maguire’s performance in “Spider-Man” will be a steep challenge, and Sony will need to grab an actor who can pass for sympathetically nerdy in the classroom and still pull off being heroically nerdy under a mask.
Michael Angarano: Almost two years ago, this maturing kid actor headlined the rumor mill as a potential replacement for Tobey Maguire. Most recognizable from his role as Elliot in “Will & Grace,” he’s picked up other parts along the way in “24” and “Lords of Dogtown. ”
Patrick Fugit: Fugit played the little brother who went on to tour with rock legends in “Almost Famous” and starred as a heroic loner opposite Jena Malone in “Saved!” His name appeared alongside Angarano’s back when Maguire’s intentions were still up in the air.
Josh Hutcherson: Hutcherson hasn’t been attached to any reports, but the teen star from “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “The Vampire’s Assistant” has some geek cred on his resume already from voicing Van-El in the “Justice League” cartoon.
MARY JANE WATSON
Casting high school aged characters often skews toward older actors in Hollywood, but if Sony goes for the lighter feel of “Ultimate Spider-Man” or “Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, ” Peter’s red-headed love interest from Raimi’s trilogy could look one of two ways or not appear at all.
Evan Rachel Wood: This “True Blood” actress already has an upcoming M.J. credit to her name if “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ever gets its act together on Broadway. She’s probably a long shot to appear in both the musical and the movie, but stranger things have happened.
Nina Dobrev: She might need to color her hair, but Dobrev, who’s appeared in both “The Vampire Diaries” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation” has the smile to pull off the same strong, down-to-earth personality Kirsten Dunst nailed during her time as Spider-Man’s main squeeze.
Lily Collins: Most recently seen in the Sandra Bullock movie “The Blind Side,” Collins can pass for the youngest Mary Jane of these three actresses, but she has the stage presence and charisma to do a convincing job as M.J. in her formative years.
Another decision the studio will have to make will be whether or not they stick with Mary Jane as Peter’s big crush or opt to send Gwen Stacy to his high school and prematurely kickstart their relationship.
Taylor Momsen: Momsen has played both the social misfit and the evil queen of popularity in “Gossip Girl, ” and there’s a place between those two mindsets that she could easily use to inhabit Gwen Stacy.
Dakota Fanning: The little girl who played Sally in “The Cat in the Hat” and “War of the Worlds” has grown up a bit, as demonstrated by her new look in the “Twilight” films. In fact, she’s just the right age to slip into the part of Captain George Stacy’s daughter.
Emma Roberts: Bryce Dallas Howard made blonde work for her as Gwen Stacy, and Roberts, who starred in the title role of 2007’s “Nancy Drew” could do it too. She’s definitely worth consideration, and she’s not quite as widely recognized as these other two candidates.
The eventual wife of Harry Osborn shouldn’t be left out of Peter Parker’s Midtown High School social circle. Whether she’s a love interest for Harry, Peter or anyone else, there’s a place for her in this movie.
Amber Heard: Heard most recently appeared onscreen in “Zombieland” and “The Stepfather.” She looks the part and could cop just the right amount of attitude to ruffle some feathers and remain likeable underneath it all.
Dianna Agron: Immediately familiar to all the right kinds of audiences for her work as Quinn on “Glee,” Agron has the perfect character cache of shallowness and condescension behind her to jump on as Liz and still manage to come of as human once in a while.
Kirsten Prout: Although she had one shot at a Marvel film already in “Elektra,” no one would hold it against Prout if she wanted a second try, and after moving from “Kyle XY” up to “Eclipse,” a Spider-Man movie could be a great next step.
Whoever plays Flash will have to embody his school’s alpha male jock bully, but come ready to grow beyond that if Sony’s reboot produces another trilogy. Flash has to be a guy who is believable as a letterman and a tragic alcoholic in the making.
Jackson Rathbone: He’ll have to lose his ridiculous hair from “Twilight,” but Rathbone can be a despicable snob while maintaining a hint of vulnerability. He’ll also have to bulk up a bit for Flash, but such a physical transformation shouldn’t be too demanding.
Chace Crawford: Crawford handles more social status on the screen than he knows what to do with on “Gossip Girl,” and he can throw his weight around when provoked. If he cranked up his machismo a few notches, Sony could have a ready-made Flash ripe for casting.
Cory Monteith: What Crawford lacks in natural football player appearance Cory Monteith more than makes up for. He may have to practice getting meaner to do Flash Thompson, but “Glee” may have been the perfect warm-up for surprising a few people.
James Franco struck the ideal manic balance between Peter’s well meaning friend and a malevolent supervillain in the making. The actor who picks up the role would be wise to study Raimi’s films, but will have to leave his own mark on the character.
Michael Trevino: Trevino can look despondent as well as anyone, and he’s got a brow befitting of an Osborn. His appearances on “90210” and “The Vampire Diaries” have numerous examples of him conniving like a good Harry should.
Kevin McHale: McHale may have played up his geeky side in the first season of “Glee,” but he’s got a whole other side to himself from his boy band NLT and a couple of quick appearances on “True Blood” that temper the kind of slightly off kilter persona that could carry Harry.
Jamie Johnston: Johnston plays one of the most unlikable students ever to have set foot in his school as Peter in “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” He can put on a smile but switch gears into cut-throat frustration, and that is exactly the kind of range Franco’s replacement needs.
All bets are off as to who Spider-Man will fight in his first post-Raimi outing. John Malkovich is likely out as The Vulture now, leaving the door wide open for speculation.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Kraven the Hunter: After wrapping up “The Losers” and “Watchmen,” Morgan might as well finish a hat trick and comes over to do a Marvel movie. Kraven and the man who played The Comedian shouldn’t be much of a stretch for any casting director to figure out.
Bruce Campbell as Mysterio: With Raimi gone, Campbell may not be coming back for a cameo, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t return for a headlining role. Spider-Man fans love him, and bringing him on would be a respectable nod to the first three films while still allowing for a clean transition.
Steve Buscemi as Morbius, the Living Vampire: Everyone seems to love vampires these days, and who would be better to play Spidey’s onetime enemy than Buscemi. Take any pictures of the guy, flush his skin white in Photoshop and tell anyone he doesn’t look like he was born to play Morbius.