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Tobey Maguire: A thoughtful 'Spider-Man'

Introspective actor relates to role

Tobey Maguire
Tobey Maguire  

By Paul Clinton

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Tobey Maguire is in a strange limbo. The Hollywood powers-that-be know who he is. Hard-core film fans recognize him for his amazing work in numerous well-made, low-key movies. He's even got his share of screaming young female groupies (and he's one of Leonardo DiCaprio's best friends).

But he's not yet a superstar, or even a household name.

That's probably going to change with the release of "Spider-Man," in which Maguire plays the title role. As a star in "The Ice Storm" (1997), "The Cider House Rules" (1999), and "Wonder Boys" (2000), Maguire has become known for his introspective characters living on the edge of the action. Now he's playing a comic book superhero icon. Suddenly, he IS the action.

Toby Maguire takes the webslinger to the silver screen to do battle with the Green Goblin in 'Spider-Man.'

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A real-life Spider-man lives in Des Moines, Iowa. Correspondent Steve Karlan talks to him about the new 'Spider-man' movie opening this weekend. (May 1)

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What does Maguire's co-star think? Read Paul Clinton's interview with Kirsten Dunst 
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But there are similarities between Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, and other roles Maguire has played. Maguire talked to CNN about his childhood, growing up poor, his long-range plans, and how it all began with a $100 bribe from his mother.

CNN: There's a story about you, your mother and acting classes, that has now taken on legendary proportions. I know you've told it 700 times.

Tobey Maguire: Seven hundred and one. There were a few things that I wanted to do as a kid. One of the primary things was I wanted to be a cook. And I was going to take a home economics class which includes cooking. And my mother offered me $100 to take drama as an elective instead. A hundred bucks, a lot of money. I said yes.

CNN: The rest, as they say, is history. Now flash forward 10 years. When you think of Tobey Maguire, you think of "The Cider House Rules" and "The Ice Storm." Deep, reflective-type roles. Now, "Spider-Man" is this big splashy action type film. What drew you to the role?

Maguire: I think ... there is a complicated character with a very interesting journey and layered relationships. I think there is a little bit of some complexities to this character that are similar to other films I'm drawn to.

CNN: You're speaking about Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker.

Maguire: Yeah, he's one of us. He's someone kids can relate to, and he doesn't die out, so a new generation can come along and appreciate him. He's a relate-able, everyday kid. He's not an alien or a multimillionaire. We can imagine ourselves in his position.

CNN: Was there ever a time when you were making this movie, all dressed up in front of a blue screen, and thinking, "What the hell am I doing?"

Maguire: Yeah -- but more in a way that I was excited, like "This is amazing, what the hell am I doing?" I would have moments with my friends sometimes when my friends would turn to me and say "Wow, you're Spider-Man! That's pretty cool."

Tobey Maguire
Maguire attends the "Spider-Man" premiere.  

CNN: Being a superhero is really going to change your resume. It's going to be on everything for the rest of your life. Are you ready for that?

Maguire: Yeah. ... I feel pretty comfortable with my life and I have good friends and I've experienced it on some level, and I've witnessed it otherwise with people. I'm not anticipating anything in particular. I'm just doing my work and whatever happens I'll adjust, and it will be fine.

CNN: You've often played the outsider and Parker is no exception. When you were growing up you moved around a lot and were always the new kid in school. Did that help you with any of your roles, or Parker in particular?

Maguire: I suppose it did. It's hard for me to speculate on what aspects of my life has lent itself to my work. I would say my entire life has helped me do what I do.

CNN: Your parents were very young when you were born and there were many lean times. Did growing up poor effect you in any way?

Maguire: When I was a little kid, I don't think it affected me. I did feel it as I got older, because you start to compare yourself to other kids. I look back and feel it must have been tough on my parents because of the times I would be embarrassed by rolling up in the $400 beat-up orange truck, or getting groceries with food stamps. But there were also time when things were fine and there was enough money to get nice Christmas gifts, let alone have a roof over my head and eat.

But all in all, I feel pretty fortunate, and I think my parents did a good job.

CNN: You've made remarkable choices in your roles so far. Is it instinctive?

Maguire: Partially instinctive and partially analytical. I'm just not in a hurry. I'm 26 years old. I don't need to make 20 movies right now. I want to be acting and have good choices for years to come. I feel like I'm laying the foundation and learning and I want to learn from good people, so I try and choose wisely.

CNN: You're a fairly private person. Where do you draw the line in terms of what you owe or don't owe your public?

Maguire: The word "owe them," or saying it that way, I don't really feel like I owe anybody anything to be honest with you. But in terms of appreciating this film, and wanting to support the film and having people appreciate the movie and want to tell me they appreciate it, I have no problem with that.

(But) I don't feel like I need to share my personal life in order to support a movie. That doesn't make sense to me.


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