Elizabeth Banks: I was told I was 'too old' to play Mary Jane in 'Spider-Man'
Gorgeous, youthful Olivia Wilde made news recently when she claimed to have lost out on the role of Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in The Wolf of Wall Street because she was deemed "too old" by the powers-that-be — an especially outrageous story considering the actress is nearly a decade younger than her would-be co-star. Now you can add Elizabeth Banks to the list of actresses who have been judged too haggard and used-up to play the love interest in a major Hollywood film.
“I screen-tested for the role of Mary Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man movie, opposite Tobey Maguire,” she told Glamour in a new interview (via the Independent). “Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s what I’ve signed up for.’”
To give you a sense of what a late-20s Elizabeth Banks looks like, here she is at the premiere of the original Spider-Man in 2002:
Photo Credit: SGranitz/WireImage
Gender politics aside, here's what I’ll say: late-20s Elizabeth Banks probably wouldn’t have made a convincing high school student, and an argument could also be made that Tobey Maguire’s baby-faced mug made him look far younger than his 26 years (in reality, he's about 16 months younger than Banks). Also, I'm not sure that actresses over 25 being turned down for teenager roles should be counted as a systemic problem given that Hollywood has been relying on them to play teenagers for decades. But sans context, Banks' Glamour quote certainly sounds unfair, and it plays into the understandable fury many feel over the rampant, very real sexism that continues to plague Hollywood.
For the record, Banks' consolation prize was the thankless role of J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary Betty Brant (who is Peter's first romantic relationship in the comics but has a small, non-love interest part in the movies), while the 19-year-old Kirsten Dunst ultimately won the dubious privilege of kissing Tobey Maguire upside-down in the rain. What an industry.