Tobey Maguire

When the role of Spider-Man came up for grabs, the name Tobey Maguire was not at the top of anyone's wish list apart from that of director Sam Raimi, that is. "We made Tobey do a test because he's not the first person you think of," admits Amy Pascal, chairman of the studios behind the blockbuster. "He did a test, he took off his shirt, and then we all said okay."

The innocent-faced actor may be an unlikely superhero, but there is definitely something about him which strikes a chord with audiences. "Tobey\'s an Everyman," says the film\'s producer Laura Ziskin. "He\'s not the classic hunk. He\'s not a model. He looks like an ordinary kid."

Tobey was born on 27 June, 1975, in Santa Monica, California, and his early years echoed those of Spidey\'s alter ego, Peter Parker. Following his parents\' divorce when he was two, the youngster was shuttled between his parents and from school to school. His mother, who had once dreamed of becoming an actor herself, encouraged the 12-year-old Tobey to study acting and he was soon landing small parts on TV shows such as Rosanne.

But it was a role alongside Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1993 adaptation of Tobias Wolff\'s coming-of-age memoir This Boy\'s Life, which gave the budding actor his first glimpse of the possibilities of his craft. "Leo opened it up for young people in general," Tobey says. "After Leo did This Boy\'s Life and What\'s Eating Gilbert Grape, it was like, \'Oh wow, someone can be young and a good actor\'."

The two quickly became buddies off the set and were often spotted bar-hopping together in some of LA\'s trendiest watering holes.

Following the success of This Boy\'s Life, Sense And Sensibility director Ang Lee cast Tobey as the teenaged narrator of The Ice Storm, a chilling account of upper-middle class American suburbia. When Tobey more than held his own against co-stars Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver and Lord Of The Rings star Elijah Wood, his career really started to take off.

More introspective, quirky and angst-filled teenage roles followed, including Woody Allen\'s Deconstructing Harry, The Wonder Boys, and The Cider House Rules. It was Tobey\'s performance in the latter which convinced Spider-Man director Sam Raimi that he had found the right actor for the role of the high school senior transformed by the bite of a genetically altered spider into a superhero.

"Spiderman is not the guy we admire and look up to physically," says Raimi. "He\'s the guy we look up to and admire spiritually. A lot of the picture is him coming to terms with this strange transformation that he\'s going through."

While Raimi had no doubts over who the lead should be, the studios took a little more convincing. "I needed him in the movie so badly," Raimi says. "I said, \'Tobey, I don\'t want to make this movie without you. They are not going to let me hire you unless they are convinced by seeing you on the film.\'" Fortunately, Tobey agreed to the test, and the rest is history.

Fiercely protective of his private life, the actor refuses to comment on speculation that there was more between him and his Spider-Man co-star Kirsten Dunst than their ground-breaking on-screen kiss. He was similarly reticent about his rumoured relationships with Nicole Kidman and Heather Graham, both of whose names were linked to his since his portrayal of the Marvel hero propelled him into the Tinseltown stratosphere.

In 2003 the rising star began dating Jennifer Meyer, a jewellery designer and daughter of Universal Studios boss Ron Meyer. The couple got engaged in April 2006, and the following November welcomed their first child, a daughter named Ruby.
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