Joining the ranks of similarly “sophisticated” female stars like Olivia Wilde and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elizabeth Banks has revealed that she was once told she was “too old” to play the love interest of an actor who less than two years her junior. Talking to Glamour UK (and reported on by Variety), Banks told the story of her almost-casting as Mary Jane—opposite Tobey Maguire—in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man movie.
“Tobey and I are basically the same age—and I was told I was too old to play her,” said Banks, who was 28 in 2002, when the movie was being filmed. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s what I’ve signed up for.’”
It’s been a couple of reboots, so you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the original Spider-Man stretches from Peter and MJ’s senior year of high school and into their early 20s. As Banks noted, Maguire was only 16 months younger than her, at age 26, while Kirsten Dunst—who eventually got the part of Spidey’s fiery-haired love interest—was just 18.
Still, Hollywood’s rampant need to treat women over the age of 25 like withered crones, while simultaneously casting men in their late 20s to play schoolchildren, did have an upshot: the Emmy winner still appeared in the movie, in the (much smaller) role of Daily Bugle assistant Betty Brant, which gave her some prime “getting yelled at by J.K. Simmons” experience. Also, she gets to make her own damn movies now, ones where women in their 30s get the same chance to play incoming college freshmen that their male counterparts have been taking advantage of for years.