Elizabeth Banks missed out on playing Spider-Man’s girlfriend, even though she is only one year older than Tobey Maguire.
The Pitch Perfect star was 28 when she auditioned for the role of Mary Jane Watson in the 2002 film adaption of the beloved comic book series, and she was taken aback when she lost the role, because producers believed she was too old to play Maguire’s love interest.
“I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man movie, opposite Tobey Maguire,” Banks tells Glamour UK. “Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s what I’ve signed up for’.”
The leading lady role eventually went to then-18-year-old Kirsten Dunst, while Banks was relegated to the minor role of secretary Betty Brant at the Daily Bugle newspaper where Spider-Man’s alter-ego Peter Parker works.
Banks’ experience with Spider-Man producers mirrors the experience of many of her peers, who have detailed their own stories about ageism in Hollywood.
Earlier this year (16), Olivia Wilde revealed she was also deemed “too old” at 28 to play opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, then 37, in The Wolf of Wall Street, while Maggie Gyllenhaal recalled she was told she was too old at 37 to play the love interest of a 55-year-old-man.
Despite encountering multiple roadblocks in Hollywood, Banks is just happy to have a job at all, saying, “What I’m grateful for now is longevity. I was never a flavour of the month. I feel very comfortable that I will be working in this industry for a while.”
Banks has since branched out into directing after taking charge of the Pitch Perfect sequel. She’s currently preparing to start work on the new Charlie’s Angels film.