Both the Hollywood Reporter and Variety are indicating that there is a possibility that Tobey Maguire may not return as Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man, the sequel to the top-grossing superhero film of all time, which earned over $800 million at the box office worldwide. Maguire has just finished filming the racehorse movie Seabiscuit, in which he plays the hard luck jockey Red Pollard, and he is complaining about a bad back. Shooting on the Spider-Man sequel is set to begin on April 12, and thanks to time needed for special effects work, Kirsten Dunst's commitments to another film that is shooting this summer, and a highly desirable release date of May 7, 2004, the Spider-Man sequel is on a tight shooting schedule that allows the studio very little wiggle room.
Maguire, who earned $4 million for his first stint as the webslinging wallcrawler, stands to make some $17 million this time, so he does have some incentive to get well in a hurry. If Maguire decides against reprising his role as Peter Parker, Variety suggests that Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) is ready to take over. Gyllenhaal would definitely save Columbia some salary money, and since he is Kirsten Dunst's real-life romantic interest they might shed some sparks on screen, but it still appears unlikely that Columbia would tamper with such a successful formula unless scheduling forced the studio's hand. It may come down to deciding what the studio values more -- a proven leading man or a prime release date at the start of the key summer movie season.