March 18, 2003 01:00 PM

Audiences last year were wrapped up in Tobey Maguire’s web with “Spider-Man,” which became the year’s biggest box-office draw and thrust Maguire into the spotlight.

But now, with the sequel set to begin shooting, there’s some question as to whether the actor will be able to reprise his role as the arachnid superhero for its follow-up, “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Maguire recently wrapped up a four-month shoot for the horseracing film “Seabiscuit,” in which he portrays jockey Red Pollard. Both films required substantial physical effort from Maguire, and a spokeswoman for the actor says he’s suffering from mild back pains due to those demands, Variety reports.

As a result, Maguire might not be fit to make the sequel’s shoot date, scheduled to begin April 12. “Everyone involved wants to be certain he is able to do the intense stunts,” Maguire’s spokeswoman says in a statement.

Actress Kirsten Dunst will be returning in her role as redhead Mary Jane Watson in the project. But if Maguire proves unable to return, next in line to slip into the Spidey costume could be rising star Jake Gyllenhaal (who also happens to be dating Dunst).

A rep for Gyllenhaal, however, denied to the Hollywood Reporter that he’s been offered the role.

The film’s start date is unlikely to be pushed back, as it was already delayed from its original January date while Maguire finished “Seabiscuit.” Dunst is on a tight timeline as well, as she’s expected to begin filming “Wimbledon” in the summer.

Columbia Pictures is eager to keep the sequel on track. “Spider-Man” grossed $800 million worldwide, Reuters reports, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” is already scheduled for a May 7, 2004, release.

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