Stories of his reputed bad back return to haunt Tobey Maguire as he promotes the sequel

By Stephen M. Silverman
June 14, 2004 03:00 PM

Stories about Tobey Maguire’s reputed back problems have once again cropped up – this time as he makes the promotional rounds for his big summer movie, Spider-Man 2.

The actor, 28, claims he’s a bit surprised by all the “hoopla” he read about his physical shape after he finished last year’s Seabiscuit – explaining to the Associated Press that he’s suffered back problems off and on for years.

After doing the horse-race saga, Maguire was concerned about the stunts he would be asked to perform in Spider-Man 2, and he therefore gave ample warning to its studio’s insurance company.

The studio, meanwhile, reportedly had Jake Gyllenhaal ready to replace Maguire if he was unable to step into Spidey’s latex suit.

“I understand and I take no offense to that,” Maguire now says. “You’re talking about a however-hundred-million-dollar investment in this movie. The whole crew is hired and they’re all moving like a tidal wave toward a start date.”

Maguire recovered and made the movie, though the entire incident made for lively reading. Although the original Spider-Man grossed more than $820 million around the world – due in no small part to Maguire – he had, in fact, been dismissed from the sequel before it began filming early last year.

He was reinstated, the Los Angeles Times reported, only thanks to some behind-the-scenes maneuvering by his girlfriend’s father, Ron Meyer – the head of Universal Pictures, which produced Maguire’s Seabiscuit. (Maguire was, and apparently still is, dating Jennifer Meyer.)

The Times reported that Maguire was trying to dictate how and when the Spider-Man sequel would be shot, because of his bad back. In one purported incident, Maguire sent his neurosurgeon to tell the head of the studio and director Sam Raimi what stunts he could and could not do.

Maguire eventually buckled and made nice with Raimi, and the only loser in the deal appears to be poor Jake Gyllenhaal.

“I feel I learned a lesson,” a contrite Maguire told the Times a year ago. “The movie is the most important thing.”