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Why Tobey Maguire disappeared from Hollywood after Spider-Man

Ah, Tobey Maguire. From the A-list acting (most of the time, at least... we'll never forget that emo dance) to that perpetual case of babyface, the California native was a staple on the silver screen through the late '90s and especially the 2000s. Most memorably, he was an inaugural element of the modern superhero era, donning a spandex suit and taking the lead in one of the earliest Marvel "mega successes" in history.

But, though the first years of the new millennium suggested no end to Mr. Maguire's burgeoning fame, it wasn't long after the cooler reception to Spider-Man 3 — way back in 2007 — that Maguire's presence in front of the camera began to become a bit of a rarity. While he still appeared in occasional roles in larger films like The Great Gatsby or that irreverently humorous Satan's Alley trailer cameo in Tropic Thunder, Maguire just wasn't up to all that much on the screen. Of course, everything happens for a reason. From personal decisions and negative press to marriage, divorce, and fatherhood, here are some of the reasons Tobey Maguire's once rising star seems to have sunk below the horizon.

Difficult to work with

It turns out that, despite his affable appearance, Maguire may not have always been a treat to work with. When it came to his earlier career, he reportedly had multiple issues with co-stars on various movie sets. James Franco, for example, seems to have held a bit of resentment — reminiscent of Harry Osborn's struggles — while working alongside his Spider-Man co-star. In an interesting crossing of ways, Franco himself also interviewed actress Charlize Theron who recalled that, when filming Cider House Rules, "Tobey and I had a bit of a rough time, yeah. I mean, we're good now. It was a difficult movie."

And the drama goes beyond acting circles as well. After the success of the first Spider-Man movie, Maguire tried to get Columbia Pictures to adjust the filming schedule of the second film, allegedly to accommodate his bad back. He even got executives to meet with his neurosurgeon to discuss his workload, only to be dropped from the project a few days later. He was quickly reinstated, partly due to a helping hand from his then-girlfriend's father, a leading exec at rival studio Universal. But it's interesting to note that he ended up apologizing for the whole debacle, referring to his own attitude as "inappropriate." Suffice to say, there is a decent amount of evidence pointing to a pattern of being tough to work with.

He won't play the popularity game

In an interview with Cinema.com, Maguire was asked how he felt about comments that he was "too reserved as an actor." His response was rather telling, as he proceeded to explain that he had heard people talking about a "charisma deficit" and that he more or less embraced the fact that he wasn't a hugely charismatic guy. Basically, he claimed not to equate real-world popularity with doing a good job on set.

Based on his own words and behavior, it would appear that it isn't in Mr. Maguire's nature to be excessively flashy, social, or outgoing. That's pretty impressive, considering the often extroverted characters he's had to play on screen over the years. But, acting prowess aside, the harsh reality in the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood is that if you're not willing to play the popularity game, sooner or later you're likely to be pushed onto the back burner. And with Maguire's willing embrace of his own subdued nature, it's no surprise that his reticent personality has done little to help him as he's slowly slipped the minds of Hollywood casting agents.

Ending on a low note

Despite launching him to fame, the Spidey flicks may have also had a bit of a negative effect on Maguire's career once all was said and done. While the original Spider-Man film was a smash, and the entire trilogy has remained a nostalgic benchmark in Marvel's cinematic history, the series happened to end on what was pretty universally considered the worst of the three. The project had a lot of factors stacked against it, and even director Sam Raimi was disenchanted with the final product.

Shortly after the sour critical and fan response, talks between Raimi and Sony about a fourth installment fell through. Regardless of whatever complex negotiations may have happened behind the scenes, it was hard for audiences not to lay blame for the cancellation squarely at the feet of Spider-Man 3. Needless to say, ending your tenure as an iconic character with a movie so unpopular it seemingly kills a franchise tends to undo some of the goodwill of a strong beginning. It's no surprise that the whole scenario took a bit of the luster off of the "Marvel star power" that initially did so much to fuel Maguire's career.

A marriage, a divorce, and fatherhood

It may seem cliché, but that doesn't change the fact that marriage and parenting can be tough challenges that take all the time we can throw at them. It should come as no surprise, then, that Tobey Maguire's marriage to Jennifer Meyer in 2007 also happened to coincide with the beginning of his gradual fade from the limelight. The relationship endured for nine years before they announced that they were officially separating in October 2016. According to Entertainment Tonight, by that point, their marriage had slowly been crumbling "over the course of time." In an additional statement, the couple told People Magazine that "After much soul searching and consideration we have made the decision to separate as a couple." The divorce was finalized a year later.

Fortunately, though, the split was amicable, and their commitment to the family they had started together hadn't been lost in the shuffle. They still remained the dedicated parents of two children, Ruby and Otis, adding to their statement that "as devoted parents, our first priority remains raising our children together with enduring love, respect and friendship." And this sentiment hasn't waned over time, either. Us Weekly reported that Meyer considers her ex-husband her best friend, and the two have continued to strive to raise happy children despite the circumstances.

Tobey's Game

He may not play the popularity game, but Maguire has certainly shown a penchant for entertainment of a different sort: gambling. And we're not talking about a filthy rich celebrity having some fun. Maguire has established a reputation over the years as a winner. As far back as 2011, CNN reported that Mr. Maguire had to settle a lawsuit to prevent having to pay back the princely sum of $311,000 that he had won a few years earlier. The problem? The money had been stolen from investors by an illegal Ponzi scheme. While all Maguire did was accidentally win the money by playing some darn good poker, being in the headlines because you're connected with stolen cash isn't quite the same kind of popularity one gets from playing a beloved childhood superhero.

But Maguire's gambling issues went deeper than simply winning stolen money. They were put on much more damning display through the book and movie adaptation Molly's Game, which followed the real-life story of Molly Bloom as she organized underground poker games for a host of rich players, including one "Player X." The unnamed gambler, who happens to be a jerk of the highest variety that enjoyed "destroying the lives of his fellow players" can be quite easily connected to none other than Maguire. From winning stolen money to his overall sinister reputation as a player, Maguire's gambling has hardly done his reputation any favors.

From actor to producer

When he's not gambling or tending to his kids, Maguire is still first and foremost an entertainer. But while earlier in his career that primarily meant acting, recently Maguire has begun to spin off more and more in a different direction as a producer. It's not uncommon for a popular actor to attempt to leverage their successful career in front of the camera into one behind it. It started with big shots like Charlie Chaplin and has continued right through to modern legends like Clint Eastwood, John Krasinski, and now Tobey Maguire.

Interestingly, it's through this shift that Maguire seems to have found the ideal way to truly express his passions. Again, the man isn't an attention hog. He doesn't love the paparazzi, he's known for being terse in his responses to fans, and he's openly expressed the struggle he has with overcoming his introverted personality in order to take on larger-than-life characters on the silver screen. So it's only natural that when his fame and fortune reached a certain point, Maguire attempted to move out of the spotlight without dropping his passion for cinema altogether.

Success behind the camera has eluded him

On paper, Maguire's shift to producing films seems to have panned out pretty well, with the ex-superhero managing to produce a decent number of movies in recent years. But numbers can be deceiving, and while a shift to more producing may look like a great move at first glance, the truth is that his production prowess has fallen a bit short of the mark, particularly when compared to the likes of other A-list actor-turned-producers.

Maguire has managed to stamp his name on a number of movies that found at least minor success, like the musical comedy-drama Rock of Ages, the slow-moving but tense Cold War thriller Pawn Sacrifice — which Maguire also starred in alongside Liev Schreiber — and the alien-infested action-drama The 5th Wave. But while most of his movies have been decently produced, they were decidedly not box office successes. This is fine for a hobbyist focused on a passion project, but a list of duds and semi-successes won't go far in helping an ambitious actor muscle their way back into the limelight.

He's a little bit picky

Another factor that has chilled the relationship between Hollywood and Tobey Maguire is the fact that he doesn't accept just any old acting job that's offered to him these days. He's been very selective about the roles he's taken on in the years since the Spider-Man films, with only four of those landing him on the big screen during that time. In an interview with Nylon back in 2015, Maguire explained that "it's always difficult to find projects that I want to get involved in, so that's a continuous challenge."

He went on to say that his choosy nature stems from the fact that an acting/producing career involves a lot of commitment and investment. If he's not deeply interested in the story of the project, it becomes very hard for him to enjoy the experience. And we can't argue with that. At this point in his career, if he can't do what he loves then he might as well pack up shop.

The future

While Maguire certainly isn't finished with his entertainment career — he's currently producing several movies and recently made a vocal appearance alongside Alec Baldwin as the Narrator in DreamWorks' The Boss Baby — the truth is, he may have a bit of a long road ahead of him if he wants to start landing larger jobs in Hollywood again. Whether that road involves hitting it out of the park with a future role as an actor or producing a movie worthy of national attention, Maguire certainly has options to reignite his semi-dormant relationship with the movies.

But, at the end of the day, the question that really needs to be asked is whether Maguire wants that in the first place. Right from his debut as Spider-Man, he was already clearly starting to imply that he wasn't looking for acting success simply so that he could satisfy an inner desire for social legitimacy and acceptance into the Hollywood elite. And as his actions have clearly shown since he hung up his Spidey-suit, he seems to have his hands pretty full simply being a father and producing and acting in his own movies with an occasional cameo added in. Perhaps we'll see the ex-superhero hit the big leagues again one day, but that seems to be a possibility that lies as much with Mr. Maguire's wishes as is does with those of the Hollywood execs that would be hiring him.