Meet the Aunt May-Bes: Who Did Marisa Tomei Beat Out for the Big ‘Spider-Man’ Role?


Weren’t we just having this feeling a little while ago? That creeping sense of an overtly inessential tentpole film encroaching on our collective consciousness? (Should we maybe get used to that sensation, since it’s proving to be one of the most singular characteristics of the current film industry?) It’s the unkillable Spider-Man franchise making news this week, dropping in from the skies on a steely thread with a casting tidbit: Marisa Tomei will reportedly appear in whatever they’re calling the as-yet unwritten forty-eleventh iteration, playing … wait, Aunt May?? 

This feels like way more of a bombshell than it actually is. At 50, Tomei is of course old enough to be playing auntly types. The surprise is coming from other places: Tomei appears much younger, and following Rosemary Harris and Sally Field makes her a young Aunt May. (Peter Parker himself is positively fetal this go-round.) It’s all just another blunt reminder of the unsubtle and implacable march of time.

And per Variety, the writing staff for the movie still isn’t complete; by the time this thing actually hits screens, we could all be knee-deep in news of the subsequent inevitable re-re-reboot. And if you follow the casting arc forward through time, from Harris to Field to Tomei, it’s not hard to point out the pool of actresses from which the next Aunt May will be plucked:

  • Alison Brie: She aged herself up for Mad Men and down for Community. With that kind of temporal versatility, Brie should probably be in the running to play young Han Solo.
  • Jessica Alba: Already into the maternal trade with her mommystuff company, and with Fox having scrubbed her previous contribution to her original franchise, its high time she joins Chris Evans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe refugee lifeboat. Worked out pretty well for him.
  • Ellie Kemper: She’s boosted both in New York association and sohotrightnow-ness thanks to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She also occasionally appears to be aging backward, which can’t hurt given the direction these castings have been going.
  • Bryce Dallas Howard: I gave this one several minutes of dedicated thought before realizing she’s already done one of these. Such is the peril of staging Spider-Man Begin Again, Again.
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar: At some point, every long-running piece of entertainment runs into a brick wall of diminishing returns (for Spider-Man that was at least three movies ago); a blatant stunt-casting bone thrown to the geek audience might be one way to embed some ready-made veins of affection. (Will the vape-happy youths of the Spider-Man reboot-after-next even know why they should love Gellar?)
  • Carey Mulligan: One of those actresses who just looks haunted — but so elegantly haunted! — no matter what she’s doing, Mulligan seems to have been hatched for the sole purpose of growing up to play soulful widows.
  • Hayden Panettiere: As excuses not to be eventually roped into participating in certain other ill-advised cultural revisitations go, a Marvel movie’s pretty ironclad, no?
  • Hailee Steinfeld: How much firearms training did she get on True Grit? Had to be some, right? What if, three or four sequels from now, Aunt May shoulders her trusty rifle and goes after Uncle Ben’s killer? Just throwing things to the wall, seeing what … sticks. That was a Spider-Man joke. Little Spider-Man joke, me to you. We’re all friends here.
  • Kiernan Shipka: Let’s mash the gas pedal down on this skid: You think Aunt Tomei makes you feel old? Try handing over the care and feeding of Peter Parker to a human being born in 1999, whom we’ve been watching on television since she was 6.
  • Jaden Smith: What? He could.

Filed Under: Movies, Marisa Tomei, Spider-Man, Marvel, Comic Books, Hollywood

Holly Anderson is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ HollyAnderson