Why Elizabeth Banks Missed Out On Playing Mary Jane In The Spider-Man Movies

Betty Brant

Years before she starred in blockbuster series like The Hunger Games and Pitch Perfect, Elizabeth Banks was best known to comic book fans as Betty Brant in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. However, before being given the role of J. Jonah Jameson's secretary at The Daily Bugle, she also auditioned to play Mary Jane Watson, Spidey's main love interest in these movies. However, according to Banks, she didn't get the role because she was considered too old.

During an interview with Glamour (via Yahoo), Banks claimed that when she tested for the Mary Jane role in Spider-Man back in 2001, she was told that she was too old to play the character. In her words:

I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man movie, opposite Tobey Maguire. Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I'm like, 'Oh, okay, that's what I've signed up for.'

To put this in proper context, Elizabeth Banks was about 28 when Spider-Man came out in 2002, so around 27 during the casting process. More importantly, she's only sixteen months older than Tobey Maguire, so there isn't even a two-year age difference between them. As we all know, Mary Jane Watson ended up being played by Kirsten Dunst in the Spider-Man trilogy, who was 20 when the first movie came out, i.e. seven years younger than Maguire. Let's not forget that Peter and Mary Jane are supposed to be the same age. Despite this bizarre reason, Banks was instead brought on to play Betty Brant, and while she also appeared in all three movies, it wasn't nearly as important a role as Mary Jane.

This isn't the first time an actress has spoken out about losing a role because of her age. Three months ago, Olivia Wilde revealed on The Howard Stern Show that she wasn't cast as Naomi Lapaglia, Jordan Belfort's wife in The Wolf of Wall Street because she was considered too old. This is despite the fact that, being 28 at the time, Wilde was closer to Lapaglia's age at the time the movie takes place than Margot Robbie, who did get the role. Fortunately for Elizabeth Banks, while she missed out on co-leading the Spider-Man movies due to apparently being too old, this didn't stop her from enjoying Hollywood success. In addition to the previously mentioned movies, she's also recognizable for her roles in 30 Rock, Scrubs, The LEGO Movie and Magic Mike XXL, and she is jumping back into the superhero genre playing Rita Repulsa in 2017's Power Rangers.

As for Betty Brant, she didn't have much to in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and she was nowhere to be seen in the Amazing Spider-Man series. The Web-Slinger is getting a fresh solo start in the MCU next year in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it remains to be seen whether Betty will be included in this continuity.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.