Moon-faced, dreamy eyed, and radiating the kind of lo-fi intensity that made him a natural for the kind of Thoughtful Young Man roles in which he made his name during the early years of his career, Tobey Maguire has proven to be one of the most thought-provoking actors of his generation. Whether portraying a disaffected young suburbanite in The Ice Storm (1997) or a geek turned superhero in Spider-Man (2002), Maguire always gives the kind of nuanced, engaging performances that have the effect of making the viewer believe that short of actually spinning webs from his wrists, there is very little he can't do.
Maguire was born in Santa Monica, CA, on June 27, 1975. The son of a construction worker and secretary, he was raised predominately by his mother after his parents divorced when he was almost two years old. The two led an itinerant lifestyle, living with relatives all over the country. Maguire's childhood ambition was to become a cook, but his mother, once an aspiring actress herself, encouraged her son to go into acting. Following a sixth grade drama class, the young actor began getting roles in commercials, which led to a starring turn in the short-lived 1992 sitcom Great Scott!
The following year, Maguire made his film debut in This Boy's Life, which starred Robert De Niro and a very young Leonardo Di Caprio. After a small part in 1994's S.F.W. and a lead in the same year's largely unseen Revenge of the Red Baron, Maguire attracted favorable notice for his role in the 1995 Oscar-nominated short The Duke of Groove, in which he co-starred with Uma Thurman.
1997 proved to be Maguire's breakthrough year, as he worked with two widely respected directors on two high-profile projects. The first was Ang Lee's critically lauded adaptation of the Rick Moody novel The Ice Storm; in a film filled with exceptional performances, Maguire held his own amongst a cast that included Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, and Christina Ricci, and won acclaim for his portrayal of the dutiful and discontented Paul Hood. His other 1997 film, Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry, received mixed reviews, but Maguire's presence in an Allen film further bolstered his career.
The year 1998 was another good year for the actor, who had a lead role in the highly acclaimed Pleasantville, in which he starred as a teenager who gets transported into the world of a '50s TV show. He also made a cameo appearance as a bedraggled hitchhiker in Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. With a rising profile and coveted spot on the 1998 cover of Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue, Maguire was emerging as one of the more solid and worthwhile young actors in an industry where too many young performers fall prey to the lure of glitz over grit.
His reputation was further established with his turn as the protagonist of The Cider House Rules, Lasse Hallström's 1999 Oscar-nominated adaptation of John Irving's novel about a young man who comes of age under the tutelage of an abortionist played by Michael Caine. Maguire's similarly strong work as a troubled but brilliant young writer in Wonder Boys (2000) undoubtedly helped him to win the attention of director Sam Raimi, who eventually cast the actor in the role of Peter Parker, the awkward teenager who becomes the eponymous, web-spinning hero of Spider-Man. The film, which was released in 2002, broke box-office records with its opening weekend draw of more than 110 million dollars, and finally separated Tobey Maguire from his mainstream status as Leonardo DiCaprio's basketball buddy into a mega-star in his own right. Its success catapulted Maguire -- who beefed up his skinny frame for the role and managed to assuage the misgivings of even the most die-hard Spidey fans with his astute performance -- into the rarefied realm of the A-list, complete with the promise of a multimillion-dollar paycheck for his future work, and led to his role as producer of 2002's The 25th Hour, as well as the wildly successful Seabiscuit. In 2004, Maguire returned to his role of Peter Parker in the hotly anticipated Spider-Man 2 and then finished up his superhero contract with the final installation of the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 (2007).
Maguire would spend the ensuing years enjoying a selective career, appearing in Brothers, The Details, and The Great Gatsby. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi