Much of the anticipation leading up to 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home was the potential for Tobey Maguire to return to his role as cinema’s first web-slinging Peter Parker. While Maguire, and his Spidey successor, Andrew Garfield, exceeded expectations with their MCU cameos, the actor’s Hollywood comeback will continue in a film set back in the early days of Hollywood.
Directed by Damien Chazelle, Babylon is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood meets The Great Gatsby meets La La Land, and is set to dive into the earliest days of the Golden Age of Hollywood amidst the roaring but transitional Twenties.
In addition to starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Diego Calva, Babylon also features Tobey Maguire in his second big-screen role following No Way Home. This is particularly exciting with Maguire having taken a seven-year hiatus from live-action movies, with his only role between 2014 and 2021 coming in 2017’s animated The Boss Baby.
While Babylon‘s late 2022 and early 2023 release is still away off, audiences are now getting a first look at Maguire in this period piece and learning more about his role.
Tobey Maguire’s Next Hollywood Role Revealed
While early reporting out of CinemaCon suggested Tobey Maguire is playing Charlie Chaplin in Babylon, audiences now know that’s not the case exactly.
As reported by Vanity Fair, Maguire is playing a character that, while somewhat inspired by the silent film era icon, is named James McKay.
Maguire’s character isn’t Babylon‘s only role based on Hollywood legends of old. But in the case of the film’s two leading stars, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, audiences will find reflections of multiple Old Hollywood stars in their singular characters.
For instance, The Suicide Squad‘s Margot Robbie is playing the ambitious, aspiring actress Nellie LaRoy – a blend of vintage starlets ranging from Joan Crawford to Alma Rubens, Jeanne Engles, and even Clara Bow.
According to Chazelle:
“Margot as a person has this—it’s a very Australian sort of thing—brash, bold, hungry kind of edge to her that she was really able to tap into and do a lot of really fun things with.”
In contrast to Robbie and her character, Brad Pitt is playing Jack Conrad who’s a mix of Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, and Clark Gable.
Described by Chazelle as an “uber-movie star,” Conrad is at a different place in his career than Robbie’s LaRoy.
The decision to cast some of modern-day Hollywood’s most well-known talent as characters at different points in their professional career was intentional on Chazelle’s part.
The director explained that Robbie and Pitt’s ability to relate to their roles allowed their performances to be “personal”:
“Part of what was magical about working with them in these roles is that each of them felt like they were really able to make the performance the most personal thing they had done.”
Babylon is also a personal project for Chazelle as he’s had this story in his head ever since he was a Hollywood newcomer about 15 years ago.
And, even though the film is about the past, it’s also about change.
Specifically, it’s about change at this point in the history of the film industry where “everything is shifting underneath people’s feet,” and, as Chazelle put it, “the human cost” of that disruption:
“The basic idea was just to do a big, epic, multi-character movie, set in these early days of Los Angeles and Hollywood, when both of these things were coming into what we now think of them as. Everything is shifting underneath people’s feet. And I became really fascinated by the human cost of disruption at that magnitude, at a time when there was no road map, when everything was just new and wild.”
Other members of the Babylon cast consist of Jean Smart, Li Jun Li, Flea, and Don’t Worry Darling director, Olivia Wilde.
How Charlie Chaplin is Tobey Maguire’s Babylon Role?
Having directed the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man in 2018 and the 2016 awards darling, La La Land, Damien Chazelle is no stranger to period pieces or Hollywood stories.
But, interestingly enough, neither is Tobey Maguire.
In addition to his original Spider-Man trilogy, Maguire has often played in films set in the past, whether it be the World War II-era Cider House Rules or Seabiscuit which was set in the Great Depression.
It’s also worth noting that he played Nick Carraway in 2013’s The Great Gatsby, which is arguably the most famous 1920s-era story.
But even though he’s more than familiar with period pieces, a character based on the legendary Charlie Chaplin is a tall order, especially if Maguire is expected to imitate the actor’s trademark brand of physical comedy.
Ironically, Maguire isn’t the first Marvel star to play a version of the silent film legend.
Iron Man’s own Robert Downey Jr. played Charlie Chaplin in 1992’s Chaplin, earning the actor his first Oscar nomination.
While again, audiences don’t know just how faithful Maguire’s James McKay will be to Chaplin or his story, it will be interesting to see if Chazelle intends to integrate Chaplin’s influence behind the camera into the character of McKay.
After all, Charlie Chaplin wasn’t just an actor but also an influential director and one who had to deal with the transition from silent films to “talkies” or films with sound.
If McKay is as big a name in Babylon as Chaplin was in actual 1920s Hollywood, his presence in Chazelle’s film makes sense.
But it’s also worth noting that Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, who partly inspired Brad Pitt’s Babylon character, were friends and formed United Artists (UA) together in 1919.
Perhaps this is a clue as to what audiences can expect from Brad Pitt and Tobey Maguire’s characters’ stories.
As anticipation continues to grow ahead of Babylon‘s release, audiences can expect to learn more about this Damien Chazelle tale and Maguire’s role in the months to come.
Babylon is expected to release in select theaters on December 25.