The hottest role in Hollywood is still very much up for grabs.
Contrary to a report first published on Hitfix over the weekend, TheWrap has learned that "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" star Logan Lerman has not been cast as Peter Parker in Sony's reboot of its lucrative "Spider-Man" franchise -- and according to a Sony spokesman, there is currently no shortlist for the coveted role.
When contacted by TheWrap, Lerman's representation at WME said that the young actor is not and never has been on any shortlist for the role, and is definitely not currently in negotiations with the studio.
For its part, Hitfix is standing by its story, pointing out that Sony also issued an official denial when IESB reported that "Spider-Man 4" was put on hiatus last December, after which Raimi and star Tobey Maguire left the project and the teen-themed reboot was announced with Marc Webb ("500 Days of Summer") directing from a script by James Vanderbilt ("Zodiac").
In February, Lerman told Access Hollywood that he'd had discussions with Sony about playing Spider-Man, and ever since he's been considered the leading contender for the role … which is why I was surprised to wake up on Sunday morning and read that he was "almost 100 percent locked" to play the crime-fighting web-slinger. Because in Hollywood, the front-runner never gets the gig. Just ask "former 'Captain America'" John Krasinski.
I think it's possible that Lerman's representation leaked the story hoping it would generate positive fan reaction that would allow them to negotiate a better deal -- if it turns out Sony is interested. While Lerman has been in the public eye for a decade, appearing in a steady stream of studio movies ("The Butterfly Effect," "Hoot," "The Number 23," "3:10 to Yuma," "Gamer") after his debut as one of Mel Gibson's sons in "The Patriot," "Percy Jackson" earned earned $87 million domestically on a $95 million production budget despite a high-profile Super Bowl ad campaign. The film performed much better overseas ($131 million), but its mediocre reception stateside may indicate that Lerman isn't ready to anchor a major studio franchise.
I'm not quite sure what to make of all this, but here's what I know, or more accurately, what I think I know: Hollywood loves making lists. To suggest that there is no shortlist of potential "Spider-Man" actors is to be naive. Of course there's a list! You think Sony is spending millions to reboot its cash cow franchise without a group of young actors in mind?
Yes, the production budget is being scaled back (it's reported to be only $80 million) and the expectations won't be as high as they were for Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 3," but Sony has a lot riding on this movie, so you can bet they've devoted time and energy to brainstorming who could potentially wear the red and blue spandex.
If I was casting Spider-Man, I'd take a long, hard look at Josh Hutcherson, who feels like he's been playing this game for years, from "Zathura" to "Bridge to Terabithia" to "Journey to the Center of the Earth." I've heard he finally comes into his own as an actor in Lisa Cholodenko's Sundance comedy "The Kids Are All Right." At 17, he's also the right age for the high school-aged part (along with 18 year-old Lerman). It's unclear what direction Sony wants to take the character in its new incarnation.
Is the studio looking for the next Tobey Maguire, or are they trying to move away from that type, hoping to find its own version of "Twilight" heartthrobs Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner?
As far as the other rumored contenders are concerned, the names are even more ridiculous than the "Captain America" list, and I'm willing to bet that whoever winds up as Spider-Man will not be one of them. They reportedly include Anton Yelchin ("Star Trek"), Jesse Eisenberg ("Zombieland"), Patrick Fugit ("Almost Famous") and Johnny Simmons ("Jennifer's Body").
Yelchin is the only one who makes a morsel of sense, and as talented as I think he is, even I can't see him as Peter Parker. An actor needs a certain fire in their eye to play that part, and Yelchin's turn as Kyle Reese in "Terminator Salvation" went a long way to convincing me that he's simply not cut out to be an action hero.
Eisenberg has to be somebody's idea of a bad joke. He's clearly the best actor of this group (I watched "The Education of Charlie Banks" over the weekend and even though Eisenberg plays the same character he has in a half-dozen other movies, he still managed to work his unique magic), but can you imagine the gawky actor as Spider-Man? That'd be like casting Krasinski as Captain America (i.e. box office suicide). I think Eisenberg's career is poised to climb to the next level once David Fincher unveils "The Social Network," and when you have the acting chops that he does, you don't need to waste some of the best years or your career playing Spider-Man. There's enough good work out there to keep Eisenberg busy long past this series' expiration date.
Fugit would've been a good choice … ten years ago. Personally, I think he's a better fit to play Kurt Cobain in the Courtney Love-sanctioned biopic that Pattinson was linked to late last week.
As for Simmons, he'd actually be an interesting, unconventional choice, but I just don't think he's ready to tackle this kind of role yet despite being impressed by his surprisingly thoughtful work in "Jennifer's Body" and "The Greatest."
As far as other possible contenders go, there are the usual suspects, such as Zac Efron, Daniel Radcliffe and the aforementioned Pattinson. There's also Reeve Carney, who will play Peter Parker in Julie Taymor's Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark," and 32-year-old Jim Sturgess, who was previously cast in the play. Other possibilities include "Kick-Ass" star Aaron Johnson and Michael Angarano ("The Forbidden Kingdom," "Sky High").
Of course, Sony could play it safe by casting a complete unknown who we, the media, would only be able to criticize based on looks alone.
For the sake of Sony and film writers everywhere, I hope the Mary Jane casting process goes quicker and smoother.