As New 'Spider-Man' Premieres, Marisa Tomei Steals the Show as a Much-Younger Aunt May
Tomei's casting is a new take on the character, who's been portrayed previously as an elderly woman.
As Spider-Man swings back into theaters Friday, the latest installment is predicted to take home more than $100 million at the box office.
But raising eyebrows in the web slinger's latest adventure, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is the fact that the character of Aunt May is not an elderly woman, unlike previous films and the comic books that preceded them.
With Homecoming, Tom Holland is the third actor to portray Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and his doting aunt is portrayed by 52-year-old Marisa Tomei.
“I’m bridging the concepts," Tomei recently told The New York Times. “You’ve got to pass the torch.”
Tomei and Holland both debuted their roles in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Oscar winner told The Times that one of the biggest hurdles was playing a woman from rival borough, Queens.
“I’m always fighting whatever stereotypes one gets into and trying to change it up," Tomei said. "Not because of some cerebral approach to it, but more from a soulful approach. As you can see in this, my big stretch is being from Brooklyn but playing from Queens,” she said.
After she was cast, the My Cousin Vinny star faced backlash from fans.
She admitted in an interview with The Guardian that she didn't know much about the character when she signed on to play Aunt May in 2015.
“It’s lucky I didn’t know much about Aunt May, because I might have been horrified if I’d seen the original image of a grey-haired pensioner,” she said. “Don’t toy with my heart, Marvel. Is that really how you view me?"
Rosemary Harris was in her 70s when she played Spider-Man’s widowed Aunt May in the original three installments starring Tobey Maguire from 2002 to 2007.
When Sally Field took over the role in the Amazing Spider-Man series in 2012 and 2014 (with Andrew Garfield in the title role), she was in her mid-60s, but made to look older.
Tomei says she viewed the character as a feminist who instills values in Parker, who was adopted by Aunt May following the death of his parents.
“We considered making her a pro bono lawyer, but didn’t want her to wear suits," she told The Guardian. "Instead we made her a book lover who has her own small publishing firm, like a female collective. She’s got a feminist and humanist edge – at least in my head."
Spider-Man: Homecoming also stars Robert Downey, Jr., Michael Keaton, Donald Glover, and Zendaya.
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