Mike Fleming

spidey new andrewHollywood has newly minted its next star, and it’s baby-faced Andrew Garfield. [UPDATE: I'm told Garfield's pay scale on the film is around $500,000 salary on the first film, $1 million for the second one, and $2 million for the third film. All of the finalists were presented with those terms in a deal for one film and two options.] I was first to tell you the 26-year-old was a finalist to play the new Spider-Man in the Marc Webb-directed 3D relaunch of Sony Picture Entertainment’s most lucrative film franchise. Also under consideration were Jamie Bell, Anton Yelchin, Aaron Johnson, Logan Lerman, Alden Ehrenreich, Frank Dillane, and Michael Angarano. Sony execs viewed the screen tests of six of those eight finalists last Friday night. Garfield’s biggest break until today was being cast in the upcoming David Fincher-directed The Social Network about the Facebook founders; my sources say his scene-stealing star turn in it is the reason he snagged the role of Spidey over the other finalists.

The young thesp also can be seen in The Other Boleyn Girl and The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus and The Red Riding Trilogy and the upcoming Never Let Me Go. Born in Los Angeles to a British mother and an American father, he moved with his family to Surrey, England when he was 3. He was trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and then began acting primarily on stage. He played Romeo once, and modeled in Vogue, and in 2007 was named ONE OF 10 ACTORS TO WATCH by a Hollywood trade.

But it is his heartbreaking performance in Boy A, playing a character trying to outrun his involvement in a heinous crime during his childhood, that captured my attention. With the studio taking the rebooted Peter Parker back in time to high school, Garfield’s youthful appearance and ability to display vulnerability was as important to his casting as his believability in the action sequences. Neither Garfield nor director Webb have ever done a 3D or tentpole movie. Sony will now be able to line up the rest of its cast for the film which will begin shooting by year’s end for a July 3, 2012 release date from a script by Jamie Vanderbilt.

This puts an end to all the speculation and drama that began last December for Spider-Man 4. It prompted an internal memo to the crew from the visual effects department that script problems were going to delay a February start of production and the film’s May 11, 2011 release date. Director Sam Raimi hated the script, which saw the writers Jamie Vanderbilt, David Lindsay-Abaire, Gary Ross and Alvin Sargent all take passes at it. The seriousness of those script woes became evident when visual effects crews were told to take other jobs, because there was no longer a date when production would start.

On January 11th, Deadline broke the story that Raimi, the studio, and the producers had decided to scrap the fourth Spider-Man film. Star Tobey Maguire was dumped as Spidey. The studio instead decided on a franchise reboot, emboldened by a script that Vanderbilt wrote. The studio’s determination to move quickly was borne out by a Deadline scoop two days later that Webb became the choice to direct a new 3D-shot film which would take the franchise back to the beginning, with Peter Parker struggling to come to grips with his superpowers in high school.

While websites floated bogus rumors about who had supposedly landed the Spidey role, the studio quietly narrowed its list of 8 finalists to play the wall crawler. Sony brass viewed the screen tests of 6 of the eight candidates that most impressed the studio, the director, and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, who are producing for Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios. This week, the studio ended the search and quickly locked in a deal with Garfield’s CAA reps.

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