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Our hero, Tobey Maguire, is between movies. He's just wrapped the already Oscar-hyped horseracing biopic "Seabiscuit" and is about to don the familiar red-and-blue suit for the next installment of the "Spider-Man" franchise, "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Maguire is also between categories. In the past year he's risen from the $4 million he made for Spidey I, to the $12.5 million he made for "Seabiscuit," to the reported $17 million he'll be making for Spidey II. All of which means that sometime in the near future he could join the ranks of Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson and a few select others and become a $20 million man. But how did this happen? How is it that this gentle, soft-spoken actor became young Hollywood's reigning, post-9/11 cinematic hero?
He is, after all, not cut from that cloth. At 27, standing 5-feet-8, with a slight frame and a permanent muss to his hair, his most heroic pre-Spidey moment may have been his turn in "Pleasantville," as a kid so powerful that it takes him nearly two hours to save uptight, middle-class, middle America from the deadly perils of black-and-white. But a hero? This is Tobey Maguire we're talking about--yoga practitioner, ardent vegetarian, squeaky-clean sober non-party animal. For Christ's sake.
And this is America. Over the past three decades our idols have gone from gruff, manly malcontents (Steve McQueen, Harrison Ford) to over-the-top chiseled champions (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Russell Crowe) and in the middle we had multitudinous variations, but none of them like Maguire.
But, then again, as "Spider-Man" creator Stan Lee points out, "My Spider-Man was not your normal hero. He had all kinds of non-heroic problems: acne, dandruff, school work. Readers could empathize with Spider-Man. He wasn't impervious to everything like Superman and he wasn't a millionaire like Batman. He was just a troubled teen. Tobey's a fellow who won't stand out in a …