Film franchises are Hollywood's third rail -- you never touch them when everything seems to work just fine. That's why Sony Pictures' decision to ditch 'Spider-Man 4,' along with Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi, seems ripped from the same counter-intuitive playbook that NBC used when it shuttled Jay Leno to 10 PM.

Had Sony proceeded with a fourth installment as planned, there were already good reasons for Maguire to hang up his webby suit. Peter Parker is a young student, preferably high school age. Maguire turns 35 this year, and, yes, he looks terrific, but he's entering Luke Perry territory -- a guy well beyond high school age who is starting to strain for teenage cred. Film franchises are Hollywood's third rail -- you never touch them when everything seems to work just fine. That's why Sony Pictures' decision to ditch 'Spider-Man 4,' along with Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi, seems ripped from the same counter-intuitive playbook that NBC used when it shuttled Jay Leno to 10 PM.

Had Sony proceeded with a fourth installment as planned, there were already good reasons for Maguire to hang up his webby suit. Peter Parker is a young student, preferably high school age. Maguire turns 35 this year, and, yes, he looks terrific, but he's entering Luke Perry territory -- a guy well beyond high school age who is starting to strain for teenage cred.



Maguire could have easily pulled off Spidey a fourth time, but perhaps he'd have chosen on his own to go out on top. What Sony is relying on now is a certain amount of damage control and the knowledge that studios can spin multiple actors through a brand -- a la 'Batman' -- without damaging it.

Already the Daily Beast has criticized the decision in its coverage, quoting an anonymous source who calls Sony's situation "crazy." Here at Moviefone, Spidey fans have offered mixed reactions, with some commenters upset ("No Toby, no watchie!") and some nonplussed (Maguire "was an annoying, uncute weenie anyway.")

So perhaps a new face for Spider-Man will rejuvenate the franchise, especially after the highly disappointing 'Spider-Man 3.' And maybe a more age-appropriate star will be good for the brand.

Thinking along these lines, Ken Lazer, a New York-based casting director with 17 years experience in TV, feature film and commercial acting, offered five ideas for who should replace Maguire -- and some of the reasons behind them:

Michael Cera
"The first person who comes to mind is actually Michael Cera," Lazer said, adding that the star of 'Juno' and 'Superbad' "has the same boyish charm that Tobey Maguire has."


Taylor Lautner
"However, if you're looking for someone young who already has a major name," Lazyer says, "then you would have to talk about Taylor Lautner." The 18-year-old 'Twilight' star does have a list of film projects in the works, but Lazer argued that the chance to play Spider-Man could trump them all.


Zac Efron
Like the Daily Beast, which audaciously inserted the snarky phrase "Zac Efron, call your agent" smack in the middle of its story, Lazer thought the once and future mop-headed star, lately of 'Me and Orson Welles,' might make a terrific Peter Parker.


David Henrie
Lazer also cited David Henrie, the 20-year-old heartthrob who plays Justin Russo on the Disney Channel's 'Wizards of Waverly Place,' as a strong "dark-horse candidate." Henrie doesn't come to the table with a long list of film credits, but his TV-Q is enormous and it could be the kind of leap no young actor can resist.


Shia LaBeouf
"The best fit of all these guys, though, is Shia LaBeouf," Lazer concluded, suggesting the
'Transformers' star "has got the looks and the personality" for Peter Parker. "He's also got that confident-and-strong thing going on. So, I wouldn't rule out the Shia effect."
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