IN A victory for working fathers in Hollywood, the actor Tobey Maguire has been granted ?family time? with his young daughter as part of an unprecedented deal to star in the next two Spider-Man movies.
Maguire was willing to shoot Spider-Man 4 and 5 back-to-back over six months next year but insisted he should take early mornings and evenings off so he could play with his ?favourite blonde?, Ruby Sweetheart, who is 22 months old.
The 33-year-old actor is expected to earn a record $50m (?28m) in salary and profit shares from the two films, substantially more than Keanu Reeves earned when he shot the last two Matrix films back-to-back. Reeves complained that it left him exhausted.
The first three Spider-Man films grossed ?1.5 billion and are still producing spin-offs, including a forthcoming Broad-way musical with songs by Bono, the Irish rock star.
Until recently it was uncertain whether Maguire would put on the Spider-Man suit again, and Sony had drawn up a list of alternative actors before Maguire?s agents came back to the negotiating table.
Sony, which declined to comment, is thought to have been wary of allowing ?family time? because it could set a precedent. Finally its chairman, Amy Pascal, herself a mother, stepped in, saying six months without family time would not be fair on any parent.
In the next few days Sony is expected to reveal whether Maguire?s ex-girlfriend Kirsten Dunst will be returning as his on-screen love interest, Mary Jane Watson. Dunst, 26, has recently talked about a struggle with clinical depression.
Some critics have mocked the current generation of Hollywood actors as ?boy-men?. Steve McQueen?s widow Barbara said she could not imagine him asking for ?family time? when making The Great Escape. Like McQueen, Maguire came from a troubled background. He planned to be a chef until his mother, an aspiring scriptwriter, gave him $100 to take acting rather than cooking lessons to make sure he ?got to know the world?. It worked.
Maguire rose to fame with his boyhood friend Leonardo DiCaprio and both became renowned playboys. At 19, however, Maguire checked into rehab. Today he is a teetotal vegetarian.
?Tobey admits he is obsessive-compulsive about everything he does, and raising Ruby is no different,? a friend said last week. ?There?s no way Tobey would allow work, no matter how well paid, to get between him and Ruby, and Sony realised that.?