Kirsten Dunst Gets Real About Her ‘Extreme’ Pay Gap With Tobey Maguire on ‘Spider-Man’

Sexism and misogyny in the working world are unfortunately common, and Hollywood is no exception. There is the obvious objectification of women and girls on screen, the sexual harassment that has been revealed to be rampant, and the extra expectations placed upon women in the industry.

But there are also forms of misogyny that are less obvious and just as insidious. One of these is the higher economic value placed on men, which has been addressed more and more in recent years. Though it’s important to discuss the impact of class, the pay gap also impacts celebrities. Kirsten Dunst, one of the biggest names in media, even experienced a significant pay gap in one of her films. Which film was this? And what did she think about it?

Kirsten Dunst had a lead role in three Spider-Man’ films

Kirsten Dunst in a yellow shirt, with short blond hair and red lipstick
Kirsten Dunst | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

There have been many iterations of Spider-Man over the years, but the first major film adaptation of Spider-Man came with 2002’s Spider-Man, directed by cult horror icon Sam Raimi. In this version, Tobey Maguire played the eponymous Spider-Man, developing his powers for the first time from a radioactive spider bite and facing off against the Green Goblin. This film was a major success and was followed with two sequels, simply titled Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. These sequels featured different villains and supporting characters, but kept the main central cast the same.

The Spider-Man franchise would go through a few reboots over the years, and currently, Tom Holland plays the character. However, these earlier movies were highly influential, and actors from these films are set to reprise their roles in the upcoming Spider-Man film Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Kirsten Dunst played one of the major characters from the comics

Dunst had a major role in all three of these Spider-Man films. This role was Mary Jane Watson, who was introduced as a love interest to Spider-Man in the comics. Mary Jane in the comics was contrasted with Gwen Stacy, being more outgoing and ending up becoming a popular character by 2002.

Dunst was praised in the role, though some critics pointed out that her character functioned as a damsel in distress across the first two films in the trilogy. At the same time, Mary Jane is portrayed as focused on her career and not tied to Maguire’s character, and by the third film, audiences got to see her rescue herself.

Despite this important criticism, Mary Jane was still popular – and Dunst as Mary Jane was part of one of the most iconic scenes in the recent film: the upside-down kiss between Mary Jane and Spider-Man. Dunst was central to this trilogy.

Kirsten Dunst was paid significantly less than Tobey Maguire

Despite this importance to the films, Dunst described to Insider that, in hindsight, the pay gap between her and Maguire was pretty “extreme.” According to Dunst, she was young at the time and felt that it made sense that the actor playing Spider-Man would get paid more, but over time she realized the importance of her role and described that “definitely the men were getting paid more.”

Dunst has not said the exact amount of money she got paid for the films, but we do know that Maguire made $4 million off of the 2002 film, then $17.5 million in the sequel. Dunst did, nonetheless, seriously enjoy her participation in the trilogy, and has said that she would be eager to act as Mary Jane in a fourth movie in this series. Hopefully, if she does, the pay will be more equal this time!

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