The Spider-Man reboot is currently casting, and director Marc Webb is on record as going for an actor much lower profile than Tobey Maguire to take the titular, masked role. Sci-fi blog io9 suggested that the next Spidey be a non-caucasian. Some commenters threw out the name Donald Glover from the TV show Community and the comedy troupe Derrick Comedy, perhaps in part because Glover jokingly tweeted that he wouldn’t fight a movement to get him the part a few months earlier.
Glover happened across the article and the comment, and he tweeted again that he would love to be considered for the part. He started to push the twitter tag “#donald4spiderman” and it went mildly viral. After organizing two twitter-bombs to get the tag as a trending topic (though he didn’t reach his goal of cracking the worldwide top ten, #donald4spiderman peaked at #3 in the US and #1 in Chicago), the blogs are ablaze with discussion about whether such a casting — and, more generally, a non-white Peter Parker — would be a good thing.
I’m here to tell you that Donald Glover being cast as Spiderman wouldn’t be a good thing… it’d be a great thing. Here are ten reasons why I think Sony should take the chance to nab Glover:
- Glover is a really talented actor
He’s focused on funny roles so far in his career, but his characters have occasionally had moments of drama. Glover’s always nailed them. Plus, he’s an incredibly gifted physical actor. Unlike Tobey Maguire, who always felt a bit stiff in his set pieces, Glover would be a natural with the running and jumping and flying.
- The reboot really needs a twist
The awful fan reaction to Spider-Man 3 coupled with the gushing love for The Dark Knight has rendered the Spider-Man franchise virtually irrelevant. Coming back with smaller names, a smaller budget, and a director best known for a Zooey Deschanel film wouldn’t help; there’s almost no way it will gain any box office traction… unless, of course, you give the public a reason for a reboot. For example, changing the race of the character.
- Glover, like Peter Parker, is a city-dwelling nerd
Think of some of the most memorable blockbuster roles of the past few years: Downey in Iron Man, Rourke in The Wrestler, Bridges in Crazy Heart, etc. Most of them have had some sort of connection between actor and character. Glover’s connection to Parker is that he, too, is a nerd from a New York. It’s not particularly poignant, but these little touches matter.
- The race of Peter Parker doesn’t really matter…
There’s nothing distinctly white about Spider-Man, aside from the fact that he’s always been white. In fact, there’s nothing about Spider-Man that has any notable ethnic or racial element to it. He’s not defined by his race or his background. Basically, Glover’s blackness does nothing to contradict or affect his legitimacy as Parker.
- …and, in fact, the character might gain some poignancy by being a minority
Unlike Superman and Captain America, Spider-Man isn’t much of a patriotic symbol. If anything, he’s symbolic of the dismissed and struggling lower class being more powerful and meaningful than commonly recognized. That’s why I think it makes good sense to have a minority Spidey: Many of the character’s underlying themes match the traditional challenges of upward mobility for urban, minority youth.
- Glover has franchise-like star power
He’s not quite Will Smith or Denzel Washington, but he’s got that inherent likability and energy about him usually reserved for much more polished stars. Throw in his good looks, his popularity with the people he works with, his obvious passion for entertaining (he’s also a rapper), and you have someone who could be headlining movies for decades to come, provided his acting chops grow as his resume does.
- Glover has a strong network of high-potential grassroots comedians
Glover not only works with a comedy troupe, he does a lot of non-mainstream standup and improv. He’s a part of a network of entertainers — starting with his comedy troupe — that are ripe with talent. A major film studio tapping into that network could earn great dividends and acquire a large pool of new talent. This happened with the former Freaks and Geeks cast not long ago when Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen started making it big, and their whole posse found their way into leading roles and big-time popularity, not to mention huge bucks for the lucky studios who found that gold mine.
- The world is ready for a new tone for superhero movies
Maybe I’m off on this assessment, but I think some people are starting to grow weary of the “gritty reboot.” Iron Man spiced it up with the dynamic, energetic Downey, but Hulk was a downer, and I get the impression that most of the upcoming superhero movies will focus on the dark elements to cash in on The Dark Knight’s popularity. And while I think establishing high stakes is important, and a solid focus on the struggles of characters makes for compelling storytelling, I don’t want to lose the fun-ness of comics. With a comedian but gem of a talent like Glover, you have a real shot to blend the serious with the fun instead of trying to out-Nolan The Dark Knight.
- Controversy is easy press
The comic book movie horizon has never been more crowded. With at least a dozen promising comic franchises coming to the silver screen in the next three or four years, it’ll become harder and harder for individual comic movies to command buzz they have the past three or four years. Doing something bold like casting a black Spider-Man is a surefire way to get people talking about your film.
- Glover loves Spider-Man, and would pour his heart into the film
A self-avowed “black nerd,” Donald Glover has said he loves Spider-Man. He’d leave everything he has out on the celluloid, and would probably do it for a lot less than the other actors being considered, even the unknowns. From his I Am Just a Rapper mix, to underground comedy gem Mystery Team, to his clever writing on 30 Rock, to his continued excellence on Community, Glover’s projects tend to go for broke. All of his projects are passion projects, and Spider-Man would be no exception. You’d get 110%, day in and day out.
Bonus Reason: It would get people watching Community
So this last reason isn’t really an argument of why it would help Sony, but it would be a great side effect of the casting. The only reason The Office ever took off was because Steve Carell had a star-making turn in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and fans hungry for more of the actor started tuning in and telling their friends how funny the show was. For the brilliant Community to survive to graduation will probably require some lucky breaks. Buzz around Glover for being cast as Spider-Man would definitely be a start.
I’m not going to guarantee a Glover-starring Spider-Man movie would be great. I’m not even 100% sure he could pull off a role with that kind of emotional range; after all, he’s done almost entirely comedy. But there’s enough upside to seriously consider him. With the recent enthusiasm surrounding him and the buzz about whether Parker could be non-white, Sony would be smart to just give him an audition.