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Tobey Maguire

Although boyishly-handsome dark-haired player Tobey Maguire got his big break with the Fox sitcom "Great Scott!" (1994), the critically acclaimed series' short run failed to attract a sizable audience, and Maguire would wait until his 1997 starring turn in Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" for his career to really take off. A product of a turbulent background, Maguire moved house frequently as a child, living with various familial permutations of his parents, grandparents and aunts. This unsettled childhood may have contributed to the young actor's drive and unique presence, evincing at once mature clarity and childlike vulnerability in his performances. After his mother offered him $100 to take drama instead of home economics as a school elective, Maguire, encouraged by a neighbor who was an entertainment manager, studied acting and soon landed TV commercial work. He lensed his first television acting role in 1988, with a small part in the HBO comedy special, "On Location: Rodney Dangerfield 'Opening Night at Rodney's Place'" (aired in 1989). Maguire could next be seen as the title star of the 1990 Nickelodeon special "Tales from the Whoop: Hot Rod Brown, Class Clown" and that same year took on a guest role in the NBC series "Parenthood", marking his first collaboration with fellow acting pal Leonardo DiCaprio. More TV guest work followed, including performances in the series "Roseanne" (ABC), "Jake and the Fatman" (CBS), "Eerie, Indiana" and "Blossom" (both NBC).
In 1992, Maguire landed the starring role on the Fox series "Great Scott!" playing Scott Melrod, an adolescent with an active fantasy life played out in interesting episodic asides. While the show was refreshingly original and critically lauded, it failed to grasp an audience, and Maguire's engaging portrayal went virtually unseen with the series' cancellation after only six episodes. While he took on other television roles, including his impressive work in the 1994 TV dramas "Spoils of War" (ABC) and "A Child's Cry for Help" (NBC) and 1996's fact-based "Seduced By Madness: The Diana Borchardt Story" (also NBC), Maguire would really shine on the big screen.

He made his film debut in "This Boy's Life", the 1993 adaptation of Tobias Wolff's seminal coming-of-age memoir, in the supporting role of Chuck Bolger, a schoolboy friend of Leonardo DiCaprio's Toby. His next feature outing was in the forgettable killer toy horror vehicle "The Adventures of the Red Baron" (1994), co-starring Mickey Rooney. Neither his small role in "S.F.W." nor his cameo as a drunken teenager in "Healer" (both 1994) offered much to make audiences take particular notice. More impressive was the actor's turn in Griffin Dunne's 1995 Oscar-nominated short "The Duke of Groove". Maguire deftly played a self-conscious teenage boy attending a pop icon populated party with his mother (Kate Capshaw) during which the two learn about themselves and each other. Also in 1995, he lensed the low-budget "Don's Plum", a film later the subject of a lawsuit brought by both Maguire and co-star DiCaprio. The outcome of the lawsuit insured that the film, initially set to be a short and later lengthened and set for 1998 release, seemingly to capitalize on the popularity of the young stars, would not enjoy showings in the USA or Canada.

Maguire hit a rough patch in 1995, which culminated in the loss of a primary role in the cult hit "Empire Records" after a botched audition dissuaded director Allan Moyle, one of his greatest supporters. After a soul-searching break, he returned triumphantly to acting, now more centered and focused on his craft and his goals. Maguire starred in the 1997 independent feature "Joyride", before being drafted by director Ang Lee to play the conflicted but comparably clear-headed narrator of Lee's remarkable adaptation of the unsettling 1970s affluent suburb-set drama "The Ice Storm". Maguire more than held his own in an ensemble that featured excellent performances by the likes of Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver and Elijah Wood. The role, superbly handled by the young actor with a affecting mixture of knowing cynicism and unspoiled innocence, would prove his mettle, and make him a sought after property. After a small part as a fictional alter ego of Woody Allen's Harry Block in "Deconstructing Harry" (1997), he landed a starring role in "Pleasantville" (1998), playing a thoughtful modern-day teen obsessed with a 50s sitcom world who is transported there along with his sexually liberated sister (Reese Witherspoon). The subtly moving film was a perfect match for Maguire, who turned in a characteristically understated but powerful performance alongside veterans William H Macy, Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels.

In 1999, the actor reteamed with Ang Lee for the director's epic Civil War drama "Ride With the Devil". Maguire starred alongside Skeet Ulrich and Jeffrey Wright as Jake Roedel, a Missouri-bred son of German immigrants who joined up with the Confederate-sympathizing Bushwackers in the unorganized neighbor versus neighbor battles that made up much of the war. Again, his talent for drawing out the vulnerability in a hard character added to the film, and lent a palpable humanity to those historically considered villains. A notable year for the actor, 1999 would also mark the release of "The Cider House Rules", Lasse Hallstrom's film of John Irving's adaptation of his novel about a young orphan raised by an idealistic abortionist. Maguire's nuanced turn as the sensitive but upstanding Homer Wells was applauded by critics and served as the anchor for the feature. The demand for his talents, despite his stated wishes to only work on one film a year, kept him busy. He next played a college student to Michael Douglas' blocked writer who joins the older man on journey to self-awareness in "Wonder Boys" (2000), directed by Curtis Hanson. With a full slate of work in production, and a level-headed attitude towards stardom, the talented Maguire emerged as an actor with a particularly promising career, which he solidified by landing the lead role in the Sam Raimi-directed "Spider-Man" (2002), based on the popular Marvel comic.

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