NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Hollywood has finally realized that Tobey Maguire has grown up. The actor who gained fame as a teenager in the “Spider-Man” movies has embraced fatherhood and a new role as a soldier whose family is torn apart by war.
The 34-year-old actor is now a married father of two and appearing in his first film in two years since “Spider-Man 3”, the adult drama “Brothers,” which debuted in major U.S. cities yesterday and looks at soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
“Brothers’ explores the psychological ravages of war and points to the difficulties soldiers face returning to their loved ones in the United States.
As President Barack Obama escalates U.S. involvement in that country, it serves as a cautionary tale of post-traumatic stress for adults mindful of what combat does to men and the families they leave behind.
“They are embarrassed or ashamed and also feel like other people can’t understand,” Maguire told Reuters. “We have to be more proactive as a society to reach our hand out to them.”
During the film, Maguire’s character is captured by Taliban fighters and “Brothers” explores the trauma of returning home to suburban American to his wife, played by Natalie Portman and his brother, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
It is a step away from the gentle portrayals of teenagers and young men the California-born actor forged a career from in films like “The Ice Storm,” “The Cider House Rules” and “Wonder Boys” and, of course, the bookish Peter Parker.
Maguire told Reuters he hoped the movie would “shed some light on an uncomfortable topic” of the fallibility of soldiers and would produce a more open dialogue between soldiers, their families and their communities.
“Let’s not have the elephant in the room,” he said.
THE MOVIES GO TO WAR
“Brothers” is an American remake of the 2004 Danish drama of the same name and is the latest in a string of movies that explore stories about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Films like “In the Valley of Elah” (2007) and “Stop-Loss” (2008) dealt with aspects of the current conflicts and, for the most part, failed to generate much excitement at box offices as audiences turned away from war movies.
But this year, moviegoers seem able to face armed conflict and its emotional ravages. “The Hurt Locker,” about soldiers who defuse bombs, is among the best reviewed movies of 2009 and has generated $16 million at global box offices, which is a good sum for a low-budget, art house film.
Still, Maguire has been in Hollywood long enough to know that entertainment and politics rarely mix well, and he avoided talking about his own views on the wars and whether he supports the planned U.S. troop increase.
“I don’t want to necessarily get into a political conversation. I have my views about that stuff, but what is important is…to have a dialogue going,” he said.
In recent years, Maguire has taken time away from acting to focus on family and kids — his second child with his wife Jennifer Meyer, daughter of Universal Studios President Ronald Meyer, was born just this past May.
“When they are born, for a few weeks it is just me and my wife and kids,” he said. “I would have no distractions for their welcoming into the world, and all of that, and then slowly take on more and more of my work responsibilities.”
While he has no plans to quit acting — “Spider-Man 4” is currently in the works — more and more he finds himself focused on his company, Maguire Entertainment, and producing.
He is developing several projects including “Robotech,” adapted from the classic Japanese animation series.
“It’s challenging, to identify things, to set them up, to get the right people to help you develop them,” he said. “I am a big fan of movies and I want to make ‘em.”