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Rhys Ifans, carrying on a 'Spider-Man' tradition

October 11, 2010 |  1:20 pm


Spider-Man may be getting rebooted with up-and-comers Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, but when it comes to the villain, the filmmakers are following in the path of the first group of pictures: They're bringing on an older actor with a more august pedigree.

Sony announced Monday that Welsh actor Rhys Ifans has been given the part of the as-yet-unnamed lead villain. Ifans has a staggering number of art-house movies on his resume, including "The Shipping News," "Vanity Fair" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." And he has a classical background that includes numerous Shakespearean theatrical productions in his native Britain -- "Hamlet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" among them. (He also had a part in "Notting Hill" and is poised for a more commercial turn with the character part of Xenophilius Lovegood in the upcoming "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." But mostly, he's a prestige actor.)

Sony got to know Ifans in the upcoming "Anonymous," which, though it's directed by action staple Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day"), is a film about the authorship of Shakespeare classics.

Although the Marc Webb re-imagining of "Spider-Man" is starting everything over from scratch, Ifans isn't a departure. The first three "Spider-Man" pictures brought on a number of actors with similar backgrounds to play villains, including Willem Dafoe -- a stage veteran himself with the Wooster Group -- and Thomas Haden Church. When it did stray to a less-experienced actor, it didn't always turn up roses. James Franco pulled it off, but Topher Grace didn't work out so well.  The bet is that movie-goers don't need a marquee name for the villain, and that the part requires more depth if it's to transcend mustache-twirling cliches anyway.

In explaining his choice, Webb cited Ifans' "incredible ability to embody both warmth and rage." Fair enough, though given fans' tendency to go out and rent all the movies a new superhero actor has starred in, we're expecting a Netflix run on "Dancing at Lughnasa."

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Rhys Ifans (center) in "Vanity Fair." Credit: Focus Features


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How could you neglect Alfred Molina as "Doc Ock"????


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