British actor tasked with rebooting 'Spider-Man'

Two years ago, a young British actor called Andrew Garfield gave an interview to this newspaper in which he was asked about a string of plaudits that had seen him included in Variety's prestigious list of future Hollywood stars. "Well, whatever," he replied. "I'm only 24, so who knows...I resent it when someone tells me 'this is your time'." Today, even Garfield will find it hard to deny that that time is now.

The makers of Spider-Man, one of the film industry's most valuable and high-profile properties, have named him as the next incarnation of the web-spinning superhero and his emotionally-fragile alter ego, Peter Parker.

His debut, a 3D "reboot" which will focus on Spider-Man's early years, goes into production in December and is due to hit cinemas early in 2012, according to its director, Marc Webb, who announced the news at a press event in Mexico on Thursday afternoon.

"Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor's work understand his extraordinary talents," Mr Webb said. "Andrew Garfield has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love him as Peter Parker."

The choice of Garfield came as a shock to fans. Since January, when the former Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire, announced he was hanging up his spandex suit, speculation was rife that Sony, the studio behind the franchise, would sign up a high-profile replacement.

In Hollywood circles, Garfield's coronation is less of a surprise, however. He has been hoovering up critical plaudits for most of the past four years.

Brought up in Surrey by a British mother and an American father, Garfield trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

His stage debut won the Evening Standard award for Best Newcomer in 2006. Two years later, having moved into TV, he netted a Bafta for Boy A, in which he played a former child murderer haunted by his past. He has subsequently appeared in acclaimed TV dramas such as Channel Four's Red Riding.

Garfield's film career took off with roles in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, and Robert Redford and Tom Cruise's Afghanistan war film Lions for Lambs. Later this year, he hits our screens in The Social Network, David Fincher's eagerly-awaited film about the creation of Facebook.

Executives at Sony are said to have chosen Garfield out of an eight-strong shortlist, including the former Billy Elliot star, Jamie Bell, who went through a four-month audition process. Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of the studio, said yesterday that Garfield's performance in a screen test had been "glorious" and "floored all of us".

By selecting a relative unknown the studio is sticking to a recent trend by which an increasing number of major "tent-pole" films have been marketed to fans as "concept" movies rather than old-fashioned star vehicles.

They are also making a canny financial move. While an established star could expect to be paid as much as $20m to headline a major movie franchise, Garfield's up-front wage is rumoured to be a more modest $500,000 (£330,000). He will receive $1m if he makes a second appearance as Spider-Man, and $2m should he manage a third.

The three recent Spider-Man films have made a combined total of more than $2.5bn at the box office. Sam Raimi, the director behind them, quit in December, followed by Maguire and the female lead, Kirsten Dunst. Mr Raimi was apparently unwilling to accept both the script and the conditions being foisted upon him by Sony, who wanted to make the "rebooted" film for $230m. He said he would need at least $300m.