The lessons we can glean from it are, dare I say, super.
“I stopped consuming any mind-altering substances when I was 19 years old. And I’ve been abstinent since then.” — Tobey Maguire
While Tom Holland has done a great job of making the character Spider-Man “cool” again for the younger generation, I grew up in a world in which Tobey Maguire’s rendition of your friendly neighborhood superhero was about as pitch perfect as you could ask for.
I’m not sure why, but something about his natural persona seemed to be exactly what I had in mind when I used to read Spider-Man comics growing up.
Now, after learning of his early battle with alcohol addiction that posed a danger to a promising acting career, the on-screen drama of Peter Parker doing what he wanted versus what he was called to do seemed to be the perfect analogy for Tobey’s Maguire’s life.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” has an entire new meaning when you think about it in the context of Tobey Maguire’s life and what we can learn from his decision to give up drinking to meet his responsibility.
He knew he couldn’t do it alone
The interesting part of Tobey Maguire’s story is that he recognized his issue with alcohol at a very young age.
As someone who started acting when he was only 14, he was thrust into the world of Hollywood when most kids his age were choosing between algebra and pre-algebra to start high school.
His success was not meteoric, however, as he often needed the help of his up and coming child friend actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, to land parts. On the flip side, he was having no issue immersing himself into the night party lifestyle of a Hollywood child actor, as he starting drinking and partying at this very young age.
Five years later, he recognized that he was heading down a terrible path and decided that he needed to get serious help or he would end his career before it even began.
At 19, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober ever since. He credits the program for being able to give him a straight plan on how to live a sober life without having to figure it out himself.
When referring to AA and how it changed his life, he has been quoted,
“There are no holes in the program…You do what they ask you to do and (stuff) happens. Your life gets better. Your life changes.”
He recognized that he needed help and was humble enough to ask for it because he was serious about removing alcohol from his life.
He knew he had to change his approach to life to protect his chances of success
One of the interesting things about Tobey’s success with sobriety is that he recognized the things that were causing him to feel he needed alcohol in the first place.
One of these things was his oxymoronic friendly-rivalry with fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Leonardo and Tobey became fast friends as teenagers as they met auditioning for many of the same parts. As their friendship grew, they made a pact to partner together as much as possible by helping each other get parts in whatever movies or projects the other got.
One of the major unseen caveats of this pact was that Leonardo kept getting all the parts that Tobey was going for.
While DiCaprio was true to his word and was the main reason that Tobey got parts in two of Leonardo’s projects, Parenthood and This Boy’s Life, when Tobey got sober, he recognized that this head to head rival friendship was not healthy for his long-term mental health and decision to not drink.
Therefore, once he got clean, he purposely stopped auditioning for the same parts as Leo and searched for his own roles that would give him a better chance of not ending in disappointment.
This led to him getting his breakout role of Paul Hood in the film, The Ice Storm. This success led to him then getting roles in other popular films such as Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules, and Wonder Boys, and his career began to take off.
He couldn’t allow anything or anyone to make him go backwards
With Hollywood fame often comes a lot of money and the opportunity to live what many people would identify as the crazy Hollywood lifestyle.
When Tobey started realizing the fame that came with the blockbuster success of Spider-Man, I’m sure the chances of the temptation of alcohol, along with a host of other drugs, probably were in his face more than ever.
However, Tobey refused to allow this to damage his sobriety, as he continued to go to the AA meetings for some time and never felt that he was “fully recovered” to allow this to lapse.
It was even rumored that he broke up with former girlfriend, Kirsten Dunst, because she was a little too much in love with the Hollywood nightlife and Tobey couldn’t risk exposing himself and his sobriety to that risk.
Overall, despite his long term success of sobriety at that point (more than 7 years), he still would not put himself at risk of losing it because he felt he still had way too much to lose.
Tobey Maguire has always been one of my favorite actors due to his consistent portrayal of characters that I would deem as the “good guys” in movies, and he will always be my tried and true Spider-Man.
Now, I like him even more knowing that he exemplifies a real-life superhero by being able to leave alcohol behind to protect himself and his future success.
Overall, I guess it’s comforting to know that even superheroes could use a little help some times.