Why Marisa Tomei Thanks Robert Downey Jr For Her Spider-Man Role

When Marisa Tomei was cast as Peter Parker's Aunt May in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans complained. They had grown accustomed to seeing Aunt May as a matronly woman — a sweet, white-haired older woman who was keen on cooking and was unaware of her nephew's superhero identity. They didn't expect to see a version of her character so different from what the "Spider-Man" films had offered before. 

This Aunt May was a single woman who lived in New York and was thrust into an unpredictable life after becoming a guardian to her orphaned nephew. She's different in every way — not just her age — from actresses Rosemary Harris and Sally Field, who portrayed the character in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy and, later, Marc Webb's reboot of the films.

Marisa Tomei's Aunt May doesn't wear her hair in a chignon or have an Uncle Ben — and she looks good. And this unexpected reinvention of Tomei's on-screen character has been credited to Robert Downey Jr., the actress revealed.

Marisa Tomei's Aunt May was reinvented for the MCU

Many "Spider-Man" fans felt Tomei was too young and attractive to play Aunt May. And she had a very different role to play in the films, too. No one had witnessed Aunt May's character being elevated to such an extent before — this version of the comic character was an active participant in Peter's adventures. She wasn't kept in the dark about his superhero pursuits.

In December 2021, Marisa Tomei touched upon the reinvention of her character in an interview with The Wrap. The Oscar-winning actress explained that Robert Downey Jr. was the man behind the change, and she had him to thank for it:

"I think Robert Downey had a lot to do with it. And then [Jon] Watts [the director] and I a lot about, well, I guess the mandate is a reinvention. But what is that? I don't think anyone is really focused on that, really. There was a lot of bigger fish to fry. So Jon and I did a lot of talking about it."

It's interesting how Robert Downey Jr. wanted to bring a distinct interpretation of Aunt May to the MCU compared to her previous incarnations. Marisa Tomei was the perfect choice for the MCU's sophisticated new Aunt May; she exhibited street smarts and yet offered wisdom when Peter needed it most. She was also given an opportunity to dabble in the film franchise's more comedic moments ... remember when Tomei's character referred to Peter's Spidey-Sense as "Peter tingle?"

Tomei's rebooted character continued to appear throughout Tom Holland's "Spider-Man" trilogy and was an ideal 21st Century update. If "Spider-Man: No Way Home" has taught us anything, it's that it's always fun to see different interpretations of the same character. And seeing Aunt May as a vibrant younger woman who let her hair down, could speak to Peter on the same level, and be an ally to his heroic abilities as Spider-Man was pretty incredible. More Aunt May (however impossible that might be) in the future, please?