Elizabeth Banks has revealed the shocking reason she was rejected to play Tobey Maguire's love interest in Spider-Man.

The 42-year-old actress and producer screen-tested alongside Tobey Maguire to play Spider-Man's love interest in the 2002 film, but was turned down because she was considered too old for the role of Mary-Jane. She is just 16 months older than Maguire.

The role instead went to Kirsten Dunst, now aged 34. At the time of filming, Banks would've been around 27 or 28 years old.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in a scene from the film Spider-Man 3.
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in a scene from the film Spider-Man 3.

"I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man movie, opposite Tobey Maguire," Banks toldGlamour Magazine.

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"Tobey and I are basically the same age - and I was told I was too old to play her. I'm like, 'Oh OK, that's what I've signed up for'."

Banks instead had to settle for a much smaller role in the film, playing Betty Brant, a secretary at the Daily Bugle - a role she reprised in two more Spider-Man films.

In the ensuing years, Banks has forged a career as a Hollywood power player both in front of and behind the camera, with roles in 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Hunger Games franchise and The Lego Movie. She produced both Pitch Perfect films, directing the sequel.

Banks told Glamour she feels she's laid the foundations for a long Hollywood career.

"What I'm grateful for now is longevity. I was never a flavour of the month. I feel very comfortable that I will be working in this industry for a while," she said, explaining her heart lies in comedies.

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"I love character-based comedies. It's important to have a view on the world that's a little sassy. I don't think we should be taking anything too seriously."

Banks, a mother of two, this month jokingly dubbed herself a 'f**king a**hole' after her Hollywood duties forced her to miss her son's preschool graduation.