The planet's favorite crime-stopper returns in ''Spider-Man 3,'' the series' biggest installment yet. But with noncommittal answers from Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst about the future, who'll be back for part 4?
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Scores of amateur star-stalkers point cell-phone cameras. Pros aim long telephoto lenses, shutters clicking like cicadas. Why the frenzy? Because right here, in a New York City square near the cluster of court buildings by the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s them — Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who’ve helped sell $1.6 billion worth of tickets worldwide in two Spider-Man movies.

On this sunny, breezy Saturday in June 2006, they’re at work on a Spider-Man 3 scene where Peter Parker, dorky news photographer for the Daily Bugle, runs into Mary Jane Watson, his aspiring-actress girlfriend, at a key-to-the-city ceremony celebrating Parker’s crimefighting alter ego. Between affectionate consultations with director Sam Raimi, Dunst looks around warily — she’s on open display to hundreds of rubberneckers encircling the company. Periodically, shout-outs rain down from the outlying crowd: ”Kirsten!” ”Hey, Tobey, over here!” ”Kirsten, we love you!” When Maguire disappears for a while and Dunst begins some reaction shots, she becomes the main focus of onlookers’ attention. She squirms.

”The paparazzi are everywhere,” she says, curling in a semi-fetal scrunch in a low-slung folding chair. A few takes later, an open-roofed double-decker tour bus rumbles by. The mic-wielding barker up top spots Dunst and announces her name, which echoes between tall buildings. ”I wish I had cardboard to hold up to my face,” Dunst moans. All that fan love, it seems, can be overwhelming.

Reflecting on the day later, Maguire shrugs off the fishbowl mania. ”As an actor, you’re used to it,” he says. ”People watch you all the time, and come pick at you and touch you. You start to not notice.” Besides, he says, the hometown crowds are a good sign. ”There’s a proprietary feeling New York has for the Spider-Man character,” Maguire says. (That’s why Sony planned ”Spider-Man Week in NYC” starting April 30). ”They feel like it’s their film, too. Spider-Man belongs to them.” New Yorkers, Americans, people of Earth — they all feel they have a stake in the fate of a do-gooder kid from Queens.

NEXT PAGE: ”We’re trying to get as many changes in…before they yank the negative out of my hands.”

Spider-Man 3
  • Movie
  • 139 minutes