Spider-Man has to go without the love of his life in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Mary Jane Watson, who was played by Kristen Dunst in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, is not in the new movie. Disney Channel star Zendaya is playing a completely original character.
Zendaya’s casting in the film was controversial, since there was an assumption that her character would be Mary Jane, the red-head who has been in the comics since 1965. Thanks to Marvel’s attempts to keep things a secret for as long as possible, her role wasn’t revealed until recently. Her character is Michelle Jones, whose friends do refer to her as “MJ.” She’s one of Peter’s high school classmates. Peter is only 15 years old in Homecoming. Michelle delivers the line, “My friends call me MJ” at the very end of the movie.
“I play a character named Michelle, but nobody believes me… it really is Michelle,” Zendaya told Jimmy Fallon on June 21. “My character’s very interesting. She’s kind of like a loner. Super intellectual, very dry humor, one liners, pops in, pops out. I didn’t even know what kind of character I was going to play until I got there and signed the non-disclosure [agreement] and then read the script.”
Mary Jane Watson was first introduced in the comics as a running gag. She was originally just a girl that Aunt May frequently tried to set Peter up with and her face wasn’t seen. She was mentioned in The Amazing Spider-Man #15 in August 1964. Ten issues later, her body (but not her face) was seen. It wasn’t until The Amazing Spider-Man #42, cover-dated November 1966, that MJ finally made her debut. In the panel, MJ famously tells Peter, “Face it tiger… you just hit the jackpot!”
Although the general public still thinks of Mary Jane as a Spider-Man character, in the comics today, she features prominently in Iron-Man’s world. She’s had a job at Stark Industries as a personal assistant for Tony Stark since early last year.
Mary Jane was played by Dunst in the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, but wasn’t featured at all in The Amazing Spider-Man movies. Instead, Sony went with Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone) as Spidey’s love interest. Shailene Woodley was cast to play MJ in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but her scenes were deleted to streamline a movie that would be widely criticized for spending too much time setting up a franchise that never came to fruition.
It’s still not clear if Mary Jane and other supporting characters from the Spidey-verse will appear in the MCU Spider-Man movies or if they will only be in Sony’s Venom
and Silver & Black projects. Producer Amy Pascal confused everyone while promoting Homecoming, but Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige insisted to JoBlo that only Spider-Man himself is part of the MCU. Pascal herself later clarified to Fandango’s Erik Davis that she only meant that the other Spidey characters are members of the Marvel comic universe, not cinematic universe.