By Charlie Amter Thu May 19,10:34 PM ET
Topher Grace is checking out of the basement and into the big time.
Coming on the heels of his last regular installment of That '70s Show, the actor has been tapped to join the cast of Spider-Man 3, Columbia Pictures announced Thursday.
Grace will join one of the biggest franchises in film, appearing alongside original Spider Man cast members Tobey Maguire,
Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and recently announced addition Thomas Haden Church in the would-be blockbuster, due May 4, 2007.
Sam Raimi will return to direct the highly anticipated third installment, which starts shooting early next year.
"Topher Grace is an extraordinarily talented actor and will be perfect for the complexities of the role we are developing," Raimi said in a press release.
Of course, Raimi was mum on exactly what those "complexities" would be, leaving it up to the movie rumor sites to begin speculating on just which Marvel character Grace will essay.
Likewise, when Church was announced as Spidey's newest cinematic ne'er-do-well, Riami was equally coy, saying the Oscar-nominated Sideways star "will be a fantastic and challenging new nemesis and we all look forward to working with him."
It's widely assumed that multiple villains will appear in Spider-Man 3, and Grace is already an odds-on favorite to be one of them.
Meanwhile, Chlo Sevingy, who who has openly campaigned for a slot in the film, hasn't yet made the cut.
The actress has suggested she would make a perfect Black Cat in Spider-Man 3, but, per fan Website GoblinJournals.com, an "anonymous source" close to the film says there will be no Black Cat role in the new film; instead, the two baddies will be Sandman and Hobgoblin.
Villain issues aside, Spider-Man 3 is about the closest thing there is to a box-office lock.
Spider-Man 2 smashed records when it opened last summer, becoming the third film ever to earn more than $40 million in a single day. The film went on the gross $373 million at the U.S. box office. The original Spider-Man grossed $403 million domestically during its 2002 run. So far, the webslinger franchise has grossed more than $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales.
This represents Grace's biggest movie role to date. The actor, who along with Ashton Kutcher, decided to leave That '70s Show to pursue movie roles (they will both be back as guest stars in a handful episodes next season), has racked up solid cinematic credits. He most recently starred in In Good Company and the indie flick P.S., and had smaller roles in Traffic, Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve.
Meanwhile, in other big Marvel-related casting news,
Kelsey Grammer has been tapped to play Beast--the super-intelligent blue behemoth, in the forthcoming X-Men 3, according to Variety.
He'll be joined by two other new X-Men recruits, Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat, who can pass through walls (Lost's Maggie Grace is reported to be the top candidate), and the winged Angel.
They'll square off against another evil mutant, the metal-clad giant Juggernaut, to be played by Vinnie Jones (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).
British director Matthew Vaughn is taking over behind the camera from Bryan Singer (who is helming the new Superman). X-Men 3 is slated to hit theaters over Memorial Day 2006.