Words by Todd Gilchrist; (above) photo by Chuck Zlotnick – © 2017 CTMG, Inc.
After making his debut as the web-slinger in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland now takes Spidey into pole position in Spider-Man: Homecoming, sharing the screen with those who have attained superhero status, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Michael Keaton who plays the villain in the latest flick. In our July 2017 cover interview, Holland talks about how he approached portraying a young Peter Parker navigating his newfound identity.
Just to get started talk about what your first experience was with Spider-Man? Was it via comic books? Was it movies?
The first time I encountered Spider-Man probably might have been the Sam Raimi movies. I must have been younger than that because they came out in 2002. So it was probably the cartoons and the comics and stuff and I had all the toys and stuff. So I could only imagine when the Spider-Man movie came out I was already an avid fan. I think as a little boy if you ask any kid under the age of eight or 10 what their favourite colours are they’re going to be red or blue. So he’s got both of those checked off. And there are Spider-Man costumes to be bought everywhere. So I was always Spider-Man. And I went through a Batman phase for a little bit but it was always back to Spider-Man.
What quality did you like most about him that when time came to play him that you wanted to make sure you built the character around?
My main thing was to not do something that had been done before. It’s quite hard to come by original content. So I just really, really dove into the research about finding new and unique things we hadn’t seen with Spider-Man and especially Peter Parker. And making him younger, I think, was a very smart decision on Marvel’s behalf because it just makes it more relatable. Not only to an older generation but to a younger generation because it’s nice to be able to go and see a movie and see someone as incredible as Spider-Man go through the same things that they’re going through. But then it also appeals to an older audience because everyone went to school. So they’re able to reminisce.
What did playing Spider-Man in Civil War teach you about the character? Was that where you solidified his personality and things like that, or was there still work to be done when you came into what was going to be your story as opposed to him being a smaller part of a different story?
A lot of the work for Civil War had been done in the direction they wanted to take Spider-Man. For me, the complicated thing was elaborating on that decision. It was like a dirt track and I tried to make it into a motorway. And I was lucky in a sense that I was given such good guidance and such a good team of people to guide me in the right way through the process. So I was never on my own really which I was very grateful for.
One of the things that they’ve made pretty clear is that there’s not an origin story for him. But what’s interesting is that it is so formative for Peter in so many ways more than Spider-Man. Did you feel the absence of that at all, because playing that moment gives you a sense of where his values end up coming from?
I think that’s a very valid point. But like anything practice makes perfect and it’s very unrealistic to think that someone would be as good as he probably has been in the past in the short span of time he’s been on the screen. So even when we meet my version of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, he’s by no means the finished article. He’s got his powers and he’s enjoying them but he doesn’t know how to use them yet. And then on top of that he’s then given a suit which he further really doesn’t understand. So even though he has got his powers, he’s learning how to use them and harness them for good.
What was the biggest physical challenge that you faced when you started actually playing the role? Jon [Watts, the director] explained he had you do a lot of stuff yourself, but I’m sure yanking you by your head down an elevator shaft is not something that even that kind of training can prepare you for.
That’s where conditioning comes into effect. Gymnasts have unbelievably strong core strength and that’s because if you are to mess up a trick and land on your head, your body tightens up so much that nothing can really happen to you. So my thing was making sure I built my core strength and just do as many sit-ups as I could a day basically. And that allowed me to have good balance while on the wires and stuff but it definitely didn’t make everything easy. It was definitely a tough shoot.
TO BE CONTINUED: Get a copy of our July 2017 issue today for the full interview and complete spread shot by Michael Muller.