First there was Tobey Maguire, then there was Andrew Garfield, and next will be Tom Holland as the third actor tapped to play Peter Parker in a live-action adaptation of Marvel Comics’ most popular character, Spider-Man. Before this new and younger version of high school-aged Peter Parker gets his own movie in summer 2017, the first of which is actually set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – the same continuity as The Avengers – Holland will make an appearance beforehand in a Marvel movie.
We knew that much from the initial official announcement of the agreement between Sony Pictures and Disney-owned Marvel Studios that would see the studios work together to share characters, and there was only one movie that was applicable for his introduction: Captain America: Civil War.
Spider-Man plays an important role in the Civil War crossover event in Marvel Comics and we knew from leaked Sony emails in the fall that directors Anthony and Joe Russo wanted Spidey in their next Captain America movie, but at the time the deal wasn’t going through. And because it didn’t, Marvel unveiled their schedule of new release dates and titles (collectively dubbed “Phase 3”) in October that didn’t include Spider-Man even though Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige knew Spider-Man was always going to be part Phase 3.
So, as a surprise to no one who’s been following these developments, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man will in fact appear in Captain America: Civil War. We had heard descriptions of a Spider-Man costume and multiple reports of the shortlist of potential actors actually screen-testing as Parker on the Atlanta set of Civil War, and as confirmed yesterday in THR’s cover story on Marvel’s Ant-Man, Holland must “immediately” report to set. So far, any shots involving Spider-Man must have been made with a double or stunt actor wearing the costume. Holland is really just needed for the Peter Parker sequences.
Marvel has yet to confirm when and where Spider-Man will appear in the MCU, but they could be saving it for a San Diego Comic-Con reveal. Their film division will not be hosting a Hall H panel this year, but will still have a large presence on the TV and Comics sides with other panels and a large booth on the floor. They traditionally hand out concept art for upcoming films so it’s possible we get a look at Spidey.
Why It Took So Long
What’s more interesting is the lengthy and challenging process Marvel and Sony underwent to rush to find a director and star for the new Spider-Man reboot movie in 2017. Holland had appeared on multiple insider shortlists as a top contender but you might not know that the studios had looked at 1500+ actors for the part. That’s a lot of young stars vying for a career-defining part.
Holland won out for his previous work in The Impossible and impressing Marvel with his auditions and athleticism (see below video from Holland’s Instagram), but he also had to prove himself alongside The Avengers. Marvel casting director Sarah Finn, who’s worked on everything from Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., helped identify the top candidates and had them screen test at the end of May on the set of Civil War.
The top two, which we had heard about earlier (Charlie Rowe and Holland) were called back for another test, but it was only Holland who reportedly had the chance to audition alongside both Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) separately. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige and producer Amy Pascal (previous Sony Pictures’ boss) were involved each step of the way.
Holland was the clear favorite and it then just became a matter of signing before the official announcement could be made. The entire process has been fast-tracked since the get-go due to Sony’s desire to relaunch their most lucrative film franchise as soon as possible with the help of Marvel – who in turn want to use the character and his library of supporting characters and villains to help bolster their own projects and brand going forward. If it wasn’t for the desire to introduce Spider-Man next year – the best marketing tool ever for promoting the untitled Spider-Man reboot (again) – Marvel and Sony would have had almost an extra year to find their Peter Parker.
The surprising element of yesterday’s landmark Spider-Man announcement was the selection of relative unknown director Jon Watts. He wasn’t listed among the top five reported by the trades in early May.
The goal for Sony and Marvel was to do something different with the new Spider-Man, a bit of a must given the rapid fire pace of reboots. Again, it’s only able to happen again so quickly because of Sony partnering with Marvel and as part of that, they’re going to skip the been-there-done-that origin story. When moviegoers first meet Peter Parker, he will already be serving as a young hero on his own in the streets of New York.
With that in mind, whoever was going to direct this new Spider-Man (which according to rumors could be titled The Spectacular Spider-Man or Spider-Man: The New Avenger) had to pitch their own unique vision for the story and characters. That’s how Watts impressed Kevin Feige which in turn, got him the blessing from Sony’s new boss, Tom Rothman.
Watts, who’s only 33 years old, earned some buzz earlier this year for his film Cop Car which played at the Sundance Film Festival but comes from a bit of a comedy background having worked for The Onion News Network. His hiring continues Marvel’s trend of given unproven tentpole directors a chance,, much like they did with Joss Whedon and James Gunn.
Ant-Man opens in theaters July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.