Tom Holland, who immediately skyrocketed into fame by landing the coveted role of Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is currently in Atlanta shooting Avengers: Infinity War. But last summer, just as his introductory film Captain America: Civil War was in theaters, Holland was there as well shooting his first solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
And we had the chance to visit the set of the very first Sony-Disney-Marvel co-production in late August, first spending some time at Atlanta Pinewood Studios – where Marvel has taken over all of the facilities beginning with Ant-Man – and then going on location at an old dirty warehouse which was setup as Adrian Toomes’ workshop (think Batcave meets Tony Stark but with less of a budget). It’s here where got to chat with Tom Holland.
The British star, as charming and witty as ever, was wearing light blue pajama-like clothing and it was clear that he was in a homemade Spider-Man outfit of sorts but they didn’t want to show us that or talk about that part of the story. When he sat with us, he didn’t have any costume accessories or the red vest part of the costume. For obvious reasons, this is where our interview began.
In this film, Peter Parker rocks the high-tech Spider-Man suit, but it looks like you’re back in the jammies…
Tom Holland didn’t know if he could answer and unit publicist John Pisani stepped in to explain, “Well, there’s many incarnations in the film with the suit, and so this is just one of the different ones that goes throughout the movie.”
Can you tell us something about what we’re seeing today?
Tom Holland: Yeah, today is the first time Peter faces off [Adrian] Toomes and meets Toomes, and it’s pretty badass actually. It’s changed a lot over the last few weeks, but the version I think Jon [Watts] has kind of finalized on is pretty awesome.
How has it changed, and how has Jon’s process worked with you guys?
Tom Holland: The basic script and the arc for my character especially has remained the same. I think the arc for Toomes and the Vulutre has changed quite drastically from the first draft that I read, which I think for the better. Jon’s cool and he keeps everything fresh, and if there any changes we are all well notified beforehand. I mean there’s only been a couple of days where we come in and I’ve learned the lines for a scene and he’s like, “that’s not in the movie anymore, it’s a different scene.” [laughs] But no, he’s fantastic to work with.
Was there anything specifically when they were first writing the script where you said, I want Peter to be able to do this. Or I want Spider-Man to do this?
Tom Holland: Yeah, I mean the whole aspect of keeping him grounded and making sure the audience sees a kid as a superhero. We’ve seen the sort of Norse God, we’ve seen the billionaire, we’ve seen the soldier – now we get to see the kid. And one of the most important themes of the movie is what would a 15-year-old boy do with super powers. So the opening act to the movie, you see Peter really trying do discover who he is and what he can do, which is something I feel like we haven’t really explored massively in the previous movies – seeing Peter make mistakes and try to rectify them, and learn exactly what he can do. And that was something I was very passionate about, and I know Jon was as well. And from the first draft that was always in the script.
So you’re not a kid from Queens, so I’m curious how did you go about becoming a kid from Queens. Did you go to Queens at all? Walk around? Take in the environment?
Tom Holland: Yeah, it’s funny Marvel actually sent me to a school in the Bronx where I had a fake name and I put on an accent, and I went for like three days. I basically had to go to this science school and blend in with all the kids, and some of the teachers didn’t even know. It was a science school, and I am in no way a science student [laughter]. Some of the teachers would call me up in front of the class and try to get me to do science equations and stuff – it was so embarrassing. But it was actually really informative because schools in London are so different. I would go to school every day in a suit and tie, with just boys. To be in a school where you can be free and let loose, and be with girls, it was so different. Like SO different. But yeah, it was a really great experience.
And nobody knew?
Tom Holland: No one knew. I actually have videos on my phone of me interviewing people, and asking them what they thought of the new Spider-Man in Civil War. They were like, “Oh he’s great, I love him,” and then some people were like, “Nah, I don’t love him, he’s not great” – and I was standing right in front of them! [laughter] But yeah, no, it was fun. It was really fun.
Can you tell us about the audition process we had heard about where you auditioned with Robert Downey Jr. for Captain America: Civil War?
Tom Holland: That was intense, man. I was shooting other movies at the time, so I was lucky because I was sort of preoccupied. I think if I wasn’t working, I would’ve imploded just waiting to hear for this movie. I did two… god, what did I do… two self takes with Joel Kinnaman cause I was making a movie with him. Then I did two self takes with Jon Bernthal, and then I did another self take on my own, and then finally came out here to screen test with Robert [Downey Jr.] and Chris [Evans]. That for me was a good enough of an experience as itself – I didn’t need to get the movie. I was so happy to have just got that far, and to have worked with Robert and Chris, I was happy to just sort of go home. But when this job came in, I’ve never been happier. It was the craziest day of my life, it was insane. And we were waiting around for what felt like months before I found out—
I was going to ask what your audition scene was…
Tom Holland: My audition scene, god. The first three weren’t from Spider-Man, they were from, um, it might have been from Whiplash, one of the scenes. The scene between Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Then there were a few Spider-Man scenes, and it was funny because my agents at one point were like, we don’t know who you’re auditioning for. I was like, But my lines are for Spider-Man – so who else could I possibly be auditioning for? They were like, we don’t know. So I sort of clocked on then that it was for Spider-Man, but they were so sort of made-up scenes. Nothing from the movie. But then my final audition with Robert was a scene that was in Civil War between the two of us.
Can you talk about the action scenes and what we can expect to see out of this one? The kind of skill level Spider-Man is at now and having an aerial villain…
Tom Holland: It’s exciting… some of the stuff that George and his team, our coordinators, have come up with is pretty remarkable, actually. And we really pushed Spider-Man to new limits, and there are things we definitely have not seen before. Some of the abilities. And it’s really fun. We had a month before shooting where we just prepped stunts, and we trained and trained, and George really trusts me with my abilities, and has let me do as many stunts as he feels comfortable with, so it’s been really fun. I’m definitely excited for you guys to see stuff that Spider-Man has never done before.
Peter Parker is bit of a talker, as you know –
Tom Holland Yeah, so am I.
But he’s also very young and this is the first supervillain he’s fighting. What is the banter and his relationship like with The Vulture?
Tom Holland: I think one of the nicest things about his sort of conflict with the villains in this is how different it is with his conflict with Cap and his side [in Civil War]. Because that was kind of fun, he didn’t really know what was going on, and you don’t see the Avengers as people who are dangerous. But here the Vulture is definitely a formidable opponent, and he is terrifying. His suit is absolutely terrifying. So the banter picks up a little bit in the beginning, but as soon as Peter realizes he’s a little bit out of his depth, there comes a real battle. And it’s less about making quick jokes and being funny, and more about saving the day and making sure he does the right thing.
Can you talk about how you see your Peter Parker and compare him to the previous versions?
Tom Holland: That’s a good question. I mean, it’s difficult not to take influence from Tobey and Andrew because they both had such great versions of the character. I think from Tobey I’m taking his sort of less cool side of things, whereas Andrew was very cool and very sort of contained. But then with Andrew, I thought his Spider-Man was fantastic. I thought when he was in that suit, I thought he really came to life, and so there are two things I am taking from both people. For me it’s just making sure I feel like a kid on set, and really be the kid that everyone wants to be, and just have fun with it, and see a superhero really enjoy having his powers.
Historically very often Peter resents being Spider-Man. He quits all the time in the comics. What is this Peter’s relationship to being Spider-Man?
Tom Holland: I think because in this movie you see him learn so much, it changes very drastically halfway through the movie. You see him really enjoying his powers, really getting to grips with what he can do and just experimenting throughout the movie. But then through a turn of events, things happen, and it becomes a real serious matter. Then all of a sudden his powers become a bit of a burden, and it’s nice to play those two different feelings towards his powers.
What can you say about how his relationship with Tony Stark has evolved since Civil War? We learned a little about the story earlier, and we know he pops in a lot through the movie, and Spider-Man sort of trusts him and counts on him, so what can you say about Peter and Tony?
Tom Holland: I think we’re seeing the beginning of a sort of father-son relationship. Obviously Tony hasn’t got any kids, and Peter at this point hasn’t got any male figures in his life, so I think there’s a really lovely dynamic that Robert and I are forming. And, no, let me take that back. I think Robert is more like a big brother than he is a father figure because he picks on him and he is down on him quite a lot. But then there is that level of him caring about him like his own, and Robert has really brought something lovely to the character. It’s a very different side of Stark than you’ve ever seen before.
Speaking of Stark, we were just at the studio and saw a bunch of stuff with regards to the plot of the movie and the relationship with Peter and Stark is a little more of him coming down on Spider-Man getting involved. He wants Parker to rescue cats out of trees and do less lasers. How does Peter respond to that?
Tom Holland: I couldn’t answer that because I’d give something away. But that is what I’m talking about where Stark is caring about Peter cause he doesn’t feel like he’s ready yet to be an Avenger, and I think he might have thought what happened in Germany was too much for Spider-Man at that time. So he is very persuasive, and he’s constantly trying to get Peter to stay in Queens and save cats out of trees, and stop the burglar, and blah blah blah, and not think of this scale.
This is a coming-of-age movie, and it has nods to John Hughes movies and stuff like that. Did Jon give you any movies to watch, maybe with the cast together?
Tom Holland: Yeah, he gave us a lot of movies to watch. Gosh, so many movies, and we basically sat down in my house here in Atlanta – all the cast – and we just watched them all in one day. We had like a Domino’s day, and it was so amazing, so great. Plug Dominos there, thank you. [Laughs] But yeah, it was great, endless. Yeah, uh, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink – there were loads of them.
Uncle Ben is such a big figure for Peter in the comics and previous films.
Tom Holland: That’s a really good question… that I can’t answer.
They have told us that he’s mentioned….
Tom Holland: Yes, he is mentioned…. [laughter]
[Laughs] Can you tell us about Peter’s relationship with Aunt May. She’s obviously much younger now…
Tom Holland: I think the relationship between Peter and May is one of my favorites throughout the movie because – oh gosh I’m going to give so much away, I can’t do that – um, she’s much younger and she’s full of life. There’s a moment where she drops Peter off to a party, and she’s also going off to a party herself, and they have this sort of friendship between the two of them. And there’s this beautiful scene where something happens and Peter basically breaks down with May, and then she sort of becomes his mother, and that’s a really nice turning point for Marisa in the movie.
A lot is different in this movie from the previous five Spider-Man films, but the thing I am most interested in is that the supporting cast seems bigger, and the other students seem to have more of a role. Can you talk about working with some of the actors, and sort of Peter’s relationship with Ned and Michelle and the rest of the kids.
Tom Holland: Yeah, it’s definitely an ensemble piece. The first month of shooting was purely high school stuff, and it was so much fun. And for me, I’ve never really had the opportunity to work with actors of my own age, and so it was really fun to just be on set with those guys, and sort of start these relationships, and then also predict where they’re going to go for the next three movies, er, two movies. And working with Jacob… I mean, Jacob is the man, and he is awesome. Some of the stuff that we’ve come up with and done on set is so funny, and he’s so brilliant. The world is gonna love him – he is fantastic.
What’s your relationship been like working with Jon [Watts]?
Tom Holland: Jon’s awesome; he’s such a great guy. He’s very brave, and he makes really bold choices, and doesn’t hesitate to let you experiment with things. If you have an idea and he doesn’t like it, he’ll let you try it anyway in case he sees it and then likes it – which is a really great trait in a director because it means they trust you and they give you freedom to try new things. And we’ve worked really closely together and sort of collaborated on how we want Peter Parker to be seen, and I think together we’ve come up with something really cool and new.
It seems like there are Harry Potter elements to this. It’s our understanding that these movies are each going to take place during another year of high school. Was that your understanding when you signed on?
Tom Holland: That’s the first time I’m hearing that… [Laughs]… No, I’m sure that is the formula they’re going to take. Peter is 15 in this movie, and that would make him in grade… ten?
Yeap, grade 10.
Tom Holland: And yeah I see him graduating towards the last movie.
We’ve seen you playing around on Instagram and dancing and stuff. Are you breaking out any dance moves in this movie?
Tom Holland: No no no… no, I’m not in this movie.
You took a really long time to say no…
Tom Holland: There’s a dance in the movie, but I’m not dancing. Peter Parker can’t dance. He can flip and climb up walls and do backflips, but he definitely can’t dance.
Coming from Captain America: Civil War, was there anything you wanted to change or do differently? Obviously it’s the same character, but ya know…
Tom Holland: Not really. From Civil War, I felt like I was in such good hands and guided in the perfect direction for where they wanted the character to go. And then after the fantastic reception we had after the movie came out, I just wanted to make sure I did the same thing, but for a whole movie rather than just three scenes. So I’ve just been focusing on making sure every scene is full of life and is really useful, and I think that’s what we’ve been doing.
What’s your favorite new gizmo that the spidey suit has?
Tom Holland: My favorite gizmo that the suit has… there’s a very funny sequence in the movie because of something he can do with his vision in the suit… he can sort of alter what he sees and how he sees things, and it’s really funny to see. It’s almost like the first time you play a video game and the controls are all funny, and it’s really funny seeing him look like a badass, but inside panic and not know what to do. So without giving anything away, that.
They said that you made the actual liquid for the webbing on set. Did you get to play with it afterwards?
Tom Holland: No, because as soon as they gave it to me, I dropped it and it smashed everywhere. [laughter]. Literally it was day one, and this white – it was sort of like this clear liquid, and I pour this yellow liquid into it and mix it and it would go fluorescent and white and sort of gloopy. And with me, I was like, this is the coolest thing and then I just smashed it everywhere. So they immediately took it off me and I wasn’t allowed to play with it anymore.
Speaking of gadgets, in Civil War we saw Peter interacting with some pretty old tech. Did you have to have to have any of that explained to you?
Tom Holland: I remember doing that scene with Robert and I asked one of the prop guys, Can you walk me through what we’re doing here? Because I was unscrewing a DVD player, and Robert was like, Dude, I don’t know what Tony Stark does… [laughter] He’s like, just act dude, you got this. It was great.
Where did you watch Civil War for the first time, and what was your reaction to seeing yourself as Spider-Man for the first time?
Tom Holland: I was terrified watching Civil War for the first time. I watched it with my dad, my mom, my three brothers and my best friend, and we sat in the cinema in the Disney studios in London, and my little brother actually sat right in the front of the cinema, and he’s small I couldn’t even see him. And as soon as I came on screen, all I could see were his little hands pop up like this… [laughter]… but it was surreal. To be in a movie of that scale with actors of that caliber was really a dream come true, and also an eye opener to the responsibility I’ve been given, and how lucky I am to be a part of this. But it was an amazing day seeing it for the first time. As soon as it finished, I was like let’s watch it again! But they wouldn’t let me….
Is there a villain you’d love to take a crack at after this one?
Tom Holland: Oh, well I love Doc Ock. I think Spider-Man 2 is one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. But I think Venom is someone I’d love to kick the crap out of one day.
Speaking of eye-opening moments, obviously going to Germany is an eye-opening experience for Peter. What is his experience coming back to Queens after having gone and beat up Captain America?
Tom Holland: It’s almost like he went to summer camp and now he’s back at school again. Here’s this kid who goes on this adventure with Iron Man and all of the Avengers, and then suddenly he’s stuck on the subway going back to school. It’s a very fun thing to play; that sort of stroppy teenager after having the best time of his life. But there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel for Peter Parker.
Also, we saw the Comic-Con footage, and Michelle, the relationship you two have seems kind of interesting. Can you talk about that? She’s sort of busting your balls a lot, and it seems kind of fun. Can you talk about that relationship?
Tom Holland: Yeah, Michelle is a very interesting character. She’s very quiet, and she’s always reading these crazy books, like how to murder someone without no one knowing [laughter] – like Jon has picked the strangest books for her to read. Yeah, we’ll be doing a scene with all of the other cast members, and then she’ll sort of pitch in and we’ll be like, that was a strange thing to say, and then we’ll continue on with our dialogue. It’s a very fun character, and Z has really brought a lot of herself to the character, and yeah it’s been really fun working with her on set. It’s been really cool.
She’s having a hard time right now… the girl from Good Morning America referred to her as a colored people. You know the MCU sort of bashed her a little when news broke out. Have you spoken to her? Have you said anything to her like, this is gonna be great, we’re doing something amazing, don’t pay attention to all this?
Tom Holland: The thing with Zendaya is she knows that. From being on set with her, everyone is always complimenting everyone, and everyone is very loving here. That’s what I love about working for Marvel is how welcoming and kind everyone is. She has such a large following on Instagram, and the majority of those people are all for her and love her, and I feel like our generation of people are moving on from that. This whole, you can’t cast someone who’s not of the right race for a character and such, and I really feel like we’re breaking through and changing that. And Z is perfect. She’s so strong willed, it’s not going to shake her at all.
You mentioned that you essentially went undercover and didn’t get recognized, but you get recognized a lot more frequently now that you’re Spider-Man?
Tom Holland: Yeah, sometimes. I mean I don’t get recognized all that much. We had an amazing day the other day where went to a children’s hospital in the suit, and that for me was perfect. To make these kids happy was just incredible. And also just meeting kids on the street. The best is when they actually believe I’m Spider-Man, and they ask me how the webs work, and I have to say, oh I don’t have the suit on and blah blah blah. That for me is one of the best things about being Spider-Man is convincing little kids that I can actually do all that stuff.
Do you put on the accent, too?
Tom Holland: Yeah, I say [doing an American accent], Hi I’m Peter, nice to meet you… [laughter]
And so with great responsibility comes what?
Tom Holland: That’s Tobey’s line, not my line.
A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened. Directed by Jon Watts. Produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers, Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.