2016's Captain America: Civil War is the one of the most highly anticipated releases of the coming year, kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 3 storyline and introducing a brand new version of Marvel's perennial favorite superhero Spider-Man, to be played by Tom Holland. Since the announcement that Marvel would be taking over the cinematic version of the the web-slinger, very little has been revealed outside the fact that he'll get own solo movie in 2017 - and that after a noncommittal period, we can say he's definitely appearing in Civil War.
Holland's Peter Parker/Spider-Man was noticeably absent from the new Civil War trailer, and while the details about his role in the film are still under wraps, the actor himself has been opening up more and more about his approach to the character. Holland has explained how his Spider-Man will be unique in the MCU for having a secret identity (although so does Daredevil), praised his predecessor Andrew Garfield's take on the role, and now Holland has even more to say about his iconic character.
During an interview with Collider (via CBM) about his role in Ron Howard's upcoming Moby Dick quasi-prequel/biopic In the Heart of the Sea (which also stars the MCU's Thor, Chris Hemsworth), Holland spoke about how he prepared for the role, his favorite comic book version of the Ol' Web Head, and that now-famous picture of him in a very Peter Parker-ish haircut.
It was not a secret that leading up to Marvel and Sony's decision to co-produce a new Spider-Man solo movie, directors Joe and Anthony Russo were seeking someone younger and adept at physical performance for the part, and Holland's background in gymnastics and dancing fit that qualification. Holland spoke about one of his past roles that probably helped him win the role and prepared for the rigors of performing the highly physical aspect of the Wall-Crawler.
“I used to be in a show in London called Billy Elliot, so I was one of the young kids in that, and that’s just one of the skills I learned from there really. And I’ve just sort of continued on with it and tried to excel, and it’s gonna help me a lot I think when we come to shooting Spider-Man.”
The musical Billy Elliot was adapted for the stage from the 2000 films, which starred Jamie Bell (Fantastic Four) as an 11-year-old living in English coal-mining country in 1985 with a gift for dancing. The West End musical would have been a demanding production for background players like Holland, and much of that physicality should translate well into his portrayal of Spider-Man.
When a new actor is about to take on the role of a famous comic book character, we've come to expect some insights on how they're researching the role - see Jon Bernthal's Punisher research material. Now Tom Holland has shared his favorite iteration of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The actor has gone on record about being a fan of the character, but now reveals how much he needed to learn, saying:
“There’s lots of things I didn’t know about him. I mean, there’s so many different versions of his story, and my favorite of which at the moment is the Ultimate Spider-Man. And the one thing I’m really excited about is that he’s not a superhero that’s on his own, you know? He has connections with some of the most powerful people in this Marvel Universe so I’m quite excited to explore that and see if Marvel will go down that route, you know? Which I’m sure they will. I mean, if they’ve got all these incredible characters at hand... why not use them?”
Given that Holland's turn as Spidey will see yet another complete reboot of the character, we can expect director Jon Watts (Cop Car) to approach the character and his world from a different angle than what we've seen, and we've heard Watts praise the Ultimate Spider-Man series before. Holland's comments indicate that if perhaps the new Spider-Man will not draw on any specific series of issues or comic storylines, then at least his take on the character could draw from the Ultimate Spider-Man approach: modernized, yet hewing to the comic books' traditional origins and framework.
Holland also addressed the Instagram selfie he posted back in October, in which the actor showed off a haircut that could have been lifted straight from the pages of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic books. The internet went into a brief tizzy, as it seemed like the actor had given us a glimpse at how he would look as Peter Parker.
Holland explained that - as the caption on the post indicates - he was actually trying out a Johnny Depp look and not actually trying to tease his fans. Holland went on to say:
“That was so innocent though! I did not know that I was doing that. Afterwards I was kind of like, ‘Yeah, that is kind of Spider-Man hair.’ I’d just watched Edward Scissorhands again and I sort of looked up Johnny Depp, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s so cool. I’m gonna try to copy his hairstyle,’ and everyone went crazy saying I looked like Peter Parker, which I guess is a good thing. But that is not my hairstyle right now.”
The hard facts on how, why and when Tom Holland shows up as Spider-Man in Civil War are still unknown, but this glimpse into Holland's preparation and research does give us some clues on his approach to the role. With his highly physical background as a dancer and gymnast, expect Holland to be performing as many of the more practical stunts as the insurance company will allow (and they seem to have reason to worry). The Ultimate Spider-Man reference points toward his Peter Parker being less of an edgy, "cool" loner (like Andrew Garfield's in The Amazing Spider-Man) and more of an earnest, shy teenager trying to balance all these new elements in his life.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange– November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018;Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019;Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.