Audiences have seen a lot of the Spider-Man character ever since his smashing debut in 2002, but Spider-Man: Homecoming promises to bring to the screen Peter Parker like you’ve never seen him before. That starts with Tom Holland, who landed the role after a rigorous (and exhausting) audition process that saw him reading lines with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans as Tony Stark and Captain America, respectively. And while response to Holland’s Parker in Captain America: Civil War was positive, he finally gets to shine in a film of his own with this summer’s Homecoming.
At 20 years old, Holland is our youngest onscreen Peter Parker yet, and indeed that youth is a big part of Spider-Man: Homecoming, which leans into the high school life of Parker in the vein of a John Hughes movie. I was lucky enough to visit the set of Homecoming last summer along with a small group of reporters, and we got the chance to speak with Holland for an extended conversation between takes. I’ve interviewed Holland before and one thing has been obvious both times—he is an incredibly nice human being with charm to spare, which makes him the perfect Peter Parker.
During the course of our conversation Holland talked about his working relationship with director Jon Watts, Parker’s relationship with Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in the film, his major takeaways from Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s performances, reading lines from Whiplash during the audition process, and the camaraderie of the ensemble cast. As the interview was conducted last August, Holland also addressed the ridiculous “controversy” over the casting of Zendaya. Peter’s relationship with Tony Stark, and having “Domino’s Day” movie marathons with the cast.
TOM HOLLAND: Yeah, today is the first time Pete faces off 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 has kind of finalized on is pretty awesome.
How has it changed, and how has Jon’s process worked with you guys?
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 is for the better. But Jon’s cool and he keeps everything fresh, and if there any changes we are all well notified before hand. 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?
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 sort of 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 to 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.
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?
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?
HOLLAND: Nobody 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 worked with Robert Downey Jr.?
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 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 gotten 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.