SPIDER-MAN: How Did Tom Holland and Jon Watts Make the Cut?

     June 23, 2015


Earlier today we learned that Tom Holland would be playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man with Jon Watts directing the standalone film for Sony. But before these relative newcomers started on the path to becoming a household name, they had to get past the audition gauntlet laid down by Marvel and Sony. As any actor will likely tell you, breaking big in this business is anything but easy; for this particular round of Spider-Man casting/director-wrangling, it was also anything but ordinary.

Before Sony and Marvel would even think about starting the casting process, the studios had to reach a collaboration agreement on how the web-slinger would be used. As THR reminds us, Marvel will be introducing the new Spider-Man in their own movie, Captain America: Civil War, before Sony spins their own web of three standalone films. So while the property sharing isn’t exactly unheard of, it is unusual, and the casting process was just as strange because of it.


Image via XYZ Films

Holland started off in rather crowded company with about 1,500 other hopefuls who managed to land an audition in front of the studios. That pool was then narrowed down to six 14 to 19-year-olds, which included Holland, Asa Butterfield, Judah Lewis, Matthew Lintz, Charlie Plummer and Charlie Rowe. The next test was yet another uncommon one: screen-testing opposite Robert Downey Jr., whose Tony Stark/Iron Man character is expected to appear in the upcoming Captain America movie. Kevin Feige was reportedly also present to observe the on-screen chemistry between the highschool-age webhead and the older Avenger. No pressure.

Soon, the casting was narrowed down to Holland and Rowe, with THR’s sources saying that Holland was the favorite and the only one to also test opposite Chris Evans. After all that, the young actor then found himself signed for three feature films and an introductory appearance, but without a director.


Image via Sundance; Photo Credit: Chris Buongiorno

Enter Jon Watts, who was apparently “hand-picked” by Feige when his take on Peter Parker/Spider-Man won out over other contenders such as Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies), John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (Vacation), and Ted Melfi (St. Vincent). Watts has a strong comedic background with work for The Onion News Network noted, plus experience directing commercials and music videos, and the recent Sundance thriller, Cop Car. Quite the varied resume. I’m interested to hear Watts’ take on the property, especially since they plan to stretch his ideas over three more films, but I’m even more curious to see where Watts’ indie-to-big-budget career path leads him. Will he be a James Gunn, a Marc Webb, a Colin Trevorrow, or a Josh Trank? Regardless of how Watts is received, his work will automatically be compared to that of Sam Raimi, for better or worse. Here’s hoping he’s got a lot left in the tank after the exhaustive audition process.

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