Posted on Monday, April 3rd, 2017 by Peter Sciretta
When we sat down with Tom Holland on the set of Spider-Man: Homecoming, it had only been three months since the world saw him as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. However, he was clearly already very comfortable in the role of Peter Parker.
Holland talked about the extensive audition process that got him the part, the evolution of Homecoming‘s script, how he went undercover at a high school in the Bronx to prepare for the movie, and how director Jon Watts put him and his co-stars through a coming of age film festival before shooting. The actor also spoke about Parker’s relationships with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and the Vulture (Michael Keaton), the differences between this film and the previous Spider-man movies, his favorite new Spider-Man gadget, if Peter Parker will dance in this movie, and much much more.
Question: 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?
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.
The Audition Process
Can you tell us about the audition process?
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 Beranthal, and then I did another self-take on my own, and then finally came out here to screen test with Robert and Chris. 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…
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.
Jon Watt’s Coming of Age Film Festival
What’s your relationship been like working with Jon [Watts]?
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.
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?
Yeah, he gave us a lot of movies to watch. Gosh, so many movies, and we basically sat down in my house – 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. [laughter] But yeah, it was great, endless. Yeah, uh, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink – there were loads of them.
The Evolution of the Screenplay
Can you tell us something about what we’re seeing today?
Yeah, today is the first time Pete faces off [against] 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?
The basic script and the arc for my character especially as remained the same. I think the arc for Toomes and the Vulture has changed quite drastically from the first draft that I read, which I think for the better. No, 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?”
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 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 is 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.
The Scope of the Action
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…
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 is young, and this is the first supervillain he’s fighting. What is the relationship with Vulture and Shocker?
I think one of the nicest things about his sort of conflict with the villains in this is how different it is than 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.