Movies

Meet Tom Holland, Your New Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Getty Image / Sony

“Welcome to the sleepy room,” I’m warned as I enter Tom Holland’s hotel room. Holland, as you probably know by now, is your brand new cinematic Spider-Man – and the film he stars in, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is already smothered in extremely positive early buzz. But, yes, “the sleepy room” lived up to expectations as I entered a hotel room filled with five very sleepy-looking teens, and Tom Holland.

(I will admit, trying to conduct an interview while surrounded by teens is a little bit horrifying. And they all seemed nice and didn’t do anything to interrupt, but with Spider-Man: Homecoming being about high school, all of a sudden, I felt like I was in high school again. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this self-conscious.)

When I meet Holland, he’s doing some very Spider-Man-like stretches on his chair. And here’s the thing about an exhausted Tom Holland: he still has the energy that three normal humans would have. I can only imagine what Tom Holland is like on a caffeine high.

Spider-Man is finally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his first solo movie has director Jon Watts making what could sometimes be confused for a movie about teens in high school – and Watts has made it clear he was inspired by John Hughes’ films. We first met Holland’s Spider-Man briefly in Captain America: Civil War, but it’s here in Spider-Man: Homecoming we really find out why Holland got the part. Just like in real life, he’s incredibly charming and he’s got a contagious energy.

Ahead, Holland talks everything Spider-Man. He also reveals that Marvel is bringing back the short films that used to accompany the Blu-rays – and he has his own idea for one that involves Spider-Man and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man on an adventure in the microverse. (This actually sounds like a great idea.) Also, yes, Tom Holland asked Michael Keaton (who plays the Vulture) plenty of questions about Batman. (And Holland admits he still hasn’t seen The Empire Strikes Back.)

Why is this the sleepy room?

Because I could take a nap. It’s so bad right now.

You’ve had a busy week.

I’ve had a busy month, bro. It’s been pretty crazy, but a lot of fun. I’ve been enjoying myself.

You’re very good at playing a dork.

Thank you.

That seems important for playing Peter…

I am a dork, you know?

I bet you’re not.

I am.

You’re Spider-Man now.

No, I have realized on this press tour that journalists quiz me about Spider-Man all the time, and I get everything right. I know everything about Spider-Man now. It’s crazy.

Like what kind of quizzes? That seems rude to just start quizzing a stranger.

Like who’s Spider-Man’s villain from this series? Or what’s his middle name? Or what’s Aunt May’s middle name? Loads of different things. And I have realized that I am a super geek for Spider-Man.

I liked Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, but I didn’t always buy this extremely handsome man as “a nerd.”

You can be handsome and a nerd! That’s what the movie’s about, though…

And I’m not saying you’re not a handsome man.

No, no, no, I get that. What the movie’s about, though, is that you don’t have to be a jock to be the cool kid in school, you know? You can be cool if you’re a nerdy kid. And the message that Jacob [Batalon] has sort of brought to my attention – which is something that I feel very strongly about – is that this movie is about loving yourself. If you look at the students who we follow throughout the course of this movie, they’re not the cool kids in school. But they’re all happy to be those kids. You know, they’re very happy in their skin.

And that’s going to resonate with a lot of people, because most people aren’t the cool kid in school.

Exactly. And that’s why I think what Jon Watts did is so cool – especially by making the cast so diverse – is that we can relate to everyone and we can really reach out and touch people from every standpoint. And also, it’s about time that we had a diverse cast in one of these movies.

Looking back at the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, no high school in Queens looks like that.

This is a real Queens high school, you know? I went to high school here in the Bronx for three days as a research exercise, and it was so diverse and so fun, so great. And Jon really, really nailed that.

So between interviews, I had an hour and I went out to catch a Pokemon…

What did you catch?

A Larvitar, because I’m trying to build a Tyranitar. But when I came back in the hotel, boy, there are a lot of people outside waiting for you right now.

[Holland climbs up on the window to look out.] Are there?

Everyone has pictures of you as Spider-Man.

I think I can see them from here. That’s crazy. I’m not getting used to that.

After this movie comes out, you’re going to be a famous person.

It’s a little scary. I’m not going to lie.

I would be terrified.

It’s a little scary. But, that said, I have got such good people in my corner and I’ll be okay. I’ll be fine.

Is it also exciting?

Yeah, it’s exciting. I really just want people to see the movie….

Oh, people are going to see the movie.

Yeah. But, I’m so proud of it…

I don’t think you have to worry about that. Everyone’s going to see this.

I’m so excited for fans to enjoy it, because I really think they are going to enjoy it. And I just want to share it with them. It’s for them, you know? I did what I did for them. [Laughs.] Well, obviously, for myself, too. I mean, it’s a great job!

That would be funny if you were like, “Nope, nothing for me here. It’s all for everyone else.”

Yeah, just for everyone else.

“The hardship I have to put up with to give you people what you want.”

[Laughs.] “What you want is… remarkable.”

How familiar are you all the references that Jon puts in, because Jon puts in a ton of ’80s references.

You know, he forked out for that stuff. I got a lot of them. Before we started shooting the movie, Jon gave us as a cast a load of ’80s movies to watch.

Like what?

Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future, Breakfast Club. All sorts of those kind of movies – and they were our guideline as to what he wanted us to do. And it was great, it was amazing, and it really was the perfect blueprint for this movie. We have a little clip of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the movie, which is great.

Which works so great. A scene of you having to run through a bunch of backyards is so obviously an homage, then we actually see a clip as if to say, “Yes, of course it is.”

Yeah, it really is. And it’s interesting because we’ve always seen Spider-Man here in Manhattan. We’ve never seen what would happen if he couldn’t swing anywhere.

Which is a really funny thing, when there’s nothing to swing off of, he just has to run.

It’s a great scene. It was so fun to film. We shot it like on a golf course and around all these crazy houses in Atlanta. And yeah, it was an amazing scene.

In the next solo move, who would you want from the MCU to be what Iron Man is in this movie? If it were up to you, who would you pick?

I’d like Ant-Man to show up every now and again.

And you’d get to hang out with Paul Rudd.

Paul Rudd is such a funny dude, super nice. Ant-Man is so funny. I think a really mini Spider-Man could be so cool. Could you imagine like if you shrunk Spider-Man?

And they went on an adventure in the Microverse?

Yeah! It would be so cool!

I think you’ve got yourself a movie there.

I think it would be so cool.

You should pitch that.

I want to do a short. That’s what I want to do. I want to do a 20-minute short with me and Paul Rudd…

They used to do those on the DVDs and Blu-rays.

Yeah. I think they are planning on doing it again.

Really?

I probably just spoiled a big spoiler. Kevin Feige’s probably going to be furious.

He’ll be fine. You and Paul Rudd, that would be a good combination.

The bug bros!

Your The Empire Strikes Back reference in Civil War brought the house down.

The terrible thing is I’ve never seen that movie.

Still?

No. No, I haven’t seen that movie.

You should watch it. It’s really good.

Everyone tells me that. Just, genuinely, on this tour, I haven’t had two minutes to myself.

Well, yeah, you’re not going to be able to watch it today.

But I will definitely do that. But yeah, that was one of those things: I read it, realized that it was funny – but not how funny – and then when I watched it at the premiere in LA it brought the house down.

There’s an extremely tense scene you have with Michael Keaton that is going to surprise a lot of people.

Yeah, it was such a crazy scene to film. Working with him was so scary and he was so fun in between takes. I’d chat with him, he’s a good guy, he’s easy to talk to. And then he switches it around and he’s terrifying. You know, so it really was amazing and I loved, loved, loved working with him.

Did you bring up Batman? Would that be weird to ask?

I asked him so many questions. I asked him so many questions. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve got, in the shape of a compliment, was I was on set and I was really adamant about about grounding Spider-Man’s powers. You know, sometimes you see him lift the truck and then punch someone in the same scene. Doesn’t make sense, because he’d just punch through your face. He’s that strong. So I was always trying to ground his powers in reality. And Michael said to me, “That’s exactly what I did with Batman.” And realizing that that’s what he did, then I knew I was on the right track to doing something special.

To that point, there’s a surprisingly tense scene when Peter is trapped under some rubble. In the spectrum of superhero problems, it might not seem like a lot, but the grounding makes that play so well…

The hardest thing to film in this whole movie was that scene.

Really?

That was the hardest scene ever. Because to get in there, the actual set, was a mission. To get out was even scarier. We shot it three or four different times.

I mean, it works.

Dude, it was so brutal shooting that scene. But that said, it is so awesome.

It wasn’t real cement, right?

No, it was real…

Really? Was it really heavy?

It was real rubble. It was super heavy. Like, I couldn’t lift it myself.

I just thought it was Styrofoam or whatever and acting.

No, I couldn’t lift it myself. It was on wires and they would just slowly lift up. But I couldn’t lift it myself. It was too heavy.

That does sound intense.

Yes. It was really crazy.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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