To the outsider it has appeared that Marvel have been on a role with their films over the past few years. The Avengers franchise has just gone from strength to strength while even films like Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man that the studio must have been concerned about ending up becoming box office hits.
The thorn in Marvel’s side though has always been Spider-Man. That franchise has belonged to Sony for a while now and it has never really bounced back since the glory days of when director Sam Raimi brought the webbed crusader to the big screen. Two more Tobey Maguire led Spider-Man films never reached the peak of the original and re-booting it with Andrew Garfield in the lead role had very little impact.
Now Marvel have managed to wrangle back some control of Spider-Man they tested the waters with a new Spider-Man – this time played by Tom Holland – appearing in Captain America: Civil War. After that appearance seemed to be received quite well Marvel have now bitten the bullet and made another stand-alone Spider-Man film titled Spider-Man: Homecoming.
For Holland the role of Spider-Man is any young actor’s dream however he says he found he had the role online, just like everybody else. “I didn’t actually hear that I was going to be Spider-Man, I read it,” he explains. “I actually read it on Instagram, nobody gave me the phone call or anything like that. But it was still an amazing experience, I had worked my ass off getting this role and when all that hard work paid off and I could finally say that I was actually Spider-Man it was a pretty crazy experience.”
When Holland was first announced as Spider-Man most people seemed to forget the fact that he had won favour with cinema-goers with some gritty performances in films like The Impossible and instead concentrated on the fact that he once played Billy Elliott, surprisingly though Holland says it is that dancing background that helps him out with the stunts when playing Spider-Man. “I think dancing come from my Mum,” he says. “Not that my Mum can dance but she sent me to a dance school when I was a kid and I just used to really, really enjoy it. I never saw that it would take me into this industry though… I have been very lucky that it has and it has been one of those things that has been so important to me on every movie that I have ever been a part of, but mostly on this one.”
As the youngster on the set though Holland says he has never been over-awed getting to act alongside people such as Robert Downey Jnr. and Jon Favreau. “I feel like they have taken me under their wing as the newest member of the club,” he says laughing. “It’s refreshing though because you know that they have done it before and they have done it successfully, so if they are happy then you should be happy, you know? When Robert came onto set he was so excited about being there. He saw some of the concept art and he saw some of the footage and he thought it looked great, so for me that was the perfect indicator that we were on the right track to creating something special.”
The other newcomer to the Spider-Man franchise here is director, Jon Watts and he was someone that Holland also enjoyed working with. “I think the thing about Jon is that he is collaborative,” says Holland searching for the right words. “He allows you to bring your ideas to the table and he is open to changing his point of view, he is not close-minded in any way which is great and that is really refreshing. He also lets me improvise – improvising is like my whole thing – I do everything through improvisation and I love it. If I was working on a movie of this scale and wasn’t able to improvise I think I would have found it really difficult, but no I was very lucky to have him.”
One of the biggest criticisms that has been levelled at Spider-Man: Homecoming to date is that some people feel that Marvel have tried to over-sell the film by putting too much into the trailer but Holland says those people are in for a real shock. “The thing is I love reading on the Internet that people are complaining that they have seen too much in the trailers because you really haven’t seen anything yet, you know? The big twists are still to come, my whole family watched it the over day and my family are not super-hero fans, but they loved it…. they absolutely loved it. They are my toughest critics so it was amazing for me to see that they enjoyed it… that was fun!”
The steadier with Spider-Man: Homecoming is the inclusion of one of the franchise’s most loved actors – Robert Downey Jnr. in the role of Tony Stark/Iron-Man. But after viewing the movie it is easy to see that Tony Stark does have a very important role to play here – that of the mentor for Peter Parker. “I appreciate that there is a desperation going on during the Civil War,” says Downey Jnr. when asked about his role in Parker’s life. “He (Stark) is like we need back-up and he’s searching to see who is available and all that and he kind of gets a lead on a prospect – like a baseball talent scout. Then he fortunately just develops this belief in Mr. Parker. You what it is like? It’s like your kid turns sixteen and that means that they are supposed to be able to drive. But now there are all of those apps where you are supposed to be able to find out where they are. It’s kind of like that – he’s attempting in his own half-assed way to do some modern parenting and of course the stakes are a lot higher than you’re going to get a ticket or get into a fender-bender, I mean lest we forget he pulled Peter Parker into life and death situations shortly after meeting him, just a year or so ago.”
When you consider what Tony Stark was like way back in the original Iron Man film it does seem strange that he is now a role-model but Downey Jnr. says he is trying his best. “He is self aware enough to know that he might not be making the right decisions, but you do what he can,” he says. “He’s a lot more personable than he used to be. Also if you think of all the times that he has been up against these insurmountable odds and all that it is a bit like what we talked about earlier – you are looking for folks that you can kind of pass the ball to in case you have to take a powder.”
That leads to the question what does Tony Stark see in Peter Parker that makes him want to mentor him. “I a way I think Tony looks at him and thinks ‘wow this is a really capable… he has a kind of moral psychology – and he doesn’t have the limitations that Tony has being born into this military industry complex family.”
It is also easy to see that Downey Jnr. is very proud to be part of a movie that will see the Spider-Man legacy live on. “I think it really depends on where you join the party,” he says. “There is an argument to be made that, you know, sitting on a podium with Kevin Fiege and Michael Keaton and Amy Pascal and you start thinking ‘who really started this and when?’ It’s just something that generationally speaking just seems to still have legs. I know I say that as a huge fan of the Spider-Man comics and it was Peter Parker introducing me to this universe in the first place so for me it is a homecoming.”