SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Star Tom Holland’s Spidey Q&A
Following last night’s world premiere of the first Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, Tom Holland – who stars as the newest iteration of Peter Parker / Spider-Man in Marvel and Sony’s co-production – sat down with Facebook for a live, thirty minute Q&A on Friday to field fan questions. Transcribed by yours truly, Holland’s Q&A session shows why he’s so great for the role – he’s amiable, friendly, funny and genuinely passionate about the character that he portrayed so brilliantly in his debut appearance in Captain America: Civil War.
What is it like becoming the most iconic superhero of all time?
TH: It’s great, you know, I’ve always dreamed of being Spider-Man since I was a little kid, and when this opportunity came about, it was a real dream come true, you know? And Marvel and Sony have been so great at making this whole process enjoyable and informative and I’m really, really excited to show audiences what we’ve come up with.
How is it shooting the scenes with Michael Keaton? [Keaton plays the film’s big bad – the Vulture – who makes his cinematic bow in Spider-Man: Homecoming].
TH: It was great, you know, Michael – I’ve always been a huge fan of his, and I’ve loved his comedy that he’s done. And it was very interesting for me to see Michael, like, really take on a character that is terrifying, you know? He really plays the character with menace and it’s very interesting to see him do that. And it was great fun, we had a great time.
If you could design the [Spider-Man] suit, what would it look like?
TH: [Long pause] It definitely wouldn’t be as tight. I mean, I like the red and blue, I like the webs, I think it’s great. But it wouldn’t be a skintight suit. In reality, it’s not practical! It doesn’t make sense. Like, why would you fight in a skintight Lycra suit? But it looks great and stuff, and we actually came up with a very cool way of justifying how he puts it on so quickly, which you’ll see when you see the movie. But yeah, I’d keep the same color and design but I’d make it, like… a hoodie or something. I wouldn’t make it so tight.
What is the best advice you received when you got the role?
TH: I think the best advice probably came from my dad, you know, he sat me down and said, “Son, look, your life is about to change, and people are gonna start talking to you differently… but make sure you stay the same.” And I constantly do the dishes at home and have to do the laundry and stuff, so they keep me normal, you know. And that’s the best advice that I get, and that’s from my parents.
How long did it take you to get into character as Peter Parker?
TH: Twenty years. No, I’ve always loved Peter Parker, and I’ve always loved Spider-Man, so I’ve been playing him in my bedroom since I was a kid, you know? I’ve stood in front of the mirror and done poses and reenacted scenes from the previous movies and from the comics, so I feel like I’ve been preparing for this role since I was a kid. But when we were on set, obviously I have to do an American accent, so I tried to stay in the accent while I was working and also in preparation. Obviously he’s a very physical character, and he’s flipping around all the time – so I did a lot of gymnastics training, and we did lots of stunt training to make sure that I was at the top of my game. I actually have a very cool video that my stuntman made for me of me training, which I will release at the right time. I’m not gonna show you now because the movie comes out in July, and we’re gonna wait until July to show you. But it’s actually really cool and you guys will love it.
How was working with [Iron Man and Avengers star] Robert [Downey Jr] again?
TH: Robert’s great, you know, it’s really fun to work with him and he came at the perfect time. We were making the movie, and we were probably about – we were probably just getting into the last third of the movie and you know, it’s hard, you work fifteen hours every day and you’re on set all the time and it gets tiring, the crew gets tired, and he brought, like, a whole new burst of energy, you know? He lit the set up and really brought a lot to the movie and we just had a lot of fun. In the trailer you see it – all the stuff we’re doing in the trailer is basically improvised. And I love working that way, and so does Robert, and it was great fun to do that. It was really good.
Have you ever been Spider-Man for Halloween?
TH: Now, a sad story is I’ve never really done Halloween properly. I think I’ve been trick or treating once or twice. But I’ve definitely gone to, like, parties as Spider-Man. I went to a fancy dress party as Spider-Man, but it wasn’t a fancy dress party. I showed up and was the only person in fancy dress. Everyone was in normal clothes, and I was in a skin tight Lycra suit. So you know, it was destiny! I got embarrassed but now I’m Spider-Man, so who cares?
Were you nervous doing the flip on Jimmy Kimmel last night?
TH: Yeah, it was good, you know, it was my first time on a chat show, and they asked me to do a back flip in a suit which I couldn’t really see out of. So I was a little nervous – it’s been a while since I’ve done a flip. But the funny thing is, actually, as I was running into the studio with the rest of my fellow Spider-Men, I fell over. I literally like, ate shit! [Covers mouth] Sorry, Sony! I fell over running into the studio [laughs]. I’m getting bad looks, I’m getting told off. I won’t – sorry. But it was great! I didn’t land on my ass and I landed the flip and Jimmy was great – he was a really great host, and it was the perfect intro into chat shows. It was good fun. But I brought my stunt double along just to make sure that everything was cool. But I did do the flip! It wasn’t my stunt double. It was me.
What did you do to train for the movie?
TH: You know, it was a really great process, the training side of things was obviously going to the gym and getting into shape. I did this EMS [electric muscle stimulation] training at this place called the Body Shape Studios, where you basically wear like almost like a wetsuit, and they put pads on you, and you work out as the pads electrocute you. And it sucks, it really, really sucks, but it kind of… I don’t really know what it does, but it makes you in shape. It helps get you into shape. But you have to train on top of that, and it basically just speeds up the process. So it’s, like, twenty minutes of pure pain, but it works out really good.
But then when I came out to Atlanta, I started training in boxing and training in the gym with my trainer and my best mate, Harrison – shout out to you buddy, love you, man! – but yeah, so I trained, but the coolest thing I think I did for the movie was I was enrolled in a high school in New York, in the Bronx, as a secret. No one knew who I was, or what I was doing, I had a fake name and a fake accent – I went to school for three days I think – and it was really fun, you know? It was really interesting because New York high schools are so different to schools that I went to in London. I went to a school where you have to wear a suit and tie and it’s all boys, and for me it was the first time I was in a classroom with girls. It was, like, a really strange experience. It was really fun.
And then I told one person, I told one kid at the school, I was like, ‘Hey man, listen, I’m actually Spider-Man.’ Did not believe me. He was like, ‘What? No.’ I was like, ‘No, dude, seriously, I’m Spider-Man. No joke. Let’s not mess around anymore. I’m Spider-Man.’ He was like, ‘I don’t believe you!’ And at the time I hadn’t made the movie, so I didn’t have any pictures to show him to prove I was Spider-Man, and he did not believe me at all. And then this one girl was sat in class, and she was sitting next to me, and she was like, ‘Whats your deal, man? Why are you at our school? This is a science school, you can’t just enroll, you have to come from the beginning.’
And I was like ‘Ah, well, I have a secret, you know, I have a secret.’ And she was like, ‘What? This guy’s a freak! Like, what the hell?’ And I start doing an English accent and I was like, ‘I have a secret – I’m actually Spider-Man.’ And she was like, ‘Dude, you’re nuts. You are literally the craziest guy I’ve ever met in my life.’ I was like, amazing! No one believed me. Which is actually a good thing, because it makes me think if Peter Parker went up in his school and was, like, ‘I’m Spider-Man!’ Everyone would be like, nah, dude, no, you’re not, no. I really went off track on that question, huh?
What was the best part of filming?
TH: I think the best part of filming was… I loved it all. I really had the time of my life on this movie. I worked so hard, but I just met some really good friends, I met really great people, and I just had a great time. I just had a really great time going to work every day, working with people that really wanted to make this movie as good as possible and very passionate about it, so it was just a real privilege to wake up at three o’clock in the morning every day and go to work. I’m trying to think the best day we had… I can tell you the worst day.
The worst day was, I was doing a scene with an actor – I won’t tell you who it is – and I was in the Spider-Man suit and it was the very beginning of shooting and I was in a harness, and I had to stick to the ceiling, and I didn’t go to the bathroom for, like, eleven hours or something. Because we didn’t really figure out how to take the suit off quickly at that point – we didn’t understand how it worked – and I was in a harness and obviously it’s hot, so I’m drinking water all the time because I’m doing exercise and running around, but I need to go to the toilet. And yeah, I didn’t go to the bathroom for like, eleven hours, and that’s an expensive suit. You do not want to wet yourself in that suit. Marvel and Sony would not be happy.
Actually, I think the best day of filming was when we went to the children’s hospital. That was the best day. We weren’t filming, we had a day off, so we decided to go, Jacob [Batalon, who plays Peter’s best friend and confidant Ned], Harrison and I, but it was just – it made me realize that I’ve been given this opportunity to play a superhero, so I should try and be a superhero in real life, you know, and go and see these kids and make a difference. And I was just talking to Sony about trying to do a premiere at the hospital for the kids, you know, and that kind of stuff I’m really passionate about. It means a lot to me to try and help the kids, and I think that was the best day I had in Atlanta.
[Holland made multiple in-costume appearances at children’s hospitals].
What was it like putting the suit on for the first time?
TH: So I put the suit on for [Captain America: Civil War], and because I was cast so late – I literally got cast on Friday and started shooting on Monday – it was such a fast process that they didn’t have time to make me a suit. So I wore my stunt double’s suit, and he’s bigger than me. He’s about five inches taller than me, he’s a bit bulkier than me, and when I first saw the suit, I asked him to close all the mirrors so that I would see it for the first time on and, like… looking great. I put it on, it felt pretty good, but when I opened up the mirrors, it was, like, saggy, and it looked like just a really sad version of Spider-Man. So it was not the most heroic Spider-Man you’d seen, but it was definitely cool – it definitely looked cool – and now that it fits, it looks great! But on the day I was very disappointed. It was like the biggest anti-climax of all time! But now it looks great.
What are your three favorite things about working with the cast and crew?
TH: I think its a collection of – the people are so passionate about making a good movie. I was worried that it was gonna feel like a superhero movie, I was worried that it was gonna be, just, ‘We’ll breeze through this, we’ll do that with the green screen, that will be CGI, don’t worry about that, that will be fine.’ I was really happy that the director, Jon Watts, and the crew, were really passionate about making everything as real as possible. And for me, that was one of my favorite things about the movie, that everyone was taking it seriously. I kind of thought that maybe people would take the piss a little bit and mess around – [covers mouth] sorry – I have strict instructions not to swear, but I’m from England, it’s what I do! It’s what we do!
But yeah, that was my first favorite thing. Second favorite thing is George Cottle. He was the stunt coordinator on the movie, and he is the funniest guy of all time. I’m about to embarrass you, dude. I’m literally about to embarrass you. We have these things called shackles, right? Which are basically like – you wear a harness, and the shackle, you tighten to the harness and that’s what goes to the wires, which helps you fly around and look like Spider-Man. [Laughing] You basically have to tighten them up, to make sure you’re safe, and [Michael] Huggins, who’s our key rigger, who’s one of the original Spider-Man doubles, did my shackles up one time – that sounds really wrong – and George came on to, like, undo them and he couldn’t do it, because he has really soft baby hands. He has really soft baby hands. And Harrison and I, every time hes over, we’re like “[waving] Whoo-hoo, hi, George!” and he dies laughing. That was the funniest joke on the set. Like his baby hands, I literally want to die laughing. That was such a good day. And then he had to do this thing where I had to dangle upside down and spin, and he span me so fast to just get back at me. But that was funny. So George Cottle, who’s an amazing stunt coordinator, and he’s incredible, has baby hands.
What is your favorite part of playing Peter Parker?
TH: The thing I like about Peter Parker is, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. What we really tried to bring to the movie was a sort of young, fresh, unique version of the character, in the sense that he really really enjoys being Spider-Man, you know? I think if you’re a teenager and you figured out that you had superpowers, that would be the best day of your life! And the interesting thing for us, starting off with that mentality, and then slowly realizing that it comes with responsibility and there are consequences to being Spider-Man. So that arc that we came up with is something that I really, really enjoyed.
What’s your biggest inspiration?
TH: I don’t know what my biggest inspiration is, you know? Because I have inspirations in different fields. I look up to boxers a lot, with their athleticism and their skill, and especially their discipline. I look up to actors like [Leonardo] DiCaprio, and Jake Gyllenhaal, and Denzel Washington, because I feel that they make great choices in their career, you know? They’re actors that probably get offers every day, and they make sure that they do the work that they want to do, which is something that I aspire to do, and I’m constantly on the phone to my agents trying to find projects that I can be passionate about. And then on a sort of educational level, I don’t really have one, if I’m honest. I don’t really miss going to school. Probably Einstein. Guy’s a genius. I don’t know why I said that.
What was your reaction when you landed the role?
TH: It’s funny, because I was playing golf with my dad, I’d lost, which is a big thing in my household. Dad and I play golf a lot. And if he wins, he has a great day and I have a bad day. If I win, I have a great day and he has a bad day. But I’d lost and I was really upset, and I’d been waiting to hear from Marvel and Sony for like a month, and I’d been auditioning for six or seven months and it – it was crazy. Six or seven – four months. It wasn’t six or seven – that’s exaggerating. That’s what I do, I’m an actor, I pretend.
And I saw on Instagram that Marvel were like, ‘Go to our website and find out who the new Spider-Man is!’ I was like, what? No! That’s a joke! That’s not true! So I go on my computer, I was in my bed, I typed in Marvel, it comes up – I actually have a screenshot on my phone of the article that they released – and I won’t try and find it because I have so many pictures in my phone and we’ll be here for days, but it said like, ‘We’re really proud to announce the new Spider-Man is Tom Holland and blah blah,’ and I slammed my computer shut. I was like, this isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This is fake!
And then I read it again, and I was like, this is, holy sh– I didn’t, I didn’t swear. [Laughs] I was like, oh my god, this is crazy – this is amazing! And my poor dog was in my bed, and I was screaming and shouting and she was terrified, absolutely terrified. And I ran downstairs and all my family was there, ‘Guys, guys, guys, I’m gonna be Spider-Man! I’m gonna be Spider-Man!’ And my brother Harry, who’s kind of savvy, before like – before freaking out he was like, ‘Yeah dude, they’ve been hacked. They would ring you, dude. They would ring you up and let you know, like, they wouldn’t just put it on Instagram.’
And I was like yeah, that’s kind of true. So I rang up my agents, and then Kevin [Feige, Marvel Studios president and producer] rang me, and was like ‘Hey, I wanted to let you know we want to cast you as Spider-Man!’ And I was like, ‘I know, Kevin! You put it on Instagram! I saw.’ But yeah, it was crazy, I went nuts, and literally within a day I’ve got like a hundred thousand followers, and it was on the news and stuff, and the cool thing was that I found out before anyone else found out. I found out online, and then within an hour it was on the BBC News, it was all over the internet, so I feel like I found out before the world did. So I kinda feel like I got a phone call, you know? But it would have been nice to have a phone call. No shade, Marvel and Sony. Love you guys. [Laughs]
What are you most excited for fans to see?
TH: Now that I can’t tell you, because obviously it’s a secret and I don’t want to ruin it for you, but – what I can say – is it’s gonna be so great. One of the surprises in the movie I think is so awesome, and it’s so fun, and it’s such an interesting and different take on Spider-Man, and it’s gonna be really cool. It’s gonna be really, really cool. How long can we keep going, by the way? I’m having, like, the best time doing this, by the way. I want my own show on Facebook. Let’s make it happen.
How would you describe your take on Peter Parker in three words?
TH: I have to think wisely, think carefully about this. That’s a tough question – wow, I can’t think. I literally can’t think of words. Unique. Adventurous. And… there’s the two words I would use to sum up Peter Parker. That’s all you’re gonna get. And really sexy. [Laughs]
Favorite superhero growing up?
TH: My favorite superhero growing up was Spider-Man. I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was a kid, I’ve dressed up as him since I was a baby. It’s funny – my best friend Harrison loves Batman, right? He’s obsessed with Batman. And for years, we have had an argument that, who would win in a fight? Spider-Man or Batman? And the best thing is now I can say, dude, I know that Spider-Man would win in a fight. And he’s like, how would you know that? I’m like, because I am Spider-Man. I am. Like, I’m actually him, so… I win. And then he’s like, so you think you can beat up Ben Affleck? I’m like, nah, probably not. Probably not, that guy’s big… I’m a big fan of Ben’s though, I’m really excited for the new movie – that’s gonna be awesome.
Will there be any break dancing in the movie? [Holland and co-star Zendaya previously showed off their impressive dance moves in an Instagram video posted by dancer Deja Carter in August].
TH: No, there won’t be. I wish there was. I really wish there was. Maybe we can work that into the second movie. I’ll give you a credit if we can get some break dancing into the next movie. I’ll speak to Sony and Marvel about it. I don’t guarantee they’ll do – they don’t really do as I say, I do as I’m told. But we can try, we can try, we can do this! Don’t worry about it.
Did training for Billy Elliot prepare you for this role?
TH: Absolutely. Working on Billy Elliot from such a young age was so valuable to me because it showed me how to work with adults, and work in a professional environment. That was a show and a job that required a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work, and they really gave us the best training they could have possibly given us. So it’s really been useful not just for Spider-Man but for everything else. Physicality for other roles I’ve played. But the gymnastics side of things and the dancing side of things were such a huge help because obviously I can do gymnastics – I’ve done gymnastics since I was a kid – I can do some flips, and it really helped the stunt team because we were able to make fight sequences and design fight sequences that I can do myself.
And I was very passionate about making sure I did as much as I could – there were a few things that I couldn’t do, there was sometime where they dangled my poor stunt double under a helicopter and dunked him in a lake– [covers mouth] Damn it. This is live, isn’t it? Damn! So at one point Spider-Man ends up in a lake. I’m gonna get in so much trouble now. Oh no! But yeah, I was like, let me do it. But then I saw him get dunked in the lake and I’m so happy I let him do that one, because that was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. Can you imagine? Flying under a helicopter before being dunked in a lake? I mean, I don’t get paid enough for that shit. Sorry! Again. Again, I can’t help it, I’m sorry.
What did you and your co-stars do for fun after shooting?
TH: We had a great time after shooting. Marvel and Sony were great, they gave me this super cool house to live in, right? We had, like, a pool, a cinema room, and like, a huge living room with a giant TV and stuff. So after shooting, all the cast just came to my house and we’d like chill in the pool, we had a diving board, and we did those like trick shot videos, which I actually put up online, and put a picture up of my house – well, it’s not really my house, the place I was staying – and then the press went ‘Oh, we know where Tom Holland lives!’ And it was like my first week in Atlanta and Marvel were, like, ‘What are you doing, dude? What are you doing? We literally have just bought this amazing house for you and you’re ruining it.’ So I had to take it down, but we had a great time, we had a great time messing around, watching movies, so we had a movie night.
Jon [Watts] gave us a list of, I think it was ten movies we were supposed to watch – we only watched two – but everyone came to my house we just watched movies the whole time, we swam in the pool, and just messed around. It was good fun. It was kind of like a frat house at one point, it was kinda nuts. But we were very professional. Went to bed early on a work night. I actually did. Soon as I got home I fell asleep. I didn’t even eat most nights. I came home and was like [snores]. Straight out.
You wear so many t-shirts in the film. Which is your favorite?
TH: God, I can’t even remember now. It’s funny, I tried on thousands of different outfits. Thousands. A couple hundred different outfits for Spider-Man. We agreed on, like, twenty. And then when it came to do the movie, I wore stuff I’d never seen before. It was – completely new outfit. My favorite t-shirt, I had a shirt that said, “you rock,” and there was a rock, and then “you rule,” and there was a ruler, and one of my friends from [Billy Elliot] had the t-shirt when he was a kid. So I had a connection with that t-shirt.
What kind of music does Peter listen to?
TH: Old country music. No, I don’t know. God, I should know that, though. I think like sort of the indie-pop scene, you know, he likes – I think he’s a fan of, who sings “Left Hand Free?” Alt J! [Alt J’s “Left Hand Free” introduced Peter Parker as he walked into his Queens, New York apartment in Captain America: Civil War]. He’s a fan of those guys, you know, that sort of music.
The most exotic food you’ve ever eaten?
TH: A rat in Bangkok, in Thailand. It was disgusting, I’ll never do it again, it was a mistake. I spent three days on the toilet. Let’s just put it that way. It was literally the worst three days of my life. It looked pretty cool though – like a rat on a stick. Well, you know, you put it on the fire and cooked it. It wasn’t like you just picked it up and go, ‘eat this.’ Like, it was cooked, but it was not good.
If you could star in any remake of any movie, what would it be?
TH: Right now I’m gonna start my campaign for me to be the new James Bond. I would like to be James Bond one day. Let’s say ten years time. Let’s make it happen, Sony! Let’s go!
Creatively produced by Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Homecoming opens July 7th, 2017.