Tom Holland navigates fame, Marvel future

December 19, 2021
Tom Holland wraps up a superhero trilogy with "Spider-Man: No Way Home," though his Marvel stint looks to continue.
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Tom Holland, the current big-screen Spider-Man, can count testicular fortitude as one of his super-strengths – no radioactive spider bite needed.

Two years ago when negotiations between Sony (which owns the rights to Spidey) and Disney broke down, shutting Spider-Man out of future appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he’d made a home, Holland reached out to then-Disney CEO Bob Iger to save the deal

“There was definitely a little bit of liquid courage involved with that exchange,” Holland recalls. “People seem to think that I was in these business meetings between these huge tycoons, but I wasn’t. I basically just called up one of them and cried on the phone and was like, ‘Please fix this.’ And he did!”

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The 25-year-old British actor’s love for his popular web-swinging character is obvious in those behind-the-scenes scraps but also when he lays it all on the MCU battlefield as Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (in theaters now). It’s a multiverse-spanning adventure that concludes the trilogy started with 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

With OGs like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans no longer around, Holland has arguably become the face of the MCU, though he’ll politely disagree.

“People keep saying that to me and I don’t know how true that is,” says Holland, who was introduced as Spidey in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” and had high-profile appearances in the last two “Avengers” films. “One day maybe it will be Spider-Man and maybe that will still be me, maybe it’ll be the next young kid, I’m not sure. But it’s very flattering to hear that and it’s nice to see that my hard work has paid off.”

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Since Holland’s first audition opposite Downey, “No Way Home” producer and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has seen him maintain a “kind and level-headed” demeanor. “He has grown and matured even more as a performer and an actor, from literally within the MCU as a wide-eyed kid stepping into this bigger world to now in a lot of ways having that world on his shoulders,” Feige says. “And yet with that Peter Parker-esque humility, which really I think says a lot about who he is and how he was raised.”

“No Way Home” gives Holland a chance to act alongside some cinema greats: Alfred Molina (as Doc Ock), Jamie Foxx (Electro) and Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin) all make their MCU debuts, reprising their villain roles from past “Spider-Man” movies. Holland especially got a kick out of working through a fight scene with a “terrifying” Dafoe. “He is a real sweetheart. But I remember when we were doing it, looking at him like: ‘That’s not Willem. Willem’s gone. Goblin is here to stay.’ ”

Peter, his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) and best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) also have to worry about getting into college, which made Holland think about perhaps going back to school. “I don’t know what I would study (but) actually getting an education, it would be quite fun,” he says. A more relatable plot point for him is Peter having his Spidey secret identity outed and dealing with being in the public eye.

This summer, paparazzi snapped a picture of Holland and Zendaya, longtime rumored love interests, sharing a kiss in a car. And recently in New York City, the two went out and “were followed by like 15 people,” Holland says. “That’s never going to feel normal and it’s always going to make me feel funny but we’re doing it together.”

He counts Zendaya – who like Holland has been acting and performing since childhood – as one person who has been “really instrumental in the sanity that I have right now and the fact that I have not lost my mind. It’s an interesting life.”

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Holland “actually gained a lot more patience” and developed a “chill” attitude this year, “whereas before I used to get really, really worked up about things that are way, way out of my control.” That will help him as his Hollywood career skyrockets: He next plays opposite Mark Wahlberg in the action-adventure “Uncharted” (in theaters Feb. 18), produces and stars in the upcoming Apple TV+ anthology series “The Crowded Room,” and has signed on to star as song-and-dance man Fred Astaire in an upcoming biopic.

Holland likes the “responsibility” of introducing a Hollywood legend to a younger generation. “It’s also just nice for me to put the tap shoes back on,” says the actor, who got his start in a West End production of “Billy Elliot the Musical.”

“We’re still at very, very early stages, looking for directors, which is really exciting. It’s also very stressful. I miss the days where you get a job and just get told who you’re working with.”

“No Way Home” producer Amy Pascal wants him back in his Spidey suit for another trilogy, telling Fandango that the new film “is not the last of our MCU movies.” Holland’s just glad that he went snowboarding for a couple of weeks in Montana after wrapping earlier this year.

“I have a hilarious photo of me FaceTiming Zendaya with blood all down my face because I’d fallen over,” Holland says with a laugh. “So when I saw that I apparently signed onto three more movies, I was like, ‘Ah, (crap), I’m going to have to cancel my next skiing holiday.”

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