It has been over 12 years since Tom holland made his West End theater debut as Billy Elliot in the musical adaptation of Stephen Daldry’s modern classic film; a half-life for the 24-year-old actor who has spent time since building a career as a star. Of course, his trajectory was aided by his casting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider Man in Captain America: Civil War, but it was his wit and energy that breathed new life into a superhero who had already withstood two big screen adaptations. He reunites with directors Anthony and Joe Russo this year for cherry, which in Holland’s own words represents the biggest challenge of his career to date. What better opportunity to dive into your favorite movies and TV?
Joe and Anthony Russo reveal why they were so sweet on ‘Cherry’ as Tom Holland’s first adult tour – contenders film
My first acting lesson
i was in Billy Elliot on stage in London. I was maybe 12 or 13, and at the Victoria Palace Theater there were three levels: the stalls, the dress circle, and the gods. Sometimes at the beginning of the year, after Christmas or on a Monday, the Gods weren’t open because they couldn’t fill the theater. It really affected the show. You will not get the same reaction from the public. I remember when this first happened to me, I did kind of a half ass show. I didn’t try very hard, and I remember the director, Nick Evans, who I didn’t know he was watching, came over and berated me. It was a vital lesson for me. I thought, Bollocks at this, I’m not going to get massive applause. But what I learned is that doing something for someone’s reaction is not enough; you have to do it for yourself and be the best every time. I thank Nick for this lesson.
The best advice I have ever received
It was also from Nick Evans, and I took it with me my whole career and passed it on. I’ve even heard people say to me, “I used this advice and it changed the way I look at things. Basically, that’s it: if you think about the physical feeling of being nervous, it is the same feeling as being aroused. Think about how it feels when you stand in line for a roller coaster, where you don’t know if you’re excited or pulling on your pants. Therefore, convince to turn your nerves into excitement. Doing this just makes you enjoy everything a lot more. I use it all the time, especially with things like chat shows which are pretty scary things to do. Those butterflies in your stomach are the same anyway, so it’s just a matter of whether, mentally, you let them take control.
The part that I always wanted
Nobody ever believes me when I say this, but it really is Spider Man. When I was young, I watched Tobey Maguire movies, then Andrew Garfield movies, then cartoons and comics. People are drawn to characters that they feel they have something in common with, and Peter Parker was that kid who didn’t quite fit in, so I saw myself in him. For me, my dreams have come true. I always wanted to play Spider-Man, and now I’m shooting my third movie. If I wanted to be really selfish I would add James bond to this list, but I think I was lucky enough like that, so I won’t be too offended if they never call.
My biggest challenge
cherry is by far the most difficult role I have ever had, for so many reasons. The lifespan that we cover throughout the film to begin with is 18 years of someone’s life. Trying to get that through in two and a half hours is a pretty daunting task and then you throw away love, desperation, PTSD, drug addiction, bank robbery, and jail.
It’s the golden ticket for an actor, because it’s a role that keeps on giving, and there has never been a dull moment on set. There was no limit to what we could push ourselves. Although sometimes I may have gone too far. The scene in the car where I go crazy; I’m pretty sure I got a concussion in this scene because I was banging my head so hard in the seat. We had the closing night that night and I totally disagreed. Everyone is dancing and I’m like, “Guys, I’ve only had three beers, but I think I have to go lie down…”
The movies that make me cry
I am so lucky in my life to have my dad. My dad is such an important part of my behavior and the decisions I make. And there’s a Richard Curtis movie called About the weather it’s all about father-son relationships. There is a scene where he goes back in time to see his father for the last time, and they are walking on the beach. And my dad and I never walk the beach together, but this scene is killing me because I love my dad so much and I’m proud of him, and I admire him. Sure, he pisses me off all the time and sometimes I can’t be with him, but that’s because he’s my dad, you know? I like it about him. So, without fail, About the weather makes me cry every time.
My most tortured co-star
I annoy a lot of people, to be honest. I’m pretty boring. But I remember being scolded by Benjamin walker. We were making a movie together called In the heart of the sea. We’re all in these boats together, and we were all starving, and… I don’t know why I was doing this, but I was a kid. I was about 16 at the time. I kept throwing pieces of fruit at him. I was throwing limes and stuff. At one point, I punched him in the face, and he gave me, say, a harsh conversation. We’re really good friends and had a great time together, but I would say maybe I crossed a line and threw a lime in his face. OK, definitely crossed a line. It wasn’t even a very ripe lime either. It was hard as s – t. Bless him.
The most fun I have had on the set
It’s difficult. I’m so lucky to love what I do, and I love the people I do it with. But every time I’m with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon at Spider Man, we always have so much fun. Poor Jon Watts, because trying to lead the three of us together is like pulling teeth. If Jacob isn’t kidding, Zendaya is. If she’s not joking, I am. We’re making the third movie now, and being with the gang again is just amazing.
The people of the line quote me
“I do not want to go” is the one I get all the time, from this scene in Avengers: Infinity War. It’s amazing when people think it’s a mind-blowing improv piece, because I just say the same line five times in a row. People pretend it’s that beautifully eloquent phrase. But I look back on that scene so fondly. We had so much fun on these sets, but when we got into the thrill of that moment, we really got into it. People tell me they think this scene must have been horrible to shoot, but I look back on it with nothing but happiness. It was unbelievable. I liked it. I kissed Robert Downey Jr., like, 60 times, and cried on his shoulder. What’s not to like?
My guilty pleasure
Good, Modern family is the benchmark, for me. If I have nothing to do and want to sit down and just have a good old giggle, I’ll watch this. It’s just such a good show. So well written, smart and nuanced. Plus, Phil Dunphy could be the best TV character of all time. If they published this book, Philosophy, I would absolutely buy it and live by every teaching in the book.
The actor who would play me in the story of my life
Probably someone like Brad pitt, perhaps. I think it would be a good one. We have the same type of body. He’s a little taller than me, but it’s okay [laughs]. I’m not even kidding, by the way. Brad Pitt is sort of the pinnacle of what a movie star is. If you look at his career and the work he’s done… I mean he’s number one for me.