‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ lays the groundwork for the future of Marvel and Tom Holland
There’s a moment in Sony and Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to convince Peter Parker (Tom Holland) to abandon his school trip to come save the world.
Peter — fresh off of the highly emotional events of “Avengers: Endgame,” and still reeling from the death of his mentor Tony Stark — is reluctant to shoulder responsibility again so soon, and struggles against his Spider-Man duties.
“In our iteration of Spider-Man, Peter Parker gets on with everyone,” Holland said over coffee. “Even with Flash, who’s his bully, there’s kind of a good rapport there. But with Nick Fury, [he] just keeps butting heads ... which is quite fun for me to play. But it’s also tough arguing with Sam Jackson … it’s pretty scary. There’s a bit in the trailer where he says, ‘Bitch please, you’ve been to space.’ It’s kind of every actor’s dream to be called a bitch by Sam Jackson.”
At the age of 23, Holland has been living his own dream playing Spider-Man for a significant chunk of the past four years. He’s the third actor to don the superhero’s spandex in a live-action feature — following Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi’s blockbuster trilogy and Andrew Garfield in the less fondly remembered “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel — but quickly made the iconic character his own when he debuted in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”
As the official Spider-Man of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Holland played a pivotal role in the epic two-part “Avengers” finale “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” and led his 2017 solo film “Spider-Man: Homecoming” to $880 million in worldwide box office. All while being the youngest actor to fill the role.
“My voice has obviously gotten deeper [since being cast], which is a little bit embarrassing because it’s something that happens when you’re 14,” said Holland. “I have to pitch my voice up a little bit now. And when you play a character five times, you run out of ideas — sometimes it’s a little tricky to find new unique things to do to keep the character growing and progressing.”
Growth is a major theme for Peter in “Far From Home,” which opens July 2 in the U.S., as the world scrambles to figure out who will step up to assume the mantle of Iron Man. For Holland, that sense of pressure mirrored his own nervousness over anchoring the first MCU release following the massive spectacle of “Endgame” — which exploded box office records to become the second-highest grossing film of all time both worldwide (behind “Avatar”) and domestically (behind “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”).
“There’s a level of pressure because people really want to know what’s next,” Holland said. “‘Endgame’ was a bit of a kick in the teeth at the end. Everyone’s fallen in love with those characters for the past 10 years, and all of a sudden people we know and love and feel we have a connection to, we’ve said goodbye to forever.”
For director Jon Watts, also returning from “Homecoming,” the intense emotional stakes of “Endgame” presented a unique challenge to explore in the Spidey sequel.
“I like to see it as an opportunity,” he said. “So many crazy things happen in that movie and so many questions are left unresolved. It really helped focus this film and create a very strong emotional jumping-off point for our story and for Peter.”
For those keeping track, “Far From Home” marks the official end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s third phase and concludes the decade-spanning Infinity Saga.
Though plans for the next phase of Marvel titles remain tightly under wraps (at least until the studio’s reported appearance at San Diego Comic-Con next month), Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed that fans will find a few hints of what’s to come in “Far From Home.”
“I think every film we make heads up where we go in the future,” he said. “There are things you can see of how it’ll tie directly into both future ‘Spider-Man’ films and future MCU films.”
One question unlikely to be answered anytime soon: Whether the next phase of MCU titles will build an epic overarching storyline, à la the formation of the Avengers and super-villain Thanos’ quest for the Infinity stones.
“Even the Infinity Saga was built one movie at a time,” said Feige. “That’s the way we’ll be focusing on things going forward. The fun comes in how to link them together into a bigger picture, but that usually doesn’t come into view for many years.”
Marvel’s next scheduled release is slated for May 1, 2020, with speculation that the still-secret title will be Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow” stand-alone, which is currently filming overseas. Though he wouldn’t go into specifics, Feige touted Marvel’s plans to introduce new, slightly more obscure comic heroes that are markedly different from the ones we’ve seen thus far. Other Marvel projects on the fast track include director Chloé Zhao’s sci-fi-driven “The Eternals,” starring Angelina Jolie, and Dustin Daniel Cretton’s “Shang-Chi,” to star an Asian leading man.
So for the very first time, the MCU truly will be seen across mediums both on the streaming network and on the big screen.
“We believe the time is right for them, and that they can expand the definition of what a Marvel Studios film is,” Feige said. “And we get to do that now not just in film but also on Disney+, the upcoming streaming service that we’ll be making content for. It gets us to stretch these other creative muscles and showcase characters who haven’t had stand-alone movies yet in a much deeper and meaningful way.”
Feige also confirmed that characters appearing in Disney+ spinoff programs — a slate that includes Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Anthony Mackie’s Captain America successor Falcon — can still cross over into upcoming films.
“Any changes we undergo, any big things that happen to them in Disney+ series will be reflected in the next iteration of movies,” he said. “So for the very first time, the MCU truly will be seen across mediums both on the streaming network and on the big screen.”
While bringing Spider-Man into the MCU fold involved deal-making between the Disney-owned Marvel and Sony — the studio that retains rights to Spidey’s screen incarnations — Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox has opened up new possibilities. Marvel Studios now has direct access to a wealth of Marvel comics characters who were tied up at Fox, including the X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four.
Adding them to the mix would cause a fan frenzy akin to when Spidey joined “Captain America,” but Feige cautions it could be a while before those characters factor into the MCU.
“A lot of what we’ve been developing was initially developed before that acquisition happened, but I will say it is wonderful to have access to the majority of our characters again,” said Feige. “Most companies that have created characters have control of all those characters, and that has not been the case for Marvel Studios for many years. Now that so many of them from the Fox acquisition have come home ... it’s an embarrassment of riches, an immense toy chest to play with.”
While all eyes will be on “Far From Home” for clues about Marvel’s future, the notoriously spoiler-prone Holland is still recovering from harboring the knowledge of Iron Man’s death in “Endgame” long before audiences saw it.
“I nearly had to sew my mouth shut,” he said. “I think what people forget when it comes to these movies is that I’m a fan. Before I was even considering becoming an actor, I was obsessed with these movies. I’m as much of a fan of these movies as the fans are.
“When I find out spoilers, I want to talk to people about it because I can’t quite believe it,” he added. “I just get so excited, honestly, and I want to share the information because the term ‘break the Internet’ is a real thing. And if you know something that could break the Internet, it’s kind of a cool power to have.”
For the filming of Tony Stark’s death scene in “Endgame,” the filmmakers did not tell Holland why the cast was assembling.
“When I walked on set, it was Robert [Downey Jr.], Gwyneth [Paltrow], Don [Cheadle], myself, [co-directors] the Russos and Kevin Feige, and they [told us the truth] and I, like all the fans, felt like someone had just pulled the rug from under my feet. There was no real script, just ‘This is what’s going to happen. We know you guys are so emotionally invested in these characters that whatever you do will be truthful.’
“For me, it was just my moment to say thank you to Robert for being my mentor for the past five years and hopefully for the future of my career,” Holland added. “I think there were even moments where I improvised and said, ‘Robert, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.’ And when you say stuff like that to someone you love — even now, thinking about it, I’m getting a little choked up — the emotions kind of come through.”
Loss is a major aspect of Peter Parker’s journey throughout the comics, which was another reason director Watts was excited to tackle the “Endgame” fallout in “Far From Home.”
“Losing Uncle Ben, losing Gwen Stacy … so much of what shapes him as a character is tied into the people that he cares about being lost,” Watts said. “So the fact that he’s losing Tony as well allowed us to explore some of those iconic Spider-Man themes.”
As the world waits to discover what’s next for Marvel (also rumored to include a third Spider-Man adventure, perhaps sooner than some may expect), Holland is simultaneously plotting his acting career outside of the franchise. The actor, who initially made his name on the London stage in the musical “Billy Elliot” and delivered a critically acclaimed film debut in the 2012 disaster drama “The Impossible,” recently wrapped a pair of indies and several voice roles.
He has a whopping six films slated for release over the next 12 months, including a voiceover role in Universal’s “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle,” starring Downey, and the lead in Netflix’s “The Devil All the Time,” produced by Holland’s “Far From Home” co-star Jake Gyllenhaal.
He’ll also reunite with “Endgame” filmmakers Joe and Anthony Russo for the drama “Cherry,” about an Iraq war veteran grappling with PTSD and opioid addiction.
“He turns to drugs and becomes a bank robber,” Holland said of his character. “And for me, it’s a very exciting prospect because it’s a very different role to anything I’ve done before.”
Still, Holland admits the transition from Marvel’s massive productions to smaller-scale films has been challenging.
“You can get so spoiled when you make these big movies,” said Holland. “I felt that a little bit this year. ‘Devil All the Time’ is a really small little indie movie with a wonderful director, Antonio Campos. And I was on set like, ‘Why is this taking so long? What’s going on here?’ You get spoiled when you have a crew of 500 people and 12 cameras and anything’s possible.”
As Holland pauses to consider what else might come next, he reveals one genre he’s especially keen to try.
“Part of me would really love to do a funny movie,” he said. “I think I’m a pretty funny person, and I think it would be fun to do. I just love challenges, me. I don’t want to do the same thing twice.”
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