When Tom Holland first played Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War three years ago, it was clear that Marvel Studios — which had agreed to reboot the Spider-Man franchise for Sony Pictures in exchange for bringing Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — had hit pay dirt.
Holland’s wide-eyed, brainy yet awkward teenager was in many ways the embodiment of Peter Parker we’d been waiting for, an age-appropriate take on the character that still carried his familiar history without having to rehash his well-documented origins one more time.
Both Holland and Peter are in different places in 2019, as Spider-Man: Far From Home arrives in theaters this week. When the movie opens, Peter Parker is still reeling from the momentous events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
He’s seen more of the universe than he ever imagined, yet the cost was five years of his life while he (along with his friends) was snapped out of existence, not to mention the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.).
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is looking for Spider-Man to step up, but Peter isn’t sure if he’s ready — until he meets the enigmatic Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who potentially provides the shoulder he can lean on in the wake of Tony’s death.
So even though Peter is on a school trip to Europe with loyal pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) and the girl of his dreams, MJ (Zendaya), he must nevertheless join Mysterio in battle against the destructive Elementals and face greater challenges than he even realized he was getting into.
Holland gives perhaps his most layered and emotional performance yet as Peter in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and has clearly made the role his, a topic we opened with when we got on the phone with the young British actor shortly before the new movie hit theaters.
Den of Geek: You’ve played Peter Parker five times now. Do you feel like you have kind of settled into the role?
Tom Holland: Yeah, I really do, I really do. And now I feel like Peter Parker is kind of an extension of myself. It’s a real joy playing him. What’s actually become as a bit of a shock is how, I’ve made other movies now since playing him and it’s hard to shake him off. If I have to get out of the Peter Parker world and play different characters then I’m going to have to have to flex my muscles a little bit as an actor.
Do you feel like there’s still sort of a pressure involved in playing such a significant pop culture figure, or have gotten more accustomed to it now?
You know I was always quite accustomed to it and I never let the pressure become overwhelming but I definitely felt pressure especially because this film is a direct continuation from Avengers: Endgame, you know. We have a huge responsibility to kind of open the door to the next chapter of the MCU and I wanted to do the best job possible as did (director) Jon Watts. So, yeah there was definitely a lot of the pressure there, to perform and succeed but thankfully I really think we have done that.
When you filmed this, were you close enough still to the last two Avengers films to stay in the frame of mind of Peter Parker?
We were shooting both of the films at the same time and so I was bouncing back and forth between. It was a little bit confusing, I knew the general idea of what was going to happen and I knew the big, big kind of ramifications of the film, so I used all that information to inform my Spider-Man performance.
Was it odd filming Far From Home and knowing that the MCU would be drastically changed by the time this movie came out? Fans didn’t even know if this would be a prequel to the events of Infinity War or would take place afterwards.
Yeah, it was just tricky to keep it a secret really. We really tried to kind of drive home the idea that this film might be a prequel, before Endgame came out. If you look at the first trailer, there is no evidence that gives away a time frame. But yeah, there was a bit of pressure there. I was a little stressball but we pulled it off and now it came through.
What do you know about Peter Parker as a character and about playing him that you didn’t know when you first started with this role?
A good question. I just didn’t realize what a good person he was. He really, really is the best person, there is not a bad bone in his body and he does everything for other people. There’s a line in the film where Quentin Beck asks me, “What do you want Peter?” And Peter Parker’s response is “What do you mean, what do you want? I don’t know what I want.” And that’s just an example of someone who is completely faultless and does everything for other people and looks out for them anyway.
Where would you say he’s at emotionally when the story opens? He’s lost Tony Stark and five years of his life.
Yeah, it’s interesting because we didn’t want the film to start off all doom and gloom. I’ve dealt with losses in my life and I find the way I deal with it is I distract myself and I keep myself busy and then eventually it all kind of crescendos and comes to a head and that, you know, I think is what happens in this film. We don’t ignore the story of Endgame but we kind of distract from the audience to forget about it until it’s time for them to remember.
Tony Stark is still a very large presence in his life, a mentor and father figure, and for a little while for at least he sort of sees Mysterio in the same way.
Yeah he does, he absolutely does. It’s quite nice you know, he says goodbye to one mentor and finds another. Instead of a father figure he finds a big brother. And you know it’s a really refreshing thing to see Spider-Man count on someone that he can look up to and someone he can ask questions to and someone who he can confide in and you know, talk about superhero stuff and saving the world.
And then of course he has the sort of cool but cranky uncle in Nick Fury. How was it finally getting a chance to work with Sam Jackson at this point?
I mean, it’s a dream come true to get to work with Sam Jackson. He’s been an actor who I’ve always admired since the beginning of my career really and he’s so much fun to work with. He’s full of life and he’s a very interesting character. He’s fantastic in the movie which is really great and I really, really can’t wait for people to see him in this film.
You and Zendaya have such great chemistry. Was it important for you to see that relationship between Peter and MJ move forward as well?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. That was a given. After the reaction from the first film we knew that this was something that we needed to explore and you know, we didn’t explore it fully because we wanted to allow it to develop in later films. You know it was really, really fun working with her and bringing the characters together was really a lot of fun.
What location did you enjoy shooting in the most?
For me it was London, you know. Just the fact that I was able to bring this franchise to my hometown was so much fun and it was such a wonderful opportunity for me to showcase to my friends what London is all about and it was just really fun.
Do you have any particular villains that you would like to see show up in later films?
I do, you know, and Sony and Marvel are now getting into the discussion of who those villains are going to be and stuff but obviously I can’t talk about that. Maybe soon we’ll be able to talk about it.
In the same way that they brought Iron Man into Spider-Man: Homecoming and Hulk into Thor: Ragnarok, would you like to see one of the other Marvel heroes cross over into a future Spider-Man movie? I mean, Doctor Strange lives just a few subway stops away…
Yeah, yeah, that’s a cool thing that’s waiting to happen. That’s going to be a lot of fun.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in theaters now.
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye