'Spider-Man' star Tom Holland on the sequel, doing his own stunts and working with big name stars

The British actor is the youngest to play a lead role in a Marvel movie but he talks to us about working with his heroes

Actor Tom Holland poses at the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' "Spider-man: Far From Home" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Powered by automated translation

Spider-Man returns to cinemas this weekend with the release of Spider-Man: Far from Home, which has the web-slinging warrior visiting Europe, ostensibly on a school trip.

Naturally – this being Spider-Man – things don't run entirely smoothly, and it's not long before he finds himself traversing the continent fighting a legion of mythical elemental creatures who want to destroy the planet. 

A second Homecoming

Ironically, while Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker may be far from home in the new movie, Holland is back home – most of the film was shot at London's Leavesden Studios, not much more than half an hour from Holland's southwest London home, with further location shoots in London itself, Prague, Vienna and New York.

“The fact that we got to shoot it in London was a nice surprise,” the actor says.

"The first one was Spider-Man: Homecoming and I shot it thousands of miles away and this one is called Spider-Man: Far from Home and I'm forty minutes from my home."

The new movie is certainly on a grander scale than Homecoming, perhaps inevitably now the bar has been raised by Spider-Man's appearance in the epic Avengers films Infinity War and Endgame, and Holland admits the new movie has been a different prospect to its predecessor: "The action is bigger than the first one for sure. But the film is [also] bigger than the first one," he says.

“The action in the first one we were able to keep it quite contained – I don’t feel like it was a worldwide event.

"This one, with Spider-Man unable to keep these events a secret, is far more global after the events of Avengers: Endgame. So the spotlight really is on Spider-Man, whereas in the first one I felt he was flying under the radar."

Both Spider-man and stuntman

Holland has also received praise for performing many of his own stunts, although the modest actor is keen to play down his stuntman abilities: "I don't do everything. There are some things that I just can't do and I am very happy for my double to do it if he can do it better. If there is a version of the stunt where it just looks better with him doing it, then he should do it for the sake of the movie. But sometimes there are things where we can just rehearse it and work really hard. I love doing my own stunts. It comes with a nice adrenalin rush. If it makes the film better, then I am all for it."

Despite his young age – Holland turned 23 last month and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest actor to play a lead role in the MCU – his role in the Marvel Universe has enabled him to work with some of the biggest names in the business, including his on-screen (and off-screen) mentor Tony Stark, or Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr. With Stark's dramatic death at the end of Endgame, Far from Home finds Spider-Man without his role model, and it sounds like Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury could be set to step into the father-figure role in the new film.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Samuel L. Jackson, left, and Cobie Smulders in a scene from "Spider-Man: Far From Home." (Jay Maidment/Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)
Samuel L Jackson, left, and Cobie Smulders in a scene from 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'. AP

Holland is a big fan of Jackson's body of work: "Working with Sam is great – really, really fun," he says. "I have been such a big fan of his, not just since the beginning of the MCU, but very early on in my life with Pulp Fiction. It is an interesting character to see on the screen with Peter Parker because obviously Peter is kind of upbeat and Nick Fury is so scary. Kind of like Robert Downey Jr, just without the sass. What can I say? It's been a fun ride."

The latest film also brings Oscar-winning indie darling Jake Gyllenhall into the Marvel Universe, playing fellow super hero Mysterio, and the Brokeback Mountain and Donnie Darko star is another name that Holland has huge amount of respect for: "I am very lucky with the people I get to work with."  

Upping the game

The young actor reveals that working with Gyllenhall was a unique experience: “He’s amazing. Every actor I have ever worked with has a switch. When they say action you can tell that they are acting,” he says.

“Jake doesn’t have that. He’s seamless in and out of character. Sometimes it is quite disconcerting because you think he’s just talking to you, then you realise he is doing the scene right now. I have learnt a lot.”

When you are working with someone who is that good, it makes you think more about minor details you have made for the character and you try to piece things together. 

The star adds that working with actors of this calibre also presents an opportunity to further hone his own talent: “[Acting] is similar to playing tennis. If you are playing tennis against someone who is really good you sort of rise up,” he says.

"You try your best to play better. It is a similar sort of thing. When you are working with someone who is that good, it makes you think more about minor details you have made for the character and you try to piece things together."

Although Peter Parker's relationships with his older crime-fighting buddies is a key component of the film, the real heart of the movie is his developing relationship with Zendaya's MJ: "We get to see in more detail a relationship blossom than we did in the first one," he says. "And I think audiences will really connect with her and the way that Zendaya is playing the role will broaden the amount of people who can relate to her character."

Spider-Man: Far from Home is in cinemas across the UAE from today