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Back in early 2015, Marvel and Sony Pictures confirmed something many fans dreamt of: Spider-Man, one of the most beloved comic book characters of all time, was ready to join the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. From day one the studios shared their intentions of taking the character to a different direction, and with the casting of the then 19-year-old Tom Holland it was clear that the new Peter Parker was going to be younger than usual.
To support Spider-Man: Homecoming, which opens in the United States on Friday July 7, Holland and actress Laura Harrier - who plays Parker’s love interest Liz Allan - visited Mexico in May for the Conque festival. Here’s the brief conversation I had with both about the new Spider-Man movie and Sam Raimi’s version.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a coming-of-age story, in which the teen protagonists face extraordinary situations. How close is it to your personal lives as very young rising Hollywood stars?
Tom Holland: I think it really does help, because Peter Parker is someone who is a regular kid thrown into a very irregular circumstance and Laura and me are very regular kids who’ve been thrown into this very crazy lifestyle. The amazing thing about Peter Parker is that he doesn’t change and stays true to himself. For me, my main goal is to yeah, enjoy the ride, have the best time I can possibly have, but do that in a way that I remain true to myself.
Laura Harrier: I think someone like Liz is also very humble. She doesn’t have superpowers but she is like the cool, very successful and popular girl, but she is grounded and kind and treats everyone equally. That’s something that inspires me as well and has influenced me through this journey.
What was the craziest aspect of Disney and Marvel’s casting process?
TH: Waiting, just waiting and waiting for answers. It’s one of those things where they promise you that you’ll find out tomorrow and then, six weeks later, you get a phone call. That was for me one of the most stressful things I’ve ever been through.
LH: And you can’t tell anybody.
TH: Yeah, well, I told everybody [laughs].
LH: I followed directions, so you have this super intense thing going on in your life and you can’t even talk about it, so that was the hardest for me.
TH: I was lucky because mine came out with a huge press release. I had to keep the fact that I was auditioning secret, and one of my best friends from school is a huge superhero fan and we always talk about the movies coming out, trailers and stuff. He was the one person I really wanted to tell because I knew he would be so excited. When there was a press release, he found out that I was in the final six and texted me “is this real?” and I was like “yeah, I wanted to tell you for so long but I couldn’t.” He was the hardest person to keep it a secret from.
How intimidating, or maybe fun, was working with the legendary Michael Keaton?
LH: It was crazy and definitely intimidating. I remember walking onto set before an intense scene with the three of us, I was super nervous, thinking “is this really happening? Am I doing a Spider-Man movie with Michael Keaton? This is insane.” But he is so kind and professional and obviously incredible at his job, that all went away as soon as we were in the scene focused on doing the best job that we could.
What life lessons did you take from playing these characters?
TH: The life lesson from this character… it’s weird, I kind of felt I learned it from myself because I’ve never work harder in anything in my life, especially in getting the role.
While I was auditioning, I was training with Jon Bernthal, trying to get into shape and really look like the character, and every time I couldn’t lift the weight, Jon would be like “you’re gonna be Spider-Man, you’re gonna be Spider-Man” and I would say it too. It would just motivate me to keep working.
I kind of feel the reason I got this role was a direct response to how hard I worked, so that now is a constant reminder of the harder you work the more you achieve. That’s such a good message to everyone; meeting these people who we work with, it’s apparent that they just never stop, and I guess that’s the reason why they are so successful.
You were both kids when the first Spider-Man movie, directed by Sam Raimi, came out. Do you have any special memories of that?
TH. The upside-down kiss, that was a big thing for me. As soon as I got a girlfriend, I was like “can we do an upside-down kiss?” It’s actually super weird…
LH: It’s not fun, it doesn’t really work.
TH: Yeah, it’s a strange one, but literally three weeks into having a girlfriend for the first time I was like “so do you want to do an upside-down kiss?” and she was like “OK, sure, whatever.” I’m such a weirdo.