Tom Holland wants his Spider-Man to be relatable

ST VIDEO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN
Actors Tom Holland (far left) and Jacob Batalon at the red carpet event for Spider-Man: Homecoming at the ArtScience Museum.
Actors Tom Holland (left) and Jacob Batalon at the red carpet event for Spider-Man: Homecoming at the ArtScience Museum.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

New Spider-Man Tom Holland says he found out he had landed the role on Marvel's website

When the confetti cannons fired unexpectedly on the red carpet of a Spider-Man: Homecoming event at the ArtScience Museum, the new Spider-Man Tom Holland and his co-star Jacob Batalon, who plays Ned Leeds, were both visibly startled.

But Holland, 21, and Batalon, 20, were quick to recover. They brushed it off coolly, continuing to dance to the upbeat pop song playing on the sound system, as Spidey- themed red and blue confetti showered on them.

It was an unscripted moment which showed that the young actors - like their characters in the film - are not the sort to mask their emotions.

At a media conference after the event on Wednesday night, Englishman Holland revealed that he learnt he had landed the coveted title role at the same time as the rest of the world.

He says he was browsing Instagram while at home in bed with his dog, Tessa, when Marvel posted on its account: "Go to our website to find out who Spider-Man is."

"I went absolutely nuts, ran downstairs and told my family, but my brother Harry, who is quite savvy with computers, said, 'Dude, they've probably hacked it'," he recalls.

 
 

But Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige eventually called to confirm the news.

The actors were in Singapore to promote their upcoming film, which opens in cinemas here on July 6.

The role has already been played by two other actors before him - Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield - but Holland says his take will be different.

"It is daunting and there is a responsibility, but I don't want the fans to have to buy tickets to a movie they've already seen," he says.

It helps that he plays a 15-year-old high-school student version of Peter Parker, who has already made his debut in the Marvel cinematic universe in Captain America: Civil War (2016).

He is confident that audiences "will connect with a much younger version of Peter Parker".

Holland adds: "I often find that with superhero movies, especially the ones where the characters get into costume, you lose the character. So I tried to create a physicality that I could carry through Peter Parker and through Spider-Man, so that when I'm in the suit, you still feel like it is Peter Parker behind the mask."

Referring to his Avengers co-stars, he says: "We've seen the god (Thor), the billionaire (Tony Stark/Iron Man) and the scientist (Bruce Banner/The Hulk), but now it's time to see what happens if a kid got super powers."

Unlike them, he says his character is very much grounded in reality. "If you gave a 15-year-old super powers, he would have the time of his life."

In the upcoming film, Spider-Man remains under the watchful eye of his mentor, Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr, after he joined Iron Man's camp in Captain America: Civil War.

Mr Feige, 44, who also spoke to the media via satellite from Los Angeles, mirrors his sentiments.

"Tony Stark drops (Parker) off at home and tells him, 'Okay, go back to school.' But how do you go back to your high-school band after you've just gone overseas with The Beatles? That was a fun starting point for us."

Bringing the characters back to reality, in a post-Avengers world, extended to the selection of Spidey's antagonist as well.

Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, or Vulture, who runs a salvaging company that cleans up messes, including the collateral damage left behind by The Avengers' battles.

"Instead of having him be some sort of scientific accident, we wanted (the villain) to be a normal person like Peter, who's affected by the events around him," says Mr Feige.

The enterprising Toomes re- appropriates the alien equipment that has fallen from the sky for his own devious means.

"So there's a nice parable story between seeing someone like Peter Parker and someone like Adrian Toomes, and how they respond differently to these extraordinary events happening around them in the Marvel cinematic universe," he says.

But even heroes struggle and, in Homecoming, viewers get to see Parker figure out his identity along the way.

In the trailer, Stark gives Parker a souped-up Spidey suit to replace his homemade one.

Unlike Iron Man, who can step in and out of his suit, Mr Feige says that "Spider-Man is still Spider-Man even if he's not wearing his outfit and that's something he's faced with over the course of the movie". Hence the movie is about "Peter realising he's a hero with or without all of the gadgets that Stark can gift him".

Downey turned out to be something of a guide for his younger co-star off-screen as well.

Holland says: "He's 10 minutes early every day, says hello to every crew member and it just showed me that it doesn't matter how famous you get or how much money you make, you should always treat everyone the same.

"He's a good role model for me to have as a young man in this industry. If I am ever lucky enough to get there, then I should act as he does."

•Spider-Man: Homecoming opens in cinemas here on July 6.

Watch a video of Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon at the red carpet event. Go to http://str.sg/4Lvy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2017, with the headline 'Spidey stars open with emotions'. Print Edition | Subscribe