The idea of anyone but Tom Holland playing Spider-Man in the MCU seems hard to believe. The actor has won wide praise for his take on Peter Parker and is ready to continue for Spider-Man No Way Home.
But in a recent interview, Joe and Anthony Russo revealed they had a significant struggle getting Holland cast for the MCU. The pushback was less from Marvel itself and more from Sony.
The studio fight for Spider-Man
It’s often overlooked how complex the presence of Spider-Man in the MCU is.
While Disney owns Marvel Comics and thus the character, the movie rights were sold to Sony back in the 1980s. This means Sony had the right to craft their own separate Spider-Man movies.
In the 2010s, Sony had planned its own “Spiderverse” with Andrew Garfield in the Amazing Spider-Man films. When 2014’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed, Sony agreed to a deal with Disney to allow Spider-Man to be in the MCU.
Since his debut in Civil War, Tom Holland’s performance as the Wall-Crawler has been highly popular and he seems to be a natural in the part. Talking with GQ to promote their new film with Holland, Cherry, the Russo brothers detailed the major resistance they had to casting Holland.
According to the Russos, the key issue was Holland being a relatively unknown actor, as well as only being 19-years-old. Tobey Maguire and Garfield were both in their 20s when they were cast as Peter Parker, and Sony appeared to want an older actor.
The Russos wanted someone who looked young enough to pass for the high school, Peter. Also, Disney was hopeful for an actor who would stay with the franchise for several years.
The other problem was how Sony was still wary of allowing its biggest super-hero name to be taken by the competition. According to Joe Russo, the concerns of losing the cash-cow of the Spider-Man name may have added to the resistance.
“We talked with Feige at Marvel about Holland and he got excited and then we went to Sony… And they were like, ‘Let’s think about it for a minute.’ We could tell we were meeting resistance from Sony. So we brought [Holland] back, brought him back, brought him back, and we were relentless in our pursuit of jamming him down the throat of the studio who owns this IP. It came down to a fight, yet Sony just kept dragging their feet. Sony’s reservations were: ‘Are we loaning it? Or are we giving it to them to help us reinvent it in a way that adds value for us?'”
Holland winning the part
The Russos give massive credit to Sarah Halley Finn for casting Holland. The chief casting director has overseen every principal casting for the MCU since Iron Man, and her instincts told her Holland was perfect for the role.
“Sarah [Finn] should get all the credit for casting Holland as Spider-Man; she’s the best in the business and she knows us. We had already done two films with her. So Holland came in. He did his test. We called Sarah straight after and said, ‘Oh, my God, he’s incredible. He’s a movie star: he’s got the charisma; he’s got the range.’ It’s very rare someone walks into a room who has all the elements that make up a bona fide star. Holland had that thing.”
Also aiding was Holland showing his athleticism, including a standing backflip in the audition. Another factor was Robert Downey Jr.
The Iron Man star did a reading with Holland for Tony Stark’s scene first recruiting Peter for his fight. Not only did the chemistry of the two work but Downey told the Russos that Holland was perfect for the role.
Holland did share the embarrassing tidbit that he thought Downey “looked a lot different in person” when they first met. At which point, the real Downey entered and Holland realized he’d been talking to the actor’s stunt double.
MCU fans are immensely grateful for the Russos taking this chance on Holland. The actor is wrapping up work on Spider-Man No Way Home and hopeful to play the part in more films. It’s hard to imagine how another actor could have made Spider-Man such a hit in the MCU.
Spider-Man No Way Home premieres on December 17, 2021.