The 19-year-old won the webslinger audition by literally flipping out
Credit: Zade Rosenthal/Paramount, Film Frame

When last we left the creators of Captain America: Civil War, they had just secured a new element for the movie: the original wacky wall-walker, Spider-Man.

Tom Holland, now 19, won the role last year after joining other webslinger hopefuls for screen tests with Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and Iron Man’s soft center, Robert Downey Jr.

“Kids came in and put on these really ridiculous Spider-Man pajamas,” Evans says, but Holland stood out immediately. “As the scene opens, [the script] says ‘Spider-Man flips in and lands.’ And Tom was really like, ‘Should I do that?'”

“Because he can,” says Anthony Russo, who directed Civil War with his brother, Joe.

Holland was fully prepared to do a handspring into the scene, but executives on set started to panic, Evans says. “Marvel doesn’t want to see this kid break his neck, so everyone from [the studio] was like, ‘Don’t! Don’t!’ And Joe just started salivating, ‘Just do it!‘” the actor laughs. “And he did it — and stuck it!”

The ridiculously fit Evans slumps in his chair. “Like… he bummed me out.”

“As important as it is to capture the essence of the character on an emotional level, there’s an incredible physicality to these characters,” Joe Russo says. “So to see a kid who is a gymnast, and you know you’re going to be digitally mapping to his movements… to have somebody who can move that way, it’s f—ing invaluable.”

By the time Holland landed, he basically had won the part.

“That’s why everybody goes, ‘Well, yeah, we have to see that,'” Joe Russo says. “If he can do that, that’s a whole other asset that he’s bringing, a whole other dimension that he’s bringing to the part.”

“And it informs also the performance, too, because when you flip into a scene, you’re out of breath and there’s an energy to it where you’re out of balance going into it,” Anthony Russo says. “And it can change your whole performance. And the person you’re playing opposite.”

Downey was among the breathless. The Iron Man star became so invested in Holland after that audition that he began personally coaching the younger actor during the production of Civil War.

“The Spider-Man scene between he and Tom Holland is really beautifully written, this scene in his bedroom. And as we were rehearsing the scene, there was a certain proprietary energy to [Downey], and he started to take over the blocking in the scene,” Joe Russo says. “I remember Anthony and I kind of looked at each other and just stepped back and watched Robert in essence create…”

“Help Tom,” Anthony Russo says. “Pushing him.”

“Help Tom create a very star-making performance in that scene just by working through the logic with him, moving him around the room,” Joe Russo adds. “It was a very small set. And it was masterful. It was literally like, this is Downey at the true essence of what he is — a guy who literally understands exactly how to play to a camera.”

“And he also understood what that moment was and how important that moment was to both for the movie, for the character, and for Tom Holland,” Anthony Russo says.

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Captain America: Civil War
  • Movie
  • 146 minutes