Tom Holland talks about his harrowing performance in Cherry, reuniting with the Russo Brothers — and that lip sync battle that refuses to die.

By Clarissa Cruz
February 22, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST
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As a drug-addicted war veteran struggling with PTSD in the new movie Cherry, Tom Holland's searing portrayal is worlds away from Peter Parker. But the common thread between the two performances is Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed the star in both the Apple+ drama and The Avengers films. "Making a $500 million box office movie and making a small independent movie is so different, but the way they approach making them is exactly the same," says Holland, 24, who joined EW's The Awardist to discuss his dark new project. "The respect they had and the way they were able to galvanize everyone and have a really fun and positive experience while the subject matter was so dark and difficult to swallow was amazing."

Still, the actor, a self-described "really lucky privileged kid from southwest London," was initially worried he didn't have what it took to tackle such a harrowing role. So he doubled down on the research, interviewing former soldiers who suffered from PTSD and substance abuse issues and throwing himself into the character, physically and mentally. Holland credits his shorthand with the Russos with helping him find his footing. "They were willing for me to just push myself as far as I could go when it came to the physicality of the character, which was losing weight and changing my physical appearance as much as possible," he says. "I [found] places and emotions in me that I didn't know I had and quite frankly would never want to see again. There was no going too far with playing Cherry."

Cherry
Credit: Apple TV+

One day it came close, though. "The scene in the car where we were robbing the bank [on] pills and coke was one of the most intense days of filmmaking I have ever had," he recalls. "It was just a free for all…all of us absolutely losing our mind, just going mental. I couldn't speak for about a week [after]…I watch that scene and it just stresses me out so much. I watch that scene and I'm like, oh my god I can't think about what it was like shooting that."

On a lighter note (and as a bonus listen in our latest Awardist podcast episode, which you can find below), Holland learned about the Tom Holland Umbrella Law: If you come across a clip of Holland performing Rihanna's "Umbrella" in a 2017 episode of Lip Sync Battle, you must watch and/or share it. "I love that law," he says with a laugh. "That's a great law and one I think should have been an actual law. I get more compliments from dancing in the rain in fishnets than I do for anything I've ever done." The star recounted a story about receiving a letter from a school teacher who says one of her young male students was being bullied for wearing women's clothing, but said "Well, Spider-Man does it."

"I really look back on it fondly now knowing that someone took something from it and it was positive and helped someone deal with something," Holland says. "So if you do watch my lip sync battle, share it, like it, make it the biggest video on YouTube."

Watch highlights of our conversation above, or listen to the full conversation in the podcast link below. Cherry is in select theaters Friday and available on AppleTV+ starting March 12.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

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