Spider-Man spills his super secrets

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Official International Trailer1:48

A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Tom Holland is the latest Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Picture: Chuck Zlotnick

James WigneyNews Corp Australia Network

IT’S nearing midnight at a nondescript golf course in suburban Atlanta. A masked figure is on the prowl.

Closer inspection — as though the lights, cameras, crew and hangers-on weren’t proof enough — reveals that a felony is not in progress. Quite the contrary; the lithe figure, who drops to his haunches before somehow producing a mobile phone from his skin-tight spandex outfit, is none other than the unmistakeable, crimefighting, webslinging superhero Spider-Man.

“Cut,” yells a voice out of the gloom, as director Jon Watts ambles over to his leading man for a powwow. “Let’s go again.”

Rewind to earlier in the day and Tom Holland, the young British actor currently filling the Spidey suit, is holding court in a conference room at Pinewood Atlanta Studios on the outskirts of the Georgia capital. The enormous 285ha facility has become home to the phenomenally successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has produced 14 hit movies since it kicked off with Iron Man in 2008 and, with a combined box office total of $14.5 billion, is the most successful movie franchise of all time.

Without his bright red mask on, the fresh-faced Holland looks even younger than his 20 years.

Tom Holland will make his debut as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Picture: Chris Pizzello

Tom Holland will make his debut as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Picture: Chris PizzelloSource:AP

Yet he’s confident and at ease speaking about the role that’s his ticket to the big time in Spider-Man: Homecoming, in cinemas this July. Which is just as well — the other two actors to play Spider-Man in recent years, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, were both in their mid-20s when they took on the role. With this incarnation Marvel is trying to take the much-loved character back to his teenage comic book roots.

Director Jon Watts with actor Tom Holland and crew on the set of the upcoming Marvel movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. Picture: Chuck Zlotnick

Director Jon Watts with actor Tom Holland and crew on the set of the upcoming Marvel movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. Picture: Chuck ZlotnickSource:Supplied

“This is a movie about a kid,” says Holland. “We have seen superhero movies that are about the god, the soldier, the billionaire, the scientist — and now it’s time to see what a superhero movie looks like with a kid at the helm. The main difference is how young I am compared to Andrew and Tobey.”

Andrew Garfield in a scene from the 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man. Picture: Jaimie Trueblood

Andrew Garfield in a scene from the 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man. Picture: Jaimie TruebloodSource:News Limited

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man (2002), the first of three Spider-Man films he appeared in.

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man (2002), the first of three Spider-Man films he appeared in.Source:News Corp Australia

The fact that Holland is here at MCU central at all is something of a minor cinematic miracle. Although Spider-Man is a central character in the Marvel comic books, the cinema rights to the character are owned by Sony, meaning he’s never been able to team up with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the gang in the Disney-affiliated Avengers movies.

That meant that in Maguire’s three movies and Garfield’s two, Spider-Man, was flying solo.

But in an almost unprecedented act of cross-studio collaboration, a deal was struck by which the character could have a scene-stealing cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. And now Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man will return the favour with a substantial role in Homecoming.

Producer Kevin Feige, the guru responsible for pulling together all the complex threads of the MCU — and there are further 12 films in various stages of production — says it’s a natural fit that should please the many fans of both the movies and the comics.

Jon Watts, from left, director of Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Tom Holland and producers Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige at CinemaCon 2017 at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, on March 27. Picture: Chris Pizzello

Jon Watts, from left, director of Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Tom Holland and producers Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige at CinemaCon 2017 at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, on March 27. Picture: Chris PizzelloSource:AP

“He didn’t enter the comics in the 1960s into a world in which he was the only hero,” Feige says. “He entered a world in which the Avengers were there and Tony Stark was there and Captain America was there and it was the contrast of this young kid who had to be home for homework and had to be responsible for his Aunt May and it was so fun. And now for the first time we get to do that in a movie.”

For Holland, best known for his title role on the West End production of Billy Elliot as well as movie credits including The Impossible and In the Heart of the Sea, it’s literally a dream come true. He said in an interview five years ago that he wanted to play Spider-Man after Andrew Garfield — so even on his toughest day of hanging upside down on a wire in a skin-tight suit that takes him forever to put on, he’s well aware of just how blessed he is.

“It was a pipe dream,” he admits now. “Who would have thought they would go for a third version? It was Spider-Man and James Bond — they were the two I always wanted to be. The fact that one of them has come true just makes me realise I am the luckiest kid alive. To be here today, I am so honoured and privileged and I am just happy I have been given this opportunity.”

And how about 007, given that incumbent Bond Daniel Craig still hasn’t signed on the dotted line for more?

“Who knows?” Holland says with a laugh. “I haven’t had a call yet.”

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in a scene from Spider-Man: The Homecoming. Picture: Chuck Zlotnick

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in a scene from Spider-Man: The Homecoming. Picture: Chuck ZlotnickSource:Supplied

Later that afternoon, in another part of town, Robert Downey Jr is swaggering around a local Hindu temple, which is substituting for India. Extras and crew alike crane their necks to get a glimpse of the biggest dog in the MCU, whose three solo films, two Avengers movie and various guest appearances as Tony Stark/Iron Man have made him one of the highest paid actors in the world.

Oddly though, Downey says it was Spider-Man who had the biggest influence on him as a kid.

“Huge,” he affirms. “To me, that was the one. I liked the theme song. I liked the cartoons. I liked waiting for when the issues came out at the magazine shop and all that stuff. If you were born on planet Earth you know who Spider-Man is.”

After his three Iron Man movies — and no sign of a fourth — Downey is clearly revelling in his role as Marvel’s elder statesman. The father of three says that not having to carry a film on his own shoulders is “very conducive to having a family”.

But with decades of acting experience — not to mention a colourful personal life that included alcohol and substance abuse and stints in rehab and jail — behind him, he says has no inclination to give his young co-star advice on the highs and lows that await.

“I’m past the advice,” he says. “What you get is a bunch of middle-aged people giving you advice until you want to barf. I will find myself doing it … I remember when I was coming up, James Woods would be like, ‘Hey, sit down and let me tell you how this industry works’. And I just couldn’t believe I was hanging out with him.

“There is no amount of advice you can give to someone if they are just inherently rotten. He (Holland) is just a really good dude. He is super-talented but also an optimist and has really willed this into being for himself. He really had a dream and an intention to try to do something big and fun like this and he really went for it when he had the opportunity. I really like that.”

One-time Batman Michael Keaton (left), who plays the villainous Vulture in Homecoming, pictured with the film’s director Jon Watts (right). Picture: Chuck Zlotnick

One-time Batman Michael Keaton (left), who plays the villainous Vulture in Homecoming, pictured with the film’s director Jon Watts (right). Picture: Chuck ZlotnickSource:Supplied

The inclusion of Spider-Man, whose main foe in Homecoming will be Michael Keaton’s Vulture, is just one more ball for Feige to keep in the air in the ever-growing MCU. With the multidimensional Doctor Strange just out on DVD, the space-hopping Guardians of the Galaxy sequel due in cinemas next week and the gods and monsters of Thor: Ragnarok coming in October, surely the juggling of so many different characters and worlds is becoming a headache.

Not so, says Feige, hinting that there will be a convergence of sorts in the next two Avengers films, due next year and the year after.

“It gets more fun because I have always wanted to continue showcasing to people who don’t know the comics or don’t know the Marvel Universe as much, that these movies and these characters can go anywhere,” he says. “I love that the four movies that we have coming out now that you just named are completely different from one another.

“There are some little similarities between Guardians and Thor — some cosmic similarities — but really these are four unique movies. That’s what I love about the Marvel universe and about all those characters, they are so distinct and yet at the same time, once you see all four of those movies you’ll see that there is certainly, if not a tonal similarity, there is connective tissue throughout all of them.”

A poster for 2017 film Spider-Man: Homecoming.

A poster for 2017 film Spider-Man: Homecoming.Source:Supplied

With rival DC planning to expand its cinematic universe, and Fox’s future plans for X-Men and Deadpool movies, is there the possibility of superhero fatigue?

“People have been asking me that since 2003,” Feige says with a wry smile. “As long as they are good — and we can only control the ones we control — I don’t think people get tired of them.”

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING OPENS JULY 6