Back in 2015, superhero fans were surprised and delighted when it was announced that Marvel Studios and Sony had reached a historic agreement to share the rights to Spider-Man. But what fans probably couldn’t have predicted was that the studios would find such a perfect Spider-Man actor in Tom Holland. Holland has received acclaim for his performance as Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter-ego since his first appearance, leading one to assume he was a shoo-in for the role. But Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo recently explained that Marvel Studios initially faced resistance from Sony when attempting to cast Holland.
Joe and Anthony Russo would be the first Marvel directors to work with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, as the character made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. With this, they had a major hand in the casting process and were impressed with Holland’s audition. But as Joe Russo explained, Sony had reservations after even Marvel's Kevin Feige expressed excitement about casting the young actor:
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.
At the time, the Russo Brothers had more than proven themselves as major talents in the movie business. Captain America: The Winter Soldier had been incredibly well received, and Sony was well aware of both their talents. Joe Russo further told British GQ that Sony still had doubts, though, which stemmed from the massive amount of money that was on the table when it came to the Spider-Man IP:
Look, we have a great relationship with Kevin. Winter Soldier was a big hit, doubling the box office from the previous film, then coming into Civil War Sony is looking at us going, ‘OK, so you guys have the Midas touch, here’s our [Spider-Man] IP.’ But, also, they were reticent, nervous, about handing off something that could ultimately cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars down the line… 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?
Money wasn’t the only thing on Sony’s mind, however. Anthony Russo chimed in and mentioned that Sony was hesitant to cast such a young actor to play the iconic hero:
It was the first time Spider-Man had ever been cast as an actual teenager, right? Which was very important to us; there was a distinct nervousness of casting a kid.
Tom Holland is quite different from his Spider-Man predecessors, as he was relatively young when he landed the role. Thankfully, his youthful energy actually played to his and Sony and Marvel’s benefit. Critics and fans have since viewed it as a positive aspect of his portrayal. Holland’s boyish charm has become so embedded in his character that producer Amy Pascal even had to remind him to “walk like a boy” and not a man while shooting Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Given his performances over the years, it’s still hard to believe Tom Holland nearly didn’t land the role of Spider-Man. It’s just great that we can now look back on all of this knowing he has more than succeeded in playing the character.
It’ll be exciting to see more of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker when Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on December 17, 2021.