Actor Tom Holland tackles the most mature role of his career yet in the upcoming Apple TV Plus film “Cherry.” Teaming back up with Anthony and Joe Russo, better known as The Russo Brothers, the 24-year-old did a lot of research and wanted to bring awareness to a problem plaguing our communities.
With upcoming roles in not just in “Cherry,” the British star is also currently filming the still-untitled “Spider-Man” sequel from director Jon Watts. Holland opens up about preparing for his role as a soldier turned drug addict and then turned bank robber, along with what we can expect from the new superhero movie next year, which he calls “the most ambitious standalone superhero movie ever made.” Finally, he touches upon getting an itch for directing and how his dream role is to play James Bond and work with Maggie Smith. Listen to the podcast below!
Also in this episode, Variety’s features editor Jenelle Riley sits down with Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike about her new film, “I Care A Lot” from Netflix, for which the Golden Globes just nominated her in best actress in a comedy.
Lastly, the panel discusses all the surprises and snubs by the Golden Globes, what it means to the awards season’s future, and what the telecast could look like with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting from two separate coasts.
Why did you choose “Cherry” for your first project following the MCU films?
Tom Holland: I don’t really know why now. I would have accepted this job; whoever it was, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And I got to work with the Russos [Anthony and Joe] again. People that I really respect and I look up to and admire their work. The subject matter is really important. I think we’re doing a service to society by shining the light on a problem that is happening on everybody’s doorstep, which is substance abuse, overmedicating people, and not treating PTSD in the correct way. And also, it was a challenge. I love a challenge. I love pushing myself. Hard work is good work. So it was a bit of a no-brainer, this film, and I can’t imagine there was any way in which I would have turned it down and walked away.
As a former child actor, was there a particular film that really inspired you to get into this business?
Holland: That’s a good question. There are definitely films that I’ve watched as a young kid where I’ve gone “Wow, I would love to be able to play a character like that.” I was 11 when I first went on stage for “Billy Elliot,” and I was too young to think about the future of my career. I never decided to become an actor. It’s just something that happened to my life. It happened to me, and I just never stopped. I was just really lucky that I was able to continue doing it for as long as I have been doing it. Working with Naomi Watts on “The Impossible” was the time where I realized that this was something that I could do for a living. The first time I was like, “Oh, wow, I could actually maybe be an actor.”
Is there a film or performance that’s your favorite of all-time?
Holland: “Primal Fear” for me is one of my all-time favorite performances from Edward Norton. I think he is just picture-perfect, and there is not anything about his performance that you could tweak to make it better. So that’s a film I’ve to continue to learn from.
What was it like working with your co-star Ciara Bravo on “Cherry?”
Holland: Let me start by saying what a pleasure it was to work with her and get to know her. She’s an amazing actress, and the film wouldn’t be half the film without the performance that she gives. I remember I wasn’t at all involved in the casting process of Emily’s character. And I remember The Russos sent me Ciara’s audition tape two or three months before we started production. And for the first time in my career, I was so intimidated. I saw her tape, and I was like, “Oh, she’s like, too good,” and I need to do more work, because she’s going to act me off the screen, and no one’s going to want to follow my character. I thought the Russos were going to be like, “fuck you, Tom Holland, we’re rewriting the film with her now.”
I was so intimidated, and we were so lucky that she was so confident. You can only imagine she’s a young actress. She’s working with the two biggest directors, arguably of all time at the moment, and, and she’s working on this really difficult film with the tricky subject matter. She was so confident, brave, talented, and unselfish in the way that she went about making the film.
How did you prepare your unnamed character in “Cherry” in terms of meeting with addicts or veterans?
Holland: We did quite a lot of research. We spent a lot of time at the VA in Cleveland, and we were interviewing veterans who were suffering from PTSD and substance abuse and trying to seek help. It was an amazing process because it really showed me that therapy works. That these men and women were healing, and they were getting better. We met people at the beginning of their treatment, and they were really closed off, and they weren’t quite comfortable enough to share the stories.
We had people in the middle of their treatment who were getting to that stage where they were willing to open up. So some of them didn’t want to open up to a 24-year-old actor making a movie. Then the people at the end of their treatment who have made peace with their decisions and their mistakes were able to own it. They would tell us the stories and almost tell them proudly. I think one of the big problems in our society is that if you say to someone, “I’m going to rehab,” immediately the reaction is like, “Oh my god, that must mean that you’re really messed up.”
But what the reaction should be is, “Congratulations…that’s amazing. I’m really proud of you that you’re seeking help and that you’ve recognized that you’re in trouble.” I’m hoping that this film can do that for some people. And that, we can maybe stop some kids from falling into this trap of addiction in the future.
After working so much with The Russo Brothers, are you getting an itch to direct in the future?
Holland: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been trying to scratch that itch for a really long time. And my younger brother Harry and I have been writing a script together. We managed to acquire the rights to a book series that we loved as kids. So we’ve been sort of chipping away at that. I now have so much more respect for writers because it’s so difficult, man. I mean, trying to put something on the page is really, really quite difficult. I’d love to direct one day. We’re not rushing anything because I think the project we’re working on is amazing and can be quite powerful. So we want to make sure we get it right. But hopefully, within the next five years, you’ll see Harry and I sitting in the director’s chairs shouting action.
Can you tell us anything about the upcoming “Spider-Man” movie that you’re filming?
Holland: Obviously, I can’t really say anything.
You can tell us what happens at the end, right?
Holland: [pauses] What’s funny is like, I nearly told you then. You were so close to getting what you want.
I can say that it’s the most ambitious standalone superhero movie ever made. You sit down, read the script, and see what they’re trying to do, and they’re succeeding. It’s really impressive. I’ve never seen a standalone superhero movie quite like it. And I’m just, you know, again, that lucky little shit who happens to be Spider-Man in it. We got a lot more shooting to do. We started before Christmas and shot for like seven weeks. We stopped for the Christmas break, and then we’re starting again. I’m just as excited as everyone else to see it, let alone be a part of it.
What’s a role from a book or a series that you would really like to play?
Holland: I’ve got two roles coming up that I’m playing in the next few years that I’m really excited about, but I can’t talk about them yet. But I mean, ultimately, as a young British lad who loves cinema, I’d love to be James Bond. So, you know, I’m just putting that out there. I look pretty good in a suit.
What actress are you dying to work but haven’t as of yet?
Holland: I really want to work with Maggie Smith. I love her. She’s so like English and just seems so sweet. I’d really love to work with Maggie Smith.
You’re eying the “Downton Abbey” universe now I see.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.