According to Captain America: Civil War co-director Joe Russo, newcomer Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man in the blockbuster ensemble, is downright invaluable. And this became quite apparent during the young actor's first screen tests. While there were plenty of worthy participants auditioning for the highly coveted role of Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was Holland who proved to have the upper hand in a big way.
Tom Holland, who is now 19 years-old, had to engage in screen tests with Captain America: Civil War's two leading men, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. According to Evans, Tom Holland stood out immediately. Then the actor did something that almost instantly won him the role. The man who plays Captain America had this to say to Entertainment Weekly.
"Kids came in and put on these really ridiculous Spider-Man pajamas. As the scene opens, [the script] says 'Spider-Man flips in and lands.' And Tom was really like, 'Should I do that?'"
Tom Holland is actually a very skilled gymnast, and has proven his worth in several viral videos posted on his personal Instagram page that show him doing several difficult backflips. Holland was ready and willing to do a backflip into the scene right there. But the executives that were on hand started to panic about the dangers of allowing the actor to do a handspring on their set. Says Evans.
"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!'And he did it - and stuck it! Like... he bummed me out."
Joe Russo was immediately impressed. And knew this would be a great skill for his young actor to have. He says this about hiring Tom Holland based on his gymnastic skills.
"As important as it is to capture the essence of the character on an emotional level, there's an incredible physicality to these characters. 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. That's why everybody goes, 'Well, yeah, we have to see that,' 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."
Joe's co-directing brother Anthony completely agrees with this assessment. He, too, believed it was important to have a young actor who was just as agile as the real Peter Parker. About the kid's skill-set, he says this.
"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. And it can change your whole performance. And the person you're playing opposite."
Robert Downey Jr. was also impressed with Tom Holland's willingness to go that extra mile. The audition quite literally left him breathless. Downey even took it upon himself to become the young actor's coach, helping him through the Civil War shoot behind the scenes. Joe Russo says this about the Iron Man and Spider-man scene in the movie.
"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. I remember Anthony and I kind of looked at each other and just stepped back and watched Robert in essence create...Help Tom create a very star-making performance in that scene just by working through the logic with him, moving him around the room. 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."
Everyone involved with this particular scene knew it was very important to get right, And they all worked together to ensure that it was perfect. Now, in hindsight, fans are raving about Tom Holland's performance as Spider-man as Marvel's Civil War heads towards its first high grossing weekend. Peter Parker returns in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.