Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ team reboot a classic superhero movie franchise

July 7, 2017

by Carla Hay

Spider-Man Homecoming photo call
Michael Keaton, director Jon Watts, Tony Revolori, Zendaya, Tom Holland, Laura Harrier, Robert Downey Jr., producer Kevin Feige, Marisa Tomei, producer Amy Pascal and Jacob Batalon at the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man”: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey)

The “Spider-Man” movie franchise is now in its third incarnation. And when it comes incorporating other major characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the third time is the charm, because “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (directed by Jon Watts) is the first time that Marvel Studios has teamed up with Sony Pictures to bring other MCU characters such as Iron Man to a “Spider-Man” movie.

The “Spider-Man” franchise started with the original 2002 “Spider-Man” movie (starring Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging superhero), which spawned two sequels. In 2012, Andrew Garfield took over as Spider-Man (whose real identity is nerdy high-school student Peter Parker) for two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. Now, in 2017, Tom Holland stars as Spider-Man, a role that Holland also played in Marvel Studios’ 2016 blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War.”

In “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Spider-Man is being mentored by Iron Man/Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.), who often grows impatient with the over-eager Peter, who’s ready to rejoin the Avengers in their mission to fight crime worldwide. For now, Peter is stuck in high school in New York City’s Queens, where his social life revolves around his best friend, Ned Leeds (played by Jacob Batalon), and fellow members of the school’s debate team, which includes the sarcastic Michelle (played by Zendaya), competitive Flash Thompson (played by Tony Revolori) and “cool kid” Liz (played by Laura Harrier), who is Peter’s secret crush. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” also stars Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture (the movie’s chief villain) and Marisa Tomei as Peter Parker’s Aunt May.

At the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Holland, Downey, Keaton, Harrier, Batalon, Zendaya, Revolori, Watts and producers Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige (who is also president of Marvel Studios) gathered for a press conference. This is what they said.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

How excited are you to finally bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Feige: It was one of a handful of, “Well, this will never be possible but let’s dream about it moments” at Marvel studios … Having made the movie, it’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.

Pascal: It is incredible. It started with a lunch with me and Kevin, and I can’t believe we’re here now. It’s pretty exciting,

Director Jon Watts (far left) with cast and crew on the set of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Jon, the biggest challenge  was to not only make a fresh standalone movie but to make one that does fit into the MCU and does capture a unique tone that is delightful and hilarious. What were some of the challenges of capturing all those thins while staying true to the legacy of Spider-Man?

Watts: Well, I just tried to approach it as the biggest fan possible and the opportunity to finally put Spider-Man where he belongs in the Marvel universe, really just opened so many doors to all of the new kinds of stories we could tell. So if anything I felt like we were being as true as possible as anyone has ever been able to be about Spider-<an and how he fits into this world.

Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Tom, with great power comes great responsibility. What kind of responsibility did you feel playing a character that so many people love?

Holland: I think the thing that I had to remind myself most when I took on this character was that Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man had such a huge impact on me as a kid. He was my role model growing up; he was my favorite character. So I had to remind myself that I’m going to have that same impact on kids of the younger generation. So I really wanted to do them proud, and be a solid role model for them to make a young, fresh version of the character we know and love so well.

The question that Jon and I asked ourselves was, “If you gave a 15-year-old superpowers, he would have the time of his life. And when I made this movie, I had the time of my life, so it really comes across on screen.

Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Robert, you’re like the godfather of the MCU. How do you feel about the way the MCU has evolved but expanded to now include the likes of Spider-Man?

Downey: Well firstly, I’m stoked that they got my memo to design the screening room like an old Miami Dolphins jersey. So that worked out. But Amy and them had done these iterations of Spider-Man previous. They really should do one of those breakdown,  kind-of-boring-to-read-but-somewhat-important books about all the miracles that had to had to happen for us to be sitting here today … This turned out so well. It really comes down to, as Kevin says, “You’ve got to see the movie and love it. “This turned out so well. I saw it, I was in it for a little bit, but I loved it. I think that’s what’s exciting is that they’re still really working.

Michael Keaton in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Michael, the thing about Adrian Toomes/Vulture in this film is that his motives are grounded because he’s motivated by wanting to help his family. What were your impressions when you signed on to this film, in terms of Vulture’s motives?

Keaton: I thought it was inventive and an interesting way to go. I’m not really familiar with a lot of the lore, so for me, I was trying to catch up. I just thought the simplicity of making this person approachable, it’s timely. Let’s not talk about why it’s timely, ’cause I want to blow my brains out.

Downey: He’s only threatening his own life right now.

Keaton: I thought it was a really unique approach and kind of obvious to make this person approachable and has a legitimate gripe and a legitimate argument. I thought it was really well-written. It was a fun gig.

Marisa Tomei and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Marisa, it seems like a fun gig for you as well. What was your take on playing Aunt May as completely different from what we know about the character?

Tomei: I didn’t really know what Aunt May looked like until after I signed up. I couldn’t understand why my agents kept saying to me “They’re going to make her sexy.” “Ugh, stop trying to coddle me. Oh, in contrast of another way to go.” These guys had this vision of how it would be revamped and everyone was going to be younger and she’s his aunt by marriage, so she can be any age at all.

Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Jacob, how do you feel about people reacting so well to your Ned character and his friendship with Peter?

Batalon: I’m not going to lie. I knew this was going to happen. Tom and really enjoy each other, and the cast and I enjoy each other, so it was easy to translate that into what you saw. I love them. I love all of them so much. It’s easy to be around them, and it’s easy to make the best things with them.

Zendaya at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Zendaya, what was it like to make a big film like this one?

Zendaya: It was incredible. I’ve done a lot of things in my little career so far, but this is my first big movie, so I was terrified, but I suppressed it very well. It’s amazing to be here. I think all of us feel like it’s a bit of a dream. I don’t know when it’s going to feel real, but it definitely doesn’t feel real right now. I don’t mind living in this dream. I enjoy it here, so I think I’m going to keep doing it.

Downey: When the opening numbers come in, it gets real.

Laura Harrier and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Laura, why do you think out of all the superheroes, Spider-Man means the most to people?

Harrier: Because I think he’s the most relatable. We all know what it’s like to grow up and go to high school and go through growing pains and have awkward moments of talking to someone you have a crush on. It’s harder to connect with superheroes who are completely outside of our world, I think. Spider-Man is first and foremost Peter Parker, whom everyone can relate to.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Jon, Spider-Man’s costume is the most high-tech we’ve ever seen. What were the challenges of keeping true to the Spider-Man mythology while evolving things in a way that it makes sense for 2017?

Watts: I got kicked off rather nicely by what the Russo brothers did in “[Captain America:] Civil War.” They had this really great premise that Peter Parker is going to get plucked out of obscurity by Tony Stark, given this really high-tech suit, and then get taken on a crazy adventure, and then dropped back into his regular life without another thought. So, to me, the challenge was an opportunity. If Tony Stark built a Spider-Man suit, what could it do that would be so amazing? There’s a little bit of precedent in the comics with the Iron Spider suit that gets built, so we used that as inspiration for all the bells and whistles that Tony would put into this thing.

Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and director Jon Watts on the set of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Tom, can you talk about your experience going from the movie “The Impossible,” when most people first discovered you, to how you got to this place in your life?

Holland: I’ve been so lucky in my career. I felt like I’ve been in the right place at the right time at every turn. I’ve been so lucky I’ve got to work with I would consider the best of the best and learn from people. Every movie has been a different experience for me. I’ve been able to play different characters without having to go too far. Now I’ve now finding myself to go a little bit further. This job since day one has been a rollercoaster. It has never ceased to amaze me.It’s the job that keeps on giving.

The fact that I’m here with these guys promoting this movie is insane. Like Zendaya said, it does not feel real in any way possible. I read a comic yesterday that is based off my face. I mean, what the hell! Nothing has sunk in. Nothing has sunk in. It feels like I’m about to wake up and be very disappointed. But I’m very happy here, and I can’t wait for you guys to see the movie.

Laura Harrier, Tom Holland and director Jon Watts on the set of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Robert, when we we asked Tom and Jacob if they could take anything from the set, Tom said he would take your Audi and Jacob said he would take your watch. How do you feel about that and what would you take from the set?

Downey: I’m sorry, which Audi and which watch? You know why I think this works? There’s something about the initial breaking the story and the concept. Whatever the mood board was for this movie, with all those different tones, it was creatively inspired. It’s really an inspired re-invention.

And what I would take is that moment where the creatives actually broke this story and said, “That’s it.” If it’s executed correctly, that’s what you see on the screen. And that’s why I love movies. I’m a huge fan of movies, and I always wondered, “How did they figure it out to entertain me this well?” The mood board!

Michael Keaton, Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Robert and Michael, since you know what it’s like to star as superheroes in blockbuster movies, what advice would you give o the younger members of the cast on how to deal with all the media scrutiny and fan love that comes with being in these types of films?

Downey: Every day you wake up, everybody’s even. All of this status or experience is all kind of a projection … It really comes down to, “Does [the director] like us? Does he think we know what we’re doing?” It’s all about having your feet on the ground, and realizing that you always start at zero MPH every day.

Keaton: I don’t have anything to say [to the younger cast members]. I’m listening to what these people are saying, and so far it’s impressive. Let’s keep an eye on them, but so far, they sound like pretty sane folks.

Zendaya, Tony Revolori, director Jon Watts and panel moderator Scott Mantz at the New York City press conference for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix for SPE)

Tony, what was it like to work on this movie with a character that is so well-known to fans around the world? And can you compare it to working on a movie like Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”?

Revolori: It’s wonderful working with someone like Wes. He’s amazing and fantastic. But working on a project like [“Spider-Man: Homecoming”] is on a different level because you have so many fans and so many people who work so hard and put so much effort into it, you can’t help but want to do a good job. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it with a great cast. Thank you to Jon, Amy and Kevin for casting a 5’8″ brown guy to play a 6’2″ blonde, blue-eyed guy. Thank you.

Tony, how does it feel to represent the Latino community in this comic-book franchise?

Revolori: It’s wonderful. I think when you see the film, there’s not a single line of exposition to explain why I look the way I look. I think that’s wonderful. I just am in the movie. It’s not about being a certain race or doing anything. That’s the kind of diversity we need in Hollywood right now.

Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Michael Keaton, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, director Jon Watts and  panel moderator Scott Mantz at the New York City press conference for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix for SPE)

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has one of the most racially diverse casts in a superhero movie. What was the inspiration for having such diversity?

Pascal: The inspiration was reality.

Downey: Our last resort!

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Tom and Jon, what challenges would you like to see Spider-Man overcome in any future MCU movies?

Holland: I’m still getting over the first one.

Watts: I honestly try to think about this stuff one movie at a time, but I do feel like now that Spider-Man is part of this big, crazy universe, we can definitely tell some new stories, that’s for sure.

Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Steve Cohn/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Tom and Robert, how would you say Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s relationship with Tony Stark/Iron Man has evolved since “Captain America: Civil War”?

Holland: I think the relationship between the two of us is more important from [Iron Man’s] point of view because he suddenly has someone to think about other than Tony Stark. He really cares about Peter, and one of the reasons why he doesn’t want Peter to become an Avenger is because he really doesn’t want the responsibility of something happening to Peter on his conscience. It’s a nice back-and-forth of [Spider-Man] saying, “Look, I’m powerful enough to be an Avenger,” and [Iron Man] saying, “But you’re not ready to be an Avenger.” It’s like a big brother/little brother. dad/son type of situation.

Tom Holland (second from left) at a Sony Square NYC fan event for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in New York City (Photo by Marion Curtis/Starpix)

What do you hope teenagers will learn from watching “Spider-Man: Homecomng”?

Batalon: Our message is that you don’t have to be the jock, you don’t have to be the cool person in high school to be yourself. The coolest version of yourself is yourself. We’re nerds, and we love to be smart, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself.

Harrier: You don’t have to apologize for who you are. Everyone in this movie is so different, but genuinely themselves, especially Zendaya’s [Michelle] character, who is very different but not ashamed of it. If teenagers could take that away, it would be great.

Zendaya in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Zendaya, how much was your portrayal of Michelle inspired by Ally Sheedy’s character in “The Breakfast Club”?

Zendaya: Definitely inspired. I didn’t know what kind of character I was playing until I showed up. Everything is kind of top-secret. So I read the script, and I was like, “Okay, she’s interesting.This is going to be fun.” Then i met with Jon, and he had so many different references, and [Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club”] was definitely one of them.

Just kind of making that distinct character, making somebody that I think is different, and embracing the weird. Like what we were talking about: Young people, it’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be exactly who you are. I love that [Michelle] is outspoken, I love that she says what everybody’s thinking, but she just doesn’t care. I think a lot of young people should have that a little bit more. It was fun playing that dry version of myself.

Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon ((center) at a “Spider-Man: Homecoming” fan event in Singapore. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images for Sony Pictures)

Who was the biggest clown off set?

Holland: Jacob.

Batalon: I don’t think this is a good interview right now.

Holland: The amazing thing about Jacob is that he wrapped on the movie, he finished filming his part in the film, and he just moved in with me. It’s like, “Jacob, go home!” He lived with me and my best mate for six weeks.

Batalon: You’re talking as if you didn’t want me there.

Holland: We did want you there. [He says jokingly] And then we fell in love.

Batalon: It’s been great ever since. Don’t worry about it.

Executive producer Louis D’Esposito, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland and producer/Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Robert, how does it feel playing Tony Stark as the connective tissue across so many Marvel films?

Downey: What happens is that things are presented to me that are really well-thought-out by folks who have been doing this correctly for a really long time. And I just go “check,” and then I attempt to take the credit at press conferences. [He says jokingly] I’m holding this whole thing together. It’s obvious!

Logan Marshall-Green and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Tom, how did you gymnastic and dance background help you in doing your stunts?

Holland: You can’t really master hanging upside down. It’s not something I really prepared for. But my dancing and gymnastic background was so helpful to the project because we were able to do things as Peter Parker that they probably hadn’t been able to do in the past. But with that said, sometime they would over-estimate my skill set. Jon would be like, “Can you back-flip off of that wall and land on that beam?” I’m like, “No, Jon. I can’t do that. I’m not that good, dude.”

Watts: You forget that you’re not actually Spider-Man sometimes.

Michael Keaton, Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. at the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey)

Robert, did it feel like you were passing the torch to Tom Holland? And how long do you think you’ll keep doing Marvel movies?

Downey: I’ve been semi-retired since “Iron Man” opened in its first weekend. Speaking for myself, good things happen, and then you get inflated and you think, “Oh my God, I’ve created everything that’s going my way.” And then things happen, where you’re like, “Okay, there’s a little evidence to the contrary.” At this point, you go back and say, “It’s nice to be on this call sheet.” So as you can see, I’ve changed dramatically, and I’m an extremely humble individual.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Can you consider doing more “Spider-Man” movie scenes on location in Queens?

Watts: As much Queens as possible. For sure.

Keaton: In terms of getting action in Queens … Robert, you and I have gotten action in Queens in 2001, I think.

Downey: Yeah, we kept a flat there for a while. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Michael, you’ve played both the hero (Batman} and a villain (Vulture) in a superhero movie. Which one do you prefer?

Keaton: They’re both fun. I think actors tend to drawn to villainous characters. It’s a cliche, but it tends to be often true that you want to delve into the dark side. It gets interesting. The reality is the lead [actor] or hero by very nature of the piece has to be not one-dimensional but has to represent a thing very strongly, whereas the supporting characters are more dimensional, without going into bullshit actor talk. It tends to be true.

Most of us have had experiences where you’re playing one role, and you’re looking at some of those minor roles, and you think, “Oh, man, I’d like to have a bite of that,” because it’s just so much fun. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to play a lot of different things: little tiny parts, big parts. They’re both fun. They’re both different. It’s more iconic, and you make a hell of a lot more dough being the big lead guy, but they’re both fun.