Ever since audiences caught a glimpse of Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, the anticipation for Spidey's standalone film, Spiderman: Homecoming, has skyrocketed. While audiences have already seen two iterations of the web-slinger in recent years (see: Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield), there's something different about this new version. Played by 20-year-old Brit Tom Holland, the web-slinging vigilante appears to be worlds apart from previous iterations, in age and in so many other ways. But beyond the hero himself, the film's uniquely diverse cast, uncharted villain (Michael Keaton as The Vulture), and Avengers (like Tony Stark, for one) involvement, promise that Homecoming will be something special. (I mean, did you see that Comic-Con footage?)
When I visited the film's Atlanta set, on day 46 of 74, the cast and crew sat down with myself and a group of reporters to talk about this new rendition of our favorite neighborhood web-head. Though the filmmakers kept certain things close to their chest (like who Donald Glover is really playing or how much potential those persistent Zendaya-Mary Jane theories have), they divulged more than a few secrets about the Marvel creation, due in theaters July 6.
1. Spider-Man Isn't Super, He's Awkward
In Comic Book movie landscape that boasts the sleek Iron Man, brooding Batman, and swoon-worthy Superman, Holland's Spider-Man is very clearly a different breed of super. He's dealing with the hardships of juggling a secret vigilante life while growing into adulthood. He's clumsy (as we saw in Captain America: Civil War), he's awkward, and he's less streamlined. As Eric Hauserman Carroll, a co-producer on the film revealed in the war room on set, Spidey isn't sexy. He's an awkward kid going through puberty. In fact, the first iteration of his spandex suit isn't like versions we've seen in the past. In fact, it's kind of clunky.
"The other [Marvel] movies have shown the penthouse level of the Marvel world, like, what it’s like to be Thor, to be Iron Man — a billionaire playboy and all that stuff," director Jon Watts explains. "But what’s great about Spider-Man is that he’s a regular kid, and so by showing his story you also get to show what the ground level is like in a world where the Avengers exist."
2. Peter Parker Is Truly A Kid
It warrants mentioning that Homecoming marks the youngest iteration of Parker we've seen on the big screen to date. And because of Spidey's age, his motivations are inherently different. Yes, he wants to be a good guy and save the world alongside Iron Man, but he also wants to have fun with his powers — like most 15-year-old boys would.
"One of the most important themes of the movie is: What would a 15-year-old boy do with superpowers?" posits Holland. "It’s almost like he went to summer camp [in Civil War] and now he’s back at school again. It’s this kid who goes on this adventure with Iron Man and all of the Avengers and then all of a sudden, he’s stuck on the subway going back to school."
3. Aunt May Is More Of A Big Sister
In most iterations of Spider-Man, Aunt May is an older, overprotective grandmother figure. But that familiar characterization couldn't be farther from Homecoming's interpretation. Now, May (Marisa Tomei) is "more of a big sister," according to Carroll. In one scene, May even drives Peter to a party that he has no interest in attending, hoping to push him out of his comfort zone. It's official: Tomei's May isn't a regular aunt, she's a cool aunt.
4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off Inspired A Scene
According to Carroll, there is a "Ferris Bueller-inspired chase scene through the neighborhood." So, something like the clip above? Please?
5. Homecoming Is Pretty Close To Civil War
According to Carroll, Homecoming begins a few months after Civil War ends, which means Parker is still high off his big battle with the Avengers when we see him next. Carroll also revealed that Parker will be beginning his sophomore year in high school at the start of the film. This means...
6. ...There Will Be "Multiple" Spider-Man Movies Set In High School
"High school is a big aspect," Carroll says of Spidey's world, revealing that he hopes there will be several films featuring the web-slinger set in high school. "In the (Sam) Raimi one, he’s only in high school for like 10 minutes," Watts says. "But I wanted to make a high school movie, so the opportunity to do it with Spider-Man was pretty exciting."
Assuming Spider-Man doesn't get held back a grade, and this film takes place during his sophomore year, one movie a year would mean... well, you can do the math. "I see him sort of graduating towards the last movie," Holland says.
7. The Film Won't Show Uncle Ben's Death
I, for one, am so sick of seeing poor, sweet Uncle Ben die on screen over and over again. Huge props to this film for avoiding this moment all together. According to Carroll, the film may allude to Ben's death, but it certainly won't show it on screen. Amen.
8. Michael Keaton's Vulture Is Like Tony Soprano
"He doesn't think he's bad. He doesn't want to take over the world," Carroll says of Spider-Man's nemesis, noting that his goals are less obviously villainous than audiences might expect. Vulture, according to the co-producer, is a "business man with a family," and "has a Tony Soprano mentality." Sounds pretty scary to me.
9. Homecoming Will Be Missing Some Spidey Hallmarks
There's no denying that Spider-Man has had his fair share of iterations over the past decade or so. Because of this, when Marvel decided to reboot the teen web-head's adventures, it was important that their version cover entirely new ground. According to Carroll, "our goal was not to see what's already been seen." Yep, that means no Oscorp or Daily Bugle.
10. Peter Parker Is An Amy Poehler Fan
Found in the living room of his Queens apartment are many markers of pop culture, one of which is a book by Amy Poehler. "He's current," Carroll says, "but geeky." (And he has great taste, if I do say so myself.)
11. Spidey's Suit Is Suped-Up
Unlike the suit we see hiding on Parker's ceiling at the beginning of Civil War, Parker's red-and-blue digs (courtesy of one Tony Stark) feature a bevy of modern luxuries. Some of which include, according to Carroll: "a heater, lights, surveillance data, airbags, taser-webs, and mutli-web shooters..." Hot damn, Spider-Man.
12. Tom Holland Went Undercover At A Real High School In The Bronx
Because Holland had never been to a "real" school, the director required the UK native to go undercover in a high school for a few days to get the feeling of what it's like.
"I sent him to the Bronx High School of Science, because that’s the kind of school that Peter Parker would go to. He was so blown away by how hard the kids worked, how smart everyone was, and the thing he remarked on was just everyone was exhausted, and that’s what I remember from high school," says Watts.
And for Holland, the experience was eye-opening. "I had a fake name and put on an accent. I am in no way a science student, and some of the teachers would call me up in front of the class and try and get me to do equations and stuff. It was so embarrassing," he says. "But it was actually really, really informative, because schools in London are so different. I would go to school every day in a suit and tie, it was just boys, and to be in a school where you can be free and let loose and be with girls was so different."
And somehow Spidey stayed undercover the whole time. "No one knew. I actually have videos on my phone of me interviewing people and asking them what they thought of the new Spider-Man in Civil War and they were like, 'Oh he’s great, I love him,' and some people are like, 'Nah, I don’t love him,' and I was like standing right in front of them."
13. The Producers Loved Zendaya, But Had No Idea Who She Was
"I'll tell you something really embarrassing," producer Amy Pascal says. "When Kevin [Feige] and I looked at [Zendaya's] screen test, we didn’t know who she was. There was this girl — she was the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen. She was so smart, and sassy, and poised, and she had no makeup on... We’re like, 'She’s the one,' and [casting] was like, 'She’s really famous.'"
Despite initially having no idea who the starlet was, Pascal admits: "She’s been blowing us away every day."
Zendaya plays Michelle, Peter's bookish classmate and close-friend. "Michelle is a very interesting character," Holland says of his on-screen schoolmate. "She’s very quiet, always reading these crazy books like How To, I don’t know, like, How To Murder Someone Without No One Knowing."
OK, this girl sounds awesome.
14. The Haters Don't Bother Zendaya
There has been speculation that Michelle's character will later be revealed to have the initials MJ, meaning Michelle could be Michelle J. Watson. And as any Spider-Man fan knows, MJ is one of Peter Parker's biggest love interests. Though this theory may or may not be right, it has inspired some racist reactions from some who claim that MJ, who has previously only been depicted as white, could not be played by Zendaya. But according to Holland, the actor never lets the haters bother her.
"Z is so powerful and so strong-willed that it’s not going to shake her at all," he says. "She has such a large following on Instagram, and the majority of those people all love her. I feel like our generation is moving past this whole [idea] that you can’t cast someone who’s not of the right race for a character, and I really think we’re breaking through and changing that, and Z is perfect for it."
15. Fans Can Influence What Happens On-Screen
When a major property like Spider-Man goes into production, super fans are thrown into a tizzy. Any drip of information from set can start a bevy of theories. And while Watts says those theories are "usually wrong," sometimes fans can actually inspire changes to the script.
"Every once in awhile someone will have this crazy theory or a weird idea and then you’re like, 'Oh, that’s pretty cool, can we do that? Is it too late? Can we figure out a way to write that in?'"
Did you hear that, Tumblr?
16. Tom Holland Auditioned With A Scene From Whiplash
Though he has a tough time pinpointing exactly what the audition process was like — it was a long time ago, after all, and he was trying not to get his hopes up — Holland recalls using a scene from the Oscar-nominated flick Whiplash. ("One of the scenes between Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons," he says.)
17. Holland Lost Web Privileges On Set
There is a very cool prop — liquid webbing — that will be showcased in Spiderman: Homecoming. Unfortunately — Holland wasn't trusted with it beyond Day 1.
"As soon as they gave it to me I dropped it and it smashed everywhere. It’s literally Day 1," he says. "It was this clear liquid and then I poured this yellow liquid into it, then mixed it, and it would go fluorescent white. I was like 'Oh this is the coolest thing ever,' and just smashed it everywhere. So, they immediately took it off me and I wasn’t allowed to play with it."
18. Tony Stark Is A Father Figure To Peter
Stark is a lot of things — billionaire playboy, tech genius, a sassy one-liner machine — but a father he is not. But when Iron Man takes young Peter under his wing, he becomes a surrogate father of sorts.
"I think we’re seeing the beginning of a sort of father-son relationship. Obviously, Tony hasn’t got any kids and Peter at this point hasn’t got any male figures in his life, so I think there’s a really lovely dynamic that Robert and I are forming," Holland says. "He picks on him, but then there is that level of him caring about him like his own, and Robert has really brought something lovely to the character — a very different side to Stark than we’ve seen before."
19. Michael Keaton Was Tough To Nail Down
"Any convincing? Are you joking? Any convincing?" Pascal says when asked if Keaton took any convincing to play the part of The Vulture. "He was the person that we wanted from the time that we knew we were doing this character, and he took until from the time that we decided it, from the time we closed the deal with him." Well dang, I can't wait to see what his oh-so-sought-after interpretation has in store.
20. The Vulture Plan Reflects Real-Life Inequity In America
Adrian Toomes, otherwise known as villainous Vulture, is a man who lives off the scraps of others — specifically, the Avengers. After the ultra-wealthy Avengers make a big mess of New York City during a shoot-out, Toomes is there sorting through the rubble. He's a scavenger looking to feed his family.
"The Vulture’s plan is so rooted in the fallout," Keaton says. "I’m sympathetic, empathetic, and curious about what’s going on in the world. We know there’s a clear gap in fairness, in equity in a lot of ways: economically, racially... there just is."
While Keaton danced around describing any real plot-points, he did say that he anticipates certain audience members to make connections with Vulture's arc and the current political climate. "I’m sure it will get mentioned, given when the movie comes out, given what’s going on," he says. "I’m willing to be representative."
21. Homecoming Offers A Very Different New York City
As the film's production designer, Oliver Scholl, explains, the New York City we'll see in Homecoming is worlds away from what audiences are used to.
"If you think of New York, you always think of Manhattan, so it’s a very conscious tonal choice to say he is not in Manhattan," Scholl says.
Peter, of course, lives in Queens. "Manhattan is always across the river, it’s where he aspires to be. That’s where the Avengers' tower is — across the river looming in the sunset. But he’s not there yet."
With all of this new information, I can hardly for July 6.