This is it! The rumor mill, which has been running almost non-stop for the past four and a half months, can finally close. Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment have found a new actor to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man and a director for the Web-Slinger’s next solo film. Tom Holland is your new Spider-Man and Jon Watts will direct the Spidey film due in theaters (and IMAX) July 28, 2017.
Holland was a fan favorite to land the coveted role for which the likes of Asa Butterfield and Charlie Rowe also auditioned. Holland, who handed in a powerful performance opposite Naomi Watts in THE IMPOSSIBLE and will be seen again in this year’s highly anticipated Ron Howard epic, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, bested his competition through “a series of complex screen tests.”
Those tests might well have included working opposite some notable Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, as reports had some of them taking place in Atlanta, where Marvel is currently shooting CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (and The Hollywood Reporter now says Holland tested with Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans on separate occasions). Sony Pictures Motion Pictures Group Chairman Tom Rothman noted the heavy competition and how Holland stood out, “For Spidey himself, we saw many terrific young actors, but Tom’s screen tests were special.”
Producer Amy Pascal shared Rothman’s enthusiasm, “S0ny, Marvel, Kevin and I all knew that for Peter Parker, we had to find a vibrant, talented young actor capable of embodying one of the most well-known characters in the world. With Tom, we’ve found the perfect actor to bring Spider-Man’s story into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
Holland’s name has been much more closely associated with Spider-Man in the past few months than Jon Watts. Previously, we’ve heard several names from Drew Goddard to Jonathan Levine, Ted Melfi, and more. Watts did not emerge as a known contender until Deadline reported the news three weeks ago.
While it seems like Watts has come out of nowhere (his biggest directorial credit to date is COP CAR, a 2015 Sundance favorite that won’t be released until August 7), Marvel Studios has been down this road before. Producer and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said, “As with James Gunn, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, we love finding new and exciting voices to bring these characters to life. We spent a lot of time with Jon and find his take and work inspiring.”
Sony is willing to follow Marvel’s lead (and track record) with Rothman noting, “It’s a big day here at Sony. Kevin, Amy and their teams have done an incredible job. The Marvel process is very thorough, and that’s why their results are so outstanding. I’m confident Spider-Man will be no exception. I’ve worked with a number of up-and-coming directors who have gone on to be superstars and believe that Jon is just such an outstanding talent.”
Rothman’s endorsement of the Marvel process is a nice sign of Sony’s willingness to trust in the studio that has time and again found the right combination of talent to bring its characters to life. That most fans are unfamiliar with Watts and his work matters little when viewed with a sense of recent history. Feige mentioned Gunn, Whedon, and the Russos as examples, but he could have also listed more names like Kenneth Branagh and Jon Favreau as seemingly unlikely superhero movie directors who made good on Marvel’s faith in them.
Many of us will probably be looking at COP CAR much more closely and maybe give Watts’ previous film from last year, CLOWN, a look. Feige, an important common denominator and collaborator in all of these directorial success stories, has mentioned the importance of Spider-Man’s wit being heard when he’s back on the silver screen. As a director for THE ONION NEWS NETWORK, Watts has experience with comedy.
If there are two words notably absent from Marvel’s announcement, they are “civil war.” There is no mention at all of Tom Holland appearing in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, though many believe that is where this new iteration of Spider-Man will make his MCU debut. The movie is currently filming in Atlanta, so it’s quite possible and long been rumored that the shooting schedule has been built to give Marvel and Sony enough time to conduct their search and have the actor in place for his scene(s) this summer.
The deal between Marvel and Sony states that Spider-Man will appear in a Marvel Studios film prior to the July 28, 2017 solo movie. Outside of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, the remaining options are DOCTOR STRANGE and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2. Toss out GOTG 2 right away and that leaves DOCTOR STRANGE, which begins principal photography in November. In the comics, Doctor Strange lives in New York, so it would not be out of the question for Spider-Man to show up, though the smart money is still on CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.
Regardless of when he appears, Marvel and Sony have found a very talented young actor to play their high school age version of Peter Parker and an up and coming director for Spider-Man. Neither has a massive body of work, but these are the kinds of decisions on which Marvel does not miss.