[The following interview contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.]
When Tom Holland returned to the set of Uncharted in July 2020 after a COVID-19 hiatus, he brought with him 16 to 18 pounds of new muscle in order to play a young Nathan “Nate” Drake. Holland also learned flair bartending since his version of Nate has yet to become the famed treasure hunter from the Uncharted video game series. Oddly enough, Ruben Fleischer’s film borrows quite a bit from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which Holland happened to play during his downtime on the set of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Eventually, Sony film boss Tom Rothman suggested the idea of Holland playing Drake, as the two parties wanted to build on their wildly successful Spider-Man collaboration. And from July 2020 to late 2021, the two Sony properties were interlinked as Holland fulfilled a rigorous production schedule that included back-to-back shoots of Uncharted and Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well as additional photography for both projects.
When Holland showed up to the Spider-Man: No Way Home set in October 2020, producer Amy Pascal immediately noticed his transformation as Drake.
“Interestingly, I felt the difference more so going back to Peter,” Holland tells The Hollywood Reporter. “When we finished shooting Uncharted, I went straight from Barcelona to Atlanta to start shooting [Spider-Man: No Way Home], and I do remember [producer] Amy Pascal asking me why I was walking like a man. And she was like, ‘You don’t look the same. You’re not walking the same. There’s just something different about you.’ So with Nathan Drake, his physicality is very, very different to that of Peter Parker, and it took me a while to shape that kind of side of him.”
Holland’s hard work has already paid off, as Spider-Man: No Way Home currently ranks as the sixth biggest film of all time. Audiences around the world just couldn’t pass up the chance to see Holland’s Spider-Man/Peter Parker come face to face with his predecessors, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Holland was so moved by his fellow actors’ presence that he thanked them both profusely on set, and the No Way Home brain trust of director Jon Watts, Pascal and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers knew they had to include a similar moment in the film.
Holland shares: “I said to [Maguire and Garfield], ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this. Thank you for being here. Thank you for elevating Spider-Man in the ways that you have. Thank you for being so gracious and allowing me to share this with you. Thank you for taking a leap of faith and coming back.’ Tobey hadn’t acted in nearly 10 years, so we all embraced each other, and we were all crying because it meant so much to us. And Jon Watts, Amy Pascal and the writers saw this moment between the three of us and were like, ‘Brilliant! Well, now we know how they’re going to say goodbye to each other.’ So essentially, we just reshot that very real moment between the three of us.”
The opportunity to work with Garfield also meant that Holland could square a lingering regret.
“Something I can look back on now with a little bit of clarity and regret is that I never called [Garfield] when I took over as Spider-Man,” Holland admits. “Had someone said to me after my second movie that I was done and this other kid was taking over, I would’ve been heartbroken. So looking back, I wish I had the chance to make amends with him, but this film was our opportunity. It was not only an opportunity for him to make peace with the character and the studio, but it was also an opportunity for me and him to have this moment where we realize we could share this thing. The look on his face when he saves Zendaya [MJ] is totally genuine, and I’m really proud of him.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Holland also explains the challenge of playing “the cool guy” for the very first time in Uncharted. Then he reflects on his No Way Home scene with Charlie Cox.
So Uncharted draws on some elements from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and you just so happened to play that game in your Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, right?
I did, yeah! While we were shooting Spider-Man: Homecoming, [Holland’s best friend] Harrison [Osterfield] and I played Uncharted 4, and we loved the game. I remember thinking at the time, “Wow, this would make a really great film,” but I never could’ve imagined that I’d be playing Nathan Drake.
Since Nate is a bartender, you actually trained to be a bartender at Chiltern Firehouse in London. Did you focus mostly on making negronis since there’s a moment involving that drink?
No, actually. I was mainly focused on just learning some really cool flair tricks. I wanted the flair bartenders out there to really understand that I put in the work and learned these cool tricks. So for me, it was mainly just flipping bottles, catching them and all that sort of stuff.
[Writer’s Note: I’m already dreaming of a legacy sequel to 1988’s Cocktail, starring Holland and Tom Cruise.]
You’re always in good shape as Peter Parker, but you really bulked up to play Nate Drake. What prompted the move besides seeing yourself next to Mark Wahlberg?
(Laughs.) To be honest, mate, it was all that. We were about to start shooting the film [on March 16, 2020], and I realized that Mark was so much bigger than me. And then we shut down because of COVID; we had a five-month hiatus. And in that hiatus, I did nothing but train and train and train and train. So I’m glad I did because I think it would have looked slightly odd. I would have looked like one of his biceps.
Nate doesn’t have superpowers, so he moves in a very different way than we’re used to seeing you onscreen. Could your body also feel the difference after playing Peter for so long?
Yeah, absolutely, but interestingly, I felt the difference more so going back to Peter. When we finished shooting Uncharted, I went straight from Barcelona to Atlanta to start shooting [Spider-Man: No Way Home], and I do remember Amy Pascal asking me why I was walking like a man. And I was sort of confused; I was like, “What are you talking about?” And she was like, “You don’t look the same. You’re not walking the same. There’s just something different about you.” So with Nathan Drake, his physicality is very, very different to that of Peter Parker, and it took me a while to shape that kind of side of him.
Since Spider-Man tends to be lean, limber and agile, was Nate’s size a hindrance to playing that character? In other words, did you have to cut weight as soon as you got to Atlanta?
Yeah, as soon as I got to Atlanta, we started a pretty intense cut. On Uncharted, I was probably 74 kilograms [163 pounds] and then I cut down to 66 [145 pounds] or 67 kilograms [147 pounds] for Spider-Man. I need to be so agile when playing that character and carrying that weight would’ve been really, really difficult. So yeah, the cut was pretty severe.
The stunt work on Uncharted really put you through the wringer, as did No Way Home. Do you now understand why certain actors keep upping the ante in terms of their stunts? Does that adrenaline become somewhat addictive after a while?
It’s not that I find it addictive; I think it’s that audiences find it addictive. The cinema-going experience nowadays, especially with Dolby Atmos sound, can be so immersive that audiences really feel like they’re doing it. So as creatives, it’s our job to up the ante every time we take on these characters and to make it that much more exciting and impressive. So I don’t think it’s for our benefit as much as it’s for the benefit of the fans.
To play off the title, what was uncharted territory for you on this movie? What aspect was completely new to you?
One of the most difficult things about this character was playing “the cool guy.” Historically, I’ve always sort of played the outsider who doesn’t particularly have many friends and isn’t the cool kid. So Nathan Drake is the complete opposite, and that was something that took me a while to get used to and feel comfortable doing.
Uncharted was one of the first big movies to resume shooting during the pandemic. Was there a sense of urgency since your Spider-Man schedule was pretty immovable?
Yeah, there was. Naturally, with a movie of this size that is as ambitious as it is, we had to push back a few times. We probably had two weeks left of shooting and then we had three weeks left of shooting and then pushed it so we had four weeks left of shooting. And I knew what a monster of a film that Spider-Man was going to be, so I was very cautious about not running out of steam. So it was tough. It was a tough nine months’ worth of work, but obviously, with the success of Spider-Man, it was incredibly worth it. And with the excitement and hype that Uncharted is getting, it seems like both were very, very worthwhile.
Was it quite helpful to have Sony producing both movies, especially when you needed to do some additional photography for both projects?
Yeah, that’s where I was so lucky. As you know, I have an incredible relationship with Sony and, of course, [Sony film boss] Tom Rothman. I have a lot of friends who had multiple movies planned at different studios, and when the lockdown happened, they then had to juggle the schedules of two different studios. Whereas because mine were both made by the same people, I didn’t have that problem. Both of them got pushed back at the same time.
You briefly touched on this concern, but since you had virtually no time off between the two movies, did you ever hit a wall at the rate you were going? Did you come close to overworking yourself?
Yeah, I did, actually. On Uncharted, there was a point in time where I had to make the call and say, “Guys, I’m going to need a weekend because if not, I’m going to sort of fall apart.” I got quite a nasty bit of tendinitis in my hamstring, which held me back quite a bit, but thankfully, that was more toward the end of the shoot. But the studio was fantastic. They were incredibly helpful. They understood and recognized how hard I was working, and they gave me the time off that I needed.
I loved the running gag with Sully (Mark Wahlberg) having too many apps open on his phone because my folks also commit this same egregious crime. Were you already well aware of this behavior amongst a certain generation?
Yes! My parents are very similar. They’re always complaining about the battery life of their phones running down, but they never seem to have the time to close any of their apps. My dad constantly has old maps open that take him to somewhere he arrived three weeks ago, so he is very much like Sully. (Laughs.)
So do you feel 10 pounds lighter now that you’re no longer carrying around some of the biggest spoilers in cinematic history?
It feels great! It was really difficult keeping that film a secret. We loved the idea that audiences were going to have this massive, massive reveal, but at the same time, it was difficult. It was really, really difficult. But it feels good to have it out there now for people to enjoy, and it was a lot of fun to promote it.
[The next four questions/answers contain major spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.]
I love the moment where Peter says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” to Peter 2 (Tobey Maguire) and Peter 3 (Andrew Garfield). He’s obviously saying thank you to those characters for their help and their wisdom, but I also read it as you, Tom, saying thank you to Tobey and Andrew for setting an example and paving the way for your era as Spider-Man. Was that in the back of your mind at all while you filmed that goodbye?
Yeah, that moment was actually inspired by something that actually happened. We were on set shooting the rooftop scene where I meet the boys for the first time, and before one of the takes … It must have been my close-up or something. It was one that really, really required me to bring the emotion to the shot. So I went up to the two boys on the level that they were standing, and I said to them, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this. Thank you for being here. Thank you for elevating Spider-Man in the ways that you have. Thank you for being so gracious and allowing me to share this with you. Thank you for taking a leap of faith and coming back.” Tobey hadn’t acted in nearly 10 years, so we all embraced each other, and we were all crying because it meant so much to us. And Jon Watts, Amy Pascal and the writers saw this moment between the three of us and were like, “Brilliant! Well, now we know how they’re going to say goodbye to each other.” So essentially, we just reshot that very real moment between the three of us.
You weren’t kidding when you said that the film would be emotional, and that’s especially true when Peter says goodbye to MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) not once but twice. Since the three of you are close off camera as well, were those scenes quite tough for everyone?
They were incredibly tough. They were incredibly tough for lots of different reasons. We all felt like we were saying goodbye to these characters that we had been playing for the last seven years because we’re uncertain about what the future of Spider-Man might be. So it felt like a goodbye. Obviously, it’s not a goodbye in real life because we’re all going to be connected as we are. But it was tough; it was really tough. And those emotional scenes are just difficult. When you make these big films, you don’t shoot scenes in a couple hours; you shoot them over a couple days. So when you commit to a crying scene, you’re crying for two days, flat out, and it’s tiring. But Jon Watts is a great director, he’s a very generous director, and he’s very understanding of the acting process. So he was fantastic. It’s funny, I actually got in trouble on the press tour. I got a phone call from some people at the studio, saying, “Stop saying the movie is brutal! Stop saying the movie is emotional! It doesn’t sell the movie!” And I was like, “But it is! This is the most emotional superhero movie that’s ever been made.” And they were like, “We want people to understand how fun it is.” And I was like, “It is fun, but it’s also kind of heartbreaking.” So I had to sort of change track on how I was promoting the movie, but I’m glad I gave at least some people some warning.
We’ve mostly heard about your time with Tobey and Andrew, but I haven’t heard much about your experience with Charlie Cox (Matt “Daredevil” Murdock). What was that day like on the apartment set?
Thank you for asking. No one has really asked about that. Working with Charlie was incredibly exciting. I was a big fan of the Daredevil series, and I think he’s a fantastic actor. He’s done a wonderful job with that character, and albeit it was a small cameo, it obviously teased the future of what could be. It was a real actors’ piece, that scene. We blocked the scene, which was essentially us just sitting there, and we read the lines. It was great. It felt like an actors’ workshop while working with people I really look up to, and Charlie was a lot of fun. It was really cool to see him snap back into a character that I am really a fan of and that he has a lot of love for, obviously. So it was pretty awesome, and I hope that one day we find a way for Spider-Man and Daredevil to team up again.
One of the most heartwarming aspects of No Way Home is the fact that Andrew is finally getting his due as Peter. Has the response to Andrew’s performance been a source of pride for you?
Without question. I could not be happier for him. Something I can look back on now with a little bit of clarity and regret is that I never called him when I took over as Spider-Man. Had someone said to me after my second movie that I was done and this other kid was taking over, I would’ve been heartbroken. So looking back, I wish I had the chance to make amends with him, but this film was our opportunity. It was not only an opportunity for him to make peace with the character and the studio, but it was also an opportunity for me and him to have this moment where we realize we could share this thing. The look on his face when he saves Zendaya [MJ] is totally genuine, and I’m really proud of him. I’m really chuffed that he got this opportunity to win back the world and for people to be reminded that his Spider-Man movies are fantastic and brilliant in their own right.
Did you get the chance to sneak into any theaters just to hear audience reactions?
I did! I really did, and I was very lucky to do so. This movie has been the most culturally enriching experience I’ve ever been a part of. We’ve had people from all different walks of life come together at a time where we’ve been told to be apart, and we’ve celebrated this film. We’ve watched it in the same theaters and enjoyed each other’s company in a time where it’s been very difficult and unsafe to do so. So it was a wonderful thing to be a part of, and I’m delighted that I got to witness it with the fans.
If you do play Peter again, will you make the very fair request of having zippers added to your suit? I know you were envious of the zippers on Andrew’s suit.
Listen, I’ve played Spider-Man six times, and every single time I’ve made that request. But it hasn’t happened. So it doesn’t matter if I play him for a 12th time, I don’t think I’m going to get that zipper, and I’m happy to live with that.
Let’s close on Uncharted. Decades from now, when you reminisce to your family about making this film, what day will you tell them about first?
The day I got hit by the car was pretty impressive. That was a lot of fun. It was very painful, but very rewarding. It’s a pretty cool thing when someone says, “How was your day today?” And I’m like, “Hey, I got hit by a car 17 times.” And people are like, “Wait, what?” So for me, that was a very proud moment, and I think it’s one of the best stunts in the movie. It’s really, really cool and that would have to be one of the highlights.
Uncharted opens exclusively in theaters on Feb. 18. Interview edited for length and clarity.