Tom Holland made a new friend on the set of Spider-Man: No Way Home — or is that an old enemy? The 25-year-old actor suited up again for his third solo Spidey film, this one picking up after Peter Parker's secret identity went public in 2019's Far From Home. As Peter scrambles to take control of his life, he finds himself facing off against familiar foes — including Alfred Molina's Doc Ock, reprising his eight-limbed role from 2004's Spider-Man 2.
Holland, who didn't start slinging webs until 2016, couldn't help but geek out over the veteran Molina, calling him "one of my favorite people I've ever worked with."
"It was really fun to watch him see how technology has advanced," Holland adds. "When he was making these films, the arms were puppets, and when we did it, they're all imaginary and CG. It was quite cool to see him relive it, but also relearn it."
That mix of past and present is key to No Way Home (in theaters Dec. 17). Although the actor won't reveal exact plot details, the film's trailer has hinted at some potential crossover shenanigans, mixing elements from both the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. For Holland, it's an opportunity to pay tribute to previous iterations of the character, while also taking Peter in a new direction.
"The first film, [director] Jon Watts and I were sort of flying by the seat of our pants," Holland says. "This one, I think we both felt really confident, so we were able to relax. We actually had so much more fun on this one than we did on the previous two."
In No Way Home, Peter is trying to juggle his newfound infamy, schoolwork, and his burgeoning relationship with MJ (Zendaya). He turns to Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange for a magical fix, inadvertently triggering a cascade of universe-threatening problems. Adding mystical portals and sorcerers to Spider-Man's normally down-to-earth world allowed Holland and Watts to get more inventive than ever, and Holland teases that the fight scenes are "a lot more visceral," with "a lot more hand-to-hand combat."
No Way Home marks Holland's third solo Spidey appearance, and story-wise, the actor calls it a "conclusion" to his trilogy, wrapping up the narrative he and Watts first introduced in 2017's Homecoming.
"We were all treating [No Way Home] as the end of a franchise, let's say," he adds. "I think if we were lucky enough to dive into these characters again, you'd be seeing a very different version. It would no longer be the Homecoming trilogy. We would give it some time and try to build something different and tonally change the films. Whether that happens or not, I don't know. But we were definitely treating [No Way Home] like it was coming to an end, and it felt like it."
Holland adds that he felt that finality while filming — especially during one of his last days on set, shooting a scene with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon (who's reprising his role as Peter's best friend Ned). When the scene finally wrapped, all three actors found themselves getting emotional.
"We've been making these films for five years now," Holland explains. "We've had such an amazing relationship, the three of us. We've been with each other every step of the way. We've done every single film, every single press tour. So this one scene, [we didn't know] if this would be the last time [we were all working together.] [It] was heartbreaking but also really exciting because we're all moving into the next chapter of our careers. So sharing that moment with them was maybe the best day I've ever had on set. I don't think I've cried like that ever."
Still, he adds, just because he's spent the last five years perfecting his web-slinging didn't mean that he could let himself get complacent.
"If you're not willing to focus and do the prep work, you're going to get called out," Holland says with a laugh. "Because when you're dealing with magic spells and dimensions, it really gets complicated."