Since first joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015, Tom Holland has never gone web-slinging as Spider-Man without Robert Downey Jr. around to offer big time superhero pointers. That is … until now.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the first Marvel Studios production to take place in a post-Tony Stark MCU, picking up in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, which ended with Iron Man sacrificing himself so that the next generation of heroes — Peter Parker included — could live.
“It was scary at first,” Holland admits to Yahoo about facing a future without his on and off-camera mentor. “It was the first time I’d played Spider-Man without Robert being there to help me along.”
Holland and director Jon Watts had another reason to fear Downey’s absence from the Far From Home set: due to the Marvel Studios production schedule, they were shooting a movie depicting the aftermath of Tony’s death before the rest of the world even knew that Tony was going to die.
“We couldn’t risk anyone finding what happened at the end of Endgame, which is a massive part of our film,” says Watts, returning to the director’s chair after launching Spidey’s solo adventures with 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Agreeing to direct the sequel meant agreeing to have Endgame spoiled for him years before the movie hit cinemas; Watts reveals that he was among the privileged few at Marvel to know that Stark wouldn’t survive his rematch with Thanos during the movie’s lengthy production and post-production process.
So all those painted murals memorialising Iron Man on the streets of New York that we’ve seen in the Far From Home trailers? Those were added in the editing room.
“We couldn’t risk a set photo leaking out,” explains Watts, adding that including those reminders of Tony in the frame were nevertheless essential to the film. “Tony’s death is a massive loss for Peter, and I wanted to show that no matter where he goes, he can’t escape the shadow that Tony is casting.”
Despite being dead when the movie begins, Iron Man was still very much alive when Far From Home commenced production in England in July 2018.
It wasn’t until October that Holland took a brief detour to the Endgame set in Atlanta to film Downey’s last scene. “It was a beautiful day,” the actor remembers. “When we did my death scene in Infinity War, it was an incredibly emotional in the film, but it wasn’t all that emotional when we shot the scene. And it was the same for Robert’s death. We all knew that it was coming and by the time we went to lunch, there were only three or four hours left in ‘Downey Town.’ I remember having a great day.”
It didn’t even seem strange to Holland to be filming Tony’s death scene after shooting an entire movie where he’s already six feet under. “You just use your imagination.”
Holland also credits new co-star Jake Gyllenhaal with helping fill the Downey-shaped hole in Far From Home. The Nightcrawler star plays Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio, who introduces himself to the MCU as a hero from an alternate dimension — specifically Earth-833.
In his appearance and attitude, Quentin comes across as the Tony Stark of his reality. Watts and Holland both confirm that Gyllenhaal specifically modelled his performance, in part, after Downey, who he previously worked with in David Fincher’s 2007 favourite, Zodiac.
Holland remembers one particular scene where the director gave Gyllenhaal a picture of Downey from an earlier Marvel movie. “He was like, ‘If you could try to copy this, that would be great.’” According to Watts, Gyllenhaal followed his instructions to the letter. “Jake did this one look and gesture, and it was like looking at Tony Stark.”
In a separate interview with Yahoo, Gyllenhaal jokingly says that he’s been “channelling Robert Downey Jr.” since before the actor became Iron Man. But he also acknowledges that there are some definite comparisons to be drawn between Quentin and Tony, from the superficial (just put those beards side-by-side) to the subtle.
“There are aspects to Quentin and Peter’s relationship in this movie that are very similar to Iron Man and Spider-Man in the last one,” Gyllenhaal says. “And that was important for me to watch in Homecoming: there were things that Tony does and says that were important for me to see. Tom talks about [Quentin and Peter] as being an evolution from being a father-son dynamic to more brotherly. But I’d say uncle — I’d age it up a little bit.”
By Ethan Alter, Yahoo Entertainment
Spider-Man: Far From Home is now playing in cinemas.