It’s tough being Spider-Man, says the man who would know, actor Tom Holland.
“The hardest thing about playing this is walking on the set knowing that, whatever you do, is going to be seen by millions of people,” the 23-year-old English actor told some 5,000 cheering, screaming fans Saturday at the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
For 35 minutes, Holland praised the Salt Lake City fans he has met — “everybody has been so cool” — and talked about playing the Marvel Comics superhero and dealing with fame.
But he skirted even the mildest controversy, like when moderator Kerry Jackson, co-host of X96’s “Radio from Hell” show, asked which Chris was his favorite — referring to co-stars Evans, Hemsworth and Pratt.
“I can’t answer that question, because I’ll see them all soon,” Holland said, then caught himself possibly divulging an event that hasn’t been announced. He added with a smile, “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Holland didn’t talk about the ongoing dispute between Disney and Sony, the media corporations who have shared custody of the Spider-Man character. Holland has starred in two “Spider-Man” movies produced by Sony, and appeared as the character in the Disney-made “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” (He’s previously assured fans he will continue in the role and believes the character is in good hands.)
Audience members were not allowed to ask questions at Holland’s panel — a rarity for FanX — and Holland’s representatives vetted the questions Jackson asked.
Contrast that to the plea at FanX Friday night from another Marvel Cinematic Universe actor, Benedict Wong. When asked about including Spider-Man in future Disney-made Marvel movies, Wong said, “We’ve got to do it, for the good of all of us.”
Wong, who plays and shares the name of Doctor Strange’s protector Wong, said the dispute was “almost like, ‘Why are Mom and Dad arguing? They had something beautiful together.’”
Holland said Saturday he can relate to Parker, the high school genius from Queens who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and acquires superhuman abilities. “He’s someone who’s dealing with his life being turned upside down,” Holland said. “He and I kind of have parallels in our lives.”
Instead of a spider bite, Holland’s life has been changed by fame.
“You’ve become a role model to so many people, and you have an expectation to live up to what people think Spider-Man means,” Holland said. “There's way more up sides than down sides to it, though.”
For example, Holland has made it a habit to visit children’s hospitals dressed as Spider-Man. It started when he was filming “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in Atlanta, and he had a few afternoon hours free before a night shoot. "I saw what an immediate impact it had on those kids, and their parents, too,” he said.
Holland counts his father, Dominic Holland, a stand-up comic and TV presenter in Britain, as a role model. “He puts people first. He’s a very selfless man,” Holland said.
Robert Downey Jr., who plays Peter Parker’s father figure Tony Stark, has also been an influence. "He’s always early, he knows every crew members’ name. He knows his lines, he’s very professional. He takes cares of people,” he said, adding that working with such stars as Downey, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans shows that “just because you’re at the top doesn’t mean you have to be a [jerk].”
Wearing the Spider-Man suit can be uncomfortable, Holland said. When in full gear, it’s difficult to see out of the mask, and his voice gets muffled. “But you’re Spider-Man, so get on with it,” he said, adding that “wearing the Spider-Man suit is a dream come true.”
Holland ended the panel with a wave to the adoring crowd. Borrowing Tony Stark’s line from the last “Avengers” movie, he told the Salt Lake City fans, “I love you 3,000.”