With his new movie Cherry now streaming on Apple TV+, I recently had the chance to speak with the busy actor. During the wide-ranging conversation, Holland talked about why making Cherry was such a tough shoot, what it’s like trying to deliver such an emotional performance when you’re shooting out of order, why it was harder than he expected breaking the fourth wall (when someone looks at the camera in the shot), how they pulled off some of the very cool shots in the film, the way Cherry changed him, and more. In addition, he talked about why he’s so excited for people to see Spider-Man: No Way Home, his Sony contract, how he wants to cameo on Euphoria with Jacob Batalon in the background of one of Zendaya’s scenes, and why he loved watching WandaVision.
Cherry was directed by the Russo Brothers and is based on the 2018 Nico Walker novel of the same name, with a script penned by Angela Russo-Otsot and Jessica Goldberg. The film is told in six chapters and starts with Cherry (Holland) meeting the love of his life (Ciara Bravo) at college, and through a series of events he ends up serving in the Iraq War as an Army medic. Once home, he battles the demons of undiagnosed PTSD and spirals into drug addiction, which leads him to robbing banks to fund his habit. Cherry also stars Kelli Berglund, Thomas Lennon, Jack Reynor, Michael Gandolfini, and Jeff Wahlberg.
Check out what Holland had to say below.
COLLIDER: How are you doing? I haven’t seen you since we filmed that thing with the Dogs in London. That was a fun day.
TOM HOLLAND: Oh yeah. That’s right. That was a good day. I remember that. Yeah.
What TV series would you love to guest star on?
HOLLAND: What TV series we would love to guest star on? We were joking about this the other day. I’d love to be in Euphoria, but with Jacob Batalon. I’d love for us to just be in the background of one of Zendaya’s scenes, just because they’re two of my best friends and I would love to do anything with them, but also I love that show so it’d be nice to be a part of that.
What movie do you think you’ve seen the most?
HOLLAND: I’d say, Snatch, Guy Richie’s film is probably one of the films I’ve seen the most. And I’d say probably one of my favorite films.
Have you been watching WandaVision and what do you think?
HOLLAND: I am obsessed with WandaVision. It’s so difficult because obviously I’m on a Marvel set at the moment. So all of the producers there, and I could just go up to Kevin Feige and be like, “so what happens? What’s going on?” So it’s really difficult for me to not ask the questions I want the answers to, but I’m loving it. And I think on honestly it’s for me, my favorite Marvel thing I’ve seen, because it really makes you think about “what am I watching? What’s going to happen? Where are they going to take this?”. I love that they brought back the idea of releasing an episode a week. I think it requires the caliber and the quality of the show to be better because you need to keep people engaged for a longer period of time. So I’m loving it.
I can’t wait to see where it goes. Did you make your brother Harry audition to be in Spider-Man: No Way Home?
HOLLAND: No. That was an idea we had, we were having a barbecue at my house within the first few weeks of shooting. Mr. Watts was there and Harry kind of put it on him and said, “Listen, John, I’ve been here since the beginning, when are you going to put me in this film?”. And John had the perfect idea, that was making him a bank robber and then I have to catch him, which is a lot of fun.
When was the last time you were told that you needed to nail something in one take?
HOLLAND: Oh, that’s an interesting question. You mean like we don’t have a second chance to get this?
Like sometimes there is a take that is so complicated and ideally you’re going to get it on one take.
HOLLAND: Oh, I see. Like a oner, right. There are some scenes in Cherry, actually the bank robbery that you see at the beginning and then the stuff at the end, that whole opening, as I run in and pointed the gun at Vanessa was all originally supposed to be a oner. So we were shooting that all day and then to sort of cover themselves, they got extra coverage of different pieces so that they had the creative freedom in the edit room to kind of chop and change between takes. But for me, that oner, that one long sequence was really difficult to try and maintain that energy throughout the whole day.
There’s a lot of stuff you have to do in Cherry that you’ve never done before. When the Russo’s offered you the role, at any point were you like, “wow, this might kick my ass. This might be too much for me” or where you sort of like “I’m game?”
HOLLAND: I knew it would kick my ass and I knew it was going to be physically and emotionally very demanding. I’m the type of person that loves a challenge. I love rising to a challenge. And I just knew that because I had the Russo brothers in my corner, I was going to be okay. I was lucky enough that I could bring my own team of people with me that I work with, you know, a costumer, a dialect coach, my makeup artist, my brother came. So I had a strong foundation of friends there to kind of pick me up should they need to. And then I was very, very lucky that I had Ciara Bravo who plays Emily in the film with me because she was firstly, a delight to share the screen with. She was amazing to work with and she was equally as talented as she was kind. So I’m talking about her like she’s dead, she’s not dead. She’s amazing. So yeah, I was very, very lucky to have that.
You guys had fantastic chemistry together and I could spend like 10 minutes just talking about that. You have to film things out of order and because of the emotional journey of your character, I can imagine that’s a little bit of a challenge. Can you sort of talk about filming out of ordering and trying to deliver this performance?
HOLLAND: Yeah, I mean, that just required a lot of preparation. We really, really were strategic in the way we mapped out his character arc because there’s six different smaller arcs. And then one big one. So that just took a lot of preparation and also strategic in the sense that we scheduled the film in chunks. So we did the dope life portion of the film first. Then we did him falling in love with Emily. Then we did him at basic training, and then we went to Morocco to finish and stuff at war. So we were always kind of in the same section. So it was fine. It was complicated, but you know, a challenge that was easily overcome.
You got to break the fourth wall in this movie, which is something that actors are trained against. So what was it like the first few days or the first day when you’re looking at a camera?
HOLLAND: Yeah, it was actually way harder than I thought it would be because like you said, I mean, you spend your entire career trying to train yourself to not look at the camera. The camera is your enemy. You know, you don’t want to, you can’t acknowledge it. Now all of a sudden the camera is as much a character in the scene as I am. And obviously the camera represents the audience. The idea in this film is that I am taking the audience on this journey rather than telling them the story. It was daunting because for the first time in my career, I became very aware that behind the camera and through that lens is 50 people who are watching me. So it was quite exposing, but you know, it’s a lovely touch in the film and I think it’s really valuable to the story. So I’m really glad we persevered and stuck with it.
The Russo’s did some really cool camera choices and filmmaking choices in Cherry. And I’m curious, before you started filming, did they tell you “we’re going to be doing some really cool stuff”, or was it sort of on set that you discovered that?
HOLLAND: Yeah, because those decisions that they made with the camera and with the aesthetic of our costume, with the aesthetic of the sets that we were in really had a strong influence on the way that we would play the characters. So they were very open about what they were going to do, how they were changing camera angles or lenses or style in lighting and all sorts of different things to just give us as much ammunition we could to make these characters as different as possible throughout the different chapters of their life.
In the first act of the film, you’re going to the bank with your friends to cash a check. There is a really cool shot where the camera starts in the front seat, it goes to the back, it comes back to the front. It’s a very cool shot. Talk a little bit about filming that one particular scene.
HOLLAND: Yeah. That wasn’t as cool to film as it is in the film. I think the inspiration from that came from, is it Children of Men? Is that the film?
HOLLAND: There’s a very similar shot in that. Basically what they had is they have this old car, they ripped the roof out. I mean, I had this camera rig where the camera could slide forwards and backwards and also spin 360. The trouble was, is that, a. the car was a stick-shift and poor Forest had never driven stick before. So I was having to change gear under the camera because also he had to do a hill-start as well. For anyone that knows how to drive stick, getting into first gear and finding the point on a hill is much harder. So, I was pulling a handbrake and putting the handbrake back down again. Also the support car had to be so close, but just far away enough that you couldn’t see it on camera.
So the problem was, is we’d be doing the scene and then the camera would start doing this because it was losing signal. So it was a tough day. I’m glad we did it and I think it’s really cool in the film, but yeah, it was a bit of a nightmare that day.
I would imagine that this was a real growth for you making this film in terms of realizing what you could do as an actor. What did you learn making Cherry that you hope to apply to future stuff?
HOLLAND: I think the biggest thing that I’ve walked away with is this idea of getting rid of any sort of vanity. You know, in my career as a young actor, I’ve always kind of looked at the monitor and be like, “oh I don’t like my hair, or I need to make sure I have this angle for the camera because you look better looking” and all that sort of stuff. And it’s poisonous. It’s so bad for you, especially as someone that does what we do for a living. With Cherry, the whole idea of the film was to make myself as ugly as possible at times. Having that freedom and getting rid of that vanity has opened me up to so many more creative decisions I would never have made before. So I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve walked away with.
I think that’s something that I commend Brad Pitt on. For a while he made all those movies where he would just beat the crap out of his face and body and just didn’t care.
HOLLAND: Yeah. It’s easy for Brad Pitt because he’s the coolest, most handsome gazer in the world, but yeah.
One of the things I think is really hard for actors is to portray being high on screen. And in this movie, you have to portray Oxycontin, heroin, ecstasy. What is it like as an actor, sort of trying to figure out how I’m going to play these different things. Are you looking at video of people that are high and trying to mimic that? How are you trying to be authentic in the moment?
HOLLAND: Most of that came from research in the sense of speaking to people that had been through that sort of stuff. I mean, I don’t do drugs at all. It’s not something that I particularly agree with, but I spoke to loads of people about the moment of taking it, the rush you get, the come down, the next day, the urge and the want and the constant need to top up. I watched videos of people tweaking and watched videos of people coming down. I spoke to people about their experiences of them coming down. I just did as much research as I could. We had a guy on set, called Brian, who was a former addict and now works at a rehab clinic to help people get sober. He was kind of our consultant when it came towards any sort of paraphernalia, he would basically say, this is how you would do it. This is what it would feel like immediately.
I don’t know if you remember, but there’s a scene in the film where Jack Reynor and myself were in a car and I’m about to rob the Shitty bank, and I shoot up. I was really adamant that I would shoot up in that scene because as an actor, I love to have action. I love to have things to do. It really helped. And the Russo’s at first were a bit against the idea because they were like, “well, if you shot heroin, surely you wouldn’t be ready to go and rob a bank.” Brian chimed in and sort of said, “well”, I believe it’s called a speed ball, but I might be making that up, “if you put a bit crack in there, you would get this like rush and rage to go.” So it was things like that where he was so instrumental in bringing authenticity to telling the story. And he was a lovely guy, and we’re very lucky that he was a part of the film.
You and Jack Reynor were great together. I hope you spent a lot of time talking about Sing Street.
(laughing) I love Jack, he’s a good guy.
What was your reaction when you read the new Spider-Man script for the first time?
HOLLAND: Well, unfortunately I had to read it in sections because there is an element of figuring it out as we go on this one, as there is with most of these big movies, but it is fantastic. It’s easily the most ambitious standalone superhero film I’ve ever been a part of. It’s incredibly exciting. It’s funny, it’s emotional. It’s everything that you’d want in a superhero film. I’m loving it. I mean, I’ve loved all of them, but I’ve never had as much fun as I have on this one. Being with Jacob and Zendaya again, being with John Watts again, with Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige and all those guys, it’s just like a family. We’re having a great time. And we’re really, really making something very special.
Do you know how many more films that you’re under contract with Sony and Spider-Man? Have you re-upped your contract recently?
HOLLAND: No, this would be my last one. So, I’ve always said to them if they want be back I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I’ve loved every minute of being a part of this amazing world. It’s changed my life for the better. I’m so lucky to be here. If they want me back, I’ll be there. If they don’t, I will walk off into the sunset, a very, very happy person. It’s been an amazing journey.
There’s no way they’re not asking you back. A lot of people will forget that you’re one of the reasons why Marvel and Sony are still working together. You were instrumental in making that happen. I’m curious if you are thinking in the back of your mind, “if I re-up, I want to make sure that Sony and Marvel are going to continue working together for me to re-up,” is that a part of it?
HOLLAND: The way I understand it is that agreement between the two studios has already happened. I don’t think that they’re going to run into the same troubles that they did as we were going into, was it Spider-Man 2? I don’t remember when that happened. Had Spider-Man 2 come out?
I don’t remember when.
HOLLAND: Far From Home had come out. Then the whole thing happened between Sony and Marvel. I think the two studios have worked that out, and I don’t think that that would be a problem in the future. That said, I’m just the actor. I was a part of a few phone calls during that process, but I think they love working with each other. I think they found a way in which it can be beneficial for both studios. I’m just kind of like the kid in the middle of it between two parents having an argument.
Thanks so much for today.
HOLLAND: I really appreciate it. Steve, I’ll See you soon.
KEEP READING: Watch: Russo Brothers Go In-Depth on ‘Cherry’, Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ Sequel, Chadwick Boseman & More in 45-Minute Panel
Like all MCU stories, ‘WandaVision’ left plenty of crumbs for the next story to pick up.
About The Author