Tom Holland embraces ‘darker role’ with in reunion with ‘Avengers’ directors
By PETER SBLENDORIO | New York Daily News | Published: March 12, 2021
There’s much more to Tom Holland behind the mask.
The actor, who rose to fame playing Spider-Man, embraced an entirely different type of character in the addiction drama “Cherry,” which reunited him with “Avengers” directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
“Playing a much darker role was very freeing, because there were no boundaries,” Holland told the Daily News.
“The sky was the limit. I was definitely nervous. I’ve never played a character like this before, and a lot of the emotions that I had to go through are emotions I’ve never experienced, and emotions I hope to never experience in my personal life. It was very daunting, but I love a challenge.”
The film, now available on Apple TV+ and currently playing in select theaters, stars Holland as a wayward Army veteran named Cherry who develops a PTSD-fueled opioid addiction and resorts to robbing banks to afford drugs for himself and his wife, Emily, played by Ciara Bravo.
The British actor, 24, immersed himself in the role by meeting with veterans and people who’d suffered from addiction and PTSD.
“When you’re telling a story that represents millions of people around the world, you have a certain level of responsibility to do justice to those people and those characters,” Holland said. “For me, it all boiled down to doing as much research as possible.”
The Russo Brothers were finishing up 2019′s “Avengers: Endgame” — their third Marvel movie with Holland — when they were introduced to the semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker that inspired the new film.
Holland was their choice to star in “Cherry” because of his “incredible range” and “commitment,” Joe Russo explained.
“He has a charisma that you can’t create, you can’t coach into somebody, you can’t direct,” Joe Russo told The News. “He just has this energy that makes you want to follow him, and more importantly, root for him.”
To illustrate the toll drugs can take, Holland lost about 30 pounds for the role, sticking to a diet of 500 calories a day. He quickly put the weight back on to shoot different scenes, then dropped it again toward the end of production.
“I knew what heroin was and I knew the effects it had on people, but I didn’t know quite how substantial this problem was,” Holland said.
“I was unaware that the support system for veterans was so poor. They train these civilians to be killers, but they don’t train the killers to be civilians again. It was really interesting to hear people’s different stories. They’d all been through a very, very similar process, which was so sad to hear. I really hope that this film will shed the light on a problem that is invisible.”
Holland describes Cherry as a person who “tries his best and can’t seem to catch a break” and finds purpose through his relationship with Emily.
“It’s important to remember that these characters are very young,” Bravo, 23, told The News. “They’re being backed into a corner and forced to make these very adult decisions before being given a chance to really learn about the world.”
The film begins with Cherry in college, follows him during his tour of duty in Iraq after 9/11, and shows his struggles after returning home to Ohio.
“Seeing one of your favorite movie stars on the screen playing a character who’s dealing with these issues, suffering from these issues, struggling with them, hopefully that allows people to feel a little less private about these issues,” Anthony Russo explained.
The release of “Cherry” comes during a busy year for Holland, who has the sci-fi thriller “Chaos Walking” now in theaters and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” out this December.
He’s excited for audiences to see a different side of him.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to do for a long time. Even since I’ve been Spider-Man, I’ve been working with different directors, people that I really look up to, playing characters where I think they’re big departures from myself,” Holland said.
“‘Cherry’ would be the first time that it’s had a lot of coverage, with the Russos, and it’s a story about an American veteran, so lots of people are going to be interested in that. It’s the first time I’ve really done it on the big stage.”