On June 1, 1996, Thomas Stanley Holland entered the world in Kingston-upon-Thames, England. He has three younger brothers and artistic parents: his mom, Nicola, is a photographer, and his dad, Dominic, is a stand-up comedian. As a youngster, Holland studied hip-hop dancing and was encouraged to audition for the stage show Billy Elliot the Musical, despite not having a background in ballet.
After studying ballet for two years and auditioning for Billy Elliot the Musical a whopping eight times, Holland finally landed the role of Billy’s best friend, Michael, in 2008. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to play the lead role, Billy. His final performance was in 2010.
Holland made an easy transition from stage to screen. He starred in The Impossible as Lucas, the eldest son in a family in caught in the middle of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Thailand. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor played his parents. Watts was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the film, which was based on a true story.
In the Heart of the Seais a whale of a tale about the true story behind the book Moby-Dick. Holland plays Thomas Nickerson alongside two other superhero actors: Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Cillian Murphy, who plays Scarecrow in the Dark Knight trilogy.
About playing Nickerson under the direction of Ron Howard, Holland said, “When Ron Howard rings you up and says ‘I’d like you to do my film,’ you do it. I mean, he’s Ron Howard. But for me, I was very interested in Thomas Nickerson and very interested to learn about what it is these men went through. I just knew it was going to be an amazing adventure, I knew it was something I was gonna be very proud of and I knew it was gonna be a challenge. I personally think if something’s not a challenge, there’s no point doing it because you’re not gonna learn much. I knew this film was gonna teach me a lot.”
Earlier this year, Holland starred as Jack Fawcett, son of the real-life adventurer Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), in The Lost City of Z. Shot in the Amazonian jungles of Colombia, the film was quite an adventure for all involved. Not only did Holland have to wear a fake mustache (he can’t grow one in real life), he broke his nose on the last day of shooting.
He also claims he unknowingly swam with black caimans. “I got in the river one day with the local kids and had the best day ever, but I didn’t realize the water was filled with black caimans, which are like giant alligators. The next day, we were filming on the boat when I saw this big crocodile-looking thing in the river. Apparently they are very docile and don’t really attack people, but to me this thing looked as mean as could be.”
At the 2017 BAFTA awards, Holland won the Rising Star Award and said in his acceptance speech, “I want to thank two acting coaches, because I think this is a profession that is not praised enough because we actors don’t like to admit that we need help sometimes. So, to Nick Evans and to Ben Perkins: Nick, you helped me become the best Billy Elliot I could be. Ben, you coached me to be Lucas in The Impossible. Without these two roles, I wouldn’t be standing here holding this. So, Ben and Nick, thank you so much. And everyone else, check your phones, I will shoot you a text.”
Holland first found out he was cast as Spider-Man not from his agent but from Instagram. “I ran downstairs, I was going ballistic. My poor dog, Tessa, was terrified. And my brother Harry, who’s pretty savvy with technology, was like, ‘Dude, they’ve probably been hacked, bro. They would call you. They would let you know.’ So I called my agents and they were like, ‘This is amazing.’ And then Kevin Feige [Marvel Studios president] finally rang me and said, ‘I’ve got some great news, you’re gonna be Spider-Man.’ And I was like, ‘I know, Kevin. You put it on Instagram.’ Like, I’m 20, do you really think I’m not going to find it?”
Despite doing many of his own stunts while making Spider-Man: Homecoming, his only injury happened once the movie wrapped. “I was doing stunts all day and never once really hurt myself. Once we finished shooting, I was packing up my bag and carrying it down the stairs… you know when you miss a step? I just slid all the way down the steps, tore my ACL!”
Because he’s British, Holland was pretty clueless about what being a teenager at an American high school in Queens, New York, was like. Holland joked with producers that he should spend time at a real high school. The producers agreed and sent him undercover for three days to the Bronx High School of Science. While there, a female student suspected something was up. “Dude, what’s your deal?” she said. “I’ve got a secret. Would you like to know?” Holland replied. “I’m Spider-Man.” The girl rolled her eyes, clearly not believing him. She sure has a great story to tell now!
Holland is under contract with Marvel to do six movies, and so far, he’s completed two. He’ll appear next in Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel in 2018. He’ll then appear in two sequels to Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Holland recently appeared on the Spike TV show Lip Sync Battle. His performance started with an innocent lip sync and dance to “Singin’ in the Rain,” but what came next was truly surprising. As he ran behind some umbrellas to change costumes, several dancers came out to the Rihanna song “Umbrella.” Holland then took the stage dressed as Rihanna in her music video. What a bold move!