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Why Tom Holland Is Perfect For The Devil All The Time

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

You're used to seeing Tom Holland surrounded by heroes. Well, get ready for something different. In The Devil All the Time, villains are everywhere, but good people are very hard to find. Antonio Campos' new thriller, adapted from the Donald Ray Pollock novel of the same name, takes place in a world full of violence, hypocrisy, and sin. Its residents are murderers, con artists, and perverts, and its tone is pitch black. Really, Holland's character, Arvin Russell, is its only ray of light.

Not that Arvin is pure and innocent, of course. He was orphaned at a young age after a truly bizarre set of circumstances robbed him of his family, and he still bears the scars of that tragedy as he heads into adulthood. Arvin is hot-headed. He's prone to fighting. He doesn't forget grudges, and when push comes to shove, he'll do absolutely anything to protect his family.

It's a different type of movie for Holland, who made his big debut on the West End as Billy Elliot, went on to voice animated characters in kid-friendly fare like Onward and Spies in Disguise, and of course won the hearts of fans everywhere as Spider-Man, one of the most popular superheroes on the planet. And yet, if you look closely, you can see elements of Peter Parker in Arvin: his boundless energy. His dogged optimism. His dedication to standing up for the little guy and fighting for justice. 

Everything that made Holland a superstar is present in The Devil All the Time. It's just been remixed and reconfigured into something new, unexpected, and much, much darker. In many ways, this is the role Holland has been preparing for his entire life. Here's how.

He has real-life experience fighting bullies

Arvin Russell hates bullies. Whether they're making uncouth remarks about Arvin's mother or preying on his ultra-pious stepsister Lenora, nothing gets Arvin's blood boiling like someone who preys on those who are smaller, weaker, or more vulnerable. It's a trait that gets Arvin in some big trouble during The Devil All the Time, and also one of his most admirable qualities. If someone's picking on you, you can count on Arvin to come to your rescue.

Bullying is something that Tom Holland knows all about, too. Remember, Holland started as a dancer. When he was young, his mother enrolled him in dance lessons. That was the right call. Holland's smooth moves landed him a part on the London production of Billy Elliot, where he'd eventually play the title character, and his athletic abilities wowed Marvel's casting agents, which helped him land Captain America: Civil War's much-coveted Spider-Man role.

Unfortunately, Holland's peers weren't always as impressed. The kids at Holland's school preferred rugby, not ballet, and his choice of sports earned him a fair amount of ridicule on the playground. Holland is very open about the bullying he experienced while growing up thanks to his dance background, and while he certainly has gotten the upper hand — there's no better revenge than getting to be an actual superhero and a global superstar — but it sounds like his school days were pretty rough.

On the plus side, that experience did help Holland find common ground with some of his most popular characters. In the past, Holland has discussed how bullying made him relate to Peter Parker, who's never been the most popular kid in school, even more, and you can see lots of the same impulses in Arvin. Like both Holland and Spider-Man, Arvin may take a beating, but he'll never back down from a fight he believes in — and, like both of them, he always gets the last laugh.

His family is a big part of his life

In The Devil All the Time, nothing means more to Arvin than his family. The lessons imparted by his father, Willard, are some of the most important he ever learns, while Willard's odd religious practices — some of which cross well over the border into abuse — shape his worldview in particular and nuanced ways. At the same time, Arvin loves his grandmother Emma, his great-uncle Earskell, and his step-sister, Lenora, unconditionally. He stands up for them when others put them down, and he fights when their dignity is threatened, whether they ask him to or not.

Family is a big part of Holland's life too, although, thankfully, his family situation isn't quite as scandalous as Arvin's. Both of Holland's parents encouraged him to pursue dance when he was young, which makes sense. They're both creative forces in their own right. Holland's mother is an accomplished photographer. His father, Dominic, is a well-known English comedian and author who actually wrote a book called Eclipsed about what it's like to have a son who's more famous than he is. Meanwhile, Holland lives with two of his brothers, and with all three of his siblings runs the Brothers Trust, a charity organization.

By all accounts, they're all very close, which could be one reason why the actor gravitates towards roles that put a big emphasis on family. In the spring of 2020, Holland starred in Onward, a Pixar comedy about two brothers trying to revive their late father, and Peter Parker has an unmistakable father-and-son-like bond with Tony Stark. 

However, the Holland film that's actually closer to The Devil All the Time in tone is Edge of Winter, which is about two boys (Holland plays one of them) who must fend off their increasingly psychotic father during an excursion into the woods. It's easy to see a throughline from Arvin to Edge of Winter's Bradley. Combined with Holland's real-life family connections, he's well-prepared for his latest role.

He already has chemistry with the rest of the cast

Good chemistry between performers can be hard to come by. If there's already an established connection you can use, why waste it? Holland's past collaborators are all over Devil All the Time, and once you see the movie, it's obvious how Holland's casting was the piece that brought everything together.

The most obvious link to Holland's past work is Sebastian Stan, who stars in The Devil All the Time as corrupt sheriff Lee Bodecker, just one of the ne'er-do-wells who happens to cross Arvin's path. Both Holland and Stan are also mainstays of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where Stan appears as Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier.

But there are more. Robert Pattinson, who appears in The Devil All the Time as Arvin's nemesis, the unholy preacher Preston Teagardin, shared the screen with Holland in The Lost City of Z. In that movie, Pattinson portrays Henry Costin, sidekick to famous explorer Percy Fawcett, who's played by Charlie Hunnman. In that same movie, Holland plays Fawcett's son, Jack. Pattinson and Holland only have a few scenes together in The Devil All the Time, but they're some of the tensest, most memorable moments in the movie, and in many ways the conflict between Arvin and Teagardin drives the film.

Holland even has some friends working behind the camera. See, The Devil All the Time was co-produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, Holland's Spider-Man: Far from Home co-star. While Gyllenhall's Mysterio was a villain, Holland and Gyllenhaal are remarkably close friends, and Holland has referred to Gyllenhaal as one of his MCU mentors in numerous interviews. Not that Holland needs any help, of course — one of Holland's biggest strengths as an actor is that he seems to work pretty well with everyone — but as the Avenger knows, everything is a little easier with a few buddies by your side.