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Biggest Tom Holland Moments That Transformed His Life

Tom Holland has come a long way since entering the industry as a fresh-faced child star. The British A-lister made a name for himself in London's West End before crossing the Atlantic to launch his assault on Hollywood, though, despite being a talented dancer and actor, he never expected to go as far as he did. 

The Kingston upon Thames native was well aware of the traps that many young actors fall into when they reach adulthood because he got the chance to speak to a former child star about them. During a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Holland revealed that he and Drew Barrymore had a good chat about surviving child stardom. "She went through a very rough time," Holland said. "There is something quite worrying about it — the whole sort of, 'What's going to happen to me in the next couple of years.' But I'm pretty certain that I'll remain the same person."

Did he manage to stay the same? Were his worries unfounded? The answer to both of those questions is an unequivocal yes. He's known for swinging between buildings on the big screen, but the real Tom Holland has managed to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground, despite his success. His career has been one life-changing moment after another; we're taking a look back at all his major turning points and milestones. These are the biggest Tom Holland moments that transformed his life.

His journey to Hollywood began with a Janet Jackson song

Tom Holland was a dancer before he considered life as an actor. When he sat down for an interview with CNET, the Brit revealed the exact moment he decided on his career path. "I started dancing because of Janet Jackson," Holland said. "I don't actually know which song it was. But when I was a baby one of her songs used to send me into a dancing frenzy. My mom thought I had natural rhythm, so she was like, 'You should go to a dance class.'" He did just that, and his mother was proved right.

Holland turned out to be a naturally gifted dancer, and he improved week after week. "I used to go every Saturday in the YMCA in Wimbledon, which was sort of just a kids' dance class," he added. "It escalated from there." Holland reminded everyone just how capable a dancer he is in the run-up to the release of 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," his first solo outing as Peter Parker. He and co-star Zendaya faced off in the Lip Sync Battle segment of "The Tonight Show," with Holland's chosen song being "Umbrella" by Rihanna. Decider called his performance "one of the most important pop culture moments of the decade."

Billy Elliot was Tom Holland's big break

Fellow Brit Jamie Bell originated the role of Billy Elliot onscreen in the movie of the same name, but when the film (the story of a defiant working class lad who angers his father by pursuing his dream of ballet dancing) was adapted for London's West End a few years later, he had aged out of the role. Producers of "Billy Elliot the Musical" decided to cast more than one child in the role of Billy, so they could rotate. One of those boys was Tom Holland. 

In a behind the scenes interview, the young star in the making went into detail about the moment his life changed forever. "I used to go to a street dance club, and we did a show in White Lodge, the ballet school," Holland explained. "The headmaster, he spotted me. He was like, 'We want you to audition for 'Billy Elliot.'"

According to Holland, the audition process was extremely lengthy. "It took me about two and a half years to get onto the stage," he revealed, but it was well worth the wait. It was during his time as Billy Elliot that Holland realized acting was his true calling in life. "On stage, you're really concentrated, but you have moments where you just look out at the audience, and you're like, 'Woah,'" he said. "Then you see some people crying in the letter scene and then you see people laughing their heads off, and it makes you feel proper happy."

Tom Holland made the leap from stage to screen in style

Tom Holland buzzed off the emotional connection that he had with audiences when he starred as Billy Elliot on London's West End, but, despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the show, he still didn't see himself as a potential film star. "I always knew that I wanted to have a future in the performing arts," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I had no idea that it was going to be acting in movies." At age 16, Holland made his big screen debut in the critically acclaimed disaster film "The Impossible," the real life story of a family who miraculously survived a 2004 tsunami. Despite being at a beachside resort when the devastating waves strike Thailand, all five cling to life and are reunited, against the odds.

There was a period of adjustment for Holland when he jumped from stage to screen, "but the similarities are that on set and onstage you create a family, and a very strong trust with everyone," he said. The downside to his new life as a film actor was that he was no longer able to pursue his first love, Holland revealed to BBC Radio 1 in 2020. "When I was in 'Billy Elliot' when I was a kid, I was dancing every day for about six hours for three years and I got to such a high level, and then I just gave up," he said. "My biggest regret is giving up dancing."

The Impossible was 'scary and challenging'

Tom Holland jumped into the deep end when it came to his film career, quite literally. Many of the water scenes in Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" were shot inside a 35,000-gallon tank, acting alongside his onscreen mother, Naomi Watts. 

"He starts out as the typical sort of teenager, and then when the tsunami actually happens and he sees how injured his mom is, he grows up a lot," Holland said of his character, Lucas. "He literally goes from one extreme to the other. To be an actor and to have to play that diversity was very exciting. And also quite scary and challenging." It was ultimately a rewarding experience, however, and one that would change Holland's career trajectory.

"I met Ewan [McGregor] and Naomi about two weeks after I got the part — the first time I had been to New York, or met any movie stars," he told the Evening Standard in 2015. Holland received rave reviews for his turn as Lucas, the oldest of the three brothers separated in the tsunami. He attributes his powerful performance to the fact that he had the real Lucas Alvarez Belons with him on set. "If you're on set and have a question that only your character can answer, a lot of times actors can't ask that question because their character's fictional or not alive, and I had my character there," Holland told The Hollywood Reporter. "And he would answer every question I had."

He voiced a Studio Ghibli character

As the reputation of anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli has grown in Hollywood over the decades, so has the desire to be part of their English language dubs. Anybody who's a "somebody" in Hollywood has voiced a character in one of the studio's many films, from Patrick Stewart in "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" and Mark Hamill in "Laputa: Castle in the Sky," to the Fanning sisters in "My Neighbor Totoro," Claire Danes in "Princess Mononoke" and Christian Bale in "Howl's Moving Castle." Tom Holland joined the list when he took on the role of Sho in the Disney dub of "The Secret World of Arrietty."

In a promotional interview, Holland revealed that voice acting was "very different" to the stuff he'd done before, and it forced him to adapt as an actor. "When I did 'Billy Elliot,' it was all about projecting to the top of your voice to the people at the top of the audience," he said. "When I did 'The Impossible' it was more real and natural because the camera could be so close to your face, so you have to be 100% true to make the audience feel as if they're there. Animation was quite tricky to get all the timing right, to sync your voice with the character's voice." He would go on to use the skills he learned on his debut Studio Ghibli feature in the Pixar film "Onward," co-starring with fellow Marvel man Chris Pratt.

Making friends with Chris Hemsworth paid off big time

After "The Impossible," Tom Holland appeared alongside Saoirse Ronan and George MacKay in the apocalyptic drama "How I Live Now" and later played Gregory Cromwell (the only son of Tudor-era statesman Thomas Cromwell) in the BBC series "Wolf Hall." In 2015, he was back in the water for Ron Howard's historical adventure film "In The Heart of the Sea," which recounts the sinking of the famous whaling ship Essex, the inspiration behind Herman Melville's classic novel "Moby-Dick." Holland took on the role of real life cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, who spends months at sea waiting for rescue alongside first mate Owen Chase, played by Chris Hemsworth.

Hemsworth had already played Marvel's Thor in two standalone movies by this point, and when he heard that producers were on the hunt for a new Spider-Man, he put in a good word for Holland. "I did what I could do and made a call and said he's one of the most talented people I've worked with and has such a big heart and appreciation," Hemsworth told Entertainment Tonight in 2019. "We have a great friendship, it's a good mutual respect." The Marvel buddies generated a lot of laughs when they interviewed each other to promote their respective films a few years later, with Hemsworth calling Holland "Tom Hiddleston" and Holland claiming that his favorite actor in the world was "Liam Hemsworth," his pal's brother.

Tom Holland went through 'three stages of life changing' during his Spider-Man audition

After waiting years to make his debut as Billy Elliot, Tom Holland was accustomed to a long audition process, but it didn't make his long road to becoming Spider-Man any easier. "It was a pretty daunting process," he recalled in a 2018 behind the scenes interview. "I went through a phase of just doing self-tapes after self-tapes after self-tapes." In a 2021 interview with Variety, the Londoner said that he experienced "three stages of life changing" over the course of his prolonged audition. "It's weird. The audition process was horrible ... You're waiting and waiting, and then, eventually, I got a screen test in Atlanta."

By this stage, the casting directors had whittled it down from thousands (they reportedly watched an incredible 7,500 audition tapes) to just six. Holland and the remaining contenders did their first screen test with Robert Downey Jr, "which was crazy," the actor recalled. "Then they called us back, and we had to do a fight with Chris Evans. By that point, it had been an amazing enough of an experience that if I hadn't got the part, I would've felt like I'd at least achieved something to get to that point." Little did he know that he had been Amy Pascal's frontrunner for a while. "We met about 200 boys," said the longtime "Spider-Man" producer. "There was so many of them that were so good, but Tom was different."

He found out he got the Spider-Man part online

The vast majority of us don't see anything we'd consider life altering when we scroll through social media, but this is exactly how Tom Holland found out he was Spider-Man. 

"I remember going on my phone and checking Instagram, and Marvel had posted a picture of Spider-Man, of the cartoon," he told "Black Panther" actor Daniel Kaluuya in a 2021 Variety joint interview. The accompanying caption said to go to Marvel's website to learn the identity of the new Spider-Man. "I got my computer ... I type in 'Marvel.' I've still got the article saved on my computer. It said, 'We would like to introduce our new Spider-Man, Tom Holland.'"

The actor went on to reveal that he actually broke his laptop in his excitement. "I flipped it up in the air," he said. "I ran downstairs. I was telling my family, 'I got the part! I got the part!'" At this point, Holland's brother pointed out that Sony had recently been hacked because of its comedy "The Interview" (the plot of which had James Franco and Seth Rogen assassinating Kim Jong Un in North Korea, leading to the real-life hack according to U.S. authorities), so they still weren't entirely sure. "Then Kevin Feige finally rang me and said, 'I've got some great news, you're gonna be Spider-Man,'" Holland told Ellen Degeneres in 2017. "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?"

How Tom Holland 'saved Spider-Man' during a drunken phone call with Bob Iger

Marvel fans rejoiced when Disney and Sony came to a deal over Spider-Man, as it meant that Peter Parker would be entering the MCU to take his place alongside The Avengers. Holland made his debut in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War" to great acclaim and went on to front two solo movies ⁠— 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and 2019's "Spider-Man: Far From Home" ⁠— in the years that followed, both of which went down well with fans and critics alike. It was all going swimmingly until news broke that Disney and Sony had fallen out and the Spider-Man deal was hanging by a thread. Marvel fans were devastated, and so was Tom Holland.

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Disney's head honcho Bob Iger revealed that Holland reached out to his staff and asked for his contact details. Iger gave it the okay, and when he got the chance to speak with Holland on the phone, he was moved by his passion for the role. "It was clear that he cared so much," Iger said. "He's a great Spider-Man, isn't he? I felt for him and it was clear that the fans wanted all of this to happen." 

When Holland spoke to Kimmel the following week, he revealed that he was actually drunk when the call took place, which made him rather emotional. "I wouldn't say it was entirely my doing," Holland said, before jokingly adding, "I saved Spider-Man!"

Holland went to some dark places playing a heroin addict in Cherry

Like many former child stars before him, Tom Holland opted to appear in a film that would announce him as an all-grown-up actor when he signed on to lead 2021's "Cherry." 

Directed by Marvel stalwarts Anthony and Joe Russo, this crime drama follows a college dropout who becomes a medic in Iraq. He wants to be at home with his partner Emily (Ciara Bravo), but when he does return to the States, he does so with a bad case of PTSD. Cherry becomes addicted to Oxycontin, which then leads to heroin. "I think there might have been some people at Disney confused as to why their Spider-Man had become a heroin addict," Holland joked.

Cherry's wife also gets hooked, and they ultimately turn to a life of crime to fund their habit. Portraying a heroin addict was an experience that changed Holland's mindset in terms of the roles he wants to play. 

"Have you ever taken heroin before? Because I have not," Holland said during a 2021 promotional interview with GQ. "I couldn't sit there on set and inject heroin into my chest ⁠— that's not how it is done. I had to get it right. This role took me to some of the darkest places I have ever been, emotionally, physically, anythingly ... I would never go back there again, not for anyone. I am pleased I did it, but that door is now closed and locked."

Is Tom Holland's 'amazing' Spider-Man journey over?

When Disney and Sony came to a new arrangement over Spider-Man in 2019, the deal included a third solo outing for Tom Holland and "one future Marvel Studios film," Variety reported. The way Tom Holland understands it, however, is that his contract ends with "Spider-Man: No Way Home." He described the threequel as his "last one" during an interview with Collider. "I've always said to them if they want me back I'll be there in a heartbeat," he added. "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 because it's been an amazing journey."

Holland has experienced several huge life moments during his time as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and he has a whole lot more ahead of him. He's part of the furniture in Hollywood now, but don't expect to see him join another big franchise anytime soon. 

"I'm going to take a break and travel the world," the Brit told USA Today in 2021. "It's the first time since I signed on to [play Spider-Man] that I don't have a contract with someone." So, if you see someone on your local slopes in a Spidey outfit, it could be Tom Holland. "I might go skiing because that's something I've not really been allowed to do."