As Disney and Sony executives locked horns in a Hollywood conference room last February, the film-makers behind Captain America: Civil War were already betting on the outcome. Spider-Man was going to be in this movie, no matter what. And if he wasn’t, well, that was going to be a problem.
“We had to commit to him, on a creative level, many, many months before he was available to us on a legal level,” Civil War co-director Anthony Russo told io9. “So they’d always say to us, ‘Guys you’ve gotta have a Plan B, this might not work.’ We’d say ‘We get it, we get it, we have a Plan B.’ But we never had a Plan B.”
“We had to will it into existence,” added co-director Joe Russo. “Because of all the effort and energy it takes to get a deal like that done, if you let them know there’s an out, they will probably take the out.”
And so a new Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, makes his big screen debut in May 6th’s Captain America: Civil War. But it wasn’t easy and took a huge leap of faith for everyone involved.
As you probably already know, Sony has owned the movie rights to the Marvel character Spider-Man for years. However, in February 2015, they agreed to allow Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) to produce a new series of Spider-Man films, and bring their character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That first movie, Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, opens next Summer. But Spidey’s first appearance is in Disney’s Captain America: Civil War, and he’s plays a crucial role in the story.
“If you’re telling a story, you’re gonna work everyone into the story in a way that they’re [indispensable],” said Anthony Russo. “He is critical to the movie, or else he wouldn’t be in the movie.”
Tiptoeing around spoilers, Peter Parker, and his alter-ego Spider-Man, come in mid-movie as part of Team Iron Man, in the conflict with Team Captain America.
“The conflict between Tony [Stark] and Cap was so intense in this movie, we needed somebody who didn’t have the investment The Avengers have in their Civil War and their family,” said Anthony Russo.
“And we also wanted a much younger character who would stand in contrast to the more experienced heroes. [Someone] who’d bring a different point of view to that battle,” added Joe Russo.
However, as perfect a puzzle piece as Spider-Man is to the movie, Civil War was well into development before he became available. It was a very stressful time for producer and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
“[Writers] Chris [Markus] and Steve [McFeely] started to chart out various versions of the movie,” Feige told io9. [Versions] without Iron Man, [versions] without Spider-Man—but we’re very lucky we got to make the whole one. The one we really wanted do.”
“The big overarching thing was, if we get him, he should be as young as the character was when he was first in the comics,” said Markus. “Just a kid. And that’s both fun just to write because it’s a kid who has superpowers, but also this is someone seeing the [Marvel Cinematic Universe] with fresh eyes. We’re 13 movies in. All of these characters have been through hell. So the wonder at seeing at an Iron Man suit is gone for them.”
“So you need new people to do that,” added McFeely. “That’s Scott [Lang], who freaks out when he sees Captain America, and most importantly, that’s Peter.”
But this is just the beginning. Feige seems even more excited to explore where the character goes after leaving the screen in Civil War.
“The most important thing for us is we wanted him to stand apart, as he did in his debut in the early sixties,” Feige said. “He’s a kid who has these abilities, goes out in his spare time, tries to do some good, and he exists in a world where The Avengers can fly overhead occasionally.”
Plus, there’s one major difference between the comics version of Spider-Man and this new movie version, as Feige explains: “In the Cinematic Universe, strange aliens flew out of the sky when he was seven years old [in The Avengers]. That has to have an impact on him. An impact on what his views are of being a hero, and what it means to be a hero. So we were excited about telling that story across multiple movies and kicking it off in this film saying, ‘Guess what? There’s a Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”