You would be hard-pressed to find a movie-goer who isn’t at least vaguely familiar with Tom Holland and his onscreen work. Ever since web-slinging his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the young actor has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of fans around the world as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. 

This British actor is arguably the best live-action Spidey. His Lip Sync Battle performance opposite pal Zendaya, in which he channeled the likes of Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain” and Rihanna in “Umbrella,” is basically the stuff of legend. Oh, and he and Robert Downey Jr. Facetime on the regular. (No big deal.) But despite the fame, fortune, and showbiz connections, Holland isn’t necessarily the most public celebrity in the world: He keeps a pretty tight hold of his private life, has no major scandals or controversies to speak of, and there’s little in the way of Twittersphere-breaking tabloid news.

So while Holland has been on the verge of becoming one of the biggest stars in the world, there’s still quite a lot about him that the average fan doesn’t know. To help demystify some of his backstory, we took a look behind to scenes to explore his childhood, career beginnings, and personal life off-screen. Here’s what you never knew about Tom Holland.

Tom Holland's big break isn't what you think it is

Many fans are familiar with Tom Holland’s career in Hollywood, first garnering attention in 2012’s The Impossible and later landing the coveted role of Peter Parker in the enormous Spider-Man franchise. But even before that, this Marvel star got his first taste of performing in front of live audiences in Billy Elliot: The Musical on London’s West End. His journey to the stage actually began very young with a Janet Jackson song. According to GQ, his mother spotted him dancing “in a reasonably coordinated way” and enrolled him in a dance class.

“We did a show in White Lodge, the ballet school, and the headmaster, he spotted me and he was like, ‘We want you to audition for Billy Elliot,'” Holland said in an interview for the West End Theater. “… That’s pretty much how it started. It goes through a long audition process. It took me about two, two and a half years to actually get onto the stage.” 

In addition to mastering the dance and on-stage movement, Holland’s extensive ballet training taught him how to “emote in different ways that aren’t crying or laughing.” He later told GQ, “Ballet is the Latin of dance. Every piece of dance has come from ballet. To come from that background has allowed me to express myself in different ways. For instance, in the Spider-Man suit, you often can’t see his face. But I find a way to convey feeling anyway.”

Tom Holland's backstory isn't so unlike Peter Parker's

Though dance introduced him to the performing arts and ultimately led Tom Holland to superstardom, it unfortunately also introduced him to bullies during his secondary school days at Wimbledon College. “I would do it in the school gym at lunchtimes by myself, in tights, with a teacher,” Holland said of his dance training in his 2019 GQ interview. “So you have kids looking through the windows. To a bunch of 10-year-olds who all play rugby, Tom Holland doing ballet in the gym isn’t that cool.”

But the young multi-talent wasn’t about to let the bullies change who he was or what he enjoyed doing, and, as reported by The Scotsman, Holland went on to study drama at the esteemed BRIT School. “I had my rough patches,” Holland later admitted to People in 2017. “But you couldn’t hit me hard enough to stop me from doing it.” In fact, some of his experiences in school helped him relate to the character that would turn him into a household name years down the road. “I, like Peter [Parker], accepted I wasn’t the cool kid at school and just found my group of friends and got on with it,” Holland added.

Tom Holland literally flipped for his Spider-Man opportunity

While preparing for and performing the role of Billy Elliot in the acclaimed stage production, Tom Holland became quite the little gymnast. In an interview for the West End Theater, a young Holland described what interested him about acrobatics. “Most ballet classes … it’s very strict,” he said. “In acro, we can just,= do what we want, muck around a bit, but it’s still strict. Like, we can’t just do stupid stuff on the floor, because we have to be safe … Because you’re doing flips and dangerous stuff, it just feels so much more like, ‘Wow!'”

Through the years, Holland kept up his acrobatic training — and luckily he did, because it seemed to come in handy when the opportunity to audition for the MCU’s Spider-Man came around. “I always wanted to play this character, and, when I found out they were recasting the role, I rang up my agent,” the actor told the Associated Press. “… They gave me two scenes … And I basically did like a somersault into frame and then a somersault out of frame because I basically thought, ‘They may never see this, but if they do, I need them to know that I’ve got some gymnastics abilities and stuff.’ And every tape I sent in, I always did a little acrobatic demo to try and convince them to give me the role.” 

Well, it appears that Holland’s “stunt” worked out.

Tom Holland's days as an undercover student

Many actors undertake strange projects to either find or get into character for an upcoming film. Tom Hanks, for example, famously lost weight and bulked up for roles many times over, respectively for movies like Philadelphia and A League of Their Own – to the point that he later blamed his Type II diabetes diagnosis in part on his career-related weight fluctuation. Other actors have gone even darker to prepare for a role: take Anne Hathaway and Adrien Brody’s dedication to their emotional Oscar-winning performances in Les Misérables and The Pianist, which left both stars feeling depressed.  

When Tom Holland first nabbed the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man for Captain America: Civil War, he opted for a slightly less dramatic route. Jokingly suggesting that he attend high school in the United States to learn the American teenager ropes, to his surprise, the team at Marvel jumped at the idea. “Six weeks later,” he said on The Graham Norton Show, “I’m with a backpack, pencil case, books, on my way to … The Bronx School of Science, which is a school for genius kids. And believe me, everyone, I am not no genius.” 

Holland was given an identity, backstory, student card, and spoke with an American accent. According to Inside Edition, during his three-day stint at the school, none of his classmates caught on, despite his best efforts to share his secret. In the end, he revealed his identity to the school’s drama class.

Tom Holland knows how to put a roof over his head … literally

When Tom Holland was 18, he was coming off the massive Ron Howard blockbuster, The Heart of the Sea, and was feeling quite confident about his career prospects. That confidence wasn’t leading to more roles, though — quite the opposite, really. “I was auditioning, auditioning, auditioning, and I just hit a bit of a rut. And I think, personally, and this is me being very honest, I had just done a Ron Howard film, and I thought I was dog’s bollocks,” he told GQ. “I just thought, I’ll get this job, I’ll get this job. And I didn’t. It was a bit of a punch in the teeth.”

Perhaps because a career in showbiz was looking more unrealistic by the day, or maybe a bit of parental intuition, Holland’s mother eventually insisted that he develop a backup plan for his future. “My mum said, ‘Look, you’re not getting any work, so you need to go and have a plan B,'” the actor remembered her saying. “‘I’ve booked you at this carpentry school in Cardiff. Six-week course. You’re gonna go, you’re gonna learn to be a carpenter.'” 

The tactic worked: Holland ended up landing four straight auditions while in carpentry school … all while learning “how to fit a roof and renovate a bathroom.”

Tom Holland didn't expect to feel the pressures of fame

Even before he entered the spotlight, Tom Holland knew of the potential industry pitfalls. He was warned about the pressures and the dark delights Hollywood can offer. In 2012, as his impressive performance in The Impossible made waves, he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter. “I think, from every actor I’ve ever spoken to, they say the biggest thing they regret from life is not finishing school,” he said. “So finishing school is something that is very important to me.”

Holland even spoke with Drew Barrymore, the one-time poster child for unconventional kid stars. “She went through a very rough time,” he continued. “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.” Years later, Holland admitted that he could never relate to stars like Barrymore. “I never understood when you watch, like, young celebrities go off the rails,” he said to GQ. “I’m like, Why do you do that? Just chill and be cool.”

But then he became Spider-Man, and the sudden, complete invasion of privacy that comes with being a Marvel star changed his views. “It wasn’t until I felt the pressure of, like, ‘Is that person taking a picture of me?'” Holland explained. That made him realize his private life was shrinking. Thankfully, he had friends who overcame those same struggles and learned to cope — people like Barrymore, Zendaya, and Robert Downey Jr.

The family debate about Tom Holland's dyslexia diagnosis

Tom Holland isn’t shy about telling the world he has dyslexia. The British actor has discussed his learning disorder a number of times, including the endearingly botched Marvel quiz livestream in April 2020. “We wrote down some cards so that we could show them up,” Holland explained, showing the card to the stream and revealing the words were backwards. “What we didn’t realize is that, on an Instagram live, it flips it around. And I’m dyslexic, and it took me so long to write them this way. There’s no way I’m going to be able to write them backwards in time, so I apologize.” 

But Holland is not alone. According to Dyslexia Help, a University of Michigan organization, not only is dyslexia one of the most common learning disabilities, it’s one of the best understood. Yet, not everyone in Marvel star’s family is convinced of his disorder. In fact, Tom’s father, comedian-author Dominic Holland, isn’t on board with his diagnosis, writing in a 2014 blog post that while he didn’t “resent” it — if only because it led Tom to finding dance — he didn’t necessarily believe it either. 

“Being truthful, I was never happy with the diagnosis,” Dominic continued. “I have never been comfortable with saying that my son has the condition. I just believe that some kids have an issue with literacy … and that these anomalies are normal and do not need labels or to be explained away by bodies of experts.”

Tom Holland is slowly opening up about his new boo

Besties and co-stars Tom Holland and Zendaya have dodged romance rumors for years, but in the summer of 2019, the British actor got a rude awakening to realities of actually dating in the limelight. Less than a month after he told Elle that he was “definitely a relationship person,” he was spotted out with a mystery blonde woman — and the rumor mill went bananas. Soon after, Page Six had learned and shared the young woman’s name, something Holland wasn’t thrilled about. 

“I don’t like living in the spotlight,” the actor told GQ. “It’s the first time something like this has ever really happened to me. So it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Um, but you know, but it’s something that you look at and you go, ‘Oh, well, I just don’t put myself in that situation again.'”

Despite his ominous words, Holland was back in that situation again less than a year later. This time around, however, he leaned into the public romance. In May 2020, it was revealed that Holland and actress Nadia Parkes were in a relationship and quarantining together. Since then, the two have made their romance public, even sharing pictures of each other on social media. Aww.

Tom Holland's casting in The Devil All the Time was a long time coming

When the Netflix thriller, The Devil All the Time, was released in September 2020, people began raving about Tom Holland’s performance. While, at first glance, the role may seem entirely different from anything else the young actor has done, Netflix Fan Club showed how Holland drew from many of his former characters for the performance. With this in mind, it seems serendipitous that he shot the film at this particular point in his career, even more so when you learn that this film was years in the making.

According to Vanity Fair, director Antonio Campos began working on the movie in 2015, five years before it came out. This was also when he cast Holland — before he ever even donned the red and blue tights in Spider-Man: Homecoming. That means that Campos got to watch as his then-virtually unknown lead actor became one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.

Not everyone on the film was paying attention to Holland’s rising star, though. “When Jake [Gyllenhaal] and I were working together on Spidey 2, he was asking me what I was going to do next,” Holland told Entertainment Weekly. “I pitched him this movie [The Devil All the Time] and he was like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m producing that movie.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I’m in that movie.’ I guess someone had like messed up in the email and didn’t tell us that each of us were part of the film.”

Tom Holland's net worth is fit for a Marvel star

Considering the fact that his first solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming, beat out the likes of Wonder Woman to become the highest-grossing superhero movie of 2017, it’s no surprise that Tom Holland saw a major pay increase throughout his first three Marvel performances.

Holland was paid a reported $250,000 for his short stint in Captain America: Civil War, and twice that much for Spider-Man: Homecoming. By comparison, on-and-off-screen mentor Robert Downey Jr. scored $5 million a day for three days’ work on the film, which culminated in just eight minutes of screen time as Tony Stark/Iron Man. By the time 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War rolled around, Holland nabbed an estimated $3 million for his work. Throw in contractual bonuses and earnings from other onscreen gigs, and the British actor’s net worth comes in at an estimated $15 million, as of this writing in 2020, per Celebrity Net Worth.

However, Holland seems to be relatively frugal with his earnings: he’s grown an impressive fanboy array of Spider-Man merch since childhood, once splurged on a motorbike, and lives in a London flat with some friends not far from where he grew up. In the meantime, he’s keeping his eye on the acting prize, telling Interview magazine in 2017, “The 20-year goal is to be a film director. The 15-year goal is to win an Oscar. The five-year goal is to just keep enjoying myself. I really am having the time of my life.”

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