Inverse Interviews

Netflix director: Tom Holland is “the most talented person in his generation”

The director of The Devil All the Time on working with Spider-Man, using real spiders, and more.

Thanks to Marvel Studios, Tom Holland is well on his way to being one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but the Spider-Man actor hasn't starred in a quote-unquote "serious movie." Until now.

The Devil All The Time (premiering September 16 on Netflix) features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, and Bill Skarsgård, but the story's clear protagonist is Tom Holland. The 24-year-old plays Arvin, the son of a WW2 veteran who internalizes his father's trauma, which is only made worse by his own tragic life experiences. It's a surprising turn for Holland, but the film's director Antonio Campos tells Inverse that the actor took it in stride.

"I didn't do anything in terms of getting him ready," Campos says. "There were no bad habits that we had to break. He is an amazing actor. I think he is one of the most, if not the most talented person in his generation."

In a 15-minute interview, Campos discussed working with Holland, Pattinson, and the rest of the cast, along with what went into filming the movie's most disturbing scenes, and more.

The Following interview has bend edited lightly for clarity. Light spoilers follow.

This movie takes some influence from the Coen Brothers. Did any of their films in particular inspire you?

Yeah, I mean, the Coen brothers are filmmakers that have been part of my life as a film fan and a filmmaker. I definitely thought about them a lot. I think the film that my brother and I talked about the most was Miller's Crossing because of the complexity of the plot, because of the period quality, the crime aspect of it, the sense that there are things that play outside of the frame, outside of even these characters. So those elements really things we thought about as we were making it.

Jason Clarke and Riley Keough.Netflix

The Devil All the Time has a great ensemble cast, and a few of the actors are really famous for working in superhero movies. What's it like directing a group like that? Are there any challenges in helping them break from that type of acting?

I don't see them as those characters that they're so well known for playing. I don't have the baggage of thinking of them as the kind of iconic characters that they've played. I really just see them for the people that they are in front of me and for the characters that we're trying to create. It’s never an obstacle for me to get over.

They were all so enthusiastic and excited to take on these roles and play in this world that my general direction was just: Dig deeper. Let's find the humanity here. Don't be afraid to go further. Don't be afraid to swing for the fences with this. I never really thought about the Marvel of it all.

The other thing is, Rob [Pattinson] is Batman now, but Rob was not Batman when we made this movie. So the crossover happened after the fact.

So you didn't know at the time that he was Batman?

No. I mean, he didn't know it. He hadn’t auditioned for yet it when we made this movie.

"I don't have the baggage of thinking of them as the kind of iconic characters that they've played."Netflix

Tom Holland is really good in this and it's such a different role for him. What was it like working with a young actor like that to help him do something new?

He talked about how it's a new type of role for him, but I didn't do anything in terms of getting him ready. There were no bad habits that we had to break. He is an amazing actor. I think he is one of the most, if not the most talented person in his generation. I think Tom has an incredible career in front of him with many different types of roles and I expect he will continue to make blockbusters and do very interesting, challenging characters.

The thing with Tom is, he's very hard-working, he's very serious, and he's very committed. He also has an amazing sense of humor and a very kind warm soul. He’s a very soulful guy. And so, I felt like, this guy understands Arvin. He sees who this kid is and he wants to go where he needs to go to do this character justice. He also just has an inherent goodness to him that, when you combine it with the awful things that Arvin does, makes him a more accessible character.

The very first scene of The Devil All the Time features a soldier who's been skinned alive. It's pretty intense. What's the process of setting up something like that for a movie?

That was a lot of makeup on. That was makeup. That was a lot of special effects to create the environment that the hill is on and then very subtle visual effects to augment the skinned quality of the soldier.

What about that scene with the preacher and the spiders?

That scene is real!

Oh my god. Those are real spiders? Seriously?

Yes, those are real spiders. When people are like, Oh, that seems so creepy the CGI, I’m like, No, that was about 40 real spiders poured on Harry Melling’s head. There are three CGI spiders that crawl around in that scene, but everything else is real. I even made a point of putting out some behind the scenes photos of Harry Melling in the moment with the spiders falling on him in the church.

"It took months to plan."Netflix

How many times did you have to film that scene? Did you get multiple takes?

We only had one. It took months to plan that because we had to first get approval from so many different people. And we had to figure out what kind of spiders were durable and that could be in a closed container together for long enough without eating each other, and also how we could pour them on to Harry without them falling and hurting themselves. So it was months of planning.

And then we got to the day and it was like, the spiders were tired — we had to wait for the spiders to come out of their trailer. When we finally got them in the same bowl they'd clump up into like a ball. You can't pry them apart, you’ve got to wait for them to crawl away from each other. So we had one chance.

That's wild. All right, one last question, and I'll let you go. There are a lot of crosses in this movie. What's the message you're trying to share about Christianity and religion in general?

The message is very simple: Religion can be a very dangerous tool if it's in the wrong hands, and an extreme religion is never a good thing. There should be a limit to your expression of faith. Religion can offer a space for you to meditate and look for answers, but it will never provide you an answer. The answer will always come from yourself.

"Religion can be a very dangerous tool if it's in the wrong hands."Netflix

The Devil All the Time premieres September 16 on Netflix.

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