One of the most memorable points of Avengers: Infinity War may have been much different, if not for some solid improvisational skills from actor Tom Holland. The directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, opened up about how Holland added to a pivotal point for Spider-Man and helped capture the spirit of the moment. Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follow.
In the climactic moment of Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos snaps his fingers to wipe out half the population of the universe, and we subsequently see several characters both minor and major fading into dust. The camera lingers the longest on Spider-Man, who has an emotional moment with his mentor Tony Stark. The Russos told Uproxx that a lot of that was from Holland.
“I think what was scripted was, ‘I don’t feel so good,’ and, ‘I’m sorry,’ and everything in-between is Tom,” said Joe Russo. Throughout the rest of the scene, Parker is pleading and scared, saying he doesn’t want to go. Joe said that was an emotional level they had pushed him to pursue, summarized as “you’re a child and you don’t understand.”
On top of that, Holland also benefited from working with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, who has been a mentor to Holland as an actor as well. “Ever since we introduced the new Spider-Man in Civil War, Robert has been a very active mentor to him. And not just outside, but in the moment and in the scene while acting,” said Anthony Russo. “Robert is one of the most remarkable performers on the planet and he makes everyone around him better and he brings everybody up. So, when Robert is tuned in to what you’re doing and, on a performance level, he wants to help feed you and pull you. He can do remarkable things. And he will dance with Tom on a performance level that is amazing and that was one example of it. He’s a very giving performer and he really helped us find that moment with Tom.”
The result is one of the film’s haunting emotional centerpieces, which Joe Russo says they knew they had to make a “gut-punch.” Anthony Russo added, “Once we commit to a story idea, we commit to the fullest version of that. The potency of that moment is a function of us following that creative choice.” Asked if they were concerned it would make kids cry, the two compared it to the adventure franchise film that made them cry as kids: The Empire Strikes Back.
“I stayed and I watched that movie from 11 AM until 11 PM the day that movie came out,” Joe Russo said. “I just kept going back and back and back. And I think there’s something about catharsis and we all create catharsis in storytelling. There are things you can deal with in fantasy that you can’t deal with directly in the real world. I would argue that this movie is a reflection of its time. And that there is a level of catharsis the audience is going through collectively and globally as we march into whatever future awaits us.”
Spider-Man certainly wasn’t the only prominent and emotional death in the film, though. Black Panther has a brief emotional moment with his bodyguard Okoye, and Groot has a scene that hits even harder once you hear what his final “I am Groot” meant. Avengers 4 will continue the story and presumably resolve the Thanos arc when it releases next year, and Disney is already eyeing the next ten years of Marvel movies with a new franchise.