Tom Holland is no stranger to hard physical training, which he did plenty of in order to portray the Marvel superhero Spider-Man. But when it came to preparing to play the lead role in the actor’s upcoming feature Cherry, Holland realized he would have to undergo a different, much more difficult form of training to lose close to 30 pounds in weight. In an interview with GQ, Holland admitted he would have a hard time making a similarly intense sacrifice for a future role.
“I had to lose a lot of weight for Cherry. And I don’t think I would ever do that again. I lost around 27lbs by running in a bin bag every day… It was awful. Truly. It was only about ten weeks out of shooting that I realized what I was getting into and what I need to do to transform into the role. So I sat down with my trainer, George Ashwell, and he told me, ‘Right, you need to eat only 500 calories a day and run ten miles. Go.’ Great. It was brutal. And then bulking up, going from a drug addict to shooting scenes as a marine? I got very sick, actually. And it’s changed my relationship with food completely. I think I would find it very difficult to find a role that would warrant that sort of abuse on my body again.”
Based on the autobiographical novel Cherry by Nico Walker, the movie tells the story of the titular character, played by Holland, who enlists in the army, and suffers from PTSD thanks to his war experiences overseas. Cherry returns home struggling with his mental health and turns to opioids for relief.
That, in turn, starts a vicious cycle of addiction that leads Cherry to becoming a small-time crook, robbing banks to feed his habit. Portraying such a desperate character was a difficult task for Tom Holland, and not just in terms of the physical training to lose weight. According to the film’s co-director Joe Russo, Cherry could only have worked if Holland was able to make the audiences empathize with his character’s tortured journey.
“This character makes bad choices. We knew the audience would have difficulty with the lead, so we needed someone who was charming and empathetic to carry them through. The mission with Cherry was to make people have an emotional response to the material, not an intellectual response. You tend to intellectualize when you are distanced from the lead character. Tom’s incredible charm can counteract that. After we read the book we felt that the only person who could play this and carry the correct level of empathy was Tom.”
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Cherry features a lead cast consisting of Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, Jeff Wahlberg, Forrest Goodluck, Kyle Harvey, and Michael Gandolfini. The film is currently screening in select theaters and is available to view on Apple TV+. GQ magazine.