British actor Tom Holland swung his way into theaters — and our hearts — with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming earlier this summer. His comedic timing, swoon-worthy accent, and acrobatic stunts have charmed moviegoers across the globe, and the film has made almost $600 million worldwide. Though this is hardly the start of his acting career, the 21-year-old has flown under the radar until now, and everyone wants to know more. Here are a few fun facts you might not have known about the Spider-Man star.
1. His first role was in a West End musical
The West End is London’s Broadway, but Tom nabbed a role in Billy Elliot the Musical without ever acting before. It did take him eight auditions and two years of training before he took the stage in 2008 in this show about a young boy discovering his love for ballet despite his father’s disapproval. Though he was originally cast as Billy’s best friend Michael, he began playing the title role full-time after only a couple of months of performances. Not only could he dance, but he was also known for his acrobatics in the show, including a flip after running up a wall. He played Billy for two years, finishing his run just before his 14th birthday.
2. He went to the same college as Adele
Tom attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology, which is known for its notable alumni: Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, and Leona Lewis, to name just a few.
3. He’s part Irish
Despite his British AF accent, Tom isn’t 100 percent British. His “granny” lives in Tipperary, and he told RTÉ he has a “huge family back in Ireland.” He’s also spoken Gaelic in his film The Pilgrimage and calls Dublin one of his favorite cities. So who knows, maybe we’ll see him on-screen in a kilt someday.
4. He loves Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”
When PEOPLE asked him what song always makes him dance, “Smooth Criminal” was the obvious choice. “If that song just came on now, you’d see an amazing routine,” he said. Unfortunately, he didn’t demonstrate.
5. His first film generated serious Oscar buzz
Tom’s first movie, The Impossible, was based on the real-life story of a family that got separated on vacation after a devastating tsunami hit their resort. Tom played the oldest son Lucas, who spent much of the film trying to save his mother, played by Naomi Watts, from dying. Tom spent five months in Thailand and a water tank in Spain filming the incredible obstacles and journey this family undergoes to find each other again.
Naomi had nothing but praise for his performance, particularly since he was only 13 years old at the time. “Tom is a beyond gifted actor,” she said. “He’s just a raw, open talent that’s so easy to work with.”
6. Tom is the youngest actor to ever play Spider-Man
Tom’s predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were 27 and 26, respectively, when they were cast.
7. He found out he got the role from an Instagram post
“I was in my bed scrolling through Instagram,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It had been about a month since my audition. And Marvel just posted a photo saying go to our website and find out who the next Spider-Man is. I went on the Marvel website on my computer and there it was: The new Spider-Man is Tom Holland. I went ballistic, like absolutely nuts.” Who wouldn’t?
8. He loves his dog Tess
His Instagram is full of photos of his adorable pitbull. Tom FaceTimes her when they’re apart, and he’s brought her to interviews before. He even has a painting of her, which he calls “the best present ever.” So adorable.
9. His favorite Spider-Man prop was super expensive
It was the Lego Death Star! “It was delicate and we only had seven of them and we had to break them,” Tom told IGN. “And Jacob [who played Ned] kept breaking them too early.” Plus, they were $500 each.
10. His comedian dad wrote a book about him
The humorous memoir, Eclipsed, chronicles Tom’s rising career and how it began to outshine his dad’s before he was even a teenager. For a sneak-peek into Tom’s childhood, find the book on Amazon.
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming wasn’t the first time Tom played Spider-Man
Tom made a cameo in Captain America: Civil War to show off his new suit and dip his toes into the Marvel Cinematic Universe before starring in his own film. “I was lucky that I had the opportunity to just test the water a little bit and see what the fans wanted to see. It just turns out they wanted to see my version,” he said in an interview with Newshub.
12. He’s been bullied before
At a press conference in Italy, Tom shared, “I was not a cool kid in school. I got bullied pretty badly. Mainly because if I did my homework, I was called ‘keen,’ and being good at work wasn’t cool…So I think it’s a really good thing for kids to see someone they can look up to, but that someone they look up to is a geeky kid, not your typical jock who’s a quarterback, you know.”
13. He runs a charity
Tom and his three younger brothers (Sam, Harry, and Patrick) run The Brothers Trust, which donates money to medical research, fighting hunger and supporting children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
14. Tom and Zendaya had an epic lip sync battle
Tom drew on his musical theater experience for a lightning-fast costume change to transform from Gene Kelly into Rihanna as he sang a mash-up of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Umbrella.” He also got to do a killer dance routine. As one commenter wrote, “We need to start a petition for Tom Holland to get on Dancing with the Stars.” ASAP.
15. His favorite part of playing Spider-Man is too cute
friendly reminder that tom holland goes out of his way to visit children’s hospitals in his spider-man suit, just to put smiles on their faces. pic.twitter.com/qImWauEmyg
— stewⒶrt • ᛤ (@tomstdatt) March 25, 2020
Tom says the best part of playing Spider-Man is visiting children in the hospital. Above, he’s seen visiting kids (and performing a few flips) at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. He’s also visited Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta and the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley in upstate New York. As if we didn’t love him enough already.