The Devil All the Time star Tom Holland reveals that his role in the new Netflix film put him in a dark place mentally. Holland’s acting ability has been applauded ever since he first started appearing on the big screen, and has only intensified as he has gained recognition for playing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Devil All the Time has proven to be a significant departure from the projects he’s typically associated with though, given its unrelenting depiction of depravity and moral rot.
Based on Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name, the film is a psychological thriller which spans the time between World War II and the Vietnam war. It features a stellar cast of familiar faces, from Robert Pattinson playing a deceitful preacher to Sebastian Stan in the role of a corrupt cop, and focuses on the character of Arvin Russell (Holland) as he tries to protect himself and the people he loves from the corruption that surrounds them. Despite the fact that Arvin is meant to be seen by audiences as an unabashedly a good guy, one who is trapped in a seedy small town filled with sketchy citizens, Holland notes that The Devil All the Time presented a unique set of challenges for him.
In a recent interview with Variety, Holland revealed that he initially felt nervous about arriving on the set of The Devil All the Time. Elaborating on his difficulties with portraying Arvin, Holland pointed to the character’s complicated nature and the film’s very dark tone:
I’ve got to say I was really nervous and scared coming on set for the first time because I didn’t know if I had it in me to play this type of character. He is a really complicated character and it is very dark, and I had to go to places mentally that I didn’t know I could go to or don’t think I ever want to go to again.
It’s worth noting that many of Holland’s early roles, prior to his mainstream breakout appearance in Captain America: Civil War, had dark elements to them. His first live-action film, 2012’s The Impossible, focused on the true story of a family trying to survive in the aftermath of a tsunami. His other credits, such as Pilgrimage and How I Live Now, also trafficked in grim ideas and vivid violence. In most of those performances, however, Holland’s character tended to be removed from the center. This is not the case with The Devil All the Time, as a host of loathsome antagonists tend to converge around Arvin. The film shocks early on, and barely lets up for the rest of its run time, corrupting the kind-hearted Arvin in the process. Even as the ostensible protagonist, Holland says and does terrible things in the course of his performance. Given that Holland’s movies tend to depict him as an uncomplicated heroic figure, it’s understandable that the adaptation took a unique toll on the actor.
In social media posts, Holland has referred to The Devil All the Time as the next step in his career. Along with Cherry, the upcoming film that sees Holland reunite with the Russo brothers, the actor is branching out and starting to embody more morally ambiguous roles. Judging from the reactions to his turn as Arvin, the shift looks to be paying off. While reviews for The Devil All the Time are mixed, with many critics finding fault with its plot and presentation, the cast has received universal praise for their performances. Holland, in particular, has been lauded for showcasing a different set of strengths than he’s been typically known for. So, in spite of the difficulties that he faced in the course of shooting The Devil All the Time, the unique darkness of the film itself bodes quite well for Holland as he seeks to diversify his filmography going forward.