"Spider-Man" star Tony Revolori is climbing his way to leading-man status in Hollywood and carving out a space for Latino actors along the way.
Revolori, who was born in California and is of Guatemalan descent, told Insider that he was of two minds when he began acting professionally as a child.
"There was a realist who understood what I was going to be getting and then there was the young idealist person who wanted to play all the characters, from a superhero to swinging around the lightsaber."
Nothing could have prepared Revolori for the realities of Hollywood because the industry is "ever-changing," but he experienced additional adversity as a person of color.
"I felt it just wasn't favoring me in the way that I needed it to, that I wish it did, and that I saw that it did for other people," the actor said. "And it kind of wore me down for a little bit, but through perseverance, here I am and I'm still standing."
To say that Revolori is "still standing" today is an understatement. His determination to give auditions his best shot is precisely what has landed the 26-year-old actor parts in high-profile projects.
Starring as Zero Moustafa, a refugee lobby boy and eventual inheritor of the titular hotel, in Wes Anderson's 2014 film " The Grand Budapest Hotel" changed Revolori's trajectory.
Up until that point, Revolori had booked minor roles in TV shows and commercials. But in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," laden with veteran actors, he appeared in a majority of the movie's scenes alongside costar Ralph Fiennes, who played Zero's mentor and hotel concierge M. Gustave.
Revolori said the critically acclaimed movie, which won four Academy Awards, completely transformed the way he was perceived in Hollywood.
"It just gave people the opportunity to look my way, you know? Even in a room in a regular audition, I'd be able to have something backing me up, which is incredibly helpful," he said. "It definitely changed the way people looked at me. People still didn't know much, but they definitely wanted to know more."
Revolori followed the success of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" by landing the of role Flash Thompson in Jon Watts' 2017 "Spider-Man" reboot, starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
Following previous iterations led by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the Marvel web-slinger, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" was more diverse and reflective of New York City, a melting pot of different cultures.
Characters in Peter's inner circle that are white in the comics, like his best friends Ned Leeds and MJ, were played by Jacob Batalon and Zendaya, respectively.
Prior to Holland's casting, Revolori participated in a casting call, open to all ethnicities, for the role of the web-slinger. Because he felt pressure to prove he could play the iconic character, he did a significant amount of research beforehand.
"It seems to commonly occur that we go into a part like this where you want it so badly, you're willing to do more than anyone else," Revolori explained. "But it becomes a tough thing when you're not even considered for it before they move along. I think the issue is that, sure, they let us all audition, but did we even have the chance?"
Revolori admitted that his experience was exacerbated by a lack of self-confidence.
"I'm sure they would tell you otherwise because they're far too kind, but I remember absolutely bombing the audition because I didn't have any belief in myself to be able to say, 'Yes, I can be Spider-Man, I will be Spider-Man,' because there's no representation there, not in the comics," he said.
Marvel comics contain diverse web-slingers, like Miles Morales, who is Afro-Latino, and Miguel O'Hara/Spider-Man 2099, who is of Irish and Mexican descent, "but the idea that you have to make a completely new character to play that role is difficult," Revolori said.
"The fact that I've never seen anyone who looks like me play a role like that made me feel like, 'Am I gonna be able to do this? Is that real, that I can actually have a shot at this?' And it ends up kind of rocking your belief system."
After auditioning for Spider-Man and then Ned, Revolori was asked to read for the high-school bully.
When Revolori landed the role of Flash, a tall, white, blue-eyed jock in the source material, comic-book fans voiced their dissatisfaction online. His initial reaction was "very biting" and he was tempted to call out the critics, but "realized there was no point."
Instead, he shifted his mindset to "not giving a shit" about what they thought.
Playing Flash in "Homecoming," "Spider-Man: Far From Home" (2019), and "Spider-Man: No Way Home" (2021) was even more special to Revolori because he didn't truly see himself represented on-screen growing up.
"As a Latino man, I've never had the 'Black Panther' or 'Crazy Rich Asians' moment," he said. "As far as I know, neither have other family members of mine and friends."
Revolori was happy that his younger brother was "able to see a variety of different people" on-screen when he accompanied him to the premiere of "Homecoming."
"I'm glad it's more accessible for the next generation, but I do think we still have a little bit more work to do," he said.
Revolori recalled being at Disney's D23 Expo in Anaheim, California in September and hanging out with newer MCU stars Danny Ramirez (introduced as Joaquin Torres in "The Falcon and the Winter Solider") and Tenoch Huerta (who will make his debut as Namor in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever").
"It was nice to all be there and speaking Spanish and having a little moment even amongst ourselves to be a little flabbergasted and enjoying what we're given here," he reflected.
The actor said that continued diversity in Hollywood can be achieved by "telling stories with people of color in the lead," giving underrepresented voices the opportunity to be heard, and letting actors have the "opportunity to audition for something that doesn't need to necessarily be defined by race."
"I would love to walk into an audition for 'Spider-Man' and not feel like I don't deserve the chance or not feel like I have no shot at it from the second I walk in, you know?"
In December, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed to the New York Times that a fourth "Spider-Man" film is in development. Five months later, Sony chairman Tom Rothman told Deadline he was optimistic that the studio would start working on the movie soon, hopefully with Watts, Holland, and Zendaya.
There have been no further details since then, but Revolori expressed interest in reprising his role as Flash.
"I would love to revisit the character," he said. "He's someone that I hold dear. Being a brown man, getting to play this role is important. I had a wonderful time doing it and I'd love to keep doing it if they'd have me."
Ideally, Revolori would like to "push the character into further new depth" and "explore a little bit more Flash and see who he is behind the cell phone."
Regardless of whether or not Revolori gets a call from Marvel, his future looks promising.
He's set to appear in his third Anderson film titled "Asteroid City," costarring Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, and Bryan Cranston, among others.
"I had the best time, the story's great, and it's Wes Anderson, so there's a lot of symmetry and colors and kind of wacky moments that are wonderful, with a lot of heart in the center of it," Revolori said, adding that he loves the director "dearly."
Revolori will also appear in "Scream 6," which will ditch Woodsboro for NYC. Revolori admitted that he's "never seen a 'Scream' movie," but star Mason Gooding "sold me on why it's such a phenomenal set, why the directors are phenomenal, and why producers are great."
"And he wasn't wrong," Revolori said. "I had the best time on set."
"It's a really, really fun script and there are a lot of twists and turns," he added.
Revolori is also looking forward to the chance to "expand my own universe" by writing, producing, and directing.
"I try and find myself looking for characters that I would love to play regardless of race," he said. "There are great stories that can be told from a Latin perspective that I would love to tell and be a part of."
Revolori said that one of the common excuses made for why people of color aren't given as many opportunities is because they're not perceived as "financially backable." So, he's trying to position himself "in a leading man role and show that we can be at the forefront of the movie."
"That's my goal right now, is to further push that narrative and give us the opportunity and kind of break away from that excuse as well as tell incredible stories," he said. "At the end of the day, this is something I want to do that helps people of color."
"But at the same time, I'm an actor through and through," he continued, "I adore this industry, and I want to make the dopest, coolest shit possible that interests me and be a part of some of the greatest original stories that have yet to be told."
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