Thanks to his life-altering role as Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 21-year-old Tom Holland has become something of a household name among comic book nerds, little kids, Marvel and MCU fanatics, and Spider-Man fans worldwide. Now, due in no small part to the general success of his recent solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming, it seems he has also risen to become one of Hollywood’s most bankable young twenty-something actors. So bankable in fact, that Sony just recently cast him to play a young Nathan Drake in the upcoming film adaptation of Naughty Dog’s hugely popular Uncharted video game series.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, the mass euphoria that seemed to follow Holland around is now almost unanimously replaced by derision. News of his recent casting as Drake was met with fervent distaste, rejected pointedly by the most hardcore #Uncharted fans. Reasons why were mostly surface issues, ranging from the most common “He’s too skinny to play Nate” to the often mentioned “He doesn’t look like him at all.”
Despite the usual validity of everyone’s opinions, however, I am inclined to disagree. Not with the criticisms per se, but with the blind hate he’s been getting on account of all the surface issues. Which, by the way, are not as problematic as what people like to claim. Tom already possesses the natural skills to effectively portray a young Drake, and here’s why.
5. He Is A Natural Acrobat
Tom practices parkour. Unlike other possible choices for the role of a teenage Nathan Drake, he is also a trained dancer and gymnast with years of proven experience under his belt. His Instagram account is filled with 5 to 60-second samples of his hip-hop and ballet-inspired free running, most of which he is able to execute perfectly without any ropes or equipment. So far, he has successfully shot a three-pointer with his feet while in the middle of a flip, repeatedly executed flawless wall flips and horizontal wall running, in addition to countless other random tricks.
Holland once played Billy Elliott in theater, which explains his ballet and gymnastics background, as well as his rigorous training schedule. The guy is impressively athletic, so it is likely he is highly proficient in more sports than he’s currently letting on.
Despite his years of experience physically working his body, Tom admitted to still needing additional training when time came for him to play Spider-Man. Unlike most actors that have had to shoot action scenes, Tom performs most of his stunts. This is because he still trains exhaustively, of his own volition, even when there is professionally no need to.
Nathan Drake is well-renowned as a master of action-heavy parkour, climbing, and stunt work. Like the assassins from Assassin’s Creed, the Prince from Prince of Persia, or Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell franchise, Nate’s impressive athleticism and ability to perform otherwise impossible physical feats comprise a huge part of what makes the character so legendary. The good news? Tom Holland — an established athlete in peak physical condition — is already all of those.
4. He's Got The Slightly Awkward, Wisecracking Nature Of Nathan Drake Pinned Down
Being cast as the quippy Peter Parker proved, among other things, that Tom can play the awkward, well-educated wiseass just as well as he can perform his acrobatic tricks. Nathan Drake is like the millennial generation’s version of Indiana Jones — cool, smooth and wisecracking, supremely knowledgeable and intelligent, always gets the girl in the end, but still slightly gawky and childish in an endearingly nerdy sort of way.
Judging by his inspired performance in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Holland can play this archetype while still exuding a strong element of reckless youth. It’s the perfect blend between being socially awkward and smart-aleck; Tobey Maguire’s Peter and Andrew Garfield’s Spidey. An adolescent Nathan Drake is essentially just Peter Parker, which Tom is already able to portray flawlessly.
3. Slightly Younger Tom Holland Looks Exactly Like The Young Nathan Drake Portrayed In Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Maybe right now he doesn’t look anything like the current, or at least adult Nathan Drake, but as far as the younger Nate is concerned, Tom is an instant match. Putting both of them side by side, they look eerily identical, almost the mirror image versions of each other. It’s possible this is what producers had been looking at when they decided to cast Tom Holland as the young Nathan Drake.
OK, maybe he doesn’t look like the Drake we all know and love yet, but we can always get someone else that could easily play his older self , no problem. After all, Fox certainly had no problems getting different actors to play Patrick Stewart’s and Ian McKellen’s younger versions in the X-Men movie franchise, and it still worked beautifully.
2. His Role In Civil War And Homecoming Is Eerily Similar To the Reported Plot Of The Uncharted Prequel
The much-anticipated Uncharted movie will not just be any random prequel about some arbitrarily chosen ancient civilization; it will be an origin story based on Nate and his professional mentor, Victor Sullivan’s, first meeting. Essentially, it will revolve around a wisecracking teenage acrobat learning the ropes from a wiser, older superior. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s exactly the same subplot between Peter Parker and Tony Stark.
We already saw how well that was played out in both Civil War and Homecoming. For Tom Holland, his Uncharted debut will simply be a Doctor Strange-type repeat of what he had already successfully done as Peter Parker.
1. Tom Holland Is No Stranger To The Uncharted Franchise
In fact, he was the one who suggested the movie be a prequel and an origin story, including the bit about Nate and Sully’s first meeting. He’s even already called out his preferred castings for Victor Sullivan, namely Jake Gyllenhaal or Chris Pratt. Tom also mentioned that he and Pratt are already close friends, which would lend some realism into their dynamic in the Uncharted film.
Frequently with adaptations, fans are worried actors and crew will be unable to perform well due to lack of familiarity with the source material. Fortunately, here it’s looking like that won’t be a problem. Much like how Deadpool became a massive hit thanks to the concentrated efforts of Ryan Reynolds — the one other man in Hollywood besides Robert Downey, Jr. who can play his most iconic role perfectly — it is very likely the Uncharted prequel will also rise to the challenge because of its lead actor, hopefully breaking the longstanding trend of video game adaptations screwing up and bombing in the box office.
Seeing Beyond The Surface Level
Although the initial revulsion toward Holland’s casting as Nate is valid and understandable, it is also unnecessary and misguided in the bigger scheme of things. Tom’s natural skills already come close to matching adult Nathan Drake’s, and even then he’s barely reached his limit. With additional training and just enough time, he could still evolve to something even greater.
Tom Holland’s casting gets a lot of flack for seeming to portray the worldly Nathan Drake as naïve and unseasoned, but remember that the prequel is scheduled to take place years before Drake’s Fortune; Nate is not supposed to already know it all in this movie, or be capable enough to perform the feats he later becomes famous for in the games. Instead, this will be Drake’s version of a coming-of age story, where we can finally see who he was before he became a man, and when and how the boy finally became a legend.
So, if he looks more like a “Spider-ling” right now than a “Spider-Man,” that’s intentional. In this iteration, Nathan Drake is still learning the ropes; he’s allowed to still look somewhat feeble, scrawny and inexperienced to some degree. These surface issues will disappear as he progresses further into his journey.
Underneath Tom's teenage exterior and slightly squeaky, high-pitched voice, he already has the makings of a real-life Nathan Drake, and everything that makes our 21st century Indy special. If Spider-Man: Homecoming is any indication, it’s obvious he is capable of holding and spearheading a franchise all by himself.
If there’s any young person out there that can act his ass off and yet still be capable of performing what makes Nate, Nate, it’s Tom. We trusted him with Peter; I think it’s safe to entrust him with Drake as well. Not many people believed he could pull off Spider-Man too, and yet here we are. Don’t knock it 'til you’ve seen it.