Tony Revolori is instantly recognizable for his starring roles in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Dope. A Southern California native, the young actor’s star continues to shine as Flash Thompson in Spider-Man: Homecoming. His casting was a radical change from previous iterations of Flash. Instead of being a big, white, football player that mercilessly bullies Peter Parker; the character is updated to a small, brown, Latino rich kid that still thrives on bullying Spider-Man’s alter ego.
We interviewed Tony exclusively at the press junket for Spiderman: Homecoming in New York City. Tony is an affable, stylish guy. He walks in sporting wavy hair and a beat-poet moustache, definitely an older look than what we’ve seen on film. Tony spoke at length about being cast by Director Jon Watts. Beyond the physical change of the character, Flash Thompson reflects what bullies are like in modern times. The biggest update is that he’s not a dumb jock who physically intimidates Peter. Flash is an intelligent guy. He attends the same high school for math and science. His abuse towards Peter is more verbal, which stems from jealousy.
The most intriguing aspect of our talk with Tony was the reaction he received once cast as Flash. Tony Revolori was besieged by hate mail and death threats. Ignorant people threatened him because he was racially different than their preferred perception of the character. This behavior is disgusting and irrational, but must be taken seriously. Tony spoke at length about dealing with this barrage of racism. It boggles the mind that this had to be addressed, but the hateful world of social media continues to thrive.
Tony Revolori has not been signed to play Flash in any Spider-Man sequels. He loved the part and hopes to be called back for future films. Fans of the comic books know about Flash’s turn to Agent Venom. Tom Hardy has already been cast in a Venom film for Sony. They’ve clearly stated that this Venom character will not be a part of Spider-Man or in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe that bodes well for Tony, who is fantastic as Flash, and certainly has the talent to take the character in any direction. Any racists who lobbed vitriol at the actor will be eating crow once they see Spiderman: Homecoming. Please see below our full interview with Tony Revolori.
That’s a sweet moustache. Is that for a role or just styling?
Tony Revolori: That’s my style. I don’t shave. I hate shaving. I think it’s ridiculous and a stupid concept. I don’t grow anything on the sides. Literally, this is all that grows, so why not? It looks good. It looks like someone did something. (laughs)
Let me get the diversity question out of the way. Flash, to this point, was a big douchey white guy. In this film, your Flash is smaller and browner, but still a huge douchebag. Talk about the change in the character apart from the look. What did Director Jon Watts expect from your Flash?
Tony Revolori: (laughs) When we talked with Jon, and he told me I booked the role of Flash, I was like, what? Sorry, what, are they gonna dye my hair. Am I wearing lifts?
So you didn’t audition for Flash?
Tony Revolori: I auditioned for Ned Leeds originally. Then I started going in for auditions for Flash. Look, I’ve been in Hollywood for long enough to audition for white roles and never gotten them. Oh, he’s the one brown person we’re going to audition, just because it makes us look ethnic. Believe me, that’s happened to me countless times. That’s what I thought this was. When I finally got it, I was like, what the hell is happening. I got the concept of he’s going to be different. That’s great. In conversations with Jon, they are all going to this elite school. They are all smart. He’s not a jock. He’s more of a rival than a bully. I thought that was an interesting way to take the character. Also, we talked about how to make him a bully nowadays. He’s the social media bully personified. That’s what I tried to make him be like.
The social media sphere can be brutal. Talk about the reaction you’ve been getting on social media after you were cast? What do you say to people who claim this is diversity casting?
Tony Revolori: Thank you for your criticism. Listen, there’s people who are not happy. That’s fine. They are set in a fifty to a hundred years ago mindset. There was homophobia. That was the natural. If you didn’t have that, you were the odd one. There was slavery. That was the normal thing for them. For these people, it’s not nearly that bad, but it’s the mindset they have that cannot be changed, until generations go by. Or one person at a time. Look, I’ve had death threats and hate mail and everything…
Death threats? You’ve gotten death threats? Are you serious?
Tony Revolori: Oh yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of those.
How does that affect you when you get those? How do you react? Do you take them seriously?
Tony Revolori: Oh yes, the thing is that it’s not just fear for myself. It’s fear for my family. What if something happens? Then I realized, the thing about these people online, they have no weight to their words. They don’t understand how heavy these words are, and how damaging they can be. They think they are weightless, these words can be said and everything is fine and apologize. I thought, from their perspective, they think these words are weightless; so I’m going to do just the same. These people, not my Flash, blah, blah, blah. That’s fine. They are passionate about a character. That’s wonderful to have passion. I don’t want to rid them of that. I just want to prove to them that I’m good. Hopefully when they see the film, they’ll change their mind. If they don’t, then that’s your opinion. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he’s ridiculous. I want him to leave office. Some people don’t have that opinion, but that’s them. As a brown person, you understand this being African-American yourself, we didn’t get to have an opinion a hundred years ago. I don’t ever want to rid people of their opinions. That’s the beauty of this country. So by all means, have an opinion on Flash, but I am not going to give your opinion any weight whatsoever.
Great answer, getting back to the movie; it reminds me of a John Hughes film…
Tony Revolori: (laughs) Who’s that?
All that great, funny dialogue between the younger cast, is that in the script? Or did Jon allow some improvisation to make it more realistic?
Tony Revolori: It all came through us bonding, then making the words sound real. But then, in real time, our wonderful producer, Eric Carol, who’s also a writer on the project, would come in and give us alternate lines. I could pitch something to Jon and he would listen. Peter, in the film, isn’t really a jokester. Tom had his own ideas. For me, they would say, be as mean as possible. I would go far, very , very far, to the point where people were not laughing.
You crossed the line?
Tony Revolori: (laughs) Oh yeah, but we needed to go there. Then Jon would say, tone it back a little bit. We were able to find…look, Flash in the movie, is a d*ck and an a**hole. He has his reasons. You can see it on film. You can somewhat sympathize with him, but we wanted to make sure he was still a d*ck. We went as far as we could, then brought it back. That would give us ideas. The improvisation was definitely there. We had a lot of fun with the alternate lines. What felt like the John Hughes type stuff was the fact that we did hang out daily. We ate Waffle House in the middle of the day. We laughed, had fun, went to the aquarium. We all hung out constantly. I think that set the tone for what we needed.
Younger audiences have not seen Tobey Maguire, or maybe even Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland is their Spider-Man. In that sense, you are also now Flash. You must be signed for more films. Have they told you where they are going with your character?
Tony Revolori: No…I don’t know if I’m going to be coming back. They haven’t told me.
Tony Revolori: Yes, I am just calm and waiting. I’m taking it one movie at a time. I am very happy and thankful to be here. That’s all I’m going to say. I do have ideas where I’d love to take the character, but it’s up to Feige and Pascal. They have the great ideas. I trust them wholeheartedly, look at their track record. From this film alone, I am one hundred percent willing to do what they ask me. I’m very fortune. We will see. I am looking forward to the future. Hopefully I get called back.
You’ve been so different in every movie. From Grand Budapest Hotel, to Dope, to this film, every character you’ve played is so quirky. Is there any of the real Tony Revolori in these characters?
Tony Revolori: When I did Grand Budapest Hotel, I flew out at fifteen years old, by myself, to meet Wes Anderson in Paris. When I was on set, I was surrounded by Oscar winners, both in crew and actors. This was insane to me. That innocence, about the character coming into his own, being a lobby boy, that was just me. I’m in a film with all of these great actors. During Dope, Rick Famuyiwa, who I love dearly, he would not give me a single note. He would say, just do it. I know you got it, take it, carte blanche. I didn’t improvise a lot, much was written, but I did add a lot to make it feel real. I made it more me. Flash, I’m definitely very good at ribbing on people. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I was very small. Physically bigger kids would intimidate me. What I had on them was my mind. I could make jokes with them, or rip them apart, with my mind. I feel that’s what I share with Flash. Not bullying, but being able to defend myself with my wit.