It's no secret that comic book fans can, and often do, react loudly and negatively when one of their beloved characters is cast in a live-action adaptation. From Gal Gadot's casting as Wonder Woman to Ben Affleck as Batman and beyond, actors have been critiqued and ripped to shreds, usually before audiences have even had a chance to see them bring their characters to life. But when you're an actor of color cast in the role of character who has traditionally been portrayed as white in the source material, some corners of fandom can get particularly nasty.
That was the case for Tony Revolori, an American actor of Guatemalan descent who portrays classic Marvel Comics character Flash Thompson in Spider-Man: Homecoming. In the source material, Flash is a white, male jock who physically bullies Peter incessantly in high school, only to become one of his best friends after college. When it was announced, then, that the Grand Budapest Hotel star would play Peter Parker's high school bully in the rebooted franchise, fan reaction was swift, and from some, negative. And, as Revolori explained to CBR in a one-on-one interview, the response extended far beyond a few trolls on Twitter saying mean things.
"I’m not what the character was in the comic books," Revolori told CBR. "I'm not, and we can say that clearly and easily -- and there's still people who will hate that fact. It was very disheartening to receive hate mail and death threats and things like that."
Rather than allow negative reactions to his casting, no matter how extreme, turn him off from the role, Revolori used them as fuel to push himself even more to offer audiences the best modern version of Flash Thompson he could. "It's hard, but then I realized they love this character so much... this is just their passion," the actor said. "I am passionate about things myself, being sports or movies or things like that. I understand where they're coming from. Maybe they went about it a wrong way, but I took it all as constructive criticism. What can I do to do it right? Then I did what I had to, to be the Flash that they could be happy with, and sure, they won't be happy with it anyway. But I gained 60 pounds for the role, and I did what I had to. I think that was one of the hardest things in the beginning, to be in that bubble of all this hate, and then just trying to walk out of it unscathed."
Swinging into theaters July 7, director Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.