Tom Holland may be the most powerful 23-year-old in Hollywood at this moment, not because he's Spider-Man, but because he's the Spider-Man that everyone wants, and Sony knows it.
In the past few days, controversy has arisen following the reportedly dissolved Sony/Disney deal that allowed Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, there is still some evidence indicating that Sony and Marvel are discussing a new deal to return Spidey to the MCU. Despite all of the uncertainty around Spider-Man's future, one thing is certain: both studios want Tom Holland to remain as Spider-Man. Holland has either one or two more films on his contract (sources conflict on the exact number). Depending on how he plays his cards, Holland and his influence could be key to smoothing over relations between Disney and Sony to leverage a deal and bring Spider-Man back into the MCU.
What Has Holland Done Since the News Broke?
While Sony has made multiple public announcements since the news about the Sony/Disney deal broke, Disney has remained relatively quiet, as have Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige and Holland himself. Or, at least, it appears as if Holland has been quiet.
Tom Holland is not following Sony on Instagram (but is following Marvel Studios). He also recently went on a hike with Robert Downey Jr., which led to several more Instagram posts, including one where he and Downey are holding action figures of Iron Man and Spider-Man, all to the caption of "We did it Mr. Stark."
Holland's father, British comedian Dominic Holland, recently argued that he expects a deal to be brokered between Disney and Sony, saying "I have no inside track on such issues. But whatever is decided by the big suits at these big Hollywood studios – my hunch is that the show will continue. Too much at stake and too many dollars riding on it – and besides, everyone wants the same thing; namely, Spider-Man on large screens keeping people safe and entertained."
Evidently, the Holland family is looking forward to Spider-Man remaining in the MCU. However, there is a possibility that Holland's actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will influence the future of Spider-Man in the MCU.
What Will Holland Do Next?
While some reports have indicated Holland has two films left on contract with Sony, he definitely has at least one more, based on the original contract he signed for back when he agreed to be in Captain America: Civil War. That means that Sony will either want Holland to expand his contract or appear in at least one more film, which will most likely be his third solo Spider-Man movie or a Venom crossover film.
Sony has reportedly been pushing for Spider-Man meeting up with Venom for some time now. In some ways, this trumps all the company's other desires. A recent Variety article states that, "The plan, insiders said, has always been to unite Holland’s Spider-Man and Hardy’s Venom in the same film."
If Sony only has one film left with Holland under contract, it might very well be a Venom crossover. At the same time, however, Spider-Man: Far From Home just made over a billion dollars. It ended on an incredible cliffhanger, and Sony would be foolish not to make a sequel where Spider-Man has to live in a world following that film's climactic ending.
While, in theory, this film could be a blending of these two separate ideas, it is far more likely two separate films will be created, since Sony needs the Spider-Man franchise to continue, and two separate films might prove to be far more profitable overall.
Holland Needs to Renegotiate His Contract
This is where things get complicated. Sony has fired Spider-Man actors before. The studio almost let an injured Tobey Maguire go before Spider-Man 2, and Andrew Garfield was shown the door after two films. After Garfield left, executives' plans for any upcoming Spider-Man film fell apart. They were left directionless, as indicated by the infamously leaked Sony emails. Less than two years after Garfield's last film, Sony signed a deal with Marvel.
If Tom Holland walks away from Sony without negotiating a new contract, Sony may very well lose whatever good faith they have left with audiences. Both Sony and Holland know that. This grants Holland the ability to make requests, and it's very clear that Holland wants to remain a part of the Marvel Studios family.
As a result, Holland can push a Sony/Disney deal as part of his new contract. Or, at least, threaten to not negotiate a new contract if Sony doesn't talk with Disney. While it seems unlikely that Holland will serve as the ultimate key to the problem, it can put pressure on Sony.
Sony Cannot Afford to Lose Spider-Man
Many people argue that Disney should just buy the Spider-Man license off of Sony, but Sony is unlikely to sell. Sony has for years been struggling as a studio. While recently, it's had success with Jumanji, Sony's most successful franchise remains Spider-Man. Since Spider-Man: Far From Home being the company's most financially successful film to date, Spider-Man and its other Marvel productions are critical to its continued success.
It also doesn't help that, despite what any executive at Sony thinks, the MCU helped elevate Spider-Man's popularity among modern audiences, and Disney has made Sony a lot of money. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 cost too much and made too little, especially when compared to the increasing profits and decreasing costs of the MCU Spider-Man films.
As we have seen with 20th Century Fox, if a film company loses money, they will be bought out by a more powerful company. So if Sony wants to stay afloat, it will do whatever it can to keep Spider-Man financially successful. That means that it will maintain brand recognition -- which means Holland needs to stick around. This is especially evident after the fan backlash to the Sony/Disney deal dissolving.
Of course, Tom Holland will not serve as a mediator between Sony and Marvel/Disney, and he certainly won't barge into a meeting ith the perfect deal that will satisfy both studios. However, his influence on the proceedings could serve as a key motivator for Sony to make a deal with Marvel. If not, the studio risks severely overestimating the inherent marketability of the Spider-Man brand.