Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo urged Spider-Man star Tom Holland to watch older movies after the actor, at the time 19, admitted he never actually saw 1980's Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. The middle installment of the original Star Wars trilogy is referenced by Holland's rookie superhero, in his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, during an airport-set battle between two factions of the Avengers led by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans). A 15-year-old Spider-Man recommends a tactic from "really old movie" Empire to bring down the skyscraper-tall Giant-Man (Paul Rudd), whose legs are webbed up before he's toppled by Iron Man and War Machine (Don Cheadle).
In an interview with FOX 5 DC's Kevin McCarthy about the Russo Brothers' Pizza Film School series now available on YouTube, Anthony Russo said Holland confessed to never seeing Star Wars during the making of 2016's Civil War.
"We were stunned," Joe Russo said. "We adore Tom, but I'll tell you, getting to know Tom, Tom is a young man. He is a very young man. [Empire Strikes Back] is twice his age. We've since gotten him to invest some of his time watching some older films, hence the Pizza Film School. Holland needed to go to Pizza Film School [laughs]."
The Pizza Film School "aims to educate and spread some love to favorite classic films, as well as local pizzerias while movie lovers are stuck at home during the pandemic," per its official description.
"I have to tell you, I actually got really excited when he said he hadn't seen it because the idea was so novel to me and unexpected," added Anthony. "I was like, 'This is fantastic.' Tom is a guy whose sensibilities we really admire and value, and it's like, 'Oh my God, we get to tap into his sensibilities and they're unaffected by Star Wars.' I'm like, 'What is that? What does that mean?' I was very excited by that."
The Russo brothers, who directed Holland again in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, laughed off a suggestion they made Holland sit down and watch Empire. But, Joe admits, "I think we've since busted his chops enough that he's seen it. I think he's seen the [original] Star Wars trilogy at this point."
In a 2017 interview, Holland said he's "not a huge Star Wars fan," only playing one in the MCU.
"I thought Rogue One and Force Awakens were dope," he told Yahoo of two newer franchise installments produced under Disney-owned Lucasfilm. "I just for some reason skipped the original Star Wars."
Peter Parker's Star Wars fandom would play a minor role in Spider-Man: Far From Home, sequel to Holland's first Spidey solo Spider-Man: Homecoming, where Peter is forced to sell some of his treasured action figures from a galaxy far, far away to afford a gift for crush MJ (Zendaya).
Captain America: Civil War is available for streaming on Disney+.