Exclusive: Tom Holland In Talks To Reunite With Robert Downey Jr. In Play Dirty

We've learned Tom Holland is in negotiations to join Robert Downey Jr. in Shane Black's upcoming crime thriller Play Dirty.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

tom holland robert downey jr

They won’t be coming together as Avengers, but it looks like the MCU’s Iron Man and Spider-Man actors will be working together on the big screen once more. Our trusted and proven sources tell us that Tom Holland is in talks to join Shane Black’s Play Dirty, with Robert Downey Jr. already locked in to the lead role. Just a couple of weeks ago, Deadline reported the movie would be the first in a series of film and TV projects based on the Parker novels of the late Donald E. Westlake.

If Tom Holland’s Play Dirty character is anything like Robert Downey Jr.’s, it will be nothing like the wide-eyed, innocent Peter Parker of the Spider-Man films. The titular protagonist of the Parker series is a ruthless crook who will do whatever is necessary to get the job done and get clear of the authorities. He’s by no means a sadistic man, but if killing you will help him finish the job, say your prayers.

You could say Parker is something of a spiritual predecessor to Robert De Niro‘s Neil in 1995’s Heat in that he has an unshakable ethos when it comes to crime that doesn’t include cruelty for cruelty’s sake. He usually has no desire to hurt or kill the people he’s robbing, but if that’s what it takes, he’ll do it without blinking.

We don’t know who Tom Holland is in talks to play alongside Robert Downey Jr. in Play Dirty, or if there’s a plan to have him come back in some of the other Parker projects. Over the course of 46 years, Westlake — under the pseudonym Richard Stark — wrote and published 28 Parker novels with a long list of recurring characters. There are plenty of Parker crooks Holland could play, but we think we may have found the perfect match.

tom holland robert downey jr
The late Darwyn Cooke’s 2013 graphic novel adaptation of Slayground, published by IDW

A lot of Parker’s fictional associates are meant to be on the older side, which wouldn’t fit with the baby-faced Holland. But in the fifth Parker novel, 1964’s The Score, Westlake introduces Alan Groenfield — a thief like Parker who has women swooning over his good looks and whose true passion is theater. Groenfield appears in eight of the Parker novels, and in half of them he actually replaces Parker as the main protagonist.

What better way to attract Tom Holland to this Robert Downey Jr. led project? Not only does he get to reunite with his Marvel mentor, but with the larger plan to branch Play Dirty out into more films and TV series, as Groenfield Holland could get the chance to lead his own features and/or series, rather than just playing second fiddle to Downey. It would be like Marvel all over again, except, we imagine, with a whole lot less CGI.