‘Cherry’: The Russo Brothers Wanted Tom Holland Because They Knew the ‘Audience Would Have Difficulty With the Lead’

Cherry premiered in theaters on February 26, and it will be available for streaming on AppleTV+ March 12. The film — based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Nico Walker — follows an Army veteran with PTSD (Tom Holland) who resorts to robbing banks to clear the drug debts from his heroin addiction. 

Tom Holland in a 'Cherry' billboard
Tom Holland’s billboard ad for ‘Cherry’ is seen in West Hollywood | fupp/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

The film premiered to subpar critical reviews, with many condemning it for an unoriginal narrative and a flashy filmmaking style that minimized the gravity at the center. However, critics are celebrating Tom Holland’s performance, and his take on the character has been highlighted as an asset in an otherwise disappointing Russo Brothers production. 

Holland invested a great deal of time and energy into this production — losing 27 pounds to play Walker at the height of his addiction, as well as working with an adviser when it came to accurately portraying drug highs and withdrawals. During an interview with GQ, Joe Russo explained why the film needed Holland and would have likely struggled with someone else in the driver’s seat. 

The protagonist in ‘Cherry’ isn’t exactly likable 

The main character in Cherry doesn’t always make the right choices; actually, he rarely makes the right choices. And, when dealing with a protagonist who will be subject to moral criticisms, casting the lead character becomes quite difficult. Ensuring audiences empathize with and care about his journey is essential. Joe Russo explained: 

“This character makes bad choices…We knew the audience would have difficulty with the lead, so we needed someone who was charming and empathetic to carry them through. The mission with Cherry was to make people have an emotional response to the material, not an intellectual response…”

Joe Russo | GQ

RELATED: ‘Cherry’ Will Feature 6 Chapters, Each With Completely Different Tones and Production Designs, According to Joe Russo

Russo explained that Holland’s likeability, charm, and charisma are essential when aiming to ensure that viewers don’t over-intellectualize a production, and, instead, go in with more heart than head. 

Joe Russo talks about Tom Holland’s ‘incredible charm’

Russo explained that he and his brother needed a character who could “counteract” the protagonist’s unlikeable qualities. He shared:

“You tend to intellectualize when you are distanced from the lead character. Tom’s incredible charm can counteract that. After we read the book we felt that the only person who could play this and carry the correct level of empathy was Tom. I think we were doing some ADR work after Avengers: Infinity War and we asked him outright. He threw himself 150 percent in, physically, emotionally, spiritually – it takes its toll, this kind of material, you know?”

Joe Russo | GQ

In the end, the Russo Brothers were correct in their character-actor pairing but made some mistakes in the filmmaking process.