Marvel, Sony Hope They’ve Found the Next Joss Whedon

The studios have tapped virtual unknowns for their new Spider-Man effort. But they've had success with obscure directors before.

Spider-Man, the comic book franchise that keeps on giving.
Spider-Man, the comic book franchise that keeps on giving.

We’ve known since February that Marvel Studios got in on the latest comic book franchise that will not die: Spider-Man.

What we didn’t know is who the studio, which is partnering with Sony Pictures (one of Amy Pascal‘s last projects!), would tap. Tuesday, they announced that for the umpteenth iteration of hero Peter Parker, they’ve hired British actor Tom Holland. Jon Watts will direct.

Those names don’t sound familiar? It’s okay—both Mr. Watts and Mr. Holland are rather unknown. Mr. Holland appeared in the musical Billy Elliot and the 2012 film The Impossible. The baby-faced 19-year old also stars in Ron Howard’s upcoming film In the Heart of the Sea.

Mr. Watts, meanwhile, has directed episodes of IFC’s The Onion News Network and his latest project, a thriller called Cop Car, was a 2015 pick at the Sundance Film Festival. Cop Car stars Kevin Bacon and Camryn Manheim and is set for release in August by Focus Features.

Mr. Watts did make waves last year with Clown, a horror film that stars torture porn director Eli Roth as a killer clown bewitched by a cursed clown suit. Still—not exactly fun for the whole family.

But Sony Pictures Motion Pictures Group Chairman Tom Rothman is confident in the newbies, as they take on their first big budget feature film.

“I’ve worked with a number of up-and-coming directors who have gone on to be superstars and believe that Jon is just such an outstanding talent,” Mr. Rothman said in prepared remarks. And on Mr. Holland: “We saw many terrific young actors, but Tom’s screen tests were special.”

Producer Kevin Feige was similarly effusive, comparing his new recruit to Joss Whedon, who fought his way out of director “jail” with the massive success of The Avengers in 2012 for Marvel. “As with James Gunn, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, we love finding new and exciting voices to bring these characters to life,” Mr. Feige said in the remarks.

The newest Spider-Man is set for release in July 2017. Marvel, Sony Hope They’ve Found the Next Joss Whedon