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An oral historical past of Tom Holland's sensational 'Lip Sync Battle' efficiency

The fashionable world will be divided into two distinct eras: earlier than Tom Holland carried out “Umbrella” on “Lip Sync Battle,” and after.

The 12 months was 2017. The Oscars had mixed up their winners. Kendall Jenner had made a problematic Pepsi ad. The Fyre Festival had crashed and burned, unhappy cheese sandwiches and all.

After which got here Tom Holland’s “Lip Sync Battle” mashup of Gene Kelly and Rihanna, or what is actually two minutes and 10 seconds of perfection in each sense of the phrase. Ditching his preliminary high hat and swimsuit to grind on a literal umbrella and carry out a sensual routine in a pleather leotard, crimson lipstick, and chin-length wig, the British actor, then 20, obliterated gender constructs and defied the expectations of how a newly minted motion star ought to market himself.

 

When he appeared on the Could 7 episode along with his pal and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” co-star Zendaya, Holland had already performed Spider-Man in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil Conflict.” However “Homecoming,” set for launch 2 months later, could be his first main function because the superhero. “Lip Sync Battle” could be a part of his first main publicity tour, and, for a lot of Individuals, their first introduction to Holland.

The primary three performances of the fateful episode — Zendaya’s takes on Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” and Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” plus Holland’s model of Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” — are highly effective in their very own proper. And the present itself, which was in its third season, was an establishment: it had attracted visitors like Anne Hathaway, who swung from the ceiling on a giant wrecking ball, and Channing Tatum, who strutted to “Run the World (Ladies)” with the actual Beyoncé

But it surely was Holland’s show-stopping choreography that might win him the mantle of essentially the most well-known, and beloved, routine within the present’s historical past. 

TikTok is full of dancers recreating his “Umbrella” choreography. Clips of the routine go viral with soothing regularity. Holland’s “Spider-Man” co-star Jacob Batalon wore a hoodie emblazoned with a caricature of Holland mid-routine. (You should purchase your personal on Etsy.) Nary an interview goes by the place Holland is not requested about his efficiency.

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Holland, Zendaya, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” director John Watt.

Ian West/PA Pictures/Getty


“That ‘Lip Sync Battle’ is form of a type of issues that has form of come again to hang-out me a little bit bit,” Holland advised Entertainment Weekly earlier this 12 months. “I get extra compliments from dancing within the rain in fishnets than something [else] I’ve completed.” 

Under, to rejoice the episode’s 4th anniversary, those that labored on it — together with producers, choreographers, writers, and dancers — divulge to Insider how the seminal second in popular culture historical past got here to be. (A consultant for Holland advised Insider that he was “respectfully declining interview requests for the close to future.” Representatives for present host LL Cool J and co-host Chrissy Teigen declined requests for remark. Representatives for Zendaya and Rihanna didn’t reply to requests for remark.) 

Sony approached the “Lip Sync Battle” producers with the thought of doing a Holland vs. Zendaya episode to advertise ‘Spider-Man: Homecomingforward of its July 2017 launch. 

Casey Patterson, government producer: I actually suppose it was in line with how they have been positioning “Spider-Man” on the time, which was: It is all new. It is youthful. They wished to introduce Tom to an American viewers in that spirit. They liked the concept that they may present how multi-talented he’s as a result of you are going to see the physicality in “Spider-Man,” however you actually get to know somebody after they come to “Lip Sync Battle.”

Danielle Flora, choreographer: At the moment, we’d say, “Okay, listed here are our celebrities which are coming in. That is what they take heed to, that is their music listing.” After which me and among the writers would pitch concepts to Casey and speak her by how we visualized it.

Patterson: Tom has such nice style in music, and we kicked round lots of concepts, however we pitched him “Umbrella” as a result of we thought we may do “Singin’ within the Rain” to start with and it will simply be a good way to point out off the “Billy Elliot” side of him, too. He was fearless. He was like, That is it. That is completely it.

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In 2010, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, heart, met with actors who performed Billy Elliot — together with a 13-year-old Tom Holland, far proper.

Stefan Rousseau/PA Pictures/Getty


Flora: My course of is creating concepts and hoping that whoever my movie star is, perhaps they’re going to have the ability to dance a little bit bit and carry out just a few counts sprinkled all through the quantity. I had no concept when Tom walked in that he was going to have the ability to do every little thing after which some. 

Patterson: There was a little bit little bit of like, “Casey, what have you ever completed?” form of factor [from Sony]. “You bought Tom tremendous enthusiastic about this huge, dangerous concept.” But it surely was simply so natural. He is chatting with an viewers who would not suppose twice about him doing a Rihanna track and doing it in tribute to precisely the way in which that she did it within the video. 

Each track carried out on “Lip Sync Battle” has to get cleared by the artists and songwriters concerned within the observe. As soon as the present selected “Umbrella,” it wasn’t sure that they may get the rights. Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Once more” was ready as a backup, and, based on the inventive transient considered by Insider, would have concerned Holland dressed within the traditional crimson latex jumpsuit and a doable cameo from Spears in costume as an astronaut.

Patterson: We might clear track by track and must go to every artist. We might say we now have Tom Holland approaching the present, and Rihanna would wish to bless it. It is by no means a given.

Jeanie Cheek, costume designer: We truly created two totally different units of costumes for him and all the dancers. Simply in case “Umbrella” did not undergo, we had a backup efficiency. 

I did not have approval on ‘Umbrella’ till like 5 hours earlier than we did the present. There’s the contingency of, ‘If you happen to do not do that, then you definitely’ll be doing Britney and we’ll educate you a brand new dance.’  Holland to Individuals in 2017

Flora: I do not bear in mind [the backup Britney song] in any respect. I am certain I choreographed it. And I am certain that it was traumatic for me for the time being, choreographing two numbers and never figuring out which one. I feel we at all times wished it to be “Umbrella.”

Kuk Harrell, “Umbrella” co-writer and producer: That [licensing] stuff at all times goes by the writer, after which they simply logistically reached out to us and requested if we wish to grant permission for “Umbrella” for use. I didn’t know who Tom Holland was.

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Rihanna performs “Umbrella” on the 2007 MTV Transfer Awards.

Chris Polk/FilmMagic)


Tough Stewart, “Umbrella” co-writer and producer: It was identical to, “Are you okay with it or not?” And, clearly, “Lip Sync Battle,” it is like a notch in your belt to have a track that’s so identified that individuals would truly have the ability to lip sync it. It is an amazing feeling.

Patterson: The minute “Umbrella” [got approved] it was simply speedy, unanimous. We have been excessive fiving, like, “That is it. The world’s going to go loopy.” 

Holland’s efficiency required two distinct appears: a suit-and-tie ensemble for the Gene Kelly “Singin’ within the Rain” opener, and a French maid-inspired look from the “Umbrella” music video for the principle Rihanna section.

 

Baza Novic, prop grasp: My fundamental focus and duty was Tom not getting harm by any of the dynamic props and staging components. I did not wish to be the one chargeable for injuring Spider-Man.

Marvin Brown, dancer: My first response was, “is he going to decorate as Rihanna?” That is what we have been all enthusiastic about. After which within the first rehearsal he was like, I’ll come out and sing ‘Singin’ within the Rain.’ And all of us simply thought, “Oh no, meaning you are going to be [dressed like] a man for the remainder of it.” And he was like, No, no, no, I wish to do a fast change.

Cheek: We truly took an actual swimsuit and an actual shirt and an actual tie, and as a substitute of him having all of these layers, we basically reduce them aside and stitched them collectively to make one garment.  [It] may tear off and are available aside proper down the center. 

Patterson: We weren’t certain if he would go all the way in which with the wardrobe. This was one in every of his first appears on American TV. Are you going to go all the way in which there? And he completely and fully was like, Sure, why do it when you’re not going all the way in which?

Novic: The prop purchaser needed to scour downtown L.A. to purchase out all of the umbrellas she may muster [for Tom and the dancers]. On reflection, I certain hope it did not rain in LA that weekend, as we wolfed up all of the black umbrellas we may discover. Tom ended up utilizing the one which he had introduced with him. 

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Paramount


Cheek: We picked the French maid look as a result of it was essentially the most totally different from the swimsuit. A person in a swimsuit to a French maid costume is fairly dramatic. We knew that the outfit beneath was going to be tiny and it was going to be tight. It was constructed like a leotard, all one piece. 

Brown: As soon as we knew that he was going to be within the Rihanna look, we have been like, “Okay, that is about to be the efficiency of the night time.”

Cheek: To start with, we had made the little lace cuffs that he had round his wrists a lot larger and fluffier, and he requested us to make these a little bit bit much less pronounced. That really labored out very well as a result of it was a lot simpler to cover these beneath the sleeves of the swimsuit. 

I stated, ‘You need me to bop within the rain and do a entrance flip? I can not try this in heels. I want I had now. That will have shut issues down. Holland to Individuals in 2017

Flora: I feel he undoubtedly may have completed the routine in heels. I do not suppose he would have been in a position to do what he did within the water. I feel it will have been much less dancing and a little bit extra stomping round.

Holland spent the times main as much as the taping engaged on his routine with Flora and the backup dancers, however, based on the crew, he did not do a full costume rehearsal till the identical day because the taping. However, his background in efficiency — he starred in “Billy Elliot the Musical,” and educated in dance — helped immensely.

Flora: Each agent says that their movie star visitor is a superb dancer. Then, after they present up on set, it simply actually isn’t the case. So, this was essentially the most lovely blessing. It is like this glorious human has fallen out of the sky and on high of that, he actually can dance his butt off. 

Patterson: I feel we reached out to Rihanna [to cameo in the performance] sooner or later, and it was at all times [a] scheduling [issue]. She was tremendous supportive of the present.

Flora: We confirmed Tom the choreographed efficiency, after which I stated, “Something you do not like, something you wish to add, we are able to change it.” And he was like, Oh my God. I am in. I can do all of it. 

Patterson: He was so devoted, he wished additional time to return in and work with the dancers. He actually leaned in, no hesitation, did not flinch. 

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Jana Krumholtz, dancer: I’ve a giant background in faucet [dancing] and so I used to be like, “I will assist with the faucet opening.” However he did not want any notes. I used to be like, “Yeah, I’ve obtained nothing for you. You nailed it.” He took it so critically.

Flora: He picked up the choreography so quick. Then, he wished to get these little nuances excellent. So, as an illustration, the rolling of the hips or the hips being pushed up, these accents are a little bit extra female than perhaps the way in which he would simply naturally do them. So, it was simply wonderful tuning that.

Brown: We truthfully did not get to do Tom’s routine correctly till the morning of the present. That was the one time we truly obtained to do it with water and each impact due to the funds.

Cheek: We solely did one costume rehearsal with the physique swimsuit as a result of then it needed to dry. 

Flora: Dancing in water, it is scary as a result of it’s slippery. There was a second in rehearsal the place we did it with the water for the primary time, and he slipped a little bit bit when he did that flip on the finish, and I used to be like, “Oh, god. I’ll lose my job. I killed Tom Holland.” However he was adamant about it. He was not taking it out. 

I had lots of enjoyable. It was extremely worrying. Holland to British GQ in 2021

Brown: Tom’s was essentially the most difficult routine I labored on. They have been continually including issues to make it a little bit bit harder each time, and Tom was the form of the one that by no means stated no. He would make it tougher for himself. 

Patterson: As nervous as he was proper earlier than the present, he stored including. He’d say, Oh, I’ve an concept. Like, Can I stage dive? 

Brown: He wished to exit within the crowd and we have been like, “You may’t try this!” He wished to do an excessive amount of.

Patterson: With each of him and Zendaya, it was the dedication. They went actually arduous for his or her followers. 

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Zendaya, Holland, and host LL Cool J.

Paramount


Brown: Some actors after they are available, they’re horrible. They don’t know what they’re doing. However due to his efficiency background, Tom simply knew precisely what he wished. 

Flora: It simply makes such an unimaginable distinction to have somebody like Tom and Zendaya come and each be so gifted and wish to truly dance. Not say, “I do not wish to have to recollect choreography as a result of I do not need the stress.” They wished the stress, wished their numbers to be hyped. They wished all of it. 

The episode was pre-taped in entrance of a stay viewers in early April 2017. Holland has since admitted it was probably the most nerve-wracking experiences of his life, and his dad tried to talk him out of doing it.

Flora: The one factor that has at all times been drilled in from Casey is it is a lip sync battle. It isn’t a dance battle. And due to that, lots of occasions, you are actually solely taking pictures from the neck up. Clearly, as a choreographer, I wished Tom to bop as a lot as doable. However I wasn’t certain how that was going to play out [on camera]. When you check out how gifted his dancing is, I feel there was no different option to shoot it however to see the entire bundle.

Cheek: He did that efficiency in a single take. We didn’t do a second take. We not often do second takes, however they don’t seem to be at all times as excellent and as seamless as that.

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Paramount


Flora: I used to be involved about the truth that the sunshine pole [used in the “Singin’ in the Rain” opener] was not mounted. He could not actually swing on it, so I used to be apprehensive about his adrenaline and what that might do. 

Novic: Tom’s security was everybody’s concern. I personally held on that pole from all angles [to test it beforehand].

Flora: It was wonderful, after which my largest concern was the short change.

Cheek: So, he runs behind the umbrellas to cowl him up, [Flora] and her assistant are hiding backstage, they tear issues off. He did the lipstick himself! Somebody arms him the lipstick, and he did it himself. No mirror, no nothing.

Flora: The fast change wasn’t foolproof. I feel I used to be accountable for getting his pants off. Actually, there are 4 ladies again there. Every one in every of us has an umbrella. We’re simply ripping his garments off. Thank god all of it lined up.

Cheek: These reactions that you just see, when Zendaya’s eyes come out of her head when he comes out dressed as Rihanna? That was completely actual. 

He clearly killed it. Zendaya to Esquire in 2021

Patterson: These two are sneaky. I do not know the way a lot they have been speaking. Zendaya wasn’t imagined to know in regards to the music, but when she did, she undoubtedly did not know in regards to the pyro. She did not know in regards to the rain. She did not know in regards to the open.

Brown: Truthfully, his efficiency was so excellent. We obtained off stage and we have been identical to, “What the heck? Why did that go so nicely?” 

Novic: All I care about is that nothing, together with the people, breaks throughout the efficiency. This one ended with a really giant sigh of aid.

Flora: I used to be ecstatic. We have been all leaping up and down screaming along side the stage. It felt so good. I used to be actually simply so pleased with it.

I simply thought to myself, like, I’ll have to only do one thing extremely daring, and in the event that they watch it and do not know who I’m, they’re going to nonetheless be entertained by it. Holland to Esquire in 2021

Patterson: He selected an bold track. He selected one of many largest artists on the planet. And he selected essentially the most superb option to do it. There isn’t any manner the viewers wasn’t going to be with him in an enormous manner for going that far for them. 

When the episode aired on Could 7, Holland’s “Umbrella” efficiency immediately went viral. Holland has stated he did not hear from Rihanna afterward. 

Harrell: I noticed it stay [when it aired]. Clearly, the efficiency was loopy. It was the vitality that we put forth in making the track, producing the track, and the way Rihanna carried out the report. I feel his efficiency actually encapsulated all of that and gave everyone a possibility to only love the track another time.

Patterson: Tom was simply so surprised. It actually caught hearth. He would textual content and simply say like, Oh, my God, there is not a day that goes by…, like, you’ll be able to think about his pals, folks he is identified, folks he is carried out with texting him that video each 5 minutes? Anne Hathaway stated the identical factor. She stated she had extra folks wanting to speak to her after her “Lip Sync Battle” efficiency than when she gained her Oscar. I feel as a result of it is so private.

Stewart: This [clip] was all the way in which in mainstream America. That signifies that everybody is aware of the track once you get to the purpose the place it may be utilized on a platform like [“Lip Sync Battle”]. It means you have got completed greater than write successful track — it is what we name a smash. It was an enormous honor, and we have been glad to be an element. 

4 years later, Holland’s “Umbrella” continues to be part of the pop-culture dialog. The unofficial “Tom Holland Umbrella Law” holds that anybody who sees a clip of the efficiency on social media is obligated to reshare it, thus perpetuating an infinite cycle. As Patterson put it to Insider, “‘Lip Sync Battle’ was one of many first exhibits to be a viral engine.” 

Patterson: After Tom’s efficiency, we undoubtedly noticed expertise wanting to boost the stakes and stay as much as what he’d completed.

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Krumholtz: He so totally embodied it and was celebrating Rihanna. You may really feel his respect for the artwork. Doing Gene Kelly and Rihanna? It is good to deliver them each into one quantity.

Cheek: Although he had a wig, though he had a bodysuit, his dancing was nonetheless Tom and it was horny. It was him actually simply moving into it and feeling the music. He wasn’t attempting to make it a parody. 

For me, I actually relish in the concept that there’s positivity that is come from it. Holland to Leisure Weekly in 2021

Flora: There is a distinction between enjoying a lady or completely attempting to execute as a lady. And he simply wished to actually execute it. There’s a humorousness in there, however he wasn’t making enjoyable in any respect. 

Patterson: I feel he loves us and curses us on the similar time for the way tied he shall be to that efficiency without end. It is his fault. He killed it. He leaned all the way in which in like the professional that he’s, and it went loopy due to that.

Ashley Spencer is an leisure author and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Occasions, Vainness Honest, VICE, The Washington Publish, and elsewhere. Comply with her on Twitter at @AshleyySpencer.

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