“Chicago is — and always will be — my home!” said Laura Harrier of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” laughing at the pun incorporated into the title of her biggest film yet. “Yes, here I am in my hometown talking up Peter Parker’s homecoming.”
A native of Evanston, where she graduated from Evanston Township High School in 2008, Harrier said during a Chicago visit that playing a high school kid in the new “Spider-Man” movie (opening Friday) “did give me a real sense of deja vu. … Even though we were making a film, a lot of the high school experiences re-created in the movie reminded me of all the mini-dramas kids go through — myself included — back in my own high school days in Evanston.”
The film’s director, Jon Watts, told the young cast he wanted “this movie to feel like a John Hughes movie,” Harrier pointed out. “I loved that, because a lot of ‘Home Alone’ and his other films took place in Evanston and on the North Shore. So, I kind of have lived that experience — which made me feel more comfortable while we were filming.”
Speaking of being comfortable, Watts insisted his young cast — Harrier, [Spider-Man/Peter Parker] Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Zendaya and newcomer Jacob Batalon — “all spend a lot of time together, before we began filming in Atlanta. It was like going on forced ‘play dates,’ ” said Harrier, “but it worked. We truly did bond as a group and became friends — which nicely has lasted even after we finished filming the movie.”
When she was in high school for real, back in Evanston, Harrier took drama classes but didn’t “consider myself to be a real theater kid. I played a lot of sports and was more focused on boys and parties and stuff,” she added with a laugh. “Acting came into my life a little bit later, after I started doing some modeling, after school.”
When she comes back to the Chicago area, besides spending time with her family, Harrier “loves to eat here. There are definite places I absolutely have to get to when I’m home. In Evanston’s there’s Mustard’s Last Stand, which had a picture of my brother William hanging in there for a long time — because he was a friend of a guy named Keith who worked there. It was kind of a funny, random thing.
“Anyway, I go there to get cheese fries and ice cream. … And, if I can get my dad to drive me down into the city, I go to Harold’s Fried Chicken on the South Side. It’s so good! What do they put in there? It’s so addictive, like drugs!”
Harrier, 27, plays a classmate for whom Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker harbors an enormous teenage crush. The actress said the London-born Holland “just looks right for a kid in high school” and “delivers such a flawless American accent!”
As for the ongoing popularity of the “Spider-Man” franchise, Harrier said, “No one knows what it’s like to be an alien or a Norse god, or a billionaire like Tony [‘Ironman’] Stark, but everyone went through high school and had growing pains and had to try to find themselves.
“That’s why I think people can relate to ‘Spider-Man.'”