Evanston High School grad spins romantic web for Spidey in 'Homecoming'
Laura Harrier remembers the moment she received The Call.
"I was in total shock!" the former Evanston resident said. "I had all these calls from my agent. When I called him back, he told me I got the part. I just sort of slumped down to the floor and said a bunch of bad words. I was completely in shock!"
That's how Harrier, a 27-year-old graduate of Evanston High School, found out she'd been cast as Peter Parker's would-be girlfriend Liz in the just-released "Spider-Man: Homecoming."
To prepare for the role, Harrier went back to the beginning: Spider-Man's first appearance in Marvel comics in 1962.
She read all the early Spidey adventures and studied Liz Allan, Peter Parker's high school crush. Then, Harrier made a bold decision: She dumped the original character and reinvented Liz from scratch.
"Liz appears in so many different versions of Spider-Man that her storyline keeps changing all throughout," Harrier said.
"To be honest, my Liz is completely different from the one we see in the comics. (Director) Jon Watts gave me the creative freedom to not only pay homage to the comic books where she comes from, but to create a character who feels modern, likable, someone who people can relate to much more than with a straight version of Liz from the comics."
After graduating high school, Harrier enrolled at New York University, but before classes started, she opted to give modeling a go.
She wound up on the pages of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Glamour in a very short time. Harrier also works as a rep for Bulgari jewelry and is part of a Calvin Klein advertising campaign.
Harrier began her performance career by studying acting at New York's William Esper Studio.
"I don't want to say I fell into it, because it was something I wanted to do," Harrier explained. "It was something I wanted to explore. I never thought I would actually become a professional actor. I just kept going with it. One thing led to another."
In 2013, Harrier played Destiny Evans in 43 episodes of "One Life to Live," the long-running ABC soap opera remounted as a web series on Hulu and iTunes.
That led to five small roles in TV shows, features and film shorts before she was cast in the ultimate web production, "Spider-Man: Homecoming."
Next, Harrier stars as Millie Montag in Ramin Bahrani's remake of "Fahrenheit 451" based on the novel by Waukegan native Ray Bradbury. On Sunday, Harrier traveled to Toronto to begin shooting the movie, an authoritarian dystopian vision of an American city in which firefighters go to houses not to save lives but to burn books.
Harrier read Bradbury's novel to prep for the production.
"I think it's incredibly relevant now, and I think that's why they're making the movie," she said. "We live in a time when we're dumbing down as a society. The information is being controlled. The media is controlled.
"The movie is a commentary on all that, plus the lack of human connection that we have now. So much of the script is about how we communicate through technology and emojis and avatars."
Equipped with luminous, expressive eyes and homespun freshness, Harrier said she's just beginning her careers. "I'm learning every day," she said.
So what did she learn from acting on a soap opera?
"To memorize lines quickly."
What did she learn from modeling?
"To look halfway decent in photos."
What did she learn from "Spider-Man: Homecoming"?
"I learned a lot about how to be on a big set like that one. I learned so much, as it was my first real film. I'm just trying to take in this whole experience. I'm really grateful for it and I want to keep doing it as long as I can."
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Evanston really is home sweet homeActress and model Laura Harrier says she returns to her Evanston home whenever she can.
Her dad, in the insurance business, and her mom, a speech pathologist, still live there in the house where Harrier grew up with her younger brother.
"When I'm home, I like to go to the beach," she said. "I always stop by Hartigan's Ice Cream and Mustard's Last Stand. Evanston shaped me, who I am as a person. You're exposed to a lot growing up in Evanston. It's a very unique place. I had a pretty idyllic childhood there. I'm still super close to my friends in high school."