It’ll be a minute before we get Spider-Man: No Way Home, but Tom Holland is swinging his way into Apple+’s library with the film Cherry. Directed by Marvel’s Russo brothers, Cherry follows Holland as the titular character, an army medic who suffers from PTSD and robs banks to support his opioid addiction. A book-to-movie adaptation, Cherry is somewhat based on a true story — Nico Walker’s 2018 novel is often described as “semi-autobiographical,” as it takes inspiration from his own life. Walker’s personal experiences certainly played a role in shaping the film, and here’s what you need to know about how it ties to his life.
From 2005 to 2006, Walker served as a medic in Iraq after dropping out of college and enlisting at age 19. Returning home, he suffered from depression and PTSD. He soon took to heroin, paying for his addiction by robbing 10 banks in four months. From Dec. 2010 to April 2011, his stolen cash amounted to a grand sum of roughly $40,000. Walker wound up getting caught and served an 11-year sentence at a federal prison in Ashland, KY.
To him, stealing money felt like “child’s play” compared to his harrowing experiences in combat. “Hundreds and hundreds of times I’d gone through people’s houses with guns, zip-tying people, screaming at people, sometimes shooting, and it’s like, what’s this compared to that?” Walker explained in a profile in The New York Times.
A publisher named Matthew Johnson was interested in Walker’s story after reading about it in a Buzzfeed profile, especially intrigued with how it connected to a historical tradition of war veterans becoming bank robbers. In addition to sending Walker books, Johnson also encouraged the vet to write his own book. And so, Walker would write and rewrite four years while he worked as a GED tutor during the day in jail. Eventually, Walker sold the rights for his book, loosely based on his own experiences, to Tim O’Connell at Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House. On whether or not the novel was autobiographical, the author told The Guardian, “On a very basic level it isn’t what happened to me. The military parts are the ones that most closely mirror my experience. But even then, there’s a lot that’s quite different.”
In 2019, Walker was moved to a halfway house and allowed to travel in order to care for his ailing mother. The filmmakers offered him an opportunity to be an executive producer in the film adaptation of Cherry, but Walker ultimately turned them down. Walker is currently working on his second novel.