The Time Out Interview: Andrew Garfield
British-raised actor Andrew Garfield is set to hit new heights as the skyscraper-scaling arachno-hero. Time Out meets the man behind the mask in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. By Tom Huddleston. Portrait by Muir Vidler
Andrew Garfield is on the verge of going stratospheric. From theatre work and TV appearances to acclaimed performances in ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘The Social Network’, the 28-year-old LA-born, British-raised actor has tended to shun the limelight. He’s a serious, self-effacing young man more interested in art than adulation. But with the release of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, in which he plays the titular teen-turned-spandexed superhero, Garfield’s anonymity will be comprehensively and irrevocably shattered.
Meeting in the plush environs of the Soho Hotel, Garfield seems fully aware of what’s about to happen to him. He speaks and acts like a man on the brink of a cliff, knowing he has no choice but to jump: he’s jittery, excitable, wide-eyed and slightly crazy. Whether this boundless enthusiasm will survive the glare of Hollywood superstardom remains to be seen, but for now Garfield is allowing himself to be swept along by events – and loving every minute.
How did you land the role of Peter Parker? Did the producers seek you out, or did you have to jump through a few hoops?
There was a part of the screen test where I literally had to jump through hoops. I was like, ‘Are you fucking with me?’ They said, ‘Just jump through this fucking hoop.’ It was a six-hour screen test which included a real film camera, costume, make-up and 89 people around the monitors, watching. I don’t know who they were; I think they hired them to make me feel intimidated. Then there was a lot of waiting before I got the part. And of course within that period I went through the whole gamut, from ‘I don’t fucking care’ to ‘If I don’t get this, I will die.’
Was Hollywood somewhere that you always wanted to get to?
I was born there, in Cedars-Sinai just west of Hollywood. And I was raised half-American, half- English, so I may have wanted to know where I came from. But when you say ‘Hollywood’, I don’t think it’s a real place, so trying to get there feels pointless. It’s based on hype. Of course I love movies, they’ve shaped and defined my life since I was a kid. But I left drama school just wanting to work and learn and feel, and make money and support myself, and figure out what I wanted to do in the world.
When you got the part of Eduardo in ‘The Social Network’ did you think: Okay, things are going to change. Or did you just think it was a good part?
I was desperate to do it because of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, and the script was just un-fuckingbelievable. This kind of writing doesn’t come along. And this kind of director directing a bunch of young actors doesn’t come along. Of course you can’t control that little bit of ego that says, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a movie that people see?’
Is part of you scared of what’s coming?
It’s all a big joke. It’s a ride. It will be whatever it is and I can’t control it. But of course I’m scared: I like being able to walk around. There is something fascinating about that fame thing, but I know it’s not healthy. Maybe Will Smith can handle it, maybe Tom Cruise was built for it. But I’m not.
Were you surprised at the choice of Marc Webb (‘500 Days of Summer’) for director? Was he chosen because of his name?
Definitely the name. No, I thought it was a fantastic choice. He’s a very sensitive, earnest filmmaker who cares about the human story and the character relationships. I was really psyched. ‘Psyched’? I never say ‘psyched’. I was really happy!
You’ve made movies with effects before, but this is on a different scale. Was there anything you were taken aback by?
It wasn’t that bad. You get frustrated because you want to make it as real as possible; you want your responses to the giant lizard you’re fighting to be as authentic as possible. But it’s very tough to be scared of a tennis ball on a stick, in a silent room, with a silent crew all checking their phones. So you just close your eyes and cross your fingers.
There are legions of ‘Spider-Man’ fans… you’re one yourself. Are you prepared to fight the film’s corner if the hardcore fans don’t like it?
What’s amazing about the character is that it’s everyone’s. It’s bigger than this movie, it’s bigger than the other movies that have been made, it’s bigger than any comic. Everyone should have a say. If we make a sequel, I want there to be a war room full of fans – the guys who really give a damn – deciding where the movie goes. Can you imagine? It’s an untapped resource.
It’s an amazing cast. Did you have fun with the similarly up-and-coming actress Emma Stone (who plays Gwen Stacy, and is also Garfield’s real life love interest)?
She’s fantastic. It’s like life is happening when you’re acting with her. It’s the most exciting, real pure, electric aliveness. She’s a firework. She cares so much, and she’s so funny it’s stupid.
And Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben) is possibly the coolest man alive…
It was so exciting. I’d be there looking at his face and going, ‘Oh my God, I feel like Sissy Spacek right now.’ He’s a sweetheart. It’s the most you can hope for. To come out of this industry unscathed, to be good, to be pure and to be nice. To be a nice actor is the ultimate goal.
So you don’t have any ambitions beyond being nice, and continuing to work?
Well, I think about certain performances that made a real impression on me. There were periods of my life that would have been much harder to understand without Scott Baio in ‘Bugsy Malone’ or Sean Astin in ‘The Goonies’. I’m serious! I thank God for them, and for Michael J Fox in ‘Teen Wolf’. It’s important! How many times have I seen ‘The Big Lebowski’? If I can’t sleep, the dulcet tones of Jeff Bridges will send me off.