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‘I’m just very, very lucky’
/ 5 July 2012
Andrew Garfield may be reluctant to embrace his newfound fame but is quick to admit he is in a fortunate position because of his roles
THAT’S ANDREW GARFIELD’S face plastered on billboards, on buses and on subway posters all around the world. That’s his visage on action figures and in video games and cereal boxes. Really, the 28-year-old Brit, who plays the quintessential teenage American superhero in the upcoming mega-movie The Amazing Spider-Man, is everywhere.
Or is he?
Sitting for a conversation at a swanky New York hotel, the actor takes a bite from a nacho chip and shakes his head in low-key disagreement – or, perhaps, blissful denial. He then leans in, as if sharing a secret.
“You know what?,” Garfield says. “I’d been sheltered from it because I was doing Death of a Salesman on Broadway. I was really focused on that, and thank God, because I think that, if I was aware of all the paraphernalia and all the periphery stuff that goes on, I’d freak out.
“But I will tell you what,” he continues. “It’s Spider-Man on those cereal boxes, not me. It’s the mask. That’s fine, that’s not me. There’s a body in that suit and it happens to be me, but the soul of the character is that mask. I’m not wrangling out of this. The soul of the character is that mask, and that’s what kids get excited about.
“They’re not like, ‘Andrew Garfield!,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Spider-Man! It’s Spider-Man!”
The film already has raised Garfield to a whole new level of stardom. Previously better known to Hollywood insiders for his early work in Boy A (2007), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) and Never Let Me Go (2010) than he was to moviegoers, it wasn’t until his performance as Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network (2010) that Garfield began to be noticed. Then he won the coveted role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man and, during production, embarked on a romance with the film’s leading lady, Emma Stone, who plays Gwen Stacy.
So, while it’s true that kids aren’t yelling “Andrew Garfield!” there are nonetheless people yelling “Andrew Garfield!” loud, clear and often. That would be the paparazzi. They’re quite possibly a harbinger of things to come, the camera-clicking ghosts of Garfield’s future and a sign that his role as Peter Parker may come at the price of his privacy and anonymity.
“Oh, that’s awful,” Garfield says. ‘’Sometimes they go, ‘Spidey!’ which is obnoxious. The (loss of privacy) was the only thing that made me not want to do it. That was the thing that I ummed and aahed about for months before signing on. It’s just (rotten), but I can’t complain about it because I stepped into the room. I knew it was a possible outcome.
“It doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it,’’ he says, ‘’but it also means that I have no right or reason to complain about it. If someone hacks my phone, I’ll take them to court. If someone breaks a law ... If I ever have a kid and my kid gets affected by it, I will probably murder someone.
“I was here in New York with my nephew recently,’’ Garfield adds, ‘’and I had to talk to these guys. Before we left the apartment, I went out and said, ‘Hey, you guys are doing your job. I understand that. I don’t know your stories. You may have kids at home, or you may not. You may have a crack habit, for all I know. Either way, you need to make money in this world to have a roof over your heads and blah, blah, blah. I understand. It doesn’t mean I agree with this job. I think it would be much nobler if you worked at McDonald’s, but hey, that’s just my opinion ...”
The upshot was a request that the photographers refrain from pictures of his nephew.
Did the paparazzi go along?
“They did,” Garfield replies. “They were decent.”
Was he surprised?
“I wasn’t surprised,” the actor says, “because I feel like, if you treat people with respect and empathy and understanding of a situation, then they will (respond accordingly) and I have a hope in humanity. I do. I do.”
There’s a great deal riding on The Amazing Spider-Man. The character was first introduced 50 years ago in the Marvel Comics series created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The Amazing Spider-Man, the fourth big-screen adaptation of the character, comes only five years after the last film in the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy that starred Tobey Maguire. In the shadow of three films that grossed a combined $2.5 billion at the global box office, all eyes in Hollywood are on the young actor and inexperienced director who are pressing the reset button on Spider-Man.
The new film digs farther back into Peter Parker’s back story. As a young boy he lost his father (Campbell Scott), a prominent scientist, and his mother (Embeth Davidtz), leaving him orphaned. Even now as a teen, despite having been raised by his loving Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), Peter still feels alone in the world.
Then everything changes.
Peter finds his father’s suitcase and soon tracks down his father’s friend and colleague, Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a well-meaning, one-armed scientist whose obsession with discovering the secret to reptilian limb regeneration leads to self-experimentation and his transformation into the lethal half-man/half-reptile known as the Lizard. Before that, however, Peter visits Connors’ lab and is bitten by a radioactive spider that transforms him into the crime-fighting Spider-Man. Peter also falls in love with his beautiful classmate Gwen, setting the stage for 136 minutes of love and loss, villainy and super-heroics, kisses and explosions.
Garfield obviously takes the business of Spider-Man seriously. He was only three when he wore his first Spider-Man costume, he says, and he grew up loving the comic books and television cartoons. Running his fingers through a thicket of puffy hair, the actor recalls bringing his passion for the character to the set and to his conversations with director Marc Webb.
“My main concern was making sure that it’s about Peter and not the spider bite,” Garfield says. ‘’The spider bite is a part of his destiny, but making a rich, defined, fully formed character before that incident, that was everything to me. I worked really hard to attempt that.
“Everything evolved,’’ he continues. ‘’There was a lot of evolution around that and a lot of discussion around who he is. I felt that I had a very loud voice inside that tells me who that is. So there was a lot of effort on my part to make sure that Peter is served and that he’s not just a guy in a suit, that he’s a living, breathing teenage kid that we root for and care about, and that he’s just true to the comics and true to the core of that character.”
Whatever your sense of a burly, heavily muscled superhero may be, Spider-Man isn’t. Ditko’s original art showed Peter Parker as a skinny nerd in glasses and Spider-Man as a skinny nerd in a costume. With Webb’s blessing, Garfield chose to follow the same concept. He worked out to get into shape and to build the stamina to survive a long and physical shoot, but he didn’t want to bulk up or to have pretend musculature added to the Spider-Man costume.
“I was nervous every time I was in public and every time people saw me,” Garfield admits, “because I really wanted to be skinny, really wanted to stay muscular but lean. That’s what Spider-Man is to me, and always has been. I know, for other people, he’s not. I know other people were looking at me, ‘You should be a bit bigger,’ and it was hard to deal with that, because I’ve been skinny all my life and I’ve always felt like I should be bigger. I’ve wanted to be bigger and muscular. I’ve wanted to be Jason Statham, but that’s just not who I am.
“So to face that was really hard, to know that people were thinking or feeling or even saying, sometimes, ‘Are you going to have to keep getting bigger?,’’’ Garfield says. “I’d have to stay strong and say, ‘No, I’m not. This is what I want. I want to see a skinny kid beating the crap out of big guys. That’s the whole point of Spider-Man.’
“So that was hard and intimidating, but (what’s on the screen) feels perfect to me.’’
ROMANCE ON SET
Also pretty close to perfect is Garfield’s chemistry with Stone. Their scenes are sweet, funny, playful, touching or tragic, depending on the moment at hand. Garfield won’t broach the subject of their real-life romance and downplays the word “chemistry,” but he practically gushes when discussing Stone.
“I don’t hate the word,’’ he says. ‘’It’s just not something I can really comment on. It’s not something I can talk about, because it’s unquantifiable. I don’t want to know what the magician does to make me go, ‘Aaah.’
“I admire and respect her as an actress, and I was so excited to work with her,” Garfield says. “To be in front of a camera with her, to be on a set with her, it’s pure joy and fun and exciting and terrifying and exhilarating to work with her.”
Garfield ended his triumphant, Tony Award-nominated run in Death of a Salesman earlier this month and went straight into an international promotional tour on behalf of The Amazing Spider-Man. A sequel is already being written, with production set to start within a year.
Garfield isn’t sure what other projects, if any, he’ll squeeze in before the sequel.
“What is next? What can I do?” Garfield asks rhetorically. “I’m just so happy right now, and I kind of want to bottle this moment. Whenever the play is brought up, I get a sense of warmth in my heart. I can’t wish for anything else.
“I’m just very, very lucky to be in the position I’m in.”
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