Andrew Garfield is not ready to become a star. The tall, lanky 27-year-old British actor definitely has the chops. Over the past couple of years he’s had major roles in “Lions for Lambs,” the “Red Riding” trilogy, and “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.” In a couple of weeks he’ll be featured in the Boston-set story about Facebook, “The Social Network.” But right now he’s got two things on his mind: his leading role as Tommy in the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let me Go,” and his recent signing to take over the role of Spider-Man.
Andrew Garfield is not ready to become a star. The tall, lanky 27-year-old British actor definitely has the chops. Over the past couple of years he’s had major roles in “Lions for Lambs,” the “Red Riding” trilogy, and “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.” In a couple of weeks he’ll be featured in the story about Facebook, “The Social Network.” But right now he’s got two things on his mind: his leading role as Tommy in the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let me Go,” and his recent signing to take over the role of Spider-Man.
Though he hasn’t yet seen “Never Let Me Go” – a tragic story of love and friendship set at an English boarding school where students are prepared for a very special future – he’s proud of what he believes he added to the project. He just doesn’t see the value of watching himself onscreen.
“Just being a part of trying to cinematically tell that story was enough,” Garfield said last week at the Toronto International Film Festival. “The experience of doing it was what I got joy out of. Watching yourself is like listening to your voice recorded back, but exponentially a thousand fold. You’re seeing your soul recorded back, and it’s really upsetting. If I become conscious of what my eyebrow is doing or what my voice sounds like or my posture onscreen, I’m not only ruined in terms of when I get in front of a camera, but in my real life I’ll be constantly worried about how I’m coming across.” But there’s no doubt that he understands his character.
“Tommy’s an outsider,” he explained. “Tommy’s difficult to relate to because he operates on a different plane. He’s a kid who needs a bit more attention, a bit more nurturing, a bit more love.” Garfield read Ishiguro’s book and Alex Garland’s script at the same time, and noticed that the story is told from the viewpoint of one character, Kathy (Carey Mulligan).
“That gives you a springboard,” he said. “It means you have some license to create, because it’s only one person’s perspective of that character, and certain aspects of him could have been misinterpreted by Kathy.” Garfield has nothing but praise for his director, Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo”), whom he refers to as extremely liberating.
“Mark allowed a freedom of exploration, which was a wonderful gift,” he said. “I hope if a director hires me, they trust me, but I need to trust them as well so I can surrender to their vision of the movie. Mark didn’t bring any of his own ego to it; he just wanted to tell the story as well as he could.” Of his role as the real-life Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network,” he first praises director David Fincher, saying that he, too, allowed a total freedom of expression, but was also exact in how a line should be delivered or what feeling should be felt.
Garfield describes Saverin as a “Brazilian-born, Miami-raised, Harvard-educated economics major who is a loyal friend, a very intelligent human being, has a good heart, likes to drink, likes to party, has a great value system, and is extremely moral.” He calls the film an “incredibly complex tale of power, greed, corruption, love, betrayal, brotherhood, and friendship.” Critics have so far been kind to just about everything Garfield has done onscreen. But he really doesn’t seem ready for his inevitable rise to superstardom in the next Spider-Man installment, set for a 2012 release, when he takes over the iconic role that was created by Tobey Maguire.
“No one’s ready for that,” Garfield said. “Absolutely not, but I don’t consider that is gonna happen. I’m just doing another movie. It may be naive of me, but that’s how I’m treating it, man. I’m honestly treating it like this is a role that’s meant a lot to me since I was 4 years old."
“It’s a childhood fantasy come to life,” he added, “and I’m just treating it like an extension of my 7-year-old self, jumping for joy. I’m gonna play it like I’ve always played it in my living room. There’ll just be a bigger set and a bit more money to play with and a better costume, although my mum’s homemade costume was pretty wicked. It was like blue pajama bottoms and a red pajama top, and she pasted a spider on the front.” Garfield graduated from drama school in 2004, did a few years of stage work in London, and moved to film in the critically acclaimed “Boy A” in 2007.
“I did a school play when I was 17,” he recalled. “A teacher who saw it was extremely encouraging. He set me on the right track and gave me the necessary confidence to pursue it. After I went through drama school and I realized what art and an artist was, I realized that maybe I could be an artist, and I decided to try it.” He has no doubt that he made the right choice.
“You can read a play and go, ‘Yeah, uh huh, that’s a play, whatever.’ But once you start working on a play and speaking it and analyzing it – the same with a film script – it takes on its own life. It’s incredible. I’m very, very lucky in what I do.” “Never Let Me Go” opens Sept. 24.
Ed Symkus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.