Recently I attended an enlightening evening with Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, CA. When the Tony Award winner walked out to the stage, he was greeted by thunderous clapping from the packed house. Besides winning a Tony and a British Academy Television Award, he has a Golden Globe, and a nomination for two Academy Awards, plus a Laurence Olivier Award and three British Academy Film Awards. All at the age of 38.
Dave Karger from Turner Classic Movies took a seat across from Garfield, and congratulated him for his trifecta in 2021, with the debut of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Eyes of Tammy Faye and Tick, Tick…Boom!
Here’s what the audience learned about the talented and handsome actor during the 90-minute presentation:
DK: You were born at Cedars Sinai Hospital. What do you remember about Los Angeles?
AG: I’ve heard stories about living in Marina del Rey with my English mother from Essex, who married my California father. Having two sons in the 1980s, she had us on her hip, and longed to bring us home to England to be near her family. We left America when I was three years old. I realize I always long to be in another place. I feel I belong more in California, especially near Big Sur to San Francisco. Since I grew up with an American dad and a British mother, I grew up listening to different dialects.
DK: What were you like as a teenage drama student?
AG: As a drama student at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama when I was 17 years old, I remember working on a Doritos commercial in Spain, and thinking that was the top of my career. I learned a lot by watching Angels in America by Tony Kushner that Mike Nichols directed, and anything at the Globe Theater, especially performances by Mark Rylance. He was amazing in Hamlet. I remember one night there was a mother with a crying baby, and he stopped his soliloquy to include the baby crying in his scene. I was awed by his confidence to bring this moment into the show. I asked Mark Rylance to be my mentor, along with Tom Hanks and Michael J. Fox.
DK: What sport’s teams do you root for British or California teams?
AG: I don’t support a sport. I love to watch, but don’t have a team. I also don’t drink, so I’m really boring in a pub when people are drinking and rooting for their team.
DK: You have been a very busy actor. ‘Boy A’ was the first film I saw you in.
AG: Boy A was an intense role for a young actor. I love the film. My first film was ‘Lions for Lambs’. I was fourth on the call sheet, just under Robert Redford, Meryle Streep, Tom Cruise. I liked discovering the tender soft boy in my character. There were dark places to go in ‘Boy A’. I wanted to fill the film with humanity and heart. I felt I wasn’t enough to fill the role, I always feel I’m not enough. After seeing the final product, I developed more confidence. Working with Lin-Manuel Miranda, I realized he was never traumatized. He was always saying “I don’t have time for that. I have to write the greatest musical now.” I would love to have that freedom when I raise my kids. When making Lions for Lambs I was in a room with Robert Redford as a student. Redford was always two hours late and never owned it. He was the best. It was his set. He was the director and it was like doing a play. Robert was a college professor and the dialogue was heavy back and forth. Robert’s lateness made me feel more comfortable and relaxed. I was not intimidated by the camera. Robert’s set was gentle and with no pressure.
DK: What was the process to get the part in ‘Social Network’ directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin?
AG: I read the script and it was the greatest film script ever. It was 156 pages and I read it in 45 minutes. I was the first to read for the role of Mark Zuckerberg. I remember Aaron Sorkin was wearing sweatpants and weird shoes. When I finished reading, I overheard him say “I told you.” Later I felt good riding my Vespa to the office to hear I got the role. Instead, I was told there were two actors perfect for the role of Mark, the other being Jesse Eisenberg. However they felt I was the only who could also play Edwardo. We were all young actors and very obedient. David Fincher made us do a lot of takes – he wants his actors to feel vulnerable and real.
DK: Twelve years later do you ever think what your portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg would have been like?
AG: Jesse was sensational. Edwardo is the heart of the film. Mark could not handle the emotional, personal friendship with Edwardo at Facebook. Edwardo was the heart of Facebook.
DK: Spider-Man was such a successful and different part. What assurance did you get to make this leap?
AG: For larger movies, you don’t get to see the script before the screen test. If you are going to offer me a role in a blockbuster movie, I am doing it. I was 24 years old. As a little boy, Spider-Man was my first Halloween costume. My mother made it for me out of felt. I reached into the inner three-year-old in me, and couldn’t wait to celebrate for 8 months playing Spider-Man. I rolled my sleeves up and worked so hard with a lot of great actors – Emma Stone and Sally Fields. To be 25 to 26 years old and become famous and well known when my pre-frontal cortex wasn’t fully developed, I didn’t know my path as a person and artist, yet now at 38 years old I know I am discovering it.
DK: What was your reaction when the Spider-Man team came to you with three Spider-Man films?
AG: I was taken aback when producer Amy Pascal said “I need to talk to you about back-to-back Spider-Man movies.” I had my closure with the role in the first movie and put it to bed. When Toby Maguire was mentioned as being in the movie, I said YES. I love fate and destiny as storytelling. I liked the beautiful purpose Toby and I had as a brotherhood and mentorship.
DK: How did you summon the emotion for tick, tick…Boom!
AG: In the scene of the song “WHY”, I’m singing for my mother and Jonathan Larson. It’s a bit much, that loss. The biggest loss and how to move through it. Meet the loss and do the thing that I was supposed to write music. The emotion is still alive in me even today. We need to be here for everyone fully, because we will lose them one day. The first take was magic in that scene. The second take was magic too. Director Lin-Manuel Miranda said “You can sing!” He wanted me to sing it live the first week of shooting the scene. We were going to lose the location if we didn’t film this emotional scene the first week, so we did it. Jonathan Larson’s sister Julie was there offering another surreal dimension, when she was on the set I felt Jonathan’s presence. Doing this scene I got to commune with my mother. She lives in my heart and was with me while filming that scene. My mother Lynn Garfield passed away from pancreatic cancer. I was filming Eyes of Tammy Faye, and got to leave to be with my mom 10 days when she died. It was the 10 best days of my life. I did the proper grieving with her during the pandemic.
DK: Did you learn to play the piano and sing for tick, tick….Boom?
AG: Performing in Angels of America helped me prepare. It was an 8 1/2 hour play that was vocally challenging. I never missed a show. It was like climbing Mt. Everest everyday. That was the highest personal achievement going to these emotional places with love, lust and rage. Choosing life past hope. I didn’t sing in drama school, it was more of a Shakespearean school. I always wanted to know if I could sing, I wanted to be like Justin Timberlake. Lin-Manuel gave me one year to learn and develop the courage. I listened to the soundtrack of Jonathan Larson’s RENT on my way to the SAG awards. Lin Manuel put this movie together for Jonathan as a gift.
DK: What is one line that comes to you from tick, tick….Boom?
AG: “What a way to spend a day.”
tick, tick… BOOM! is available to stream on Netflix. Watch the featurette here to see Andrew Garfield’s sensational performance.
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