First published on 28 Apr 2014. Updated on 30 Apr 2014.
Andrew Garfield returns to Chinese cinemas this month as the webslinger in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Time Out meet a star with an unorthodox and personal take on the role of the superhero
In 2012, Andrew Garfield looked like a man about to have root-canal surgery. Which is less enthusiasm than you’d expect from an actor on the brink of becoming the superstar face of a Hollywood mega-franchise. It turns out Garfield was seriously freaked out by all the attention: the life-changing, no-going-back-ness of being famous.
Two years later, squeezing back into costume for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the actor from Surrey, England is as protective of his privacy as ever – still not answering questions about his real-life girlfriend Emma Stone (who plays Peter Parker’s ladylove Gwen Stacey). But this time he’s relaxed and smiling. Now 30 (‘Am I a young man still? Or can I just say “man”?’), he seems to have shed a little of the self-doubt and mellowed, though he still brings that jumpy little-brother energy to Spidey.
‘I actually had more confidence for the second film because Spider-Man is more confident,’ he says thoughtfully. ‘When Peter puts on the spandex he gets to save people’s lives. When he’s just Peter, he’s got to deal with just being Peter. It’s the same with me. When I’m not being creative and acting, I have to deal with myself and I go a bit crazy.’
As for fame, Garfield is just glad it came in his late twenties. ‘If I had had these opportunities when I was younger, I would have been Justin Bieber,’ he says. ‘If you are a 16-year-old kid and you can do whatever the fuck you want, you’re making trillions of dollars and you have a leopard-print Ferrari, it’s not healthy. If I was going through what I’m going through now when I was 16, I might have ended up in jail.’
With the second instalment of the arachnoid blockbuster under his belt, Garfield is maturing into an expert on the character, as he proved when we quizzed him on all things Spider-Man. But how many more Spidey movies has he really got left in him? ‘I can only do ten. No, seriously, I signed up to do three. Never say never. But I don’t want to be a 50-year-old in spandex.’
Below, Garfield takes us through the key aspects of his character in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ahead of the film’s release in China this month:
1 ‘Spider-Man is neurotic.’
‘Peter Parker is not a simple dude. He can’t just switch off. He never feels like he’s doing enough. And Peter suffers from self-doubt. He ums and ahs about his future because he’s neurotic. He’s Jewish. It’s a defining feature. (I hope Jewish people won’t mind the cliché, because my father’s Jewish. I have that in me for sure.) He’s an over-thinker. It would be much easier if he was a life-saving robot.’
2 ‘Being Spider-Man is a hassle.’
‘It looks cool, but actually having to save New York City is knackering. And you can’t save everyone. People die. That’s a lot to deal with. Peter feels responsible for people dying and getting hurt. It’s really crazy responsibility. It’s a tough calling.’
3 ‘He is misunderstood, like Jesus.’
‘I don’t mind the Jesus parallel for Spider-Man. Jesus is an awesome guy. Whether he was real or fake, he did some really sick stuff. When Pontius Pilate said: “They say you’re the son of God. If you’re the son of God, tell me.” Jesus was like: “I know who I am, bitch.” I don’t know if he said “bitch”. Maybe he didn’t curse up Pontius Pilate. But that was a cool thing. Peter is not that evolved. Peter wants to tell the world he’s a good guy: “Like me: I’m nice.” He’s a 19-year-old kid. He’s a kid struggling with being misunderstood. We’ve all been misunderstood. That’s universal too. I like being Peter.’
4 ‘Peter is a nerd.’
‘Back in the day, being a nerd meant you were an outcast. You weren’t going to get the girl. You got a wedgie or called names. Now the nerd is a billionaire who can have sex with anyone he wants. Nerds are running the world. They won. It’s a cool thing. But what I think makes Spider-Man a better superhero is his sensitivity. He’s not a shallow guy. He is an everyman and that’s the thing I’ve always loved about him.’
5 ‘Being an underdog means that he can protect the underdog.’
‘If I hadn’t been bullied at school I wouldn’t have needed Spider-Man. It wasn’t crazy-abusive, just one guy in the playground wanting to pick on someone and seeing the super-skinny, sensitive kid. I’m still super-skinny and sensitive. Strangely, I’m grateful for the bullying I experienced. Being a skinny, sensitive young man means that I found acting. Peter Parker is protecting a part of himself: the five-year-old boy inside that got bullied in the playground. ’
6 ‘A good dose of therapy would be very beneficial.’
‘I don’t know of any father-and-son relationship that hasn’t struggled. Fathers really do have an ability to mess up their sons. And this story is a really good example. It’s a cautionary tale for dads. When I become a dad, as soon as my child is born I will have messed up. As the child, you’ve got to learn to get over it, become your own person. You can’t keep blaming your mum and dad. It’s a tough road for young people. It definitely was for me.’
7 ‘The three-second costume change is total bullshit.’
‘We’re selling a false dream. When we were making the first movie, I wanted to do a little short film, which would depict me taking 15 or 20 minutes to get into the suit, with the help of three people and a giant shoehorn.’