Those at Comic-Con in 2011 will tell you first-hand just how much of a fan Brit actor Andrew Garfield is of Spider-Man. The actor’s surprise appearance at the Marvel panel, in which he spewed out lovey dovey nothings about his love for the character he’d just been anointed to play, was one of SDCC’s highlights that year. It was a truly touching – and slightly humorous, only because Garfield turned up in costume as a Cosplay-type – moment for both the actor and audience alike.
Now Garfield hopes to win over audiences on a larger scale, with his turn as Peter Parker and the red rebel himself in “Amazing Spider-Man” turned over to cinemas this week.
As a thesp, mate what’s the difference between doing “Spider-Man” and stage-craft?
Not much difference really, weirdly enough. In terms of how I approach it, my only intention is to honor the character. That goes for Willie Lowman or for Peter Parker/Spider-Man. That’s everything to me. My approach was the same, from my heart and guts, I got really stressed out and wanted to do it a certain way.
There are certain things that are challenging about both. The repetition of going through the trauma every night on stage is a killer, and your body doesn’t know it’s not real, even if your mind does. So your body’s in a lot of pain and your heart is in a lot of pain, but it’s worth it.
With this movie, the technical aspects, the thing that was a challenge, it was difficult to get into a rhythm with the 3D cameras. The new technology was difficult for everyone involved. They take a lot of care and delicacy. It meant that we were stopped occasionally. I love just going and going and going and keeping everything rolling and screwing up and screwing up and screwing up, and occasionally you get something right and you don’t know how. That’s kind of how I like to work. That’s why I loved working with David Fincher, he does so many takes, I discovered how that kind of painful exactness really suits me, that’s kind of cool.
The big question, what actually shoots out of those mechanical webshooters!? Anything?
Hmm, do I lie? No, it was a nice exercise in imagination. That car jacker scene, that was all improvised, so I had this idea that I could draw the Spidey insignia over the guy’s crotch, I think at one point they had that in and took it out, I thought that was kind of cool. To be able to have the imagination of doing whatever you wanted and they’d add it in post was kind of liberating. So I could shut that door in the guy’s face as many times as I wanted, I could web him in the face, web the lock shut. It was kinda fun, but difficult. It would’ve been awesome if it was real though!
Has Tobey Maguire seen the movie yet? Has he spoken to you?
To my knowledge he hasn’t seen the movie. But I got feedback, when I got cast, he sent an email to Matt Tomach immediately and it made me feel like I could take the torch. I had the support in him. He didn’t need to do that, and it was a testament to him as a person. We’re all a part of the Spider-Man family.
We know your job, but what’s Spidey’s job? Is there a description for it?
I think what’s cool about this movie, is that he discovers the power of what he’s created; he doesn’t create the symbol with any high-mindedness, he creates it so he can protect himself while he searches for his uncle’s killer. He is a vigilante for part of this story, this particular story. I think it’s true for any teenager who goes through any amount of tragic events, to have the impulse to kick out and rebel, to use their power in a way that they’re not thinking responsibly or not thinking at all. That whole section is Peter running away from the pain, the guilt. he’s putting it into something physical, and sweating it out.
So there’s a period where he’s acting out these impulses, he accidentally discovers the symbol he’s created that’s bigger than him, that can be used for good.
It’s also important that he started with a heroic impulse, without any power to do anything with it. That was always how I felt like growing up. I felt like the underdog and I was the skinny kid, and now I’m not obviously (laughs)! I’m a huge bruiser. So I got over that problem.
Now I just realize that being skinny is okay. I always thought I should’ve been bigger, for some reason, because society tells you that, I guess. Or everyone played Rugby. I played Rugby and I was good at it, but I got concussed all the time because I was a weakling. That was something I always identified with Peter is that he always felt stronger on the inside than he was on the outside. There’s nothing better than seeing a skinny guy beat the crap out of a big guy. (laughs)
Spidey’s a legend, but so is Stan Lee. How was it when you met Stan for the first time?
I’ve been nervous for the last two years! Every day I’ve had something to suppress shaking. Stan Lee was a weird one, because he wasn’t real, it’s like he’s too iconic to be real! So I wasn’t in a room with a human being, it was like I was in a room with a wax figure. I was in Madame Tussaud’s. It made no sense. So I wasn’t nervous, I was just one of those annoying people talking to someone whose..amazing, he’s everything you think he is.
He came on set, I met him in the make up trailer once, then he came on set again and he did his amazing cameo. It was just beautiful because when you really truly understand what he’s given to us. He’s given so many kids hope and joy, and he cannot be thanked enough for that. It was like being in a room with Mickey Mouse or something, it was bizarre. So I wasn’t actually nervous, that was the one day.
Last year at Comic-Con, you came out, in a cheapo costume, and gushed about your love of the character? What was behind that?
It wasn’t thought out (laughs), I was compelled for many reasons, I think. I am terrified to take on this role, it means so much to me, so I know it means so much to other people. I wanted to be on the ground, in the audience watching the panel not be on the panel. That’s where I felt I belonged more. I kind of wanted to do that whole speech in the mask to have that protection!
There’s something odd about the separation between the actor and the audience that I don’t really care for, that’s what I love about theater. I just wanted to feel connected to the fans in a real way, cause I’m a fan, first and foremost. It felt like the right thing to do, and it just felt like an opportunity to have fun as well!
How did you get into the mindset of a teen?
I agree the teenager element is vital to this particular superhero and this person, the character. The fact that he goes through the same things that I go through. He’s all of us, he really is! So the teenage thing, I don’t know. I did spend time in queens hanging out with teenagers! Especially for getting the voice, intonation, and picking up phrases I might not be aware of, the feeling, a general malaise, or the awkward shyness, every aspect.
There was a great book I found called “Teenage,” a book of photographs. I wouldn’t buy it because it was too expensive, but Sony bought it for me very generously as a gift. It was awesome, the energy in that is what I was trying to capture. You know, head out the window, that need to express, to kick the walls down irrationally. When you combine that with being a superhero it’s kind of awesome!
There’s a scene in Gwen’s bedroom on her floor, she’s nursing me, and we have that heavy moment. She’s terrified I’m going to die, I’m terrified of what I’ve done to my mentor, and at the end I just say “let’s just get out, we gotta get out of here!” In a previous version we shot a lot more where we had a date night where it’s expressive and free and teenage and romantic and silly.
That feeling is something I really wanted to capture, especially in those scenes with Gwen and Peter.
How did you shake off the emotional and physical intensity of this role afterwards?
I really didn’t! I didn’t sleep very much. I dedicated myself to it, really, that’s an embarrassing thing to say but I really did.
It’s a weird thing, we all have that one fictional character that we have that we care about so so much. Where if you have an opportunity to play that… When that moment comes, I thought I’m not allowed to sleep, I need to dedicate everything to this person that’s given me so much in my life, I need to give all of myself to it. So I really didn’t shake it off.
Next time I might, cause I do love sleeping (laughs) and eating and all that. And I realize you obviously have to look after yourself to bring your best game. It was tough.
What were you more anxious doing, the physical or emotional stuff?
They’re all pretty scary things! I actually felt more safe when I was swinging around because you have a very very strong, safe pair of hands holding you up. The romantic scenes are free falling in a way. As they should be, they have to be spontaneous and free and terrifying. Because that’s what first love is, it’s the scariest thing that you’ll ever go through and the most exhilarating, you have so much to lose. They were actually more frightening, than swinging through the building, in a weird way. Especially because it’s Emma and she’s terrifying. (laughs)
Can you talk about the physical transformation to capture the Spider-Man moves? Was there any physical move you liked the most?
Garfield: It’s so nice to be able to look at the movie and feel ownership, because of Andy [Armstrong]‘s trust of me and his encouragement of me. There was something specific that I wanted to do with the physicality. It isn’t just a guy in a suit throwing kicks and punches and saying cheesy lines. I wanted it to be a SPIDER boy. In a way that, if we’re grounding this movie in reality, what happens when Spider DNA goes through your body? What happens to a teenage boy? He discovers that he can now have the patience of a spider. There was another scene that they cut out, which was awesome, where I was doing different things with all four of my limbs, doing different things. I was moving a lamp with my left foot, I was typing with my right foot, I was eating Chinese and getting something behind me… and it didn’t get in. It didn’t make it. Maybe it’ll be… maybe I’ll cut my own movie (laughs) of bits that I liked.
So yeah that was really fun. There was a lot of great physical stuff that made it in. Like for instance, the scene where I got all the food out of the fridge. That spacial awareness where Peter doesn’t move like that, Peter doesn’t glide like that, before the spider bite. The way he’s moving throughout the space, he’s moving along the wall, with his back to the wall. The thing drops off and he was able to catch it with his elbow without even being phased.
But then of course the training was horrible, you know, the physical training to change my body, because I’m a laaaazy guy. And I’m vain, but not vain enough to care about the gym. Armando Alacorn, my trainer, he was a fantastic trainer and a terrible person. I have very confused feelings about Armando, wherever he is, he knows that, he’s hiding from me (laughs). He kept me on an even keel all the way through. That combined with all the stunt team was an amazing experience.
How was that costume? Robocop-bad or Thor-freeing?
(laughs) Come oooon. I had many issues with that costume. It’s the weirdest thing. Every actor who wears a costume says it sucked. We should get together and talk about it, because we can’t talk about it in public. It’s like, how dare we complain? You know what I mean? We’re the ones that get to wear it! it’s the dream! But it was so terrible (laughs). Let me put it this way, the fantasy is really awesome, and just enjoy that.