Andrew Garfield was in New York the day before the Tony Awards, for which he was nominated for his role of Biff in Death of a Salesman on Broadway. It was the press junket for The Amazing Spider-Man and Garfield gave a press conference to speak about his version of the character. We got to ask a question and sit in on Garfield’s in-depth take on Peter Parker.
Hardcore teenager research on the streets of Queens!
I agree that the teenage element is incredibly vital to this particular superhero and this person, this character. The fact that he goes through the same stuff I went through, that's why I love him so much. Because I thought if I was him, that's why everyone feels like he's him because 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 and a lot of recording the voice and intonation and picking up phrases that I might not be aware of or a general attitude, that malaise and the awkward shyness, every aspect. There was a great book I found for inspiration called Teenage, which is a book of photographs. I wouldn't buy it because it's too expensive, but actually the marketing department at Sony bought it for me very, very generously as a gift. I saw the price and I'm like, “You guys are crazy! Thank you so much.” But it's awesome. The energy of the photos in that is what I wanted to capture. It's tongue on tongue. It's just head out the window, that need to express, that need to kick the walls down irrationally, which, when you combine that with being a superhero, that is kind of exciting.
So Teenage. Check out that book. It's too expensive. Find someone who has it and look at the pictures. You'll be like, “Oh, God, I remember that feeling."
The 3D was a pain in the ass.
The only thing that was kind of a challenge was that it was difficult to get into a rhythm because of the 3D cameras. The new technology was difficult for everyone involved. They take a lot of care and delicacy, so it meant that we were stopped occasionally. I love just going and going and going and keep it rolling, keep it rolling and screwing up and screwing up and screwing up, then occasionally you accidentally get something right and you won't know how. That's kind of how I like to work. And that's why I loved working with David Fincher because he does so many takes. I discovered how that kind of painful exactness really suits me, so that was cool.
We ask if the mechanical web shooters actually shot anything.
Do I lie or do I tell the truth. No, it was a nice exercise in imagination. That car-jacking scene, that scene 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. I think they took that out. I don't know why, I think it was kind of cool. So to be able to have that imagination and do whatever you want and know that they could add it in in post was kind of liberating. So I could shut that door as many times as I want, I could whip it in the face, I could whip it in a long shot. It waskind of fun but difficult. It would have been awesome if it was real.
The real hero of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Any mention of [stunt coordinator] Andy Armstrong and my heart swells. He kind of turned into a father figure for me on this film and remains that way. I will write a book about him one day. His team are the safest group of hands you could ever hope to meet, and passionate, supportive, loving… It's a tribe he has and he was generous enough to let me be a part of that tribe. I got no special treatment and it was amazing for that very reason. He's a real person and he likes real people, and we had an amazing time. He pushed me. There were things that I was scared about and like any good father, he kind of told me to go beyond. “Go beyond what you think you can do because you might surprise yourself.” So for that reason it was kind of a spiritually overwhelming experience to work with him. And of course that combined with that physical sensation that I wanted to do since I was three years old, I think pretty much everyone in this room has wanted to do since they were three years old, I got to live that for a second and I'm eternally grateful to everyone at Sony Pictures for allowing me to.
Kissing was scarier than swinging.
They're all pretty scary things. I actually felt safer when I was swinging around because you have a very, very strong safe pair of hands holding you up. In the romantic scenes, I'm 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. First love is the scariest thing to ever go through and the most exhilarating. You've got so much to lose. So they were actually more frightening than swinging through the buildings, in a weird way. And especially because it's Emma [Stone] and she's terrifying.
The real untold story, like the scenes that were cut out of the movie.
There's that scene on Gwen's bedroom floor where she's nursing me and we have an intimate, kind of heavy moment of like she's terrified I'm going to die and I'm terrified of what I've done to my mentor. At the end of that scene it's, “Let's just get out of here. We've got to get out of here.” In a previous version, we shot a lot more. We have a date night where it's expressive and free and teenage and romantic and silly. There was another scene that they cut out which was awesome which is me and when I'm on the computer, but I was doing something with all my limbs. They melded two shots and I thought it was really, really cool. I was moving a lamp with my left, I was typing with my right foot, I was eating Chinese food, and I was reaching for something behind me, and it didn't get in the movie.
Tobey Maguire weighed in.
To my knowledge, he hasn't seen the movie but I got feedback from the casting. When I got cast he sent an email to [producer] Matt Tolmach immediately, and it was very, very generous. It made me feel like I could take the torch in confidence and I had the support in him. He didn't need to do that. We're all just part of that family.
How Andrew Garfield relates to Peter Parker.
I think it's important to me that he started with a heroic impulse, without the physical power to do anything with it. That was always how I felt growing up. You know, I felt like an underdog, and I was a skinny kid. Now, I'm not. Obviously, I'm a huge bruiser. [Joking] I got over that problem. Now I just realize that being skinny is okay. I always thought I should have been bigger for some reason because society tells you that. Everyone played rugby and I played rugby and I was good at it, but I got concussed all the time because I was a weakling. So that was something I always identified with for Peter. He always felt stronger on the inside than he did on the outside. And there's nothing better than seeing a skinny guy beat the crap out of big guys. That was important for me.
Starstruck by Stan Lee.
I've been nervous for the last two years. It seems like every day there's been something that's kind of made me have to suppress shaking, but Stan Lee was a weird one because [he] wasn't real. Like, he's too iconic to be real. It wasn't like I was in a room with a real human being. I was in a room with a wax figure, you know? I was in Madame Tussauds. It made no sense, so I wasn't nervous. I was just one of those annoying people and he was just like, “I'm here.” And he's amazing. He's everything that you think he is. He came on set so I met him in the makeup trailer once. And 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. 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, in a weird way. That was the one day I wasn't actually nervous.
Andrew Garfield vows to audition for every part he ever goes for.
Sometimes there are actors who reach a certain level of notoriety or visibility where they may get offered roles based on their monetary value or the idea that they will bring in an audience. They may not be right for the part or they may not serve the story in the way that they should. I'm not saying that I'm in that position. I'm just saying that that is something that I fear. Like, here's a weird analogy: if you're in a pool hall and you're playing pool and you have to put in 50 cents every time, you're going to enjoy that game because you paid for it. But if you figured out a way to jimmy the thing and you can get a free game of pool out of it, you're not going to care so much about the game. There's something in that about feeling like you've earned something as opposed to just being handed something. Luckily I haven't experienced that. I've had to work for everything that I've been a part of, and there's just something satisfying about it because you know that they looked at everyone and that you are the right person for that particular story at that particular moment. I guess there's something about staying grounded and humble, and making sure that you appreciate everything you have as well.
Andrew Garfield on his Comic-Con appearance.
It wasn't really thought out. I was compelled, for many reasons I think, if I analyze it. I am terrified to take on this role because it means so much to me, so I know how much it means to other people. And I think it has something to do with actors being on stage. I wanted to be on the ground. I wanted to be in the audience watching the panel. I didn't want to be in the panel. That's where I thought I just belonged more, so I guess I just kind of extended that idea. I kind of wanted to do the whole speech in the mask, just out of sheer protection. There is something odd about the separation between actors and the audience that I don't really care for. That's why I love theatre so much. That's why I loved the great show that was here in New York called Sleep No More, which is all audience participation. You basically walk around and you're immersed in the experience, and there's no separation from the actors and the audience. I just wanted to feel connected to the fans in a real way because I'm a fan first and foremost. It just felt like the right thing to do. It was a scary thing because who knows what would have happened. But it just felt like an opportunity to have fun as well.
More method acting.
I kind of didn't sleep very much. I dedicated myself to it, I really did. That's embarrassing to say, but I really did. It's a weird thing. We all have that one fictional character, at least, that we care about so, so much, and if ever that opportunity came along for any of us to play it, to serve it, to do it justice, like when that moment comes, you go, “Oh my god, I'm not allowed to sleep, I'm not allowed to think about anything else! I need to dedicate everything to this person that's given me so much in my life. I want to give all of myself to it.” So I didn't. I didn't shake it off. Next time I might because I love sleeping and eating and all that. And I realize that obviously you have to look after yourself to bring your best game to the field. So it was tough.
It all shows up on screen though.
It's so nice to be able to look at a movie and feel ownership. It's a really nice thing to be able to feel that because of Andy's trust and his encouragement of me. There was something specific that I wanted to do with the physicality that wasn't just a guy in a suit throwing kicks and punches and saying cheesy lines. I wanted it to be a Spiderboy in the way that if we ground this film in reality, then what happens when spider DNA is running through your bloodstream? What happens to the teenage boy who is fidgety and nervous and can't really keep still? He discovers that he can now have patience, like a spider. And there was a lot of great physical stuff that made it, like for instance the scene where I get all the food out of the fridge. The kind of spatial awareness that you have in this film is like Peter doesn't move like that. Peter doesn't glide like that before the spider bite. And the way he's moving around the space, he's kind of walking by the wall as opposed to walking straight through the room. He's kind of got his back to the wall. That kind of thing is fun to play with, but then of course the training is horrible. Like the physical training changed my body because I'm a lazy guy. I'm vain, but I'm not vain enough to care about the gym.
I had many issues with that costume, but every actor who plays a superhero is like, 'The costume sucked.' Like, we should just get together to talk about it because it's so inappropriate to talk about in public. It's like how dare we complain? We're the ones that get to wear it. It's the dream. But it was so terrible. Let me just put it this way: the fantasy of wearing those costumes is really awesome. Just enjoy that.