Interview: Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield stars as Peter Parker and below as Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield stars as Peter Parker and below as Spider-Man
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British actor Andrew Garfield is taking up the Spider-Man mantle from Tobey Maguire. He tells Kate Whiting he was destined for the role.

Stepping into a superhero suit is a big deal for any actor. But for 28-year-old Andrew Garfield, putting on the iconic red and blue latex of Spider-Man was the fulfilment of a boyhood ambition.

“It was an incredibly profound moment,” says the actor, who grew up in leafy Surrey and is instantly recognisable with his dark brown quiff rising up from a boyishly handsome face.

“It was the first costume I ever wore as a three-year-old, so it’s always meant so much to me. When I first put on the suit, I was emotionally overwhelmed because it was something I’d always fantasised about.”

As is often the case though, the reality soon proved to be a little less glamorous than the dream.

“The suit’s not designed for comfort,” Garfield adds, laughing. “It’s designed for looking awesome on the outside and feeling terrible on the inside! So that first moment was mostly just itchy and uncomfortable.”

And with great superpowers comes great responsibility. For Garfield, this means proving to the millions of Marvel Comics fans, and the film’s producers, that he can pull off the part.

It’s exactly 10 years since Tobey Maguire first donned the Spidey outfit in Spider-Man (which broke box office records as the first ever film to take more than 100 million dollars in a single weekend) and only five years since his third and final outing in Spider-Man 3.

Garfield is philosophical about the pressure he’s under. “I’m not scared,” he says, absently running a hand over a lightly stubbled chin.

“I am playing the same character Tobey played but that’s the way it goes. There will be comparisons and there’s no way to control that. I have to let that go.

“But I respect what he did immensely, and when I was 19 I watched that first Spider-Man and it reminded me how much that character always meant to me and reignited my passion for it.

“So it’s an honour to step into the suit after him, and I’m excited to then pass it on to the next person, you know?”

As well as the itchiness, Garfield also experienced a mini epiphany when he first put on the suit, which helped lift some of the burden.

“I realised it’s too big a symbol for me to fill and I think it’s too big a symbol for even Peter Parker to fill. I don’t think he ever feels like he can live up to the symbol that he creates,” he says.

Like the first Maguire film, The Amazing Spider-Man is an origins tale, explaining how Peter Parker becomes the superhero, but that’s where the similarities end. The love interest is not Mary Jane, but Peter’s school crush Gwen Stacy, and the villain is The Lizard, rather than the Green Goblin. It’s also filmed in 3D.

It’s no secret now that Garfield fell for his co-star Emma Stone (who plays Gwen Stacy) on set. The pair have been dating since last summer. He says it was vital their characters had on-screen chemistry.

“All the dynamics are based in love,” he says. “I think [what’s] important is that the dynamic between Peter and Gwen is based in love and based in them fulfilling something in the other.”

He also found it “very easy” to love Rhys Ifans, who plays Peter’s dad’s former partner Dr Curtis Connors and his vengeful alter-ego, The Lizard.

“There was something so simple and immediate between me and Rhys. We’re from the same island and that helped a great deal. Then we just worked really hard. But it has to be based in love otherwise you don’t care, you know?”

Garfield was actually born in Los Angeles to an American dad and English mum. The family moved to Surrey when he was three and Garfield started acting classes in Guildford when he was 12, later training at the Central School for Speech and Drama.

In 2008, he won a Bafta for his breakout performance as a released convict in Boy A, and in 2010 received Golden Globe and Bafta nominations for his part in the Facebook film The Social Network. This followed his touching portrayal of Tommy, alongside Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, in Never Let Me Go.

Until now, Garfield has been able to keep a fairly low profile, but when The Amazing Spider-Man is released he’ll be thrust into the limelight.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you for it. I think you have to just move with it, but it scares me, it’s something I could do without,” he says of media intrusion.

“That might sound strange because here I am, going, ‘Look at me, look at me!’ But I kind of don’t mean it. I want you to look at the character, at the mask. I want you to look at Peter Parker.”

To get into role, he spent hours reading Spider-Man comics, watching the movies and trying to “inundate” himself with the qualities of the character.

“But actually, the most useful thing was going back to my very personal connection to it. I feel a very, very deep connection and always have to Peter Parker,” Garfield concludes.

“And I think the three-year-old inside of me was the best kind of compass I could have.”

How Spider-Man spun his web

Spider-Man first appeared in August 1962. The creation of Stan Lee and and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man is Peter Parker, a bookish teenager who lives with his elderly relatives Aunt May and Uncle Ben.

The Marvel character became a massive hit and is often considered to be the most accessible of all superheroes because he is so flawed.

The character first appeared on television screens in a 1967 animated series, then in a live action series in 1978. In May 2002, Tobey Maguire first played Spider-Man in a trilogy which came to a conclusion in 2007 with Spider-Man 3.

The Amazing Spider-Man is released on July 3.