Andrew Garfield follows suit in Spider-Man

By Michele Manelis

The new Spider-Man talks to Michele Manelis about taking on a role not long vacated by another up-and-coming actor.

Andrew Garfield stars as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Photo / Supplied
Andrew Garfield stars as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Photo / Supplied

Like every actor who gets to play a superhero, Andrew Garfield had his suit moment.

"When I first put on the suit, I had a few different reactions," recalls Garfield. "There was the physical aspect of it being very uncomfortable. It's designed for looking awesome on the outside but it feels terrible on the inside. And at the same time, I was emotionally overwhelmed."

For the quietly-spoken Los Angeles-born, London-raised actor, playing Peter Parker and his alter-ego in the quick reboot of the franchise - Tobey Maguire played the role in the 2002-07 trilogy of movies - is quite a leap after his supporting roles in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go.

And naturally, there will be comparisons of his teenage mutant superhero to Maguire's... .

Garfield sighs, indicating this is not his favourite subject.

"I can't really tell you how different this incarnation is because I'm too close to it, and I don't want to compare or contrast what Tobey did.

I love what he did, and I can only tell you that this is another chapter," he says, earnestly. "We both brought our own personal relationship to it."

Like Maguire, Garfield, 28, shares an obvious angst-ridden quality which suits the shy guy who finds himself transformed into a high-flying crimefighter.

"Peter Parker has so much self-doubt. He makes mistakes, he makes the wrong decisions, he gets himself in trouble and beats himself up, but he drags himself back up again. And I have to say that, as an actor, I too have so much self-doubt. While making the movie I felt it every day but that was another way to access this guy and play it truthfully," he says. "But, once a month, I felt a moment of confidence."

This attitude is the polar opposite from the swagger and bravado of his Hollywood contemporaries, most of whom would almost never admit to feelings of nervousness or uncertainty, and on the rare occasion they do, it comes across as disingenuous. But Garfield seems sincerely self-effacing, in fact, almost painfully so.

No longer in the shadows, playing the titular character in Spider-Man has resulted in him becoming familiar with life in the spotlight.

Aside from his escalating status as an actor, off-screen he's ensconced in a relationship with his leading lady, and Hollywood's girl-of-the-moment, Emma Stone, 23, whom he met on the set of Spider-Man, and who plays his onscreen love, Gwen Stacy.

Garfield is the son of an American father and British mother and was raised in England from the age of 3. His parents ran an interior design business there. After graduating from drama school, Garfield's career has been relatively struggle free, no doubt aided by his brooding good looks.

He effectively arrived in 2007 with his appearance in the Robert Redford US political drama Lions For Lambs and his Bafta-winning lead role in British telefeature Boy A. Playing Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network got him a raft of supporting actor nods.

Being cast as Spider-Man has parallels to Maguire taking on the role - young credible actor becomes unlikely action hero.

Garfield had to undergo daily training to morph into a superhero's physique in a short period of time. "I did seven hours a day of training for four months leading up to the shoot. I'd do two hours of body work, then three hours of harness and Parkour training, and wirework. It was like circus school," he smiles. "But it's not like I could be in Cirque du Soleil.

"I got pretty good at the physical stuff. I enjoyed it a lot, and it was just like being in a playground. It was pure fun. The guys I was working with, the stunt guys, are experts. Technical geniuses and physical geniuses," he says, smiling. "Thank God for them."

Now that he's put his costume away, temporarily, Garfield's body has returned to normal. "I've sustained it a little bit," he says, looking at his muscular arms. "At the time, you get high on yourself. You can't help it because it doesn't belong to you. You've never associated yourself with having a body, for me, anyway. I was always just a skinny kid and then when you realise you can manipulate your body, it's empowering. But it takes so much work and you are like, 'F***, I don't want to do that ever again, I'd rather eat donuts,"' he laughs. "Like we all would."

Interestingly, when the movie wrapped, he ignored the ever-increasing scripts piling up on his agent's desk, and chose another route. Admirably, Garfield accepted a challenge of a different kind and joined Phillip Seymour Hoffman on stage in the Broadway production of Death of a Salesman.

He says, "It's so nice to have such a rich, diverse set of experiences in so short a time. They're contrasting, the play and the movie, but I care as deeply about one story and character as I do the other."

Garfield is appreciative of his career to date. "It's so much about luck," he insists. "I tried out for a school play when I was 16 and thought it was a fun experience. But I didn't think acting was a viable option. I never dreamed of this in a realistic sense and I'm cognisant of the fact that just sitting here talking about it, I'm just an actor that happened to be given this opportunity. It could be anyone."

Turning Peter Parker upside down

It might be set in modern-day New York but The Amazing Spider-Man is rooted in the original comic book series of the early 60s. According to the tagline, it promises to tell "the untold story".

For a fan of Spidey and his many incarnations - 40 years of comics, cartoon shows, television series' and a U2-penned Broadway musical - what kind of "untold story" can there be?

"Well, we all know Peter Parker, but we didn't know what made him Peter," explains Avi Arad, producer and CEO of Marvel Studios, "So we went to the origin-origin in which Peter actually lost his parents, encumbered by the fact that he didn't know what really happened. Were they dead or alive, and were they good or bad people?

"All things that form the character of a child, we're exploring. So, we started with the earlier years and when you meet Peter you see the complexity of an orphan or a child of adoption.

"But, we also have an amazing love story, a new one. We have Emma Stone playing Gwen Stacy, and Gwen is the true love story of Peter Parker. She fell in love with Peter Parker, whereas, as you remember, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) fell in love with Spider-Man."

For the producers, it was important to exploit the love story, presumably to appeal to a female demographic, though it still has a villain in the form of Rhys Ifans as scientist Dr Curt Connors. But the Parker-Stacy relationship - which has become the Garfield-Stone relationship off-screen - is the reason the aptly named Marc Webb, director of hit romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer, was chosen to helm the project.

"Yes, he was an unusual choice," agrees Arad "but what he did with 500 Days of Summer proved that he can make a relationship movie, and that's what this movie is. In all fairness, almost anybody can make an action movie but an action movie that is driven by character is a big challenge.

"I think when Stan Lee created the mythology, he was more interested in the private lives of the superheroes than the crime-fighting aspect," he says. "And those relationships need to have a specific currency in order for us to invest."

Having only directed one film, although critically and commercially successful, as well as several music videos, it's surprising that Webb was entrusted to direct a film with an reported budget of more than US$220 million ($278 million), let alone in 3D. It's an incredibly fast rise for the 37-year-old director. "Yes, it's scary. Of course it is. It's intimidating and exhilarating but I believe that nervousness and excitement are always walking side by side," he says.

"And I loved the 3D aspect to it. It makes for a premium experience for theatre-goers. We made sure it was done with a level authenticity and care. Our staff of 3D technicians made sure every shot feels right and has depth. It's part of the foundation of the film and there is a genuine sense of gravity at work. We did things with wires to create a feeling of danger."

And it's also the second big superhero film of the year coming after The Avengers and before The Dark Knight Rises, the final curtain on Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.

That's a bit of competition - is Webb worried about The Caped Crusader on the heels of Spidey?

"Well, put it this way," he smiles, "I'm glad we're not coming out at the same weekend."

Who: Andrew Garfield
What: The Amazing Spider-Man
When: Opens July 4
Also: The 2002 Spider-Man movie starring Tobey Maguire screens TV2 Sunday, 7.30pm.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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