The charmingly self-conscious Andrew Garfield is upgrading his Spider-Man pyjamas
Andrew Garfield is poking away at a bowl of bananas in a suite at the Four Seasons. The skinny 27-year-old, wearing a Fred Perry zip-up and a Back to the Future watch gifted by his girlfriend, looks more like 17 as he talks about his role as a boy bred for sinister purposes opposite Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan in the film Never Let Me Go. “I think Kazuo [Ishiguro, who wrote the novel] wanted to tell a story not about people escaping a bad situation, but how they accept a bad situation,” he tells the writers who’ve joined him for breakfast. “How we put up with a giant tiger in the room and kind of ignore it and go on eating our bananas. Which is what we all do in our own lives.”
This resignation to one’s fate is a philosophy Garfield is applying in his own life, although in his case, his upcoming years look much brighter than those of his onscreen alter egos. The actor, raised in Epsom, outside of London, has Columbia Pictures’ hopes of rebooting the Spider-Man franchise resting on his narrow shoulders.
“I’m just treating it like an extension of my seven-year-old self, climbing up door frames,” he says. “I’m going to play it like I always have played it in my living room. It’s just an extension of that, just a bigger set, and a bit more money, and a better costume, although my mom’s homemade costume was pretty wicked.” His original Spidey suit consisted of blue pyjama bottoms and a red pyjama top, with a picture of a spider pasted on the front.
Working with real-life pals Knightley and Mulligan on Never Let Me Go, Garfield was initially the odd man out. “They were sort of closed and tight and nervous about starting a new rehearsal process with new people,” he recalls. “They love each other, so they were very much on each other.”
Although the three characters emerge as a love triangle, Garfield’s Tommy is written to be a social misfit, so a little alienation went a long way. “It was great for me to feel that,” he says of infiltrating Knightley and Mulligan’s friendship. “But of course that changed, and I kind of wedged myself in.”
Today, Mulligan is a huge fan of Garfield’s performance and thinks it’s a shame that he can’t bear to watch himself. “If I become conscious of what my eyebrow is doing or what my voice sounds like or maybe what my posture is doing, then I’m not only ruined in terms of when I get in front of the camera, but in my real life I’m going to be constantly worried about how I’m coming across,” he reasons.
It’s a self-consciousness that harks back to his previous TIFF hit, the 2007 crime drama Boy A. “I watched it, and I was distraught,” he says. “I watched it again, and I was more distraught. I went back to it again, going, well, maybe I was just in a bad mood when I watched it, and I was just bad, in my eyes. Then I came here to Toronto with it and people really liked it. It confused the heck out of me. So I tried to act like I liked it, as well. ‘Oh yes, it’s a great film! And I’m really good!’” Personal reservations aside, he commemorated his first visit to the festival by holding onto his TIFF 2007 pass.
Not wincing his way through another performance is serving him well, he says. “Everyone has a part of themselves, whether it’s your older brother from when you were younger or whether it’s your dad or your dog or whatever, it’s engraved in you, that self-critic part of yourself,” he says. “I’m just trying to use it when it’s necessary and then when it’s not necessary say, hey, we don’t need to deal with this right now.”