Collider Interviews Andrew Garfield

Monday, Sep 13, 2021

If you’re a fan of Andrew Garfield and want to hear him share some fantastic behind-the-scenes stories about the many projects he’s worked on, you’re going to be very happy. That’s because I recently landed an extended interview with Garfield to talk about his career and his latest project, The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

During the wide-ranging conversation, Garfield shared some great stories about making The Social Network, why David Fincher is such a great director, what it was like making Tammy Faye with Jessica Chastain and playing Jim Bakker, getting to work with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mike Nichols on Broadway, what it was like hosting SNL and those moments right before you walk on stage, making Tick, Tick… Boom! with Lin-Manuel Miranda and why he loved playing Jonathan Larson, why playing Prior in Angels in America on the stage took so much out of him, making the two Spider-Man movies with Marc Webb, and more.

Trust me, if you are a fan of Andrew Garfield you are going to love watching the interview and you’ll learn a lot of things you didn’t know. Check out what he had to say in the player above or you can read the full transcript of our conversation below.

Finally, if you haven’t seen the trailer, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, and the film is an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, were televangelists who rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and a theme park. The duo were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity, but it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and a sex scandal tore their marriage apart and toppled their carefully constructed empire.

COLLIDER: How are you doing today, sir?
ANDREW GARFIELD: I’m good, baby. How are you? I called you baby.

I’m doing very well. That was not what I expected to be called, but I’ll take it. Seriously, congrats on this movie. You and Jessica are fantastic.
GARFIELD: Thanks.

I have a lot of questions about that, but because I have so much time with you, there’s a bunch of things we’re going to talk about. Hopefully, you enjoy the questions, because I prepped. So I want to start with, what TV series would you love to guest star on?
GARFIELD: Search Party.

What movie or movies have you seen the most?
GARFIELD: The Goonies, Teen Wolf, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters I and II, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Joe Versus the Volcano.

A little unorthodox choice.
GARFIELD: Clean Slate. Do you do know Clean Slate?

Actually, I’ve seen a lot of movies, and I don’t know if I know Clean Slate.
GARFIELD: It’s a little-known Dana Carvey movie. The original Memento, but it’s a comedy.

I do actually know this movie.
GARFIELD: He has amnesia, and he wakes up every morning and he’s forgotten everything he’s learned from the case from the day before. He’s like a detective with amnesia.

When you’re filming a movie, can you leave the character you’re playing on set? Or does a piece of it always come home with you every night during the shoot?
GARFIELD: I can choose. I decide. Sometimes it’s useful to keep it with me, and other times, it’s very important to leave it. For instance, when I was doing The Social Network, we were shooting the scene where I come to Palo Alto and I’m covered and drenched in rain. Justin’s character, Sean Parker, answers the door, and I’m very surprised to see him. I’m not all that happy to see him, and I come in, and me and Jesse have our tiff. We got halfway through that scene on a Friday, and we hadn’t done my coverage yet, and I had the weekend to stew, and I just decided to stay in it. That may not have been a good decision, because I went to a couple of… it was the Golden Globes that weekend or something, so I went to some pre-Golden Globe parties or something. I think I got into an altercation with a couple of people that I shouldn’t have got into an altercation with, and I’m not going to name names, but it’s for a private story sometime I’ll tell you.

The Social Network is what I call a masterpiece. When you think back on the making of that film and working with Fincher, besides this story, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
GARFIELD: Jesse, laptop smash, that day, that long goddamn day, and Fincher being such a good dad that day. He was the perfect sports dad. He was instilling me with, “Keep doing it, and you can keep doing it, believe that you can keep doing… I know I’m going to ask you to do this a lot, and your voice is going to be tired, and your heart is going to be tired, and your body’s going to be exhausted, and I know you’re going to hate me, and that’s okay, because we are going to get it absolutely perfect.”

And then at the end, instead of saying, “We’re moving on,” I was sat on the floor after take 35, 40 of my closeup of that scene, which you can imagine would have been a lot of screaming and agony. And I’m sat on the floor, just wiped, exhausted, thinking we’re probably going to go again another 10 times. He just walks up to me, up that corridor from this monitor, and he puts his hand out to me and pulls me up and shakes my hand, and he says, “Moving on.” And that was that. So that was a beautiful moment. I felt very gratified. Leaving it all in the field. That was a beautiful day. I loved it.

In the years since the film, have you talked to Eduardo?
GARFIELD: No, no. I wonder if I ever will. I’m open. I’m very, very open for that conversation. I would love to have a hang.

One of the things about Fincher, in all of his movies, is that he gets amazing performances out of everyone, and every director that I’ve ever spoken with has a different way of working on set. Fincher obviously has a very unique way of working on set. What is his secret? Because it’s not just about the takes, it’s about him being an amazing director. So what is it that gets these amazing performances out of everyone?
GARFIELD: One of the things I understand about why he does that amount of takes is that he’s getting the actor so that the actor forgets they’re being filmed. So that that’s a part of the magic of the performances in each of his films, I think. He’s looking for that moment where you forget you’re there, you forget what’s happening, and there’s a purity and a vulnerability and an openness, and the audience responds to that in a deeply unconscious way. Suddenly there’s no acting, there’s no performing, it’s just pure. I think that’s a part of what he’s looking for, and also, he’s very precise. He can see it. I think he said this before, I don’t think I’m misquoting him, “It’s like being a catcher in a baseball game.”

He doesn’t know why it works, but when the pitch hits the glove just so, he can feel it. He’s like, “Okay. We got it. Moving on.” So he just has an instinctive trust, and the best directors I’ve ever worked with have that. Mel Gibson’s that way. Scorsese’s that way. A bunch of other directors I’ve worked with are that way. Mike Nichols. It’s an instinctive, “Oh, that was it. Got it. Done.” It’s a body, gut kind of intuition.

What was cooler for you, being on an episode of Doctor Who or hosting SNL?
GARFIELD: I don’t want to compare things. But I will say that, just for me personally, I wasn’t a big Doctor Who fan, to be honest. I loved doing it. I loved working with all the people on it, but I have to say, my history is much more an SNL fan. My father was a big SNL fan and so I felt much more like that had lived in my imagination.

You’ve done a lot of stage work, and I can’t imagine the nervousness that might go on before you step on stage. Did that help you when you were getting ready to come out on stage on SNL? Or are you still shitting bricks when you’re about to walk out from behind the door, it’s 11:30 at night on a Saturday?
GARFIELD: No, it’s every time. It’s every time, every time. No matter what it is, SNL or theater or a film set. You’re like a horse in the starting blocks and you’re just like, “Why isn’t the cage opening? And am I going to die when the cage opens?” No. Every time before I go on stage or do any kind of performance, there is a threshold to cross, for me, internally, which is, “Am I going to die if I go out there? I think I might die. Do I risk it? Because I haven’t died yet, but maybe today’s the day that I die.” But SNL was specifically intense for all the reasons you can imagine, but you’re in this back, you’re in this box at the back. There’s not space back there. You get brought into this box and then there’s doors open.

I remember, I think I was just dancing, and I was just thrashing and just making sure that I wasn’t getting stiff and tight in my body. I let the energy just leave me, go through me, and used it as best I could. I’ve never watched SNL, the SNL that I did. I never intend to, because it was just the most pure experience. I don’t want it to be ruined by watching my work in it. It was just like… The experience is the thing. Actually, the great thing is being a part of the crew and the company and supporting them in their brilliance. I think that’s how I, if I ever do it again, that’s the intention. I just want to be here to help you guys shine. That’s the awesome part of it.

You have managed to land such incredible roles through your already amazing career. Is there a role though that you went after that you didn’t get that still stings?
GARFIELD: No. Actually, no. I mean, there’s stuff that is kind of the opposite, there’s stuff that I was offered that I said no to. And again, but I don’t regret it. There’s nothing I regret. It was absolutely right. And no, I really have this weird kind of wacky belief that everything is perfect. Everything happens for a reason. So, no, I don’t. No, actually, no.

You got to work with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mike Nichols on Broadway. I am curious, and it’s been something on my mind since you worked with them, how much did you actually pay to be in the production to work with them? Because that’s insane.
GARFIELD: It was the best. One of the greatest times of my life creatively, spiritually, life-wise. I had just finished shooting the first Spider-Man film and I needed it. I actually needed it for my soul. Theater is my home, it always will be my home, my first creative, spiritual home, I suppose. But then to do Arthur Miller. And to do that particular play. Then you put Phil as Willy Loman and then Mike directing, I mean, it doesn’t…. There’s no way of being able to comprehend the perfection and beauty of that experience. I’m so grateful for it.

What do you think might surprise people to learn about being part of a big Broadway production like that?
GARFIELD: Your dressing rooms are pretty shitty, for the most part. That, maybe? I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that would be surprising. It’s just so soulful. It just feels so right for me. There’s also a nice thing that happens in Broadway, where everyone who’s doing a show at the same time gets to know each other. There’s a community that you actually feel a part of, which is a rare thing in what we do. Everyone is supportive of each other’s shows, and that was a surprising thing for me because you don’t get that as much in London because it’s all a bit more spread out. The theaters are a bit more spread out, whereas in Broadway you’re all neighbors on a nightly basis, and you’re seeing each other in restaurants late at night afterwards, or bars, and asking how tonight’s show went, and who was in, and what you fucked up, and what you got right. There’s a real community feeling.

You did amazing work with Angels in America, and I know that every night it had to really take a toll on you. At any point during the run in London or on Broadway, were you like, “I can’t do this anymore. This is really killing me.”?
GARFIELD: A few times. A bunch of times. I know it’s only a play and it’s not real life, but your body doesn’t know that, because if you’re doing it… For the way that I work is, you’re attempting to live it as much as you possibly can. Living under those circumstances, those imagined circumstances that the character is going through, so your body is creating chemicals, and adrenaline, and pain, and woundedness, and joy, and you’re in love, and you’re losing your lover, and you’re dying, and you’re visiting heaven, so you’re losing your mind. Especially in that play, the character Prior that I played goes through, he just goes through the whole human experience in eight hours, of life, death, and then life again, then being faced with a choice between life and death and choosing to live. It doesn’t get more profound than that, or more agonizing and suffering than that.

So there were nights where I was like, “Fuck this. Why am I doing this to myself?” And those were the nights that were the best performances probably, because there was something else that had to come in, because I knew that I couldn’t do it with sheer will and drive and force. I knew I needed to lean back on something else, something, some unseen, call it God, call it my own higher power, call it the universe, call it the theater gods. I needed help to get through and it’s weird, the more you let go, the freer you are and the more the thing just happens. So, those nights were the most special ones because you felt like you were being carried on some kind of wind and it’s beautiful.

You obviously made two Spider-Man movies with Marc Webb. I don’t think anyone can prepare you for being in films of that scope and scale and what they mean to a studio and the marketing and everything. Do you miss being in those sort of films? Or are you sort of like, “I’m glad I experienced it and those are kind of scary”?
GARFIELD: I mean, I feel a lot of ways about it. I’m really glad I did it. There’s not one part of me that regrets it at all. I feel so grateful for all the friendships and relationships I built and the experience. I got to have that experience of being a part of that kind of behemoth kind of thing, and playing a character that has meant the world to me since I was three, as we all know. So there was nothing, and I learned so much about myself, about how I like to work, how I don’t like to work, about what storytelling means to me, about what it doesn’t mean to me. I learned a lot about my own relationship to materialism, commercialization, commodification, selling T-shirts and mugs and Happy Meals. That stuff’s tricky for me.

I’m not crazy about that aspect of our culture, to be honest, the highly consumerist aspects of our culture that I think does a lot of damage because it breeds a meaninglessness, for me. I think there’s a redirect that I want to be a part of, which is back towards things that are more eternal and dependable, because the things that we are being taught to depend upon are just so undependable. So for me, and I think COVID has done this for a lot of people, is it’s brought people back to actually, what do I love? Who am I? Where do I want to live? Do I want to live by a river? Do I want to live by a lake? Do I want to live in the woods? How do I get rid of this being the thing that defines who I am, how I’m perceived, how I perceive myself and my value in the world? I’m being a bit glib, but also… So for me, that was a really interesting dynamic and dilemma for me.

So it’s on the second press tour, we created, me and my friend, my publicist at the time, we created this, with Sony, we created this splinter press tour. So that every city we’d go to we would go and visit a small, local philanthropic organization and bring all of the energy and attention that we had from this character in this story, and the predominantly wanting to sell cinema tickets, but actually there was a way of redirecting it towards those more underdog Peter Parker organizations around the world. So that, that was the kind of remedy for me. So, it’s a big learning experience, for sure.

Did you ever talk to Drew Goddard about that Sinister Six movie? Was that, how close did that actually get to being made with you?
GARFIELD: I don’t know how close it got, but I definitely had a few meetings, and it was really exciting. I’ve got to say, because I love Drew so much, and I love Cabin in the Woods, and the other stuff that he’s made. We just got on like a house on fire. I loved his vision, he’s so unique and odd and off-kilter and unconventional in his creative choices. So that was definitely a fun couple of months, but life.

No, I get it. I’m a big fan of Drew, and actually that was the thing that really disappointed me when that film didn’t happen. Just because he’s such a comic book fan, and I just was so excited about seeing his take on these characters.
GARFIELD: It would have been cool. Maybe one day he’ll get to do it, but it would’ve been cool.

And by the way, I agree with you, with the material things, except if you look behind me… I often think about Fincher’s Fight Club and the line of, “The things you own end up owning you.” Jumping into why I actually get to talk to you today, which I’m sure you were like, we’re never getting there. What is it like actually stepping on set or in rehearsals with Jessica, when you see the level of commitment she is doing for this role and how passionate she feels about playing this character?
GARFIELD: It’s awesome and you expect nothing less. That’s who she is as an actor. I admire her a great deal. I value that kind of commitment, and I knew that would be the case. And it was great because it means that you can just show up in the scene, and you can really just be present with your fellow actor, and you know that it’s going to be truthful, and you know that it’s going to be alive and honest. She’s a remarkable, remarkable artist that I got to witness firsthand and play with, so I’m very grateful.

What do you think might surprise people to learn about the making of this film, or the research you did, just something you could share?
GARFIELD: We would go to church every Sunday, me and Jess. We would go to Heritage USA, their old stomping ground. Me and Jessica would go get a coffee every Sunday morning and we would go, and it’s a different evangelical church now there, but we would go and join service and just hang out, commune, cringe at things that didn’t make sense to us, get quite moved about things that did, and talked to the community there. We got toured around and we would do that as a ritual together every Sunday. It was very, very beautiful and surprising. I didn’t expect to be doing that with Jess, but it was a really gorgeous thing that we got to explore together. That, I think, was definitely unexpected.

I would imagine that you research and prepare a lot for every role that you’re going to do, but for something like this, where you’re playing… say you’re going to film in say, September. When are you actually really digging in and laser focusing on, “I’m getting ready for this project”?
GARFIELD: It depends. With Silence, I took a year. With Hacksaw Ridge, it was probably about three months. With this, I would say probably about two and a half to three months. With Lin-Manuel’s movie, Tick, Tick… Boom!, I had to learn how to sing, I had to learn how to play piano, and I had to embody Jonathan Larson, and it just so happened that I had a year to do it while doing other things. So that was a year and a half. That was boiling for a year and a half. Then the real just firm focus was probably about four months for that. Anyway, so it’s different every time. Each thing requires a different amount of… A different type of study, a different type of preparation.

The thing I’m doing now, this is a miniseries of Under the Banner of Heaven up here in Calgary, with Dustin Lance Black. I got to go to Salt Lake City recently on my way out here and hang out with some Mormons, and some ex-Mormons, and some bishops, and some gay Mormons, and some fallen Mormons. It was that stuff, and the same with 99 Homes, I got to go to Florida and do a week research of people who were affected by the housing crisis. That stuff is really, I just love it.

One of the things that I don’t think people realize is what Jim and Tammy Faye did. They literally built a media empire, which is…back in the seventies, or early eighties. This is really hard to do. What do… I mean, can you sort of talk about what they accomplished before, obviously, their downfall?
GARFIELD: Oh, it’s insane. Jim was a builder, he built a theme park. He built, as you say, a media empire. He built housing for single mothers who had been abused. He’d built housing for disabled kids. He had ministries all over the world. It’s remarkable what he did. It’s insane. I have no idea how one…I think as soon as you start building in that way, you’re going to have to get into some corrupt stuff to keep it going. Also for him, his justification was, is that God wants this. God wants me to create places for Christians. He wants me to convert as many people as possible. He wants me to make Christianity fun. He wants me to show that actual material prosperity is what God wants. He just happened to misread the word prosperity in the Bible for material, commercial, financial prosperity and comfort. Whereas etymologically, from the original Greek, he discovered while he was in jail, spiritual prosperity is a very, very different thing to economic prosperity. I think he started to understand that, when he was doing more study, after he went to prison.

The thing that I think a lot of people forget is what Tammy Faye… She was on the side of supporting people with HIV and AIDS, and supporting gay people, and supporting marginalized people when it was not… It’s a little easier now than it was back then. She was a really good person.
GARFIELD: Jessica will have a much better, more in-depth answer to this, but from my… What I perceive, is that Tammy was a proper Christian, in the sense of give me your poor, your weak, your hungry. It’s those real, true, Jesus Christ Christian values of the people who feel ostracized and exiled and mistreated, that those are the people who she felt this tremendous kinship with and connection with. It just so happened that, of course… and, she was very camp. She was camp. She was fabulous. She was a drag queen in a way, that’s one way of perceiving who she was with her makeup and with her outfits and with her performative stunts. The joy and the fun and self-effacing humor, and I don’t know, she was kind of a remarkable anomaly in that world. And in the world generally.

After you wrap what you’re filming now with Dustin, do you know what you’re going to do?
GARFIELD: No, not right now, not right now. No, because we’re shooting until December, so it’s a little bit of a ways off.

I want to jump actually real quick and talk about Tick, Tick… Boom!, which is a project I cannot wait to see. I’m very excited. I still get sad when I think about Jonathan and dying so young and it still bums me out. What did it mean to you to play him?
GARFIELD: I mean, to the best of my ability, it was really profound. I want to talk more in-depth with you at some point about it, because I really do feel very… I’m really connected to the project in a way that is deeper than usual, and I feel a great deal of responsibility and joy in that I got to attempt to honor him and the sacredness of his life and the sacredness of what he was trying to make his life about. And him as an artist, him as a friend, him as a boyfriend, him as a son, and him as a revolutionary. He was not afraid of ruffling feathers and upsetting people. He was someone that saw how sick the world was and how toxic the world was, and he actually really wanted to change it.

Whether it was about the environment or about, again, commodification and materialism, a kind of a cruelty that he was witnessing, or a kind of, again, it was all in the backdrop of his friends getting sick and in a lot of cases dying of HIV and AIDS very young. He had this profound awareness of the missing the mark of life that the culture was doing, that the people in charge, politicians and leaders were doing, especially when it came to not protecting the sanctity of the lives of his friends.

Even though people know about him, there’s just so much they don’t know. I know Lin is obviously a huge fan of his, Jonathan’s work. What was it like those first few days on set, when you realize the significance of what you are trying to bring to the screen? And did you feel that pressure or do we just, so excited to be there?
GARFIELD: I think I felt I started to feel what I imagined Jonathan felt in his short, and fireworks energy of a life. Because he was always an 11, because I think some way he knew he didn’t have long. Like Tick, Tick… Boom!, it’s his heart. For those of us who do know, he died of Marfan syndrome at 35 on the eve of the first preview of Rent off-Broadway. It was a heart condition. He had a heart attack. So Tick, Tick…Boom! is prophetic. He knew. There was a thing of like, I know I don’t have a lot of time, time to get this, to get these songs out, to get my songs sung, as much as possible. None of us ever will sing our song fully in this life. We will all die before with an unfinished song. We hope we leave people behind who’ll keep that song going.

So for me, I think I woke up every morning as the character of, pressure, but it was like the Tick, Tick… Boom! pressure of how do I honor him to his hilt? How do I even attempt to reach towards who he was as a person, in all of his dimension and in all of his lust and joy for life and all of his cosmic, prophetic awareness of this dystopian future that he kind of predicted. Also, going back to the things that are of real meaning that he was trying to wake us up to. He was trying to wake up a generation to a life of much more meaning, and of creativity and art and community. All of the ethos of Bohemia, all of the ethos of Rent. That’s what he was trying to do. Wake us up to life and the celebration of life and the sanctity of life. So I woke up every morning, after just a few hours sleep, because he wouldn’t let me sleep, with that kind of yearning and need to fulfill his legacy and to keep his song being sung. That was the greatest gift.

Cannot wait to talk to you more in-depth once I have seen the movie. I have to wrap here and I’m just going to say, thank you so much for giving me so much time, and I wish you nothing but the best.
GARFIELD: You too, dude. Nice to see you.

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