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Andrew Garfield on ‘Boy A’ and Heath Ledger

Photo: WireImage

Just 24, Andrew Garfield has already broken out in Britain as a hot young stage star — and now he’s breaking into film, with roles in Lions for Lambs, The Other Boleyn Girl, and the lead part in the British indie Boy A, currently at Tribeca and opening in New York later this summer. Garfield plays Jack, a young convict who spent most of his adolescence in jail as a result of a childhood crime — and his contained, tense performance more than confirms theater-world rumors of his talent.

Boy A takes on a pretty archetypal story — an ex-con gets out of jail and readjusts to life on the outside. How did you make it feel fresh?
I try to just try to bring as much of myself to it as possible — which I guess is trying to make it as unique as possible. To not to be acting in a film you know.

What do you mean by that?
I try to avoid acting at all costs, all those obvious tricks and traps you can fall into.
It’s just so easy to do a performance that’s been seen before. My main concern was: Why the hell does this girl fall for him? We had to bring in some more lightness, some more joy and funniness between them. I think it’s wicked. I’m really chuffed, actually. I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be any good or not.

As a young actor, do you find yourself trying out new methods each time out?
I’m totally trying out different things every time. I’ve been so lucky to be working with very established actors and young actors who have different ways of working. Peter Mullan plays my social worker, and he’s the most fantastic, naturalistic, weighty actor. But he would do no preparation. Before scenes, he’d be chatting and I’d go, “Sorry man, I’m not in the mood to talk. I have to work myself up into a state.” Peter was very Brechtian. He says: You’re a human being before and after action and cut. Just remember you’re relating to human beings all the time. Acting isn’t so different. It doesn’t take so much effort.

You worked with Heath Ledger on Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. What did you pick up there?
The amount of stuff he left me with was astonishing. I will never ever lose hold of what he had to offer. He just had this total spontaneity and the ability to do anything at any point: fly off the handle or joke. It was electrifying and I never knew what he was going to do — like punch me, you know? But how he did it is a mystery to me.

Mark O’Rowe, who wrote Boy A, also wrote that terrific, very show-offy script for Intermission. This is much more restrained. I love that line, “They’re so fucking delicate, people. They die so easy.”
He has a real ear for regional rhythms — and a kind of lyricism. Lines are very simple, but these mundane things become kind of poetic. He lifts it just slightly. It’s all very simple and pure, and not clever.

How’d you get into this kid’s skin?
It’s difficult to say. I guess I go inside myself, and use my own life as reference. Usually there is some way to relate to everyone in the world if you look hard enough. You’ll find common ground with a suicide bomber, with a transvestite who likes having sex with pigs. You’ll find some kind of perversion of your own. Everything’s inside of you.

When are you going to do theater here?
I might be coming to do a play reading in New York soon. Right now, I don’t have to be the actor who works for the sake of working. Going from Imaginarium to something I’m half-assed about, that would just be so depressing.

Is it all going to be such dark stuff?
I really would like to do something light. Terry’s movie is hilarious, it’s ridiculous vaudeville. I do stupid things and it was fun as hell — just fucking stupid stuff. It really made me think this is what I should do next. Judd Apatow is genius, I think. He’s defining this decade of comedy, like what Monty Python did for their generation. I’d love to work with him. —Logan Hill

Andrew Garfield on ‘Boy A’ and Heath Ledger