When some stars do Comic-Con, they’ll fly into San Diego, say as few words as they can get away with in Hall H, and then fly out after only a few hours on the ground. That’s not how Andrew Garfield does Comic-Con; then again, the self-effacing actor will be the first (and likely, the only) person to insist to you that he’s not a star in the first place. The first time Garfield appeared at Comic-Con to tout The Amazing Spider-Man, he showed up in his character’s costume and read a heartfelt note about what Peter Parker means to him, winning the fans over almost immediately. This past week when promoting the Spider-Man sequel, Garfield again took the stage in costume, but he stayed riotously in character for the first part of the panel, too. When Garfield does something, he gives his all to it, and that includes this interview with Vulture, where the 29-year-old Brit got deep and thoughtful … while still allowing that he’s obsessed with ABC’s dating show The Bachelor.
I liked your recent, half-serious suggestion that Michael B. Jordan should play Spider-Man’s next love interest, M.J.
My beliefs about living and about life and about the world and humankind have nothing to do with Spider-Man, but what I do believe is that Spider-Man stands for equality. Spider-Man will protect whoever needs protecting: gay, straight, black, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. He’s not gonna go help the middle-class white dude before he helps the homosexual black dude! He is an Everyman, and he is covered head to toe in costume, which is different than any other superhero I’m aware of, and I think that’s why he’s so universally relatable. And he is color-blind and he is blind to any sexual orientation, so it was more just a philosophical question of “Why not?” And I stick to it. I long for the time when we don’t see skin color, where sexual orientation is treated as a small thread in the fabric of a person as opposed to defining them.
But real talk, Andrew, where did the obsession with Michael B. Jordan come from, and where has it taken you? Did you start with The Wire? Have you bawled at Friday Night Lights and Fruitvale Station yet?
[Laughs.] I haven’t seen Fruitvale yet, but I’m so excited to see it. It was The Wire where I first saw him and he broke my heart. And then of course I’ve been following him since, even in the movie he did with Dane DeHaan, Chronicle. And I saw that Michael responded to my comments, and I love that he took it in the fun that it was meant. It shows an evolved dude, you know? It shows a guy who gets it.
Dane DeHaan is one of many terrific actors joining The Amazing Spider-Man 2, including Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Chris Cooper, and Felicity Jones, but do they all get well-served? Some superhero sequels burden themselves with too many characters, and you’ve already cut Shailene Woodley’s Mary Jane from the movie …
All I can talk about is the script. We just wrapped a month ago, so in terms of what the final product is going to be, that’s up to the editors and the director. But in terms of the script, everyone gets a fair deal. I think you’re probably subtly referencing Spider-Man 3, and I know I would have flagged it if I thought, We’re losing the story. We need a spine for this. And I do believe that in script form, and from the dailies I’ve seen, it’s cohesive and layered and full of dimension. And not boring, and not overblown.
In between Spider-Man and its sequel, you did Death of Salesman on Broadway, but no other movies. Why not?
I did a play, and that was all I needed to do to cleanse the ol’ palate. And it was quite a palate cleanser! It really did a number on me. I don’t make my life easy, I don’t know what it is. I have a masochistic quality about me, I guess.
Was it important for you to do theater in between these two very technical movies?
Any movie is technical. I find any movie frustrating in terms of its technicality, in terms of the repetition of takes. I expect myself to be a robot on a film set, and that’s not fair to myself. Every take is not gonna be gold; the majority, in fact, aren’t gonna be. If you allow yourself to have those, that’s when you find spontaneity and truth and authenticity. I was in the middle of shooting the first film when [producer] Scott Rudin called and said, “I’m doing this play, I’d like you to do it.” And Arthur Miller is my favorite playwright — I studied All My Sons in drama school. So it was an immediate yes.
And you do what Scott Rudin tells you.
I do everything that Scott Rudin tells me. To a point. [Laughs.]
What do you remember about your first Comic-Con, when you came out of the audience wearing the Spider-Man costume and read that note you’d written?
I remember it vividly. It was one of my favorite moments of my creative life, in terms of finding a purpose in my life and knowing that I was in the right place and the right time and that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Where the idea came from is that I wanted to mark it for myself: I didn’t want to do just a panel, I didn’t want it to be, “Here’s the actors talking about the film,” because that creates a separation and a literal status level, because the actors are on a higher level on the stage than the people are in the audience, and I’m not comfortable with that. It’s okay when you see a play because it’s elevated reality or whatever, but to have the Comic-Con audience look up at me … that simple action, I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted to be in the crowd, that was it. That’s where I belong, because I’m a fan. It also came out of being very anxious about saying hello and having to say, “Hey, guys, I hope you don’t mind that I’m English.” [Laughs.]
You talk about resisting that elevated status level, but a movie like Spider-Man connotes a kind of superstar status that’s hard to argue with. Have you felt that change you?
Yeah, I’m just doing coke off of prostitutes. [Laughs.] No, it’s all about perspective. It raises a very interesting philosophical question of “What is reality?” Because my reality is that I’m a guy who struggled as a teenager — I’m still struggling now — to figure out who I am. I became an actor, trained at it, didn’t think I would be successful, got a play, had some time off, thought I wasn’t going to be successful again, got another play, had some struggles, broke up with a girlfriend … that’s my reality. So if someone comes up to me with a different idea of that reality — if they feel like they’re meeting someone important — all I know is that they’re wrong, you know what I mean? Sometimes I will have the energy to let them know in a subtle, gentle way that I’m not what they think I am, and other times I’ll just be knackered and be like, “Okay, I’ll do a photo.” I mean, I’ll do a photo anyway, but what’s important for me about being an actor and an artist is that your job is to be an observer, to reflect life back at an audience. And if you’re the one who’s being observed and looked at — if the attention is on you — it’s anathema to creativity. I feel watched as opposed to watching.
And it must be odd when you go out to eat and you can just tell that other people are surreptitiously taking pictures and tweeting about you.
Yeah, and that’s a whole other discussion about how we don’t live in private anymore, how there’s no such thing as privacy.
But still, stardom has its upsides. You landed the lead in the new Martin Scorsese movie, for example.
Yeah! A friend of mine just came up to me who I hadn’t seen in a while and he was so excited for me, and I just laughed, because I can’t even hear it. I mean, it’s absurd! It’s hilarious!
Have you reached a point where you can call him “Marty” yet?
[Laughs.] He’s actually one of those very disarming people where that happens as soon as you start spending time with him. That’s the thing I’m learning: I’m a culprit of being a fan, of being overwhelmed when I meet a celebrity or someone who I respect and admire as an artist.
Who has that happened with?
With Scorsese, or with Jamie Foxx. It could be anybody! It could be ridiculous people, even! Take Sean from The Bachelor: If I met him, I’d be like, “Oh my God, it’s Sean Lowe!” I get overwhelmed, but the thing I keep learning — and relearning — is that we’re all the same. We’re all just doing our best.