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Lions For Lambs - Andrew Garfield interview

Andrew Garfield in Lions For Lambs

Interview by Rob Carnevale

BRITISH newcomer Andrew Garfield talks about landing his first big screen role opposite Robert Redford in Lions For Lambs and why the character was initially hard to find at first…

Q. You’ve said that you found it quite hard to identify with the level of apathy your character exhibits. Does that mean that you’re quite motivated?
Andrew Garfield: Yeah. Not so much politically but in terms of being engaged and curious about things. I’m very ambitious whereas this kid isn’t. This kid’s got all the gifts but no real drive to use them. He kind of feels that it’s futile, whereas am still very naive and idealistic. I hope that I can still change people and that movies can still inspire people – I know they can because they inspire me all the time, like theatre. But that was one of the real tough things to get into because when teachers or someone that you respect, like Robert Redford for instance, I latch on and ask them to guide me. I need to feel like I’m doing some kind of good. It sounds cheesy, I know, but I feel like I have a really big guilt complex and that if I’m not doing any kind of good then there’s no real reason for being. I believe that doing movies like this is positive because they can inspire and be entertaining.

Q. Where does the guilt complex come from?
Andrew Garfield: Being Jewish and, yes, I’m sure it stems from being privileged. I was brought up in a middle class home. I went to private school. And I was always very aware of me not earning that. I got a very good lot in life – I have two very loving parents, and I have a loving older brother. I’ve had a lot of love, care and guidance in my life and I rebelled against that by being depressed and not wanting any kind of guidance. I didn’t want it. Everyone has that phase of naval gazing where they try and figure things out but I did it to an extreme. I had nothing to really struggle against apart from myself. I didn’t have to make money from an early age, I wasn’t sent out to support the family, I went to privileged schools, so even though I’ve been given all this kind of privilege I didn’t appreciate it as much as I probably should have. But I want to start doing that now and be as good as I possibly can be.

It doesn’t just spring from guilt, though, it springs from a vision of the world that you want to make a reality. Everyone wants to fashion their own world on a very small scale in terms of your own personal, immediate surroundings as well as on a larger scale and what better way to do that in this industry than to make a movie like this? It contains a message that you believe in and comes from a filmmaker and actors that you’re inspired by yourself. So, this is one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened to me in my life and I’m so grateful.

Q. So were there a lot of “pinch me” moments along the way?
Andrew Garfield: Yeah, it was surreal. I was obviously really scared about the idea of working with him [Redford] and working with him but he’s just a really good person. He doesn’t make you feel awkward or that you don’t belong there, he makes it part of his job description to make you feel like you’re at home and be comfortable enough to play. That’s what we were doing day in, day out for a couple of weeks, turning up and fucking around with each other. We’d throw different things at each other and try and make each other react in different ways. It’s amazing how long his career has been and how he’s still so naive and innocent in his approach to things. He still thinks he can inspire people and entertain people, so you get behind that. He doesn’t wear his status.

Has this been a life-changing experience for you?
Andrew Garfield: It has, it’s made me more conscious and engaged. I still don’t feel like I have any right to express any kind of opinion in a public forum yet. But hopefully one day I will. There are many injustices in the world that I’m very passionate about – some I know more about than others. In terms of politics, I don’t think I’ve got the right brain to absorb all the information. Maybe that’s just because it’s so corrupt that it’s impossible to get information, or maybe it’s just the jargon and my brain goes: “Boring!” But I’m really trying to train myself. I’m trying to get more involved and to educate myself so that I’m less susceptible to things and more able to cast a vote for a candidate that I know what he does. But doing this movie has given me no choice but to be engaged because as soon as you’re involved with something like this, you have to have some kind of opinion.

So, did you get to meet Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep?
Andrew Garfield: I haven’t met Meryl yet, how sad is that? She’s my favourite actress of all time, literally. I get to see her next week in New York, which I’m really excited about. But I did get to meet Tom and he’s a lovely guy. I snuck on set one day and watched him filming with Meryl. It was like being in Disneyland, it was acting heaven. I only met him a couple of times but he seems very, very genuine and very decent. Don’t believe everything you read about him… Try and get past all that bullshit. It’s difficult because we’re force-fed it but as soon as you meet a human being they turn into a real person. I immediately felt sympathy for all the crap he has to go through in his life.

Q. What do you think we misunderstand about him?
Andrew Garfield: I don’t know. I think we forget that he has a heart. I think we forget that he’s made out of the exact same things that we are. I think when someone gets so successful it’s very easy to cut them down and to look for things to attack them with. I think he gets a lot of that by virtue of being one of the most famous men in the world. He’s a superstar and until two years ago he was the golden child. I just think that as soon as there’s an opportunity for cutting someone down, we jump on it because we’re envious by nature.

Q. You originally hail from a successful background in the theatre. Will you be trying to balance that with film?
Andrew Garfield: I hope to. That’s the intention because I love both. Theatre, there’s nothing like it in my opinion. I’ve had three years doing solid, amazing plays with wonderful, wonderful writing and working with amazing people, so I don’t ever want to lose that. I think it’s one of the things that keeps you grounded because it’s so easy to fall flat on your face.

Q. Where are you going to base yourself? Do you fancy living in LA?
Andrew Garfield: I’m wondering right now. I have no real base. I’m going to be in London until the end of November and then I’m going to Vancouver to do Terry Gilliam’s next movie. It may not happen because people see him as a wild card for some reason – just because he’s got a bit of an imagination. But people fear different, they fear change, if you know what I mean. But I hope they make it.

b>Read our review of Lions For Lambs