Brit auditioned for lead role in 'Social,' but fine with Saverin

For Andrew Garfield, there’s no such thing as the perfect role, only a semi-perfect storm.

When he got the call about a Facebook movie, he was skeptical. For exactly three seconds.

“In the next breath, my agent said David Fincher was directing, Aaron Sorkin was writing, and Scott Rudin was producing,” Garfield recalls. “If those three have landed on something together, it’s a sure sign we’re dealing with something special.”

That film wound up becoming “The Social Network,” the dramatization of the early days of Facebook — from Harvard start-up to worldwide phenomenon. Garfield played Eduardo Saverin, Mark Zuckerberg’s close friend and Facebook’s first financier and chief operating officer.

After he’s ousted by Zuckerberg and new ally Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), he’s also the subject of one of three lawsuits Zuckerberg finds himself dealing with. Yet Saverin is far from the villain of the story, and Garfield was drawn to the material for precisely that ambiguity.

“The script is so layered that you come away hopefully being confused as to who behaved best and who was right or wrong,” he says. Garfield originally read for the role of Zuckerberg, but was offered the Saverin part without an additional audition.

Garfield was able to tap into Saverin’s relationship with Zuckerberg using the two weeks he’d spent getting inside Zuckerberg’s head for the first audition.

“Saverin feels like he understands Mark better than anyone else, and I see their relationship as big brother-little brother,” he says. “He’s in awe of Mark’s brilliance and really loves him, but he wants him all to himself. I also imagine this is the first time he’s experienced real betrayal.”

That betrayal is the subject of the book “The Accidental Billionaires,” telling the Facebook story largely from Saverin’s jaded perspective. Garfield says the book helped flesh out tiny character details, some of which made it onto the screen at Garfield’s request. He convinced Fincher to add a scene where Saverin speaks Portuguese to his dad on the phone, to emphasize the character’s Brazilian roots and the subtle cultural differences they imply.

Garfield is meticulous, but learning that perfection should never be the goal of acting.

“No human is perfect, so why should humans onscreen be perfect?” he posits. “I try to treat the set like a sandbox where anything goes.”

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