Playback: Andrew Garfield on ‘Silence,’ ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ Letting Spider-Man Go

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

On today’s episode Jenelle Riley and I sift through the ashes of the New York Film Festival, which seemingly left “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” a casualty of the Oscar season. Films like “20th Century Women” debuted, which brought into question performances like Annette Bening’s (and Viola Davis’ in “Fences”) that could be argued as either supporting or lead.

Later on I’m talking to Andrew Garfield, who has hung up the “Spider-Man” tights and found himself on an interesting streak of films lately. After Ramin Bahrani’s “99 Homes” last year, he’s back in 2016 with a pair of movies from two titans of the industry: Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”) and Martin Scorsese (“Silence”).

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

In “Hacksaw Ridge,” releasing Nov. 4, Garfield stars as Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who refused to carry a weapon in World War II. Serving as a medic, Doss saved countless lives, including at least 70 on one fateful night bogged down in the eponymous Okinawa ridge.

“He was a man that didn’t want his story for a long time, or just wasn’t interested in having his story or actions glorified in any way,” Garfield explains. “A big part of who he is is that he’s a man of God, a Christian man — more specifically a Seventh-day Adventist. But I do believe that his actions transcend any specific religion.”

Like many of Gibson’s films, “Hacksaw Ridge” deals in themes of faith, particularly the difficulty of maintaining one’s faith in the face of adversity. It’s a theme shared with “Silence,” Scorsese’s adaptation of  Shusaku Endo’s novel about Jesuit missionaries persecuted in 17th-Century Japan.

“I think they’re both masters in their own way, but I also feel they are all too aware of their own humanity,” Garfield says when asked if the two filmmakers share any other qualities. “They’re all too aware of their own fallibility, in a way. They’re in touch with all that messy humanness. And they’re also in touch with their own longing for the divine, longing for their best selves.”

And as mentioned, Garfield finds himself traveling a new career path after fronting Sony’s “Amazing Spider-Man” franchise. He’s relishing these fresh pursuits and says he’s happy for the perspective his time in the superhero trenches has given him.

“Having been in that environment for five years, which is a very specific environment, I was craving smaller,” he says. “I was craving tighter. I was craving a bit more pressure, in a weird way … There was a longing to simplify, I think, and to strip away excesses. I wanted to be able to fully focus on the simple job of being the storyteller as the actor. And that’s kind of where I want to be anyway, I think. Forever.”

Hear all about that and more in the streaming link above, and remember to subscribe below!

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Andrew Garfield photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety
Andrew Garfield photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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