Is anyone having a year like Andrew Garfield’s?
Following a lengthy stage hiatus (which nabbed him a Tony Award), the actor stormed the fourth quarter of 2021 with back-to-back film releases in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and “Tick, Tick … Boom!” The latter has placed him front and center for Oscar contention in the best actor category. And then came December.
The cat is, well, out of the bag that Garfield — despite sly denials — reprises his role as Peter Parker in Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” alongside reigning webslinger Tom Holland and the O.G. arachnid Tobey Maguire.
Co-produced with Marvel, the latest film is approaching $1.4 billion at the worldwide box office and has deeply satisfied fans across age demographics and franchises. It also provides yet another dimension to Garfield’s skill set. In the same season, Garfield has portrayed a tortured teen hero, a morally bankrupt pastor, and a devoted artist teetering between ruin and revelation.
Garfield caught up with Variety to discuss his return to the Spider-Verse, and the response to his portrayal of Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick … Boom!”
SPOILER WARNING: Do not read further if you wish to avoid spoilers for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Starting simple, why did you say “yes” to “No Way Home”?
I wasn’t expecting to ever have a conversation again about potentially playing Peter Parker. I felt very excited to just to be a fan again. But I got this call from Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige and Jon Watts with this idea. It was immediately undeniable. It sounded incredibly fun, incredibly spiritual — trippy and thematically interesting. On a base level, as a Spider-Man fan, just the idea of seeing three Spider-Men in the same frame was enough.
The pitch was really, really enticing. They said, “You played this character in your way and what would you want to explore if you had an opportunity? If you were dumped into this other universe and faced with this younger you and this older you, how will you respond?”
We talked a lot about mentorship. We talked a lot about brotherhood and about what it is to be the older brother, younger brother and the middle brother. There’s also a thing of seeing someone you love walking down a path that you’ve already walked down, and you know it doesn’t lead the place where you ultimately meant to go.
That character is isolated in his emotional experience and physical experience. But what happens when that aloneness gets blasted open, and you come to realize that you’ve never been alone and there are other brothers going through the exact same thing? That’s a big spiritual journey to go on, man. And then we just milked out all the fun that we could possibly have.
You and Tobey Maguire really did this. This wasn’t a green screen set up in your driveway. And they have a profound impact on Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.
We were shooting for two weeks, Tobey and I, but I think we managed to achieve something that is not just showing up and going, “Hi! Bye!” My Spider-Man got to save his younger brother’s romantic relationship, potentially. And to heal the most traumatic moment of his own life through doing it for his younger brother. Making sure that he didn’t have the same fate, there’s something cosmically beautiful about that. It meant getting a second chance at saving Gwen [Stacy, Garfield’s love interest in “The Amazing Spider-Man” played by Emma Stone].
You know, the spirit that Zendaya brings to MJ is so heartfelt and pure and loving, and Emma brought that similar unique spirit to Gwen.
Talk about your time with your fellow Spider-Men, what did you share off-screen? Compare notes about spandex and fans?
I think the first time we were all in the suit together, it was hilarious because it’s like just three ordinary dudes who were just actors just hanging out. But then also, you just become a fan and say, “Oh my god we’re all together in the suits and we’re doing the pointing thing!” There was talk about going to the bathroom and, you know, padding around the package. We talked about what worked for each of us. Tom was jealous because I have little zippers in my suit that I can get my hands out of very easily. To work his phone, he had to use his nose because he couldn’t access his hands. We would have deeper conversations, too, and talk about our experiences with the character. And to have Amy Pascal there, who has seen through nine movies, including “Spider-Verse.” It was a revelatory experience for her, realizing how much life and time she’d given to this character. That was beautiful and profound.
There’s a line I improvised in the movie, looking at [Maguire and Holland] and I tell them I love them. That was just me loving them.
The screenwriters said at one point they considered bringing back Kirsten Dunst and Emma Stone. What would you have liked to see for your Peter and Gwen?
Oh my god, I don’t even know where to start with that. It’s too big. Gwen had agency. In our film, on her final day, she shows up. I tried to restrain her from showing up to that scene with Electro [Jamie Foxx]. I knew that it was too dangerous, but she chose to be there. She had a hand in her own destiny in that way, and the movie is about fate. I will say the image of my catching [Zendaya’s] MJ — that was really beautiful and it kind of sold me on the whole thing.
A lot of the conversation about this movie has been about a sort of redemption for your Spider-Man. Narratively, commercially. How does that feel?
I am so grateful. I’m just really, really grateful that I got to tie up some loose ends for the Peter that I was playing. I love that character and I’m grateful that I got to work with these incredible actors, this incredible director, and Marvel in conjunction with Sony. It was joyful, and a feeling of closure for me. There was so many unanswered questions for my Peter, where we left it. I got to step back in and get some healing for him. And also really supporting [Holland’s] Peter, and honoring his character completing that trilogy, not distracting or detracting from it.
Would you be open to coming back to the character?
I mean, yes, definitely open to something if it felt right. Peter and Spider-Man, those characters are all about service, to the greater good and the many. He’s a working-class boy from Queens that knows struggle and loss and is deeply empathetic. I would try to borrow Peter Parker’s ethical framework in that, if there was an opportunity to step back in and tell more of that story, I would have to feel very sure and certain in myself.
“No Way Home” is sort of the button to a big year for you. Since we last spoke, “Tick, Tick … Boom” has been released on Netflix. Many people have discovered you as a singer and a dancer. Are you getting every musical script in town? Have they sent you “Grease 4”?
I would love to keep my singing going. It’s such a gift that Lin-Manuel gave me in stretching out my skill set in this way. I have my piano in my room and I’m going to be doing a couple of private sessions over the next couple of weeks, just for myself, just to keep me with the instrument. It’s like a meditation practice. It was a great match and I would definitely do it again.
What about a moody studio album? Or you busking in Belsize Park with a Casio?
I would not have the courage. I am in the middle of writing a song for my goddaughter right now. Something very cute and very inspired by [“Tick, Tick … Boom!” subject] Jonathan Larson and other people in my life. Those influences are so inspiring to be around. I’m so grateful for this movie and to just savor and drink it in right now.
I’m sure all of Broadway has seen this movie, but have you had any other feedback from fans or people connected to Larson?
It’s been all-encompassing. The most beautiful thing has been members of his family and his friends feeling like they’ve been given Jon back for a period of time. Through his music and what the film does, people who never had a relationship to his work have reached out because their lives have been reinvigorated by him. Because his story is theirs, too. You see him making these ripples in others reaffirming or recommitting to their own dreams. I got a message today from a friend of a friend who watched it on an airplane. He wrote the most beautiful note just saying, “I needed this, and I didn’t know that I needed this film in this moment.”
It’s also just this reminder for people about the sacredness and the shortness of life, and how what we do matters, whether we know it in the moment or not. Jonathan didn’t know, he didn’t get to see the effect his work was going to have. But what he did matters, and we’re still reaping the joy of it now.