Andrew Garfield talks playing Spider-Man: "I knew it was going to provide a gilded prison"

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man
(Image credit: Sony)

While Andrew Garfield came to the world's attention in David Fincher's The Social Network, it was playing Spider-Man that made him a household name. When Garfield reflects on the experience, however, he's not always entirely positive.

The actor was initially meant to appear in three Amazing Spider-Man movies, yet the series was cut short at two, and the planned Sinister Six movie was likewise scrapped. While speaking to Total Film for the new issue of the magazine, which features Eternals on the cover, Garfield reflected on taking on the Spider-Man role and what he first hoped to achieve by playing Peter Parker. Here's a snippet of the much longer Q&A.

Total Film: Playing Spider-Man must have been a huge decision for you – the fame it would invite. Was it your love of Spidey as a boy that made you take the plunge? 

Andrew Garfield: That was absolutely it. I don't know about reincarnation, and if there is one opportunity for me to be alive, and I get offered the opportunity to do a prolonged dress-up as my favorite character of all time, there's no way I can say no. And, yeah, the only thing that I knew was going to be a challenge was the fame aspect, and I knew that a lot of good would come with that as well. I knew it was going to provide a gilded prison... As a creative person, I knew I would have to balance it out with theatre [Garfield appeared with Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mike Nichols' 2012 revival of Death of a Salesman], and with waiting for the right movies to come along that would make sure that I stayed an actor, rather than this idea of a movie star. I love movie stars. I love The Rock. I fucking love Tom Cruise. This is in no way a detriment to them. 

But you don't want to be one? 

I'm just saying that it's not for me, personally. What turns me on is... You know, I look at Sidney Lumet movies. I look at Network, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico. I'm like, "Who directed those movies?" You can't tell it's the same person. There's an artist that is serving the story. You come away talking about the story, and talking about the character. And the same goes with a [Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate director] Mike Nichols movie. You go, "Oh my God, the people, and the dynamics, and the relationships."

Talking of serving a story, you signed up for The Amazing Spider-Man with very serious intentions. You talked about bringing wisdom to the character. Looking back, did the movies match your desires? 

My intention... I started studying myth, which is the basis of comic-book films and comic books generally. And you go, "Oh, right. The responsibility of modern filmmakers is the same as the person telling the story around the campfire." Stories are the things that remind us of who we are as human beings, and we actually have an opportunity to provide deep wisdom and medicine and guidance. So for me, it was like: How do I help to infuse this with as much soul and universality as possible, knowing that millions of young people are going to be watching? So it's not an exercise in selling t-shirts and mugs and Happy Meals, but it's giving young people the opportunity to feel their own extraordinariness, and their own ordinariness, and seeing someone who's just like them struggle with those two things living inside of themselves. So for me, it was about that. And then, you know, there's everyone else that's serving their own masters. 

You sound dissatisfied with the movies. 

I'm very rarely satisfied with how something turns out. I suffer from that kind of queer, divine dissatisfaction that most creative people have. I remember watching The Social Network for the first time, and me and Jesse were like, "Oh, we hate this shit. We hate it." Everyone around us was going, "What the fuck is wrong with you? It's incredible." We were like, "No. I ruined it. They should have cast someone else." There's a healthy version of that, which is the growing down thing. But then sometimes it turns into an indulgence.

Read the full Q&A with Garfield – in which the actor talks Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well as his upcoming movies Mainstream, Tick, Tick... Boom!, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye – in the new issue of Total Film, out September 16 and featuring not one but FOUR Eternals covers to collect:

Total Film's four Eternals covers.

(Image credit: Total Film/Disney)

And if you're a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? You'll also get it before it's in shops, and you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers like the Eternals one you can see below. With our current subscription offer at MagazinesDirect, you'll get the magazine half price too, so what are you waiting for?

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(Image credit: Total Film/Disney/Warner Bros)
Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.