When the dicey decision to reboot the blockbuster Spider-Man
franchise was finally made (a mere five years after the final film of the Tobey Maguire-starring trilogy had hit the big screen), the producers of the new "retooled" film, along with Marc Webb, the director of The Amazing Spider-Man
(the inaugural motion picture of new generation of Spidey flicks), embarked on an exhaustive search across North America to find just the right actor to portray their latest version of the web-weaving, crime-fighting superhero. Several well-known, bankable actors had made it known to Webb they would love to step into Spider-Man’s boots, however, the filmmaker was determined to find a fresh, new face to portray a younger, more innocent Peter Parker/Spider-Man. After meeting with and auditioning close to (a rumored) thousand-plus actors for the role, when American expatriate Andrew Garfield came in for his reading, Webb's gut instincts shifted into high gear -- he knew he had found the right guy to help him successfully launch his new Spider-Man
film series (all the principals of The Amazing Spider-Man
, particularly Garfield, signed a multi-picture deal -- which translates into the very real possibility of several future sequels).
Born in Los Angeles in 1983, four years later, Andrew Garfield’s English-born mother transplanted him across the Pond to Surrey, U.K. so that he would be educated at British schools. As he grew into a teenager, Garfield had begun to fall in love with acting after being cast in a number of school productions -- which led to him landing major roles in local theatre productions. By the time he was 19, Garfield had decided to make acting his life-long profession and began attending the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, to sharpen his abilities and hone his craft. It wasn't long before he began garnering roles on several British television series, including a major guest starring role on the well-loved, international sci-fi hit series Doctor Who
Garfield would spend the next few years starring in such English hit TV shows such as Sugar Rush
, before he began to dip his artistic toes in the motion picture pool. Almost overnight, he scored roles in the Red Rising
trilogy, Boy A
(for which he won a British Best Actor BAFTA), Lions For Lambs
and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,
before Hollywood came a knockin'. He scored his proverbial “Big Break” when he landed the coveted role of Eduardo Saverin in the 2010 critical and box office smash The Social Network.
The very next entry on his résumé would be The Amazing Spiderman.
While he is no newcomer to the art of film acting, Garfield instinctively knew he had been handed more than a simple role in a major motion picture. He quickly realized he would be responsible for bringing a cultural pop icon and multi-generational heroic phenomenon back to life when he was handed the role of Peter Parker/Spiderman.
"I was terrified to take on this role, because it means so much to me, so I know how much it means to other people," the 28-year-old, boyishly charming Garfield nervously confesses. "I just wanted to be connected to the fans, in a real way. Because I'm a fan -- first and foremost. And it was a scary thing. But there's something about staying humble, grounded and appreciating everything that you have."
Before and during filming, Garfield threw himself into the role, researching and reading everything he could find on the origins of Spider-Man -- from leafing through as many Spidey comic books he could get his hands on to watching every Spider-Man
cartoon and live-action feature he could find. When asked if personally views Spider-Man as a hero or vigilante, Garfield expresses some very strong feelings. "I think what's cool about this movie is that Peter discovers the power of what he's created, and he doesn't create it with any kind of high mindedness," explains the star of the film formerly known as the Untitled Spider-Man Reboot.
"He creates it so he can protect himself. I think he is a vigilante for a period of this story. But I think it's true for any teenagers, to have those impulses, and kick out and rebel. But using their powers in a way that they're not thinking responsibly. Um, they're not thinking at all! It's Peter running away from his feelings -- the pain and the guilt. So yeah, I feel there is a period where he's acting out those kinds of impulses, and he accidentally discovers something he created, that he can use for good."
Andrew goes on to explain that he felt especially close to the role of Peter, because he could personally relate to many of the situations Peter had to emotionally go through before he felt empowered. "I think it was important to me that he started with a heroic impulse, and without the physical power to do anything with it," reveals Garfield. "That was how I always felt growing up. You know, I was a skinny kid, and I felt like an underdog. Obviously, now I'm not, I'm like this huge bruiser of a tank," he adds with a laugh. However, Garfield admits he was a lot like the bullied Peter Parker while attending the British equivalent of high school. "I got over that problem, because now I just realize that being skinny is okay," he explains. "But you know, I always thought I should have been bigger for some reason. Because society tells you that. I guess? Like everyone played rugby and I played rugby, and was good at it. But I got hassled all the time, because I was a weakling. So, that was something I always identified with Peter -- that he felt stronger on the inside than he did on the outside. And there's nothing better than seeing a skinny guy beating the crap out of big guys.
"For the film, I didn't want to be just a guy in a suit, throwing kicks and punches -- and saying cheesy lines," continues Garfield, who has reportedly been dating his The Amazing Spider-Man
costar, Emma Stone, since early last year. "If we're grounding this in reality, what happens when spider DNA is running through your bloodstream? What happens to this teenage boy, who is fidgety, nervous and can't keep still? He discovers that he can now have patience, like a spider. The fact that he goes through what I went through, that's why I love him so much. Because I was just like him. Just the general attitude, the malaise and the awkward shyness. Every aspect. And just that energy, I wanted to capture. You know, tongue on tongue and head out the window. That need to express, and that need to kick walls down -- irrationally. Which, when you combine that with being a superhero, it's kind of exciting. But I've been nervous for the past two years. It seems like every day, there has been something that has kind of made me have to, you know -- suppress shaking."
For his chat about The Amazing Spider-Man
with members of the North American media -- during the New York City stop of a worldwide publicity jaunt to promote the film -- Garfield is emotionally holding himself together like a seasoned Hollywood pro. If he is shaking, he hides it well. Andrew is funny, genuinely friendly and incredibly polite as he talks about working-out to build up his muscles and appear buff enough to play the arachnid-like superhero, what it was like to morph into the spiderized crimefighter, he recalls performing his first onscreen kiss with costar Emma Stone and explains why he refuses to complain about his Spider-Man costume.
ANDREW GARFIELD ON THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN:
First off, congratulations on getting the Peter Parker/Spider-Man role, doing a great acting job and making a great summer superhero movie.
"Oh, thanks...that's just my whole life! I have a very blessed life."
Did former Spider-Man, Toby Maguire, have any encouraging words for you when you landed the role?
"Yes, and it made me feel like I could take the torch in confidence. And that I had the support from him. He didn't need to do that. So we're all just part of that family, you know? The Spider-Man family."
How do you exactly go about morphing into Spider-Man?
"My only intention was to honor the character, and that goes for Peter Parker as well. That was everything to me. I would think, 'You keep screwing up and screwing up.' But occasionally you relax and get something right. And you won't know how. But that's kinda how I like to work. I discovered how that painful exactness really suits me. So that was cool. Of course, combined with that sensation, that physical sensation I've wanted to do since I was three years old. But I think pretty much everyone has wanted to do something like this since they were three years old. I got to live that for a second, and I'm eternally grateful to everyone at Sony Pictures for allowing me to."
Okay, let's talk about romantically getting it on with Emma Stone (who plays Spider-Man's love interest Gwen Stacy) in the movie.
"Well, there's that scene on Gwen's bedroom floor, where we have that kind of intimate heavy moment. But in a previous version, we have a date night. You know, where it's expressive and free, and teenage and romantic -- and silly! That was the editors, it had nothing to do with me. But it was that feeling that I wanted to capture, in those moments between Gwen and Peter. God, I remember that feeling. It's a beautiful feeling to remember."
How would you compare the anxiety levels of kissing versus killing, and all the action, in this movie?
"Ha! They're all pretty scary things. Yeah, they're all pretty scary. But I actually felt more safe when I was swinging around."
Okay, I give up -- why?
"Because you have a very, very strong, safe pair of hands holding you up. While the romantic scenes are free falling -- in a way. As they should be. You know, you have to be spontaneous and free -- and terrified. Because that's what first love is. First love is the scariest thing you'll ever go through. And the most exhilarating."
In what ways?
"You've got so much to lose. So yeah, that was actually more frightening than swinging through the buildings -- in a weird way. And especially because it's Emma. She's terrifying!" (laughs)
So, how did you shake all that off -- both emotionally and physically?
"I didn't! I kind of didn't sleep very much. But I dedicated myself to it, really. I did. Um, it's embarrassing to say, but I did. So, I really wanted to, it's a weird thing. And when that moment comes you're like, 'Oh my God. I'm not allowed to sleep. I'm not allowed to think about anything else.' And I haven't shaken it off. But next time I might, because I love sleeping. And eating. (laughs) I realize that you have to look after yourself, to bring your best game to the field. But it was tough."
What was it like getting in shape to become Spider-Man?
"Of course, the training is horrible. Like the physical training to change my body. Because I'm a lazy guy. And I'm vain, but I'm not vain enough to care -- about the gym. My trainer, Armando, was a fantastic trainer, but a terrible person. I have very confused, mixed feelings about Armando. Wherever he is, he knows that. He's hiding from me."
"Because he will be murdered one day! At my hand. Um, no! (laughs) We had a great time, and I was thankful for him. He kept me on an even keel, all the way through. And that, combined with the whole stunt team, was a pretty awesome experience."
What about those mechanical web shooters, what were they really all about?
"Ha. Do I lie or do I tell the truth! It was a nice exercise in...imagination! But at one point I thought I could draw the Spidey insignia over the guy's crotch. But they took that scene out -- I don't know why? (laughs) I thought it was kinda cool. But it was kind of liberating, because I could shut the door on that guy as many times as I wanted, and you know like...web him in the face. (laughs) Yeah, that was kinda fun. But difficult, and awesome, if it would have been real."
How does that compare to your theater experience?
"That was just from my heart, and guts. You know, I got very upset and stressed out, wanting to do a good job. As is my way. Um, and that's kind of it. But your body doesn't know if it's not real. Even if your mind does. So your body's in a lot of pain, and your heart is in a lot of pain. But it's worth it."
Did you have any issues with the Spider-Man costume?
"Ha! C'mon! Um....you know, I had many issues with that costume. But it's a weird thing, it's like every actor who plays a superhero is like, 'The costume sucked!' Like, we should just all get together and talk about it. Because it is so inappropriate to talk about it in public. It's like, 'How dare we complain!' You know what I mean? Like, we are the ones who get to wear it. It's the dream. But it was so terrible! No, let me just put it this way: The fantasy of wearing those costumes is really awesome."
The Amazing Spider-Man opens across North America on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.
REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
"...a superhero movie that isn’t afraid to bear its soul and wear it’s spiderized heart on its costumed sleeve."
For almost every film studio and filmmaker, taking on the task of rebooting a formerly successful movie franchise is both financially dangerous and artistically risky. There is a long list of well-intentioned remakes of previously classic films that were loathed by fans and deservedly bombed at the box office. But, it can be done. Remember, there were blockbuster Batman movies (starring Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and even George Clooney) before actor Christian Bale suited up for director Christopher Nolan to star in the current trilogy of brilliantly-concieved Batman films (the third, The Dark Knight Rises
, opens next month) to make (so far) a pair of flawless superhero cinematic classics (Batman Begins
and The Dark Knight
), which went on to become two of the biggest money-making films of all time. Even the recent Star Trek
redux -- hatched in the television-bred mind of movie-maker extraordinaire J.J. Abrams -- was able to breath new life into a once dormant, multi-picture franchise and turn it into an intergalactic cash cow (the Untitled Star Trek Sequel
hits screens in 2013). As previously mentioned, it's possible to resurrect a classic, but it’s akin to rolling a pair of loaded dice. Even if you have a great film with fantastic actors and a good script, it doesn't always guarantee hardcore fans or even casual movie-goers will pay their hard-earned money to see a "revisualized" version of a well-loved film.
The Sam Raimi-directed, box office smash, Spider-Man 3
-- starring Tobey Maguire as the masked Peter Parker -- was released just five years ago, in 2007, when many of today's teens and tweeners were probably old enough to have still seen it on the big screen. So, the Tobey Maguire-era Spidey movies are still fresh in the minds of scores and scores of movie-goers, which means a remake or "reimagining' of the Spider-Man/Peter Parker comic book mythology better be darn good to pass the Spider-Man fan-boy/fan-girl litmus test. Despite the odds against him, director Marc Webb has accomplished the almost impossible feat with his retooled The Amazing Spider-Man.
Quite simply, Webb has made a film that is just as good, if not better, than any one of the three Maguire-era Spider-Man
However, before I go any further, I have to be honest: Even before I put on my 3D glasses to watch The Amazing Spider-Man
(which was made for a reported $215,000,000), I was prepared to be completely bored and/or totally disappointed with the movie. Five minutes into the film, however, all my negative preconceptions had disappeared -- and I very quickly began to realize I was in for a celluloid A-ticket ride that I wouldn't want to disembark.
So, how did Webb do it? Surprisingly, he went back -- way back -- into Peter Parker/Spider-Man lore to keep viewers intrigued, enthused and entertained. Since the story is initially set in Queens, one of New York City's five boroughs, the filmed could have easily been titled Queens-ville
-- since it skillfully uses many of the clever story devices and the good old fashioned story-telling that made a hit out of Smallville
, the decade-long television series that traced the origins of Clark Kent and his Man Of Steel alter-ego, Superman -- with a heavy emphasis on his teenage years and the angst, insecurities and the trials and tribulations of love that accompany that period in all our lives.
In The Amazing Spider-Man,
viewers actually get to see Peter Parker's birth parents, as his scientist father (Campbell Scott) and homemaking mom (Embeth Davidtz) mysteriously decide to disappear and leave their elementary-aged son to be raised by his loving relatives, Uncle Ben (superbly played by Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (an equally compelling performance from Sally Fields). But the fun really starts when we first see (a pre-spiderized) Peter Parker as a skinny, geekish, skateboard-riding high school teen who is constantly being bullied by the jocks. At one point, he is rescued from being completely pummeled by the school's most notorious bully when the cute, sweet and smart Gwen Stacy steps in to diffuse the situation. Not a single word or emotion from this point of the film on, would have been as interesting, much less emotionally exhilarating, if it were not for the incredible acting talents of actors Andrew Garfield (the new Peter/Spider-Man) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy). These two relative newcomers posses an onscreen chemistry that is purely electric. They are so in-tune with each other that the film’s love story looks as authentic as the real deal. (They are allegedly now a real-life couple). From the awkward silences of their initial meeting alone to their sweet and sensual first kiss, the LA-born, UK-raised Garfield (a refugee from The Social Network
) and Stone (a Superbad
alumni) brighten-up the screen each time they are together -- whether it's a quiet, romantic moment together or Peter/Spider-Man trying to save her from his arch enemy, The Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifan). Garfield and Stone's performances are flawless in a superhero movie that isn’t afraid to bear its soul and wear it’s spiderized heart on its costumed sleeve.
Of course, what would a great Spider-Man movie be without the exhilarating, hold-your-breath action sequences? In this Spidey reboot, Peter is still bitten by a genetically-altered spider, but some of his "super-powers" are now more grounded in reality (well, kinda). I’d rather not spoil the surprise of some of these new upgrades for you, but I will say that they make Spider-Man seem more human and accessible than ever before. While the nail-biting scenes of Spider-Man swinging and jumping from brownstones to skyscrapers are visually thrilling, his battles with his latest foe, The Lizard (a mutant monster he inadvertently had a hand in creating), are truly rousing and breathtaking. Spider-Man's fights with the "normal, everyday" bad guys are equally riveting to watch -- although, there isn’t any real hard-edged violence to speak of. In fact, fans of all ages will surely find themselves clutching their armrests during all the wonderfully frenzied fight/action sequences.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to Tinsel Town insiders that according to early tracking reports, every age group seems to dig hanging out with the new Spider-Man. Recently, after catching a preview of the film, Xavier Santos, a six-year-old, hardcore Spider-Man devotee from Houston, could hardly contain his excitement over what he had just witnessed on the big screen, calling the Spidey reboot, "The best Spider-Man
movie they’ve ever made.’ Even though The Amazing Spider-Man
is being marketed primarily towards a younger demo, many older, adult movie-goers at the same screening seemed to wholeheartedly agree with young Xavier. "This film takes the Spider-Man story to a whole new level," self-proclaimed Spidey aficionado Koby Teague declared, "and it’s more exciting and thrilling than anything we’ve seen before in the earlier movies."
While The Amazing Spider-Man
sadly may not garner a Best Picture nod at this year‘s Academy Awards, it is a penultimate example of how to successfully breathe new life into a former -- thought exhausted -- franchise and design it to become an even slicker and more exiting model of the original. Unshakably clever, wonderfully endearing and bite-your-nails thrilling, The Amazing Spider-Man
is, so far, one of the best films of this packed, tent-pole summer film season. (And thankfully, it is just as electrifying and spine-tingling in 2D as it is in 3D.)
****1/2 -- Four-and-a-half (4 1/2) out of five (5) stars