Andrew Garfield had a moment.
There he was, 16 years old in Epsom, England, sitting in the Kingston Playhouse seeing a play for the first time in his life. It was Mnemonic, a work that explores memory, produced by avant-garde director and actor Simon McBurney. The players contorted their bodies in haunting slo-mo shapes, and recited intense and abstract dialogue. Garfield lost his sense of time and space. The walls of the theater dissolved. The sense of what was real or imagined blurred. His mind? Blown. Destiny? Discovered.
“I wanted to do that to people. I wanted it done to me,” he says. “I want to help people ask questions about their own lives—life itself.”
Call it a gift to the gifted.
Turns out, Garfield, now 35, was a natural. Beneath his slick tuft of brown hair and malleable facial features lies a guy who deliberately searches for roles that will challenge him at the cellular level. There’s been no shortage: He’s played Spiderman (twice), a Jesuit priest in Silence, a rookie techpreneur in The Social Network and a pacifist combat medic in Hacksaw Ridge. He was nominated for Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards for the latter, and a Golden Globe for The Social Network. On Broadway, Garfield scored a Tony Award for his leading role in the eight-hour production of Angels in America. “My work is my attempt to get to the center of things,” he says. “I get to explore what it means to be a human being and to, you know, live all these separate lives. And, yeah, I like going as deep as possible because what else are we going to do?”