There is life after Spider-Man.
And Andrew Garfield is living it, shooting a variety of hot projects, from foreclosure drama and Cannes Film Festival hit 99 Homes (opens Friday in New York and Oct. 2 in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Washington; expands to 50 cities Oct. 9) to Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited Silence, which wrapped shooting recently in Taiwanand is expected in 2016.
But he dismisses the notion that he’s more in control than ever before. “To be honest, taking Spider-Man felt like I was taking control of my path, in a weird way,” he says. “I always wanted to be that character since I was 3 years old. That was absolutely part of my path.”
With Spider-Man franchise-level fame came the mixed bag that accompanies it: rabid interest from the tabloids (he still doesn’t discuss his are-they-aren’t-they relationship with Emma Stone), watching the critics turn on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (he has cited too much studio involvement in the final product) and constant paparazzi.
Just two weeks ago, Garfield says he got to “a very beautiful compassionate loving place” with two trailing shutterbugs. “I speak to a lot of them whenever I get the opportunity. Mostly to say, ‘Please don’t,’ ” he says. In this case, the paps put their cameras down. “We had a hug and they drove off.”
His roots are in theater, which makes him a different kind of movie star, says his 99 Homes co-star Laura Dern, who adores him. “He’s a formally trained English theater actor who also started working in the world of indie film in Europe and America and happened his way into this franchise,” she says.
That may explain why Garfield finds being a public figure confounding.
“Having a relationship with the public is very confusing to me, maybe as an English person because I can’t do the — I’m not very good at the Twitter,” he says. “I really struggle with (promotion). I really want my work to be seen. I want people to see work I do, that’s important to me. Because that feels like the best representation of who I am.”
Being likable all the time just isn’t his bag. “This idea of campaigning and getting followers and being liked — I’m a mess. Like everybody else, I’m just struggling through trying to make sense of this weirdness we’re all in, the weirdness of being alive.”
Then Garfield decides to get real. He feels lost.
“I’m not OK. I am not OK. That feels really good to say to you,” he says. “I’m really not all right. I’m in the struggle of being a person. I haven’t got anything figured out.”
He seems relieved to shrug off any shred of airbrushed movie-star perfection. Garfield confronted his own reality when he returned from Taiwan, after spending five months in the wilderness playing a priest in Scorsese’s 17th-century drama opposite Liam Neeson.
The first thing he saw at the airport was a rack of glossy magazines.
“I have panic attacks when I see the perfection that’s on the cover,” Garfield says. He pauses, munching on a strawberry. “And I’ve been on those magazine covers — and it’s only the 'best’ photo, of course, they use.”
So what happens next? Post-interview, Garfield flies to Australia to play a medic in Mel Gibson’s World War II film, Hacksaw Ridge, which wraps around Christmas. Then, his plan is simple. “Go back home,” he says, noting how long it’s been since he’s had a permanent residence. “Go to England. Get some roots again.”