From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Interview: NEVER LET ME GO’s Andrew Garfield


A few days ago, I took part in a roundtable interview with future webslinger, Andrew Garfield, who’s here at the Toronto InternationalFilm Festival to support NEVER LET ME GO, in which he plays one of the leads alongside Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightly. Garfield is a very humble guy that just wants to act. Studio budget or self-financed, if he finds something beautiful in a film, count him in.

Check out the interview after the break. And a big thank you to Katey Rich from Cinema Blend for sending me the transcript.

Was there ever a point where you thought there was a point of no return, taking on this franchise? You are basically not going to be able to come back to small films for a while.

No, I don’t think so. I haven’t thought about it like that. I just like acting. I just want to act for the rest of my life, and get lost in roles and just explore the diversity of what it is to be a human being, and the different experiences we all go through. Maybe that’s naive, I don’t know. I feel really excited. I’m only going to do something if I really am excited to do it, for the right reason. If I were going into something with the wrong intentions I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Doing this film is so beautiful, I don’t want to do anything but tell the story in the most simple and transient way, from novel to cinema. I don’t know if we achieved it, but everyone’s intention was the same. We just wanted to honor Kazuo’s story. My attitude is very similar. Size doesn’t really come into it. I want to be an actor, and I just want to explore what that job means. And be a vessel for someone else’s words, be a vessel for someone else’s story and facilitate that with whatever I may or may not have.

Do you want to reach more and more audiences?

That’s a byproduct maybe. But it’s not something that comes into my thought process. I want my life to be my life, and I want my work to be my work. I don’t want to identify one with the other. What’s important is life comes first. My family comes first, and my friends, and my happiness comes first. It just so happens I get happiness out of working hard. I get happiness out of working on something hard. The idea of fame isn’t something that interests me, the idea of celebrity isn’t something that interests me.

Do you at least appreciate the fame?

I don’t know. I don’t feel that I’ve had to deal with that yet. It’s really nice when someone comes up to and says, “I really liked your film, it really moved me.” “I really liked your film, it really made me think.” Or, “I was interested in your film, I don’t know if I liked it, but maybe we can talk about it.” That’s fascinating. That’s all I’ve really had so far. I just cross bridges if and when they come. There’s no point in worrying about the future. I’m just trying to be an actor. I want my kids to have normal lives, as normal as they possibly can be.

This is the first round of press you’ve done since the SPIDER-MAN announcement. Has it occurred to you that you’ll be answering SPIDER-MAN questions for the next ten years?

You just put that in my head! No, I haven’t really given it that much thought. As I was saying, I’m going to approach it like I approach any other role. I’m just going to work as much as I can, because it’s been such an important symbol to me since I was four years old. It’s meant so much to me, and it’s given me so much hope as a skinny little streak of piss, who feels more powerful inside than he looks on the outside. Every skinny boy’s dream. I’m very lucky.

Do what extent does the role give you advantage, to be able to bring awareness to smaller films?

That’s not my job. I think if I got caught up in that I would just stress myself out. If I was so calculated, I think it would just detract from the good stuff. I’m obviously aware of how difficult it is to — actors can’t get work. I’m an actor. I’m happy to be working, that’s all. It’s difficult to get work. There are people much more talented than I am, that I know, who aren’t working. Actors are at the mercy of other people, sometimes foolish people — because their eyebrows are too big — I’m just talking about myself — or whatever. Or they’re too skinny, too in perfect shape, their jawline is too attractive or too flabby. It’s death out there man, it’s tough. No, I’m just happy to work. I just soak up every moment I can of being allowed to be creative in that respect. You can only do so many Shakespeare speeches on your own in your room before starting to feel like you want to give up. That’s, to me, what purpose feels like, when you’re giving of yourself and exposing of yourself, to serve a story and therefore to serve an audience being told a story that is in tune with the universal themes of being alive.

Did you spend much time with the boy who played you as a younger?

We hugged out a bunch and chatted and talked about the role and just got to know each other. We chatted about his school and what it means to be an actor and why we both wanted to be actor. We’d muck around, we’d talk about girls, kissing girls and stuff. We’d play Frisbee, we’d play hide and seek, just the general getting to know you friendship thing. He was so good. He was so open, excited, enthusiastic, talented and raw and right there in the moment. And we all did that with our counterparts. It was set up that way by Mark and the production time. We got weeks of rehearsal together, and all just bonded and became very intimate with each other, discussed the themes of the book and themes of the movie. Every came at it with the same intention. Everyone wanted to tell Kazuo’s story in the most pure form, without any ego or imposition. Just tell the story in a really lovely way, in a really intense and pure way.

Is this the SPIDER-MAN diet?

I mean, it’s food that I’m eating. It’s all starting up, that thing. All I know is I’m probably going to have to move a lot, so I’m trying to be as healthy as I can. But that’s all me. It’s very difficult, because I like cookies a lot.

The more I hear you talk about having no interest in celebrity and whatnot, your attitude seems very similar to Heath Ledger. Was your attitude influenced by him, or did you have that and that’s why you clicked as actors?

I don’t think anyone can be defined by an influence from someone else. I admired Heath, I continue to admire Heath, incredibly. He was truly exciting to be around. He was fiery, and I don’t want to get into personal opinions about that, because it’s not my place. But I can speak highly of him still. He’s just incredible, as an actor, as a human being. Maybe there’s something in that. Maybe I saw his happiness and his life, and he was just a very creative person. I just love creatives. I love being around them— it inspires me. I got to work with such incredible people. And on that film there was terry as well. He lives for it. And with this, being with Mulligan and Knightley and Mark and Alex and Ishiguru, it was just a gift. Being with Jesse Eisenberg for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, that boy is constantly creating something, whether he’s writing a play or musical or a series of incredible jokes, he’s just a genius. Just that being the focus, and not allowing all the periphery stuff to infringe, because it takes up headspace that could be better used, whether it’s painting something terrible or buying a present for my mum. I’d rather be doing something that’s going to serve someone.

What happens to Tommy between the time that he has his original outburst at Hailsham and the outburst he has later on?

Something happens to him, and he becomes very acquiescent. I think he does what’s necessary. He does what we all have to do when we’re in a situation. We deal with the situation. We deal with what it is to be alive. You become a man, and you suppress things, and you get burned. You get burned, and then you have to heal your scar to cover it up, bandage it up, and then you have to avoid that pain again. I remember the first time I broke up with someone. It was the greatest pain ever. It made me never want to love again. We all know that feeling. So you do everything you can to distract yourself. I feel that’s what Tommy is doing. He has to somehow hold on through this free-floating anxiety, this knowledge that there’s something not quite right in this life. What’s around the corner, and it’s death. it’s inevitable. We have no frame of reference to deal with death. So he does what we all do, he deflects, he ignores. It’s like if there was a live tiger in this room right now and all we’re doing is focusing on everything that’s not that tiger. Just trying to survive, and we have to somehow live. It’s so relatable, we all do it. There are these burning, upsetting tingling in all of us. These dissatisfactions that we’re not being looked after, these worries that there’s nobody above, worries that there is no purpose. If you are constantly in that thought process and consciousness, we would all be constantly screaming. Because life is fucking unfair, and life is impossible sometimes. Once you own up to that and see that it’s very difficult not to scream and shout. Because we’re given this consciousness. We’re not just animals, unfortunately. We have a consciousness to supposedly elevate us, but it does more harm than good sometimes. I think in-between he’s trying to come to terms with life, like we alare. He has that hope for deferral with Kathy, and he goes to great lengths to make sure that he has the opportunity to it. he has hope. It’s a religious hope. He’s lived his life as well as he could. He’s looked after this body, he’s done everything he can. One should be rewarded for being moral, for being good, for not betraying anyone, for looking after yourself. There should be some payback for that, and there isn’t he finds out very brutally. There’s silence. He screams, and no one rescues him. He gets held very tightly by someone he loves. That’s what Ishiguro is trying to say. We have very short time here, and love as much as you can, and love as many people as you can. Hold on to the people that mean something. I think that’s a microcosm of what he’s talking about. It’s very simplistic, but obviously it’s much deeper and richer than that.

Talking about Facebook, Twitter, social media. It’s a way for non-celebrities to feel famous and report on their minutiae. What’s your perspective on that given your role in THE SOCIAL NETWORK?

Luckily my role in THE SOCIAL NETWORK doesn’t know much about that. He’s an economics major. So my research wasn’t Internet-based, it wasn’t social media-based. He’s actually naive to it. He’s being exposed to it gradually as the film goes on, so I didn’t have to do much work in terms of that. I had to do work elsewhere. Yeah, I think I admire it greatly. They are the wizards of our generation, they are the alchemists. I just got given an iPad as a gift for my birthday, and it’s unbelievable. It’s truly magic. Zuckerberg revolutionized the way we communicate globally.

Do you have a Facebook account?

No, I don’t have one. But I’ve of course been on. It is so simple and genius, because everyone wants to be on their own [magazine] cover, and that’s what it’s giving people. It’s kind of an extension of what our playground society is. I admire it greatly. Unfortunately we could all be very rich if we had been on that bandwagon. They are the great people who are defining our time. Surrender to it, it’s fucking great.

Can you talk about your discussions with Marc about your interpretation of Spider-Man?

We’re starting to talk about it. It’s all very early stages. I haven’t really got much to say, because I don’t have anything to say about it. It’s all very early and the exploration stage.

Most times it’s a decade until a series is rebooted, and this is like three or four years. Does that give you any pause to do something different?

No. What’s wonderful about Spider-Man is it’s no one’s and it everyone’s. It means so much to so many people. It’s mythology and a legacy. There is no definitive version. You look back at the Dick Cook Stan Lee comics to the Ultimates and the Incredibles and the Amazings, then you go to the original cartoon series in the 70s and how that translated to the one in the 90s that Avi Arad was involved in, it’s constantly shifting and reflecting the time and being as relevant and topical as it can be. I think it’s going to shift again. I don’t know in what way, but it’s going to be defined by where we are as a society, and hopefully people are going to enjoy it, because I think we’re going to enjoy making it.

Have you met Stan Lee yet?

No, I haven’t. That’s going to be very cool though.

You have a BACK TO THE FUTURE watch?

I do, yeah. My girlfriend just got it for me. It’s a limited edition. Zemeckis made 20 of them for his electrical crew because they worked so hard on the first one. It was a starting gift for the second one. My girlfriend got it off of eBay. That’s like the best film ever made.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Interview: NEVER LET ME GO director Mark Romanek


In the third part of our interviews for LET ME GO, we spoke to director Mark Romanek. You might remember Romanek’s ONE HOUR PHOTO, which broadcasts one of the many weird sides of Robin Williams. With a background of directing music videos, Romanek has a very unique vision for film and he seems very passionate about every project he takes on.

This week, NEVER LET ME GO released to the public. After you see the film, read this interview. Romanek goes into a lot of great detail on why this movie is very effective when it comes to life intimating art and the feelings you should pull coming out of the movie. Interview after the break!

So at what point did you come onto this project and how long did it take to get made?

We finished about three months ago. We shot about a year and a half ago, I think. It hasn’t been sitting around on the shelf too long. I got involved with it about two years ago. Peter Rice recommended me to Andrew McDonald, and Alex [Garland] and I went and met with them in London and met Kazuo [Ishiguro]. I guess they liked my idea as a movie, it jived with what they wanted to do. From that point on it was all about finding the right Kathy. Peter Rice saw Carey in AN EDUCATION at Sundance and sent all of us a four word text that said, “hire the genius Mulligan.” I asked him why it was such a brief [text] and he said, “because the movie isn’t even over yet.” He knew that we were struggling to find the right actress and he saw this girl, and just like everyone else in the world they went “holy crap, she’s amazing.” He said “that’s Kathy,” and at that point the movie was greenlit.

At that point were you wanting to make Kathy a little bit younger than she is in the book?

We were just looking for the right actress and it didn’t seem to be a big deal if she was a bit younger than in the book - it didn’t seem to change anything fundamentally, so when we found Carey we made her a little bit younger. I didn’t see the matter, as long as they were pushing the late twenties.

It is funny, though, that when the movie was made, obviously people in the industry knew who Carey Mulligan was and we have Andrew [Garfield], who looks to be on his way to stardom. When you shot it, Keira Knightley was the biggest star, and in five years people might be [saying], “oh, this has Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan in it.” Why do you think this is all happening for them?

They have it, whatever “that” is. They’re brilliantly good. There’s an appeal that they have. They’re both beautiful to photograph and yet unusual looking in a way - not traditionally or classically beautiful - and they have the chops. They’re serious young actors.

What kind of discussions did you have about filming the donations? It’s one thing to read about things, it’s another to watch them on-screen.

We felt like it would be a cop out to not deal with the reality of what’s going on. It’s meant to be shocking, it’s not meant to be disgusting. I tried to infuse it with a sadness and emotion to it when she’s sort of left there all alone, like a piece of meat, and so it’s not just shocking and gratuitous. I think it would have felt wrong to not deal with it directly at some point.

Do you see yourself continuing in the independent arena? You kinda had flirted with big budget studio stuff.

Yeah, probably for a couple more films. I’d love to make a bigger film if [we had] resources, if the story is exciting to me.  But I’d rather do it when I have more autonomy to navigate the studio process, which I didn’t really have the last time around. Look at David Fincher or Christopher Nolan, they’ve worked themselves into the position where they can make big budget films in the way they ‘d like to. I’d rather wait until I get to that place, if I’m lucky enough.

We are in a time when a lot of people, after one independent film, are getting offers. SPIDER-MAN is the ultimate example of that happening. Do you feel like you have to be especially wary since someone could be dangling a lot of money in front of you and then push you around?

That’s a yes or no question and the answer is yes. You know, it’s a jungle out there. I had a really nice experience on this movie. All the director wants is their idea of the movie to be believed in. And for the producers to facilitate, you do the job that they hired you to do. People underestimate how, if a film comes out well, how it has to be beautifully produced as well, not just beautifully directed and acted. Sometimes producers get a bad wrap and on this film, I think you met some of them, Alex and Kazuo are technically producers. It was a very supportive and collaborative thing. Whether you like it or don’t like it, it’s the film we wanted to make.

The thing I think is kind of interesting with this movie is it fits in the sci-fi era where we’re talking about cloning, but in the past. Normally I’ve seen topics like this dealt in the future. Did you feel like you had to approach it in any different way, because normally in the future you see everything is very modern and sleek?

Yeah, it’s more hard sci-fi! First of all, I wasn’t making a science fiction movie, I was making a love story. I always felt like the science fiction, maybe Kazuo said something similar, is really just a delivery system for these more interesting themes about immortality and friendship and love and how we choose to make use of this brief time we have in the world and how we come to the end of our lives and regret not lived it. These are the things that Kazuo writes about in a lot of his books. I was making a love story, the science fiction is the suit that the whole thing played out in, and it’s Kazuo’s original conception to be in alternate history, not futuristic, so it never felt right. You know we dabbled with some more futuristic-looking buildings or some of the sci-fi tropes you’d expect in sci-fi films…it never felt right. Since the film is about the preciousness of time, the brevity of our time, having things show the patina and age of time and the wear, having things be old, and show the effects of time, it felt like a more evocative setting for the themes in the movie. It’s one of the things that makes it an original idea as a novel.

Since you’re dealing with those themes every day, before you start, while you shoot, as you’re putting it together, do you have a different approach to life now?

Well, I think the book affected a lot of people. It affected me before I made the film. It made me think about how every day is so precious. We really are here for a very brief amount of time. I have two beautiful children and a beautiful wife and every day I put this [iPhone 4] away when I’m with my kids and I try to make those moments count. One of the nicest things I had someone say to me about the film was that they called their father, because they realized they haven’t spoken to him in like, three or four weeks, and called him to say ”I love you, Dad. Thanks for being a good dad.” And, you know, this moved people to tell people that they love them because that’s what’s important.

Things like that can be a part of movies a lot, but not necessarily spoken out loud. You know how they always say there’s the seven stories. That’s one of these themes. Is it hard to kind of deal with that, you know “live every moment” thing, and how did it feel original when you’re making a movie like this, because the story is original, but the themes are as old as time?

You’re lucky enough to find that, some original new idea for a story or a tone of a film you haven’t quite seen before, and yet the themes that are in it are sincerely expressed and meaningful - that’s what you’re looking for. That’s why I wanted to do it. I felt it was sincere and that I could do something that I hadn’t quite seen before. It’s not wholly original, there are other films that have similar plots. There’s other cloning stories or whatever, but the tone of it I felt I hadn’t really seen. I couldn’t find a template for a movie that had handled this type of thing, so it felt a bit out on a limb. There’s like, Truffaut’s FAHRENHEIT 451 is kind of a literally subtle science fiction, but you know, it’s not the same. Godard’s ALPHAVILLE is a subtle science fiction film, but that film’s much more of an arch.

So subtle science fiction you think is a good banner?

No, I mean it’s a love story and science fiction gives it an original twist. I mean this sort of patina of science fiction gives the love story an original twist, but I’m very concerned that people come to see it [as an] emotional story and engage with it emotionally. If they think they’re coming to see a film with ideas on social commentary and the ethics of biology and stuff they’re going to miss the movie. They’re going to be watching the wrong movie.

Be sure to also check out Kate’s review of NEVER LET ME GO, along with my interviews with stars Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.