As Golden Globe-nominated Andrew Garfield learned through two stints in the Spidey suit, with great power comes great responsibility. In real life, as the 32-year-old actor looks past his superhero days and toward the upcoming housing crisis drama 99 Homes, which he stars in and produced, he’s got the state of America on his mind—and, he says, a healthy fear of the nation under President Trump.
“I struggle to connect with politics… probably because there’s a lot of non-truth happening, and I only really listen when something real is happening,” said Garfield during a recent chat with The Daily Beast about 99 Homes, in which he plays a working-class single father who makes a deal with the devil, a brutally opportunistic real estate shark (Michael Shannon), when his family is evicted from their Florida home.
“I can see when someone is very scary, like Donald Trump,” said Garfield, who was born in Los Angeles to an English mother and an American father and has dual citizenship. “I can see that that stance on humanity is being supported and applauded in a mass way. That’s really scary, because I’d like to believe that all human beings outside of psychopaths and sociopaths are inherently decent and loving and compassionate and empathic, and want deep down to lend a hand and to help.”
In his meteoric rise to GOP front-runner status, Donald Trump has unapologetically lobbed sexist and misogynistic insults at women. He’s branded immigrants “rapists” and “killers,” warned about people crossing the borders with illicit drugs and bearing “tremendous infectious disease,” and waged war on “anchor babies” born to non-citizens on U.S. soil, earning the backing of white supremacist groups in the process. And we’re only two months into Trump’s would-be journey to the White House.
Garfield pointed out Trump’s nationalism-stirring campaign of division. “We all have the knowledge, somewhere deep down, that if I hurt you I’m hurting me, and if you hurt me you’re hurting you, if I help you I’m helping me,” Garfield said. “That is the truth, as far as I can feel it in my bones. So to see someone talk about murderers and rapists and label a group of people who are trying to survive and live in such an ignorant, scary, divisive, separatist way that a big portion of our country is whooping and cheering and shooting their guns into the air, it says a lot about what needs to be done. I have no idea what needs to be done… but I am asking, ‘What can I do?’”
Garfield, who exited his Spider-Man role when Sony and Marvel teamed up to reboot the web-slinger franchise with younger thesp Tom Holland, has moved on to more mature dramatic roles in projects with strong social and political undertones. After appearing as morally-conflicted contractor Dennis Nash in 99 Homes, which earned critical praise at the Toronto Film Festival and hits theaters September 25, he’ll star as a 17th-century Jesuit priest in Martin Scorsese’s Silence. He’s set to follow that with the Mel Gibson-directed Hacksaw Ridge, playing WWII conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss.
A little space from Spider-Man might have afforded Garfield some room to reflect. “The danger of these superhero films is that they maybe propagate a lie that what’s going to change the world is one man, or one woman, just being the beacon of light,” he said. “That’s not the way that it’s ever happened and it’s not going to be the way that it ever happens—I think it’s going to take every single person doing their small, massive bit to create a world, to create a society and a culture, that if we can imagine it we can do it.”
If not Trump, then who will save us? Speaking to The Daily Beast days before the VMAs, Garfield presciently named a figure who just might make America great in 2020. “Kanye West isn’t going to build a utopia on his own,” Garfield said with a smile. “We have to help him, even if some of us don’t like him—it is about community! It is about interconnectedness.”
He considered the long-term effect of a Trump America. “When you have someone who has a chance at taking over the country who is all about the separateness of people, and the prison, self-inflicted in his case, of the helicopter that he rides around in, or the prison of the mansion that he puts the wall and the barbed wire around, or the prison of the penthouse of the Trump Hotel—if that is the father of our country, the trickle-down is going to be more and more separation, more and more distancing,” he said.
“[It will encourage] less and less looking again at someone—respecting, looking deeper, and with compassion: ‘You’re my sister. You go through the same shit I go through. Fuck, we can do this together. Maybe, actually, it will be more fun and much nicer, and it might be more effective. You are the other me, and I am the other you. Let’s do it that way.’”