Andrew Garfield, Spider-Man, on Never Let Me Go and The Social Network

You may have never heard of Andrew Garfield. But that will change with The Social Network, Never Let Me Go, and the upcoming Spider-Man. Nicole LaPorte talks to the rising star.

Cast of "Never Let Me Go." Credit: Alex Bailey / Fox Searchlight

You may have never heard of Andrew Garfield. But that will change with The Social Network, Never Let Me Go, and the upcoming Spider-Man. Nicole LaPorte talks to the rising star. Plus, View Our Complete Coverage of The Social Network

Andrew Garfield calls being cast in The Social Network, David Fincher’s much-buzzed-about chronicle of the rise of Facebook, a “pinch-me moment.”

Granted, he’s had a few over the last several months. The 27-year-old actor was recently cast as Peter Parker in Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, and also stars in this fall’s feature adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel Never Let Me Go, which became a subject of Oscar debate after its premiere at the Telluride Film festival.

But what’s not up for question is Garfield, who overnight has gone from an obscure, self-described “skinny boy” who starred in a few critically acclaimed but low-profile films, to Hollywood It Boy.

With Social Network, which comes out this Friday, the chatter is reaching something of a crescendo, given that Garfield—in the role of Eduardo Savarin, best friend-turned-legal adversary of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg—supplies much of the narrative’s passion and humanity. He is the hot-blooded foil to Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), whose face remains in a constant state of misanthropic brooding, not to mention the rest of the socially ill-equipped computer geeks, icy WASPs, and slick, entrepreneurial hotshots who populate this Citizen Kane for the digital age.

Garfield attributes the performance (which, in testament to his impressive range, is remarkably different from the jittery English schoolboy he plays in Never Let Me Go) to Fincher, whom he describes as “maybe the greatest filmmaker of his generation.”

“He’s a true kind of artist,” Garfield said, sitting in a fluoride-white leather chair at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles and wearing a slightly frayed, white T-shirt with a black skull on it, jeans, and blue Vans. His amazingly thick hair—the envy of any man over 40; or any man, period—was swept upward in stylized currents.

Watch the trailer for Never Let Me Go

Of his experience on Social Network, he said, “It’s very difficult to take something on after that, because I’ve been spoiled. I know what it is to be involved with people that I love, and artists that I believe in, and that I’m passionate about, and that I will work my fucking ass off for.”

Though, judging by his super-hero-ish looking biceps, he’s already working his ass off on his next project, one that, when it was announced in July—drew a collective “Andrew who?”

Audiences who saw him in the BBC’s powerful but low-profile (in this country, anyway) Red Riding trilogy, would have remembered his smoldering performance as a cub reporter in working-class Yorkshire who gets in way over his head; but otherwise his fame was limited to supporting roles in films such as Lions for Lambs and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. In Boy A (for which he won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for best actor), he played a bigger role, but the film was seen by few people here.

Lucky for Garfield, one of them happened to be director Mark Romanek, the director of Never Let Me Go.

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“I saw it, and I thought, ‘This kid’s amazing,” the director told The Daily Beast. “So Andrew was always the guy to beat for the role of Tommy.”

Describing what he was looking for in the role, Romanek said, “There’s a vulnerability, and almost a dimness in a way. And he had to be endearing. And he had to be that boy that most girls wouldn’t notice, but the more perceptive girl notices. And yet he’s actually the most interesting and attractive boy. He had all those qualities.”

In Never Let Me Go, the “perceptive” girl who notices Tommy is Cathy (Carey Mulligan), another no-brainer casting once Romanek saw the doe-eyed actress in An Education.

Though it was actually Peter Rice, then head of Fox Searchlight, who tipped him off. After Rice saw the film in Sundance last year, he sent Romanek a four-word email: “Hire the genius Mulligan.”

Garfield spent most of last year making Never Let Me Go, a short film directed by Spize Jonze ( I’m Here), and The Social Network.

It was not a bad year.

And then it got better. He got the Spider-Man phone call.

“I’m one of millions and millions of guys who have been waiting for that phone call since they were 4-years-old—for someone on the other line to say, ‘Hey, is that so-and-so?’ Fill in your name here. ‘Would you like to pretend you’re Spider-Man professionally?’ he said, clearly still thrilled with the turn of events.

“So that was kind of the best phone call I’ve ever had. Or the best offer I’ve ever had. My 7-year-old self was leaping for joy within me. And my mid-twenty-self was leaping for joy externally.”

Not that any of this seems to have gone to his head. “I don’t take it lightly,” Garfield said of his career jolt. “I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, and waiting for everything to fall apart, which is an inevitability in someone who’s fatalistic in that way and can’t believe his good fortune.”

At this point, it seems he’ll be waiting quite some time.

Plus: Check out more of the latest entertainment, fashion, and culture coverage on Sexy Beast—photos, videos, features, and Tweets.

Nicole LaPorte is the senior West Coast reporter for The Daily Beast and the author of The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks.