Andrew Garfield is talking about playing Peter Parker in the upcoming reboot of "Spider-Man," and that four-letter word is coming up a lot. In a way, the incessant f-bombs make sense. He has to find some way to unleash all of that emotion and energy and excitement -- the stuff that comes with playing, not only a childhood hero, but his childhood hero.
Sitting alongside Garfield is his co-star Emma Stone, listening intently.
"This is my chance to be Spider-Man," says Andrew. "This is my chance to be the guy that I always wanted to be. I can't f*ck up any moment, because if I f*ck up any moment then I am not going to be able to live with myself."
Garfield does have a lot riding on this: his career, his self-esteem, his inner three-year-old (the restless force who inspired him to accept the role). This project is so important to him that dropping a few extra "f*cks" and "sh*ts" into our conversation doesn't seem crass, it seems normal. As the lifelong Spider-Man fan later admits: "I have been preparing [for this role] for 25 years."
If Garfield sounds serious, that's because he is. Since coming onto the scene in 2007, in Robert Redford's "Lions for Lambs," he's gotten a reputation as a "serious actor" -- one who shows up on set ready to work, completely dedicated to the character he is about to play. He did it in Mark Romanek's sci-fi indie darling, "Never Let Me Go"; he did it in 2010, with his breakout role as Eduardo Saverin in "The Social Network"; and he did it once again this year, in the Broadway adaptation of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," which got him a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
However, Garfield isn't a household name -- at least not yet. His role in the Facebook biopic may have gotten him far -- and surely assisted in his being cast as Spider-Man -- but it doesn't stop the media/fan storm that's looming in the distance. Right now, he's just waiting to see how it all plays out.
Luckily, he isn't alone. While Stone, who starred in "Superbad" and "The Help," is certainly more recognizable to moviegoers than Garfield, it's clear that they're in this thing together. As if to underscore that point, as soon as he finishes talking, Stone immediately picks up the slack, reassuring her co-star that he's not the only one experiencing the pressure and insecurity of starring in a big-budget superhero flick.
"[Big] movies are a crazy job because, as an actor -- I mean, every member of the crew feels this way -- if you mess up today, it's immortalized," she says. "If you're tired and you do this scene at half-mast because you're f*cking exhausted, [it's] forever -- that scene is forever."
Perfection isn't foreign to Garfield, either, which is why he's thankful for his work on a film like "The Social Network," whose director, David Fincher, is notorious for shooting upwards of 70 takes per scene. "It's f*cking painful and terrible a lot of the time and you hate him for it, but then you love him for it, because you realized..."
Stone chimes in: "You have so many options."
..."it's giving you the time for you to mess up," continues Garfield. "He's saying, 'Hey, look, just relax and f*ck up a bunch.'"
Well, easier said than done, right?
When "The Amazing Spider-Man" was first announced back in January 2010, fans had a hard time believing that the story would be starting from scratch almost a decade after the first film hit theaters. The thing is, the studio didn't intend to reboot the franchise (at least not at the time). Instead, they wanted to add to it, with another Sam Raimi-directed, Tobey Maguire-starring sequel.
Despite the lukewarm reception toward "Spider-Man 3," a fourth flick was more or less in the bag; the third still grossed $336 million domestically (bringing the trilogy's grand total to an eye-popping $2.5 billion worldwide). However, plans for "Spider-Man 4" quickly went to shambles. Raimi, who directed the first three films in the series, allegedly rejected the script and start date, effectively halting any hopes for another box-office busting blockbuster. With no Raimi, there was no Tobey, and with no Tobey there was certainly no "Spider-Man 4."
Faced with that, Sony decided to do something different and unexpected: reboot the entire franchise, with a new cast and new storyline. The film was set for a summer 2012 release date and would focus on Peter Parker's quest to find out what happened to his parents, who left him when he was a child.
The immediate media reaction to this news wasn't pretty, and the Spidey fanbase seemed a bit perplexed: Why was there going to be a "Spider-Man" reboot? Were they really doing the origin story again? How did Tobey Maguire feel about this? By July, Garfield had won the role of Peter Parker, and while he didn't suffer the same backlash Maguire received when he was first cast, fans were still divided. Several months later, Stone came on as the lesser-known paramour, Gwen Stacy (this after initial reports had her playing the role of Mary Jane Watson).
Over the last two years, knee-jerk reactions toward a new Spidey flick have cooled. Casting two talented -- albeit, slightly unknown -- actors in the lead helped. Bringing on a group of respected, veteran actors in supporting roles helped even more, as Stone and Garfield were soon joined by Denis Leary (George Stacy), Sally Field (Aunt May), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben) and Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors).
Now, the film is right around the corner, and the bottom line is this: Spider-Man is a beloved comic-book icon, and many, many fans are curious to see what director Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer"), along with Garfield and Stone, have in store. Currently, estimates have the new movie making upwards of $125 million on opening weekend alone.
Andrew Garfield was a huge fan of the comics growing up, and later, of the Raimi trilogy. So when the "Spider-Man" reboot was first announced, Garfield was sad to see the series come to an end.
"I had no affiliation with this new project at that point, and I didn't even know that I would get a chance to audition. I just heard rumors that [that] was going to be the end of that trilogy and that made me very sad, because I love that trilogy," recalls Garfield.
"You must have instantly thought, 'I could play Peter Parker,'" quips Stone.
"No," he responds.
His answer seems to catch Stone by surprise. "As an auditioning actor, you didn't instantly think, 'I've got to audition for that,'" she asks.
"I thought it was such a pipe dream that it wasn't a reality," explains Garfield. "So my first reaction was a very pure one as a fan: 'I just want to see that character on the screen again... I wasn't, "Oh this [reboot] is too soon. Down with anyone who isn't Tobey.' But I understand that people feel that way, because I love Tobey as well."
Stone's attitude was a bit different.
"Instantly when I heard about it, I went, 'Maybe I can play Mary Jane!" she exclaims. (This was before the Gwen Stacy role had been announced.) "The Help" star is known for her dry humor, so it takes a second to realize that she's not joking. Clearly, ambition is something that comes naturally to the 23-year-old actress (as a teenager living in Scottsdale, she convinced her parents to let her move out to Hollywood to pursue an acting career).
Despite earlier reservations of potentially screwing up on screen, Stone doesn't seem to shoulder the same burden of responsibility as her co-star, which was made clear at Comic-Con last summer, during the "Amazing Spider-Man" panel. There, Garfield -- who came disguised in a Halloween-styled Spider-Man costume before taking off his mask and revealing his true identity to the crowd -- was on the verge of tears: "I needed Spidey in my life when I was a kid, and he gave me hope in every comic I read. He was living out mine and every skinny boy's fantasy of being strong, of being free of the body I was born into... He saved my life."
A year later, Garfield still feels like it's all a dream.
"I still don't feel like I am playing [Spider-Man]. That's partly denial, because if I acknowledge the position I am in I would probably just run out that window," he admits. "Everyone asks me, 'How did you feel when you put that suit on and when were you like, F*ck, I am just f*cking Spider-Man. Every time, I am like, 'I've never felt that.'"
Beyond the pressure of continuing the "Spider-Man" legacy -- and that its main stars are very likely on the verge of superstardom -- there is another twist to this story: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have been dating for about a year now.
But the two have never, as the gossip sites like to say, "gone public." Which means that asking them about their personal lives will likely get you nowhere. Yet, the fact that they met on the set of their blockbuster superhero film and, in the final product, effortlessly sell the love between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, is too intriguing to skip altogether.
However, taking the plunge and asking them how off-screen chemistry affects their on-screen chemistry -- whether dating your co-star makes it more or less difficult to get into character -- doesn't necessarily bring up a "No comment." Instead, it's something better -- or at least, more honest.
"I can speak for both of us and say, we don't like to talk about our personal life in any way, and the less people know about us the better, because we want to just react and get lost in stories and have an audience believe us as characters," he says. "When your image becomes greater than your art it becomes a dangerous thing...you kind of want to serve the story as opposed to yourself. Some people can talk about their personal lives in public and I have no judgment of that, and for me, and for [Emma], it's not in our nature."
"You kind of just ordered for me at a restaurant," jokes Stone, while laughing.
He smiles and laughs right back. While they're serious about keeping their private lives private, they're still sitting next to each other in a hotel room, flirting back and forth and finishing each other's sentences. Even after Garfield rebuffs the initial chemistry question, he goes on to talk about working with Stone, which, not surprisingly, borders on the personal.
"Working together, that was unbelievable for me," he says. "I've never had such an incredible time. I've never been challenged so much by another actor, and I've never needed another actor's approval so much... her presence is more alive than any other person, let alone actor. So it forces you to kind of hold on tight really, and you have nowhere to hide when you're in the scene with her and you have to keep up."
For Stone, working with Garfield seems to mean just as much to her, especially when it comes to the extensive research he does for each of his roles.
"By the time he arrives [on set] he's able to completely let go and free himself because [his character is] just in his being," says Stone. "That's something...that I admired so much and that I will take into my own life and my perspective as an actor moving forward. He's just incredibly different than anybody I'd ever worked with and taught me more than any actor... It was a pretty special thing."
"The Amazing Spider-Man" won't hit theaters until July 3, but if the tracking numbers are correct, the two stars are most likely headed toward a sequel.
Given that reality, it's clear Garfield is currently living out his dream. As for Stone, her early aspiration was to host "Saturday Night Live," and she's already done that twice, so her next big goal is to try her hand at producing.
"I would like to be part of the whole process of movie making, because I love movies. They mean so much to me and they changed my life."
And as for Andrew?
"I don't know if I am allowed to dream anymore," he says. "I think I just really want to be thankful for where I sit, you know?... I think I need to just lay off the dreaming for a bit. But that's basically me saying, I have no f*cking clue what I want to do, but I am really just appreciative of where I am at."