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Andrew Garfield on The Collective Unconscious of Hollywood

For the very first time online, please enjoy part one of our classic Andrew Garfield interview.

Andrew Garfield on The Collective Unconscious of Hollywood
Interview and Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Art Direction and Styling by Sally A. Edwards

Andrew Garfield is the first person ever to use the word 'Befuddled' in one of my interviews. We're sitting in the restaurant of the Soho Hotel and well... It was a shock – I hid it well though. His proper home counties accent – which feels like it’s given me a case of the Eliza Doolittle’s – is tinted with an LA twang, yet dips and twists when he swears. As do his mannerisms. His slouchiness meets high energy is surely fueling the wave he is riding; his exciting life – which has thrown no small number of incredible experiences at him.

Born in LA, Andrew moved with his American father and English mother to Surrey when he was three years old.
He now splits his successful life between London and LA. He's a man who's in love with his girlfriend, his work and a willing student of life, with passion in abundance.

The BAFTA winning actor has appeared in three very notable films so far; in Boy A, Andrew stars as Jack Burridge, the story of a young man re-entering the world after an institutionalized life following a child murder.
Robert Redford gave him his first US break in Lions For Lambs, the highly charged American political drama that also starred Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise and thirdly Andrew appeared in The Other Boleyn Girl.
His two upcoming films may well see him accepting awards again, as he stars in the UK thriller Nineteen Eighty-Three and Terry Gilliam's much-anticipated The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus alongside Heath Ledger.

You were born in LA and then moved to Surrey, what clues throughout your childhood led you to pursue acting full-time?
“Fantasy, played a huge part in my life, I think. Especially as I became an adolescent, fantasy was important in terms of trying to disregard reality, because reality wasn’t living up to my expectations – as everyone goes through.”

I think that’s a real creative trait though, don’t you? “I guess so, yeah. I guess you want everything to be better, you want things to be perfect and you want people to be better. You want human kind to be better; grass to be greener. The sky to be clearer, you want to be able to fly; you want to be able to grow a beard quicker. Do you know what I mean? So, I think it’s unfortunately a curse that you’re never satisfied with what is real, when you’re that age.”

Do you think you still have an element of that now?
“I’m trying to hold onto it. I think it’s very easy as you get older, you accept things easier and you become more willing to say, you know what? ‘I’m going to be much happier if I go... this is a table, this is a chair, I’m sitting on it, I’m having a coffee right now, that’s fine. I don’t need to be in Mozambique right now.’ Unfortunately, that side of me [has dulled] a bit, but I’m a lot happier because of it as well. I think trying to find a balance is the ultimate goal, between happiness and acceptance of what’s going on around you. How the world works and on such a small scale, how the business of film works. Accepting that and not trying to fight that. But also, trying to fight that and dream of a revolution in terms of, holding onto your ideals and your idealism. It’s really, really difficult, because you kind of want to hold onto the child in you, because that’s what keeps you using your imagination and keeps you dreaming, but then, I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out. It’s a big one, isn’t it?”

Yes.
“I just watched a lot of films when I was young, just because I needed to. I needed to escape into other worlds. It was mostly fantasy films like, Back to the Future and adventure films like, The Goonies or something with an element of fantasticalness about it like, Bugsy Malone. Something off kilter – where young people were empowered. I found that interesting.”

So, did you study acting?
“Yes, at A-Level, but not before. I came into it quite late. I did a play at school and I had a very good drama teacher who was like, ‘You should do it. You should try and pursue it and see if you keep enjoying it.’ I just carried on and my relationship with it changed over the last eight to 10 years.”

And that encouragement is really important, isn’t it?
“Yeah, I guess. I needed that. I didn’t know what I wanted to do; no one knows what they want to do when they’re that age. Even my friends at my age don’t know what they want to do. But as soon as you can see in someone’s eyes and they’re looking at you knowing you have something genuine to offer, it fills you with energy and it’s inspiring. So, I’ve very thankful to Mr. Tong.”

Do you split your time between LA and London? “Yeah, at the moment yeah. For the last couple of years, because I got an American agent and because of the first film I did which was an American film. I enjoy it there; I have a girlfriend there. To keep a long distance relationship alive takes that energy and one of the main reasons I go and back and fourth is to hold onto something special, you know?”

That’s really cool! So, I was going to ask what are the best and worst of both worlds?
“Gosh. The service industry in London is the worst I’ve ever experienced.” [laughs]

It is amazing as soon as you go and experience something else, you can’t believe what you’ve been putting up with sometimes.
“Yeah. In Los Angeles, it’s the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s an art form there. People seem to take pride in it and people seem to want to help. I don’t know why? It’s for a reason [unbeknown] to me but, you feel good going out for lunch. It’s a very small kind of petty thing, but it makes a huge difference and the food there is good.”

That’s America in general though isn’t it?
“Yeah. I guess so, although I went to Texas recently, a very small place called Fort Davis, which was beautiful but the local cuisine was pretty terrifying. But I think in any city, it’s going to be pretty excellent. But some of the best parts of London? I love London. Walking, the weather – that you actually have weather here and that it’s constantly changing and it’s a city you’re constantly trying to figure out. As soon as you stop being lazy, you can find something you’ve never seen before, I guess. Unfortunately you get into habits, don’t you?”

Yes.
“You go to the same theatres; you go to the same restaurants, bars and the same areas of town. And the sun, I guess. The sun in LA is the best and the fact that someone who I’m in love with is there. And the fact that you can skateboard, surf and snowboard in a two-hour radius of each other, that’s a dream for me.”

Good weather does provoke more of an up-for-it attitude.
“Yes, it’s very positive place. Although the very negative part of LA is the collective unconscious, which is impossible to avoid, because as soon as you wake up, you get out of bed, look out your window and there’s a billboard for a movie. You go out your front door and there’s a billboard for a movie. You get in your car, there are 80,000 billboards for movies. So, you can’t help but be constantly thinking about the movie industry. When you’re in it, it can be the most claustrophobic thing. What you want to do is just not think about it, anytime really. When you’re working, you’re working – it’s nothing to do with business, it’s to do with art, hopefully. When [I’m] not working, I wish that going to the movies could become innocent to me again. That’s the thing that has disappointed me about getting involved in this industry, because what was my favourite thing in the world, has become something that I enjoy less. I’ve become more critical of myself, unfortunately and therefore the things that I go to see. So the collective unconscious is quite ugly and depressing, I guess. Not in a Xanax way, but in an oppressive [way]. It’s quite oppressive and claustrophobic and narrow and it’s difficult to break.”

The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 3 Nø 1 print edition in 2009

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