Andrew Garfield

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8 mins read

Andrew Russell Garfield was born 20 August 1983 and is an American-British actor.

Garfield was born in Los Angeles, California. His mother, Lynn (née Hillman), was from Essex, England, and his father, Richard Garfield, is from California. Garfield’s paternal grandparents were also from the United Kingdom. Garfield’s parents moved the family from Los Angeles to the UK when he was three years old, and he was brought up in Epsom, Surrey. Garfield is Jewish on his father’s side; Garfield had a secular upbringing, and has referred to himself as an “agnostic pantheist”, though he identifies as Jewish. His paternal grandparents were from Jewish immigrant families who moved to London from Poland, Russia and Romania, and the family surname was originally “Garfinkel.”

Garfield’s parents ran a small interior-design business. His mother is also a teaching assistant at a nursery school, and his father became head coach of the Guildford City Swimming Club. He has an older brother who is a doctor. Garfield was a gymnast and a swimmer during his early years, and was also an avid philatelist. He had originally intended to study business but became interested in acting at the age of 16 when a friend convinced him to take theatre studies at A-level, as they were one pupil short of being able to run the class. Garfield attended Priory Preparatory School in Banstead and later City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead, before training at the Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

Garfield made his British television debut in 2005 appearing in the Channel 4 teen drama Sugar Rush. In 2007, he garnered public attention when he appeared in the series 3 of the BBC’s Doctor Who, in the episodes “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. He made his American film debut in November 2007, playing an American university student in the ensemble drama Lions for Lambs. In the Channel 4 drama Boy A, released in November 2007, he portrayed a notorious killer trying to find new life after prison. In 2008, he had a minor role in the film The Other Boleyn Girl. In 2009, Garfield held supporting roles in the Terry Gilliam film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and the Red Riding television trilogy. In 2010, Garfield co-starred in Never Let Me Go. Garfield was attracted to the film based on the existential questions the story expresses. The same year, Garfield co-starred opposite Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. Garfield was cast as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), a reboot of the Spider-Man film series. For the role, he studied movements of athletes and spiders, and tried to incorporate them, and practices yoga and pilates. 

In March 2012, Garfield made his Broadway theatre debut as Biff Loman in the revival of Death of a Salesman. Two years later, Garfield hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live and appeared in a music video for the song “We Exist” by Arcade Fire, playing a trans woman. Also in 2014, he co-produced and starred in the 2014 independent drama 99 Homes and reprised the titular role in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Following a deal between Sony and Marvel Studios to integrate the Spider-Man character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sequels to the latter film were scrapped, and the role was later taken on by Tom Holland in a reboot. Arachnologists Yuri M. Marusik and Alireza Zamani honored Garfield’s portrayal of the role by naming a new species of crevice weaver spider, Pritha garfieldi, after him.

Following a year-long absence from the screen, Garfield had starring roles in two films of 2016, Martin Scorsese’s drama Silence and Mel Gibson’s war film Hacksaw Ridge. In the former, based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name, Garfield played Sebastião Rodrigues, a Portuguese Jesuit priest in the 17th century who travels to Japan to spread his faith. Garfield spent a year with James Martin studying to be a Jesuit priest and went on a silent retreat in Wales. The film’s arduous principal photography took place in Taiwan and to achieve his character’s physicality, Garfield lost 40 lb. Hacksaw Ridge, however, was a commercial success, in it, Garfield portrayed Desmond Doss, a combat medic during World War II, who was the first conscientious objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Garfield played the role of Prior Walter in Tony Kushner’s two-part play Angels in America at the National Theatre, London in the Lyttelton Theatre from April to August 2017, and the performance was broadcast live to cinemas around the world in summer 2017 through the National Theatre Live series. Garfield’s sole film release of 2017 was the biopic Breathe, in which he portrayed Robin Cavendish, a young man paralyzed by polio. In preparation, he interacted with victims of the disease and collaborated closely with Cavendish’s wife and son. In March 2018, Garfield reprised the role of Prior when the Angels in America production transferred to Broadway for an 18-week limited engagement at the Neil Simon Theatre, alongside a majority of the London cast.

The 2018 Cannes Film Festival marked the premiere of Garfield’s next film, the David Robert Mitchell-directed neo-noir Under the Silver Lake. In it, he played Sam, an unemployed and wayward young man who sets out on a journey to find his neighbour who has mysteriously disappeared. Garfield starred in Gia Coppola’s drama Mainstream.

Garfield will next star in The Eyes of Tammy Faye opposite Jessica Chastain, a drama about the televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. He is also attached to portray pianist James Rhodes in James Marsh’s biopic Instrumental. Garfield will also star in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film adaptation of Tick, Tick… Boom!. On November 2020, it was announced that Garfield was attached to star as Charles Ryder in a remake of the 1981 miniseries, Brideshead Revisited, with Luca Guadagnino set to direct. He will star in Dustin Lance Black’s miniseries Under the Banner of Heaven, an adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name.

Garfield customarily gives interviews about his work, but does not publicly discuss details of his private life.

When asked about his sexuality, Garfield identified himself as heterosexual but has said that he has an openness to any impulses that may arise within him at any time.

In 2011, Garfield became the Ambassador of Sport for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO).