Andrew Garfield: Profile of a social climber

By Kev Geoghegan
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
The Social Network, starring Andrew Garfield (r) has topped the US chart for two weeks

With a hot young cast that includes Justin Timberlake and Bafta rising star nominee Jessie Eisenberg, it is a credit to British actor Andrew Garfield that he makes his mark in hit movie The Social Network.

The account of Facebook's origins in the halls of Harvard University portrays the site's co-founder Eduardo Saverin as a loyal friend to creator Mark Zuckerberg, eventually squeezed out of the set up by Zuckerberg and flashy new associate, Napster-founder Sean Parker.

As his character sues his former best buddy, Garfield's performance as Saverin still manages to illicit something resembling sympathy from the audience.

"It could be said that he suffered from a lack of imagination, pride, jealousy and was trying to hold on to something and protect something that he didn't want to share - which was Mark," explains the 27-year-old.

"I think what's wonderful about the story is that people can walk away with differing feelings about each character. It's multi-perspective so you don't get one point of view.

Media caption,
Garfield talks about the challenge of becoming Spider-Man and fitting into the costume

"We just have different value systems as human beings and there are a great many different truths to one situation."

A major hurdle facing the film-makers, West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher - the man behind Fight Club and Seven - was the lack of access to Zuckerberg himself.

Instead, the film is adapted from Ben Mezrich's 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires and, because of the various legal settlements addressed in the film, it left Garfield with scarce source material on which to base his own performance.

"I didn't have access to Eduardo at all and I still haven't, though I would love to, just to know how he is and whether I got it at all right in terms of my work," he says.

"Eduardo is not a public figure, so I had two photographs - one of him drunk and one of him sober."

Whatever Saverin makes of the performance, the film is doing big business in the US where it has topped the box office chart for two weeks.


Image caption,
Garfield was honoured for his work on Channel 4 drama Boy A in 2008

But until now, Garfield's face has remained relatively unknown outside of the UK - a fact surely set to change as he takes on the major role of Spider-Man in the forthcoming reboot of the hugely successful movie franchise.

Born in California but raised by an English mother and American father in Surrey, Garfield trained at the Central School of Speech & Drama in London and graduated in 2004.

His career began on the stage and, in 2007, he shared the the London Theatre Critics Circle Most Promising Newcomer Award with Sound of Music actress Connie Fisher.

The next year, he won widespread acclaim for his role in the Channel 4 drama Boy A, as a man released from prison after serving time for a murder he committed as a child.

Judges described his performance as "emotionally devastating" with "unexpected charm".

In 2009, he won more acclaim as Eddie Dunford, a young journalist tracking a child rapist and murderer in three-part thriller Red Riding.

This year, Garfield will also be seen opposite Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan in the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel Never Let Me Go.

Image caption,
Garfield, here in Never Let Me Go, will be Peter Parker in the new Spider-Man

But as young British actors surf a wave of popularity with Hollywood's casting agents, Garfield insists that he wants to stay focused on one job at a time.

"Oh man, if I was aware I was riding a crest of a wave, I'd lose my mind I think," he laughs, "I'd be worried about when I was going to fall off so I try not to think about it in that respect.

"I can admit and I can acknowledge about how lucky I've been to have been involved with the people and projects that I have until this point.

"There's no question about that, and I appreciate it greatly and I don't take it lightly."

Aside from his work in features, Garfield also stars in short films I'm Here by Spike Jonze and Air, by Australian poet and novelist Luke Davies.

"It's all about perspective and my perspective hasn't changed about these jobs, I had the same perspective as I had about my first theatre job or my first television job," says Garfield.

"It's all the same to me and I just follow what my heart tells me in terms of working.

"I try not to get caught up in any kind of status thing. I try to close my eyes to it," adds the actor.

The Social Network opens across the UK on Friday.

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