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7:00am Saturday 7th July 2012 in Celebrity Interview
Andrew Garfield is stepping into Tobey Maguire's superhero shoes in The Amazing Spider-Man, released in cinemas on Tuesday, July 3. The actor opens up about coping with being in the limelight, falling for his co-star Emma Stone and overcoming his nerves about taking on the iconic role.
By Kate Whiting.
Stepping into a superhero suit is a big deal for any actor. But for 28-year-old Andrew Garfield, putting on the iconic red and blue latex of Spider-Man was the fulfilment of a boyhood ambition.
"It was an incredibly profound moment," says the actor, who grew up in leafy Surrey and is instantly recognisable with his dark brown quiff rising up from a boyishly handsome face.
"It was the first costume I ever wore as a three-year-old, so it's always meant so much to me. When I first put on the suit, I was emotionally overwhelmed because it was something I'd always fantasised about."
As is often the case though, the reality soon proved to be a little less glamorous than the dream.
"The suit's not designed for comfort," Garfield adds, laughing. "It's designed for looking awesome on the outside and feeling terrible on the inside! So that first moment was mostly just itchy and uncomfortable."
And with great superpowers comes great responsibility. For Garfield, this means proving to the millions of Marvel Comics fans, and the film's producers, that he can pull off the part.
It's exactly 10 years since Tobey Maguire first donned the Spidey outfit in Spider-Man (which broke box office records as the first ever film to take more than 100 million dollars in a single weekend) and only five years since his third and final outing in Spider-Man 3.
Garfield is philosophical about the pressure he's under. "I'm not scared," he says, absently running a hand over a lightly stubbled chin.
"I am playing the same character Tobey played but that's the way it goes. There will be comparisons and there's no way to control that. I have to let that go.
"But I respect what he did immensely, and when I was 19 I watched that first Spider-Man and it reminded me how much that character always meant to me and reignited my passion for it.
"So it's an honour to step into the suit after him, and I'm excited to then pass it on to the next person, you know?"
As well as the itchiness, Garfield also experienced a mini epiphany when he first put on the suit, which helped lift some of the burden.
"I realised it's too big a symbol for me to fill and I think it's too big a symbol for even Peter Parker to fill. I don't think he ever feels like he can live up to the symbol that he creates," he says.
"That suddenly made me feel freer to explore the character and the journey."
Like the first Maguire film, The Amazing Spider-Man is an origins tale, explaining how Peter Parker becomes the superhero, but that's where the similarities end.
The love interest in the film is not Mary Jane, but Peter's school crush Gwen Stacy, and the villain is The Lizard, rather than the Green Goblin. It's also filmed in spine-tingling 3D.
Aptly-surnamed director Marc Webb and Marvel Studios founder Avi Arad knew that if they were going to bring the character back so soon after his last incarnation, they would need to do something different.
Arad says: "We didn't know what made him Peter, so we went to the origin-origin, in which he lost his parents, encumbered by not knowing what really happened. Are they dead or alive? Were they good or bad people?
"When you meet Peter, you see the complexity of an orphan. It's a very different set-up."
It's no secret now that Garfield fell for his co-star Emma Stone (who plays Gwen Stacy) on set. The pair have been dating since last summer, often photographed together looking very much in love.
He admits it was vital that their characters had good on-screen chemistry.
"All the dynamics are based in love," he says. "I think [what's] important is that the dynamic between Peter and Gwen is based in love and based in them fulfilling something in the other."
He also found it "very easy" to love Rhys Ifans, who plays Peter's dad's former partner Dr Curtis Connors and his vengeful alter-ego, The Lizard.
"There was something so simple and immediate between me and Rhys. We're from the same island and that helped a great deal. Then we just worked really hard. But it has to be based in love otherwise you don't care, you know?"
Garfield was actually born in Los Angeles to an American dad and English mum. The family moved to Surrey when he was three and Garfield started acting classes in Guildford when he was 12, later training at the Central School for Speech and Drama.
In 2008, he won a Bafta for his breakout performance as a released convict in Boy A, and in 2010 received Golden Globe and Bafta nominations for his part in the Facebook film The Social Network. This followed his touching portrayal of Tommy, alongside Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, in Never Let Me Go.
Until now, Garfield's been able to keep a fairly low profile, but when The Amazing Spider-Man is released he'll be thrust into the limelight.
"I don't think anything can prepare you for it. I think you have to just move with it, but it scares me, it's something I could do without," he says of media intrusion.
"That might sound strange because here I am, going, 'Look at me, look at me!' But I kind of don't mean it. I want you to look at the character, at the mask. I want you to look at Peter Parker."
To get into role, he spent hours reading Spider-Man comics, watching the movies and trying to "inundate" himself with the qualities of the character.
"But actually, the most useful thing was going back to my very personal connection to it. I feel a very, very deep connection and always have to Peter Parker," Garfield concludes.
"And I think the three-year-old inside of me was the best kind of compass I could have."
Extra time - Andrew Garfield :: Andrew Russell Garfield was born in Los Angeles on August 20, 1983, and has dual nationality. He has one older brother, who is a doctor.
:: After the family moved to Surrey, his American father Richard became head coach of the Guildford swimming club and Andrew enjoyed gymnastics as a child.
:: He made his British TV debut in 2005's Channel 4 teen drama Sugar Rush and in 2007 appeared in the third series of Doctor Who.
:: In March this year, he made his Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman and was nominated for a Tony Award.
:: The Amazing Spider-Man is released in cinemas on Tuesday, July 3