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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Andrew Garfield's got 99 problems but an eviction ain't one

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 2:15 PM

click to enlarge 99 Homes, starring [left to right] Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, opens Oct. 2. - COURTESY OF BROAD GREEN PICTURES
  • Courtesy of Broad Green Pictures
  • 99 Homes, starring [left to right] Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, opens Oct. 2.

Andrew Garfield may have made a mint starring in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but the always-smartly-dressed 32-year-old actor seemed ashamed of his financial success, when he spoke to SF Weekly last month from a posh Nob Hill hotel.  

"I feel my own separateness from people happening more and more, a growing impossibility to be authentically intimate with other people, which I believe has so many causes — these things being one of them," he said, gesticulating around him to suggest all the trappings of wealth. "The American Dream is a major factor. It creates unworthiness and undeservedness for the majority of humanity in this Western society, which values power, greed, money and trampling on your brother to get where you think you'll feel better."
These are the issues that keep Garfield up at night and why after reading the script for 99 Homes he was so eager to play Dennis Nash, the poor patriarch, who after an eviction, must do whatever it takes to keep his family housed, even if it means working for Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the corrupt businessman who seized his home.  Andrew Garfield talked some about 99 Homes, which opens Oct. 2, but mostly about his disappointment in the American Dream deferred and the insidious system that produced Donald Trump. 

What drew you to the part of Dennis Nash, a single father in Florida, who ekes out a meager existence as a construction worker?

I just get called to things. I was doing the Spider-Man stuff, and I was called to that, for sure. Then I read so many other things at the time, but the only thing I did during that time was a play in New York, which I was called to at that time, definitely: Death of a Salesman. I didn't read a film script that I thought was right for me until this huge thing came along, and it just hit me in the deepest way. It just asked me to do it. [Director] Ramin Bahrani asked me to do it. The script asked me to do it. After I read the eviction scene, I knew I've got to do it.

You were very credible in the role. Did you identify with Nash in any way?

What I discover more and more as time goes on, as I get to do what I do, is that we're all the fucking same. We're all in different versions of the same struggle. I could go into my family history and my upbringing and my ancestry, and I could justify it or say, 'Oh no, actually both parents were working class.' My father was very ambitious and aspirational and wanted 'better' for his children, meaning middle class, which is what he got. But better was more separateness because my experience of my beautiful parents and their beautiful lineage is of community. Being a working-class family, there was always the association that we're a real community, depending on each other, needing each other and loving being with each other 'cause there's more scarcity. 

My experience living as a middle-class person was separateness and isolation. We had to keep what's ours, 'cause we worked for what's ours, and we had nothing more to give. There was a fear of losing what had been worked for. Living to sustain a certain middle-class lifestyle and sacrificing so much of oneself and sacrificing community in order to take care of what's ours — that's a misery. It's a fucking prison in a different way.  I know what that is somehow, and I've never been evicted, but we've all been evicted in some way. We all have evicted parts of ourself; we've all seen exile in some way, being outcasted.

Now that you've surpassed the middle class, do you feel even worse?

I know Donald Trump feels like shit. We can all see it. He's spouting hatred, and that's coming from a wounded place in him — a hole. I'm not going to psychoanalyze Donald Trump, but no one's happy in this situation. If the one percent aren't happy, then the 99 percent are definitely not happy. It's a fucking mess.

Maybe there's a divided part in me from having experienced a certain status as an actor who's making a living doing what he loves. Suddenly you get invited into this room, which is the fucking Donald Trump room. Like the top floor of the fucking hotel, and you're like, 'Fuck this.' A part of it feels really good and a part of it is temporarily filling a hole in me, the void that can only be filled by a fucking connection with another human being or something spiritual or greater than ourselves. Not money, wealth, status, power, being a have and lording it over others. Very quickly I started to feel the separateness from my true nature, which is love and passion and empathy and wanting to help and bring myself to the table and my community, to give. We all want to give to each other and, therefore, ourselves.

I think the system that's been created is all about separateness and imprisonment and it's insidious. It's a fucked up, insidious imprisonment for the haves and have-nots, and how do we fucking sing to each other from across this ocean that we've created between us? 

So how do you make and maintain real connections within this disconnected world?

I think it takes being really honest with myself and being connected with myself first and being connected to all the parts of myself as opposed to just the pretty parts or the parts that society or the culture I'm in — celebrity is the new religion — where people are projecting all their worship and shit onto people who can't hold it, because they're just people. I can't consider myself that because I know it's not true. I'm a mess of a person as we all are, and everyone who says otherwise is lying. So this manicured, prim and proper authentic just to a point and messy just to a point — this is the thing I have to figure out how not to subscribe to. In terms of being connected to my world, I can't do the social media thing. I don't do that.

I am not talking about the general public, but about developing intimacy with close friends, family, romantic partners.

Well, that's easy. That just takes vulnerability and bringing all of my parts to the table — the parts I like and the parts I don't like. So yeah, vulnerability and true intimacy and risking myself for love and a real connection to my loved ones.

It's scary 'cause it's a risky move to truly offer yourself. If you give of yourself with love, you're going to get battered. If you're opening your heart up, then what happens? It's going to get arrows in it.

Speaking of bonds, the chemistry between you and your son (played by Noah Lomax) in 99 Homes felt so authentic. Did shooting those father-son scenes make you think about fatherhood?

Oh, I've been thinking about fatherhood since I was 15, weirdly. Ever since I became aware of what fatherhood was, what fatherhood means, it's been a healthy obsession for me. I don't know how's it's going to manifest in my life yet, but I'm excited to know. And Noah is such a beautiful actor, and I think it was really interesting and cool to be able to create a relationship, because I think I would have had him in the story when I was 16 or 17, really young, so it would have been unplanned. So to create that dynamic with Noah, it was really cool to think I don't have to be a good dad. I could be an older brother that fucks with you. So sometimes you have to be my dad, 'cause I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. But that dynamic has obsessed me, and it will continue to, because I think there needs to be more conscious fathering.

Did working on 99 Homes push you to do more for your community?

Yeah, I think so. It's definitely been a part of the catalyst in me that just wants to give. Not to save the world or be the greatest of this or that or create the utopia that we're all looking for, but to give myself generously and vulnerably, in terms of my work, acting and storytelling. And in equally substantial ways, direct ways, with my community as well.

You are best known for playing Spider-Man and your 99 Homes costar Michael Shannon is best known for playing villain General Zod in Man of Steel. In 99 Homes, you start off as the hero, and Shannon starts off as the villain, but as the film progresses, the lines between the two seem to blur.

What's great about those superhero films is that they make it very simple in terms of the archetypes and also kind of dangerous, 'cause no one is one thing ever. I've reflected on that a lot, since doing those films, and I always thought that was really good medicine for young people to see these stories. But what actually may be deeper medicine is understanding that the hero is the villain and the villain is the hero, and we're all things at different times. To know that is kind of a vital thing. Michael improvised a line at the end of the film. When I come clean and say, 'Frank Green,' he says, 'Thank you,' which speaks to this thing that Donald Trump is not happy where he is. That he's waiting to be saved himself from these fucked up decisions and hatred within him.

How do we acknowledge the villain inside all of us, the one who fucks our shit up every day, who could do damage to the world in ways we're not conscious of? Whether it's a relationship or a whole community, how do we not act from that place — that's very hard. I don't know how to do it. 

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Joshua Rotter


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