By Miki Turner
2:10 PM CDT, June 29, 2012
NEW YORK "The Amazing Spider-Man" swings into theaters Tuesday with an entirely new cast and some scenarios that might perplex some Spidey purists--especially when he removes his mask. It's unlikely, however, that anyone will find fault with Andrew Garfield.
Like former big-screen Spidey Tobey Maguire, theater-trained Garfield seems an odd choice to play a superhero--even one whose alter ego, Peter Parker, is a textbook nerd. But after screen testing more than half of Hollywood's 20somethings, director Marc Webb knew he'd found his man when Garfield stepped into the audition.
"We had looked at a lot of really talented actors and he came in and I was watching his take and just kept going back and looking at it," Webb said during a recent press event at the Crosby Hotel. "It was fascinating because he has a level of detail and nuance that's really pretty extraordinary."
The same can be said of the L.A.-born, London-reared actor off screen. Garfield, who dates co-star and on-screen love interest Emma Stone, is refreshingly friendly and extremely well-mannered when it comes to answering reporters' questions at the same press event. The 28-year-old ends just about every statement with "thank you very much" or "thank you for asking that question."
Perhaps he's just grateful. It's been an amazing two years for Garfield, who initially made a lot of noise in "The Social Network" with his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg's scorned partner, Eduardo Saverin, and recently was nominated for a Tony Award for his lead role in "Death of A Salesman" on Broadway.
Now he's in what likely will be one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer, slinging webs in the place of Maguire, star of the franchise's first three installments. Although Garfield doesn't know if his predecessor has seen this film, he said Maguire had given him his blessing.
"He sent an email to [producer] Matt Tolmach immediately and it was very, very generous," Garfield said. "It made me feel like I could take the torch in confidence and I had his support. He didn't have to do that and it's a testament to him as a person. We're all just a part of the family--that Spider-Man family."
In this version of Spidey, Peter Parker's world is rocked by tragic events. First he loses his parents, and then the uncle (Martin Sheen) who raised him. While tracking down his uncle's killer, the omnipresent superhero transforms into a vengeful vigilante.
"What's cool about this movie is that he discovers the power of what he's created," Garfield said. "He doesn't create this symbol with any kind of high-mindedness. He creates this symbol so that he can protect himself because he's searching for his uncle's killer.
"I think that he is a vigilante for a period of this particular story. I think it's true for any teenager that goes through those tragic events to kick out and rebel and use their powers in a way that they're not thinking responsibly."
Garfield was especially thrilled to work with the film's stunt coordinator, Andy Armstrong, who designed the web slinger that allows Spider-Man to soar through the air--with the aid of CGI effects.
"He kind of turned into a father figure for me on this film and he remains that way," Garfield said. "He pushed me. There were things that I was scared about and like any good father he kind of told me to go beyond what you think you can do because you might surprise yourself."
Garfield, who said he's had a strong connection to Spider-Man since childhood, found it difficult to shake off the emotional and physical demands of the role once the cameras stopped rolling.
"I didn't sleep a lot," he said. "I dedicated myself to it. It's embarrassing to say but I really did. It's a weird thing. We all have that one fictional character that we care about so, so much and if ever that opportunity came along for any of us to play it, serve it, to do it justice ... When that moment comes you go, 'Ohmigod, I'm not allowed to sleep! I'm not allowed to think about anything else other than this person who has given me so much in my life that I want to give all of myself to it.'
"So, I didn't shake it off. Next time I might because I love sleeping and eating and all that."
Miki Turner is a RedEye special contributor.
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