Over the past few years, Andrew Garfield has shown off his tremendous talent in front of the camera in a number of great films like Never Let Me Go, 99 Homes and The Social Network. However, in 2016, after being done with The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, he did his best work in two completely different movies: Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Both films allowed Garfield to show his range as an actor because of amazing scripts and brilliant direction. It’s kind of incredible they both got released in the same year.
With Silence now in theaters around the country, I recently landed an exclusive interview with the busy actor. He talked about being praised for his work in both films, what it was like to work with Scorsese, the challenges of filming Silence on location and in tough shooting conditions, how he prepared for the role, the longer cut of Silence and what we can do to see it, if all great directors share any similarities, and so much more. Check out what he had to say below.
As most of you know, Silence stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as two Jesuits on an expedition through Japan in the 17th century to find their mentor (Liam Neeson), whom many (including Ciarán Hinds) believe to have committed heresy. The project has long been a dream for Scorsese who has spent decades trying to bring Shusaku Endo’s 1966 acclaimed novel to life.
COLIIDER: Let’s jump in. This past year you’ve gone back-to-back with two incredible roles, what it is like doing Hacksaw Ridge then Silence and having them both come out and having your performances in both being praised by so many people?
ANDREW GARFIELD: Oh, terrible…It’s just like, where do I go from here? [Laughs]. I’m very appreciative of it. It’s very gratifying obviously, because we’ll work hard at what we do because we love it and sometimes that hard work gets recognized and sometimes it doesn’t. I really grateful for the moments when it does and it helps to get through the times where it doesn’t in a bit of an easier way. So I’m holding on to it and I’m enjoying it as much as I can.
Ultimately I love these films very much. I’m very, very proud to be a part of them and to be a collaborator with these two filmmakers. To be able to work on Martin Scorsese’s passion project with him is a dream come true. So yeah, I’m just trying to enjoy it and be present and stand by these stories that I think are really important.
Obviously we’re all fans of Scorsese and I’m sure you grew up loving Scorsese. What surprised you about collaborating with him on Silence?
GARFIELD: I was really kind of surprised at how free he was every day we shot. He wasn’t imposing or didactic to his actors…He would direct if he felt the need to, but otherwise he was very trusting of the actors that he cast and what they were bringing to it. That was an incredible surprise. I was kind of expecting to show up and just have him puppeteer me, and part of me wanted that because I think he’s so damn brilliant, but the fact is that he empowered us. He empowered us to go further and be more kind of wild and unknown and dangerous than we’d been previously. So that was a wonderful surprise.
In your career you’ve gotten to work with such gifted filmmakers, Mark Romanek, [David] Fincher, [Mel] Gibson, Scorsese, that’s just a few. Is there a similarity between these filmmakers, or are they all very unique?
GARFIELD: They’re all very unique. The similarity I would say was the confidence, a confidence and a willingness and therefore an ability to collaborate. A feeling of the best idea wins. And, again, an empowerment of everyone they’re working with. That’s great leadership, tremendous leadership, when you feel a stake in the company and you feel like you matter. And not only that, but if you’re not pulling your weight, then the ship is gonna get veered off-track.
That is what I would say about these filmmakers, is that they understand what it is to be in a collaborative art and they’re confident enough to allow to everyone’s gifts to be present. And they are all…I don’t know, they’re in touch with their genius enough where they attract other people that would show up and do anything for them. Just because of their ability to tell a story in a way that’s compelling and unique and profound. That’s all we want to do as storytellers, to make stories in a way that is inspiring and is gonna make a difference in people’s lives.
You guys shot on location in some really interesting terrain, up long hills –I’ve spoken to some people who worked on it and they said is was some very interesting locations and a very long shoot. Can you talk about the challenge of this role in particular in a place where you’re not on some sound stage?
GARFIELD: I think it was a powerful part of the experience. I don’t think would’ve been what it was without those locations and without that kind of challenge. Rodrigo Prieto had a very challenging thing on his hands, him and Marty, because the weather would be changing all the time. It would go from incredibly hot to incredibly cold, incredibly sunny to full of fog, rainy, muddy, dry, arid, it was all over the shop all the time.
So they were given tremendous production challenges and yet they managed to use each of the natural elements in service of visual language for the internal struggle of the characters in the film. That was incredibly inspiring to be around. And for the actors it’s useful to feel that arduousness of what it is to ask these very, very deep and difficult questions. These are not simple questions to answer, the ones these characters are chasing. So the landscape internally as well as externally is a very uneven land, it’s very scary and full of danger.