This is a big couple of months for Andrew Garfield. With both Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Martin Scorsese’s Silence coming out, in a way, it almost feels like a comeback for Garfield. But “comeback” is kind of a dumb word to use for someone who received international fame for playing Spider-Man. But it’s worth noting that between 2010’s The Social Network and last year’s 99 Homes, Garfield only starred in Spider-Man movies. It’s only now that we are getting to see Garfield playing a wide range of characters.
Remember when it was announced, what was it, there would be something like four The Amazing Spider-Man movies, plus a built in universe of movies? If that version of Spider-Man hadn’t been canceled, well there’s little chance he’d be in both of these movies. Up first is Hacksaw Ridge. Based on a true story, Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a man who voluntarily signs up for the military during World War II, but refuses to use a weapon out of his deep pacifist convictions. (There’s a religious angle, but we also find out there are other reasons.) The film takes us from Desmond’s fight to serve (and avoid a court-martial) to some of the most intense battle scenes seen on film since Saving Private Ryan.
But just making this movie was a leap of faith. Mel Gibson’s tribulations have been well documented, and Garfield explains why he decided, in the end, to work with Mel Gibson and what that decision process was like. He also gives us a preview of what we’ll see in Scorsese’s Silence (a film Garfield prepared a full a year for), and he takes a look back at Spider-Man and how things all work out the way they do for a reason. And, as always, Garfield is extremely complimentary of our new Spider-Man, Tom Holland. (But, no, he hasn’t seen Captain America: Civil War yet.)
The battle scenes in Hacksaw Ridge are the most intense I’ve seen since Saving Private Ryan.
I’m really glad you feel that way.
Is it intense when you’re filming?
You can tell it will be intense, but I didn’t know it would be that magnificent. I didn’t know it would be that visceral. And it’s a testament to Mel’s vision, really. He’s able to visualize these incredibly specific and detailed action sequences in a way that’s so compelling and horrific. I think he really honors the horror and experience of war.
You mention horror, at times this felt like a horror movie. I jumped out of my chair a couple of times.
Yeah, totally. I think that’s Mel’s intention. He wants you to react with your body. He wants to take the observer and put them there right in the thick of the action.
There are a couple of times I found myself wishing Desmond would just pick up a gun during basic training. Sometimes you see the point of other characters who are trying to meet him halfway.
I know, it’s fascinating, isn’t it? And I don’t think you’re alone in that feeling. He’s a character that is incredibly confounding because he’s so committed to not compromising one inch. 99 Homes is another film that deals with that idea: a guy will compromise a bit of his integrity and what his soul tells him to do and you justify it any which way you want. But Desmond knew if he gave the smallest betrayal to his own ideals – and, also, they weren’t even ideals. They were a deep knowing that he had. That’s how I perceived it. And it went beyond any dogmatic, religious set of rules.
It seems lucky that, as Desmond, you get to laugh at some of the lines Vince Vaughn is yelling as his drill sergeant. Because some of those lines are funny and it’s Vince Vaughn yelling them. I’d not be able to keep a straight face.
I tell you, that first day that Vince shot was the scene when we were first introduced to him. It was a riot. It was a truly riotous day. You know, I’m crying with laughter. I’m really struggling. And of course Vince improvised a lot…
I did not know that.
Oh yeah. A lot of that is improvised. A lot was written and he’s honoring what was written, but then of course he was encouraged to go off-book and he did. And no one is really better at that then him. He’s a magician with improv, with thoughts that are rapid fire and genius and wild. It was absolutely ridiculous. [Laughs.] He was asking me, “Do you shave your body hair?” he went on this whole riff about, “Do you use the same razor for your body hair that you do your face?” It’s just ludicrous.
What does that even mean?
Exactly! It doesn’t mean anything! But the design was to make us all bamboozled.