Andrew Garfield reacts to ‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ acclaim and talks ‘Spider-Man’

Listen to the full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Andrew Garfield (Part 1)

He was just nominated for Best Actor by the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes for his role as Broadway genius Jonathan Larson in the Netflix musical “Tick, Tick…Boom!”

The national accolades come after winning Best Actor from the Washington Area Film Critics Association, so can Andrew Garfield put together a Best Actor run at the Oscars?

“I’m incredibly grateful and honored,” Garfield told WTOP. “This film means so much to me, just doing it was enough, but the fact that people connect with it and a group of critics in Washington decided it was a performance they wanted to applaud is really humbling.”

The film follows Larson as a struggling New York City theater writer while pitching his project “Superbia.” It would ultimately catch the eye of Stephen Sondheim, who encouraged him to write his breakthrough musical “Tick, Tick…Boom!” and the smash-hit “Rent,” which premiered off-Broadway the day after Larson’s untimely sudden death.

“He died at 35 the night before the first preview of ‘Rent’ off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop, which is where we shot Jon doing the one-man show of ‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ in our film, so there was a kind of spiritual component to it,” Garfield said.

Thus, the film captures the theme of making the most of our brief time on this earth.

“How do we stay committed, connected and threaded to our feeling of calling, that primary dream we all have to make a meaningful life and do the work that we feel called to do in the face of failure?” Garflied said. “That’s why I love this film: it’s not about a success, it’s about failure and rejection. How do we get back on the horse? Should we get back on?”

Such a message is relatable to audiences regardless of their line of work.

“So many people seem to be connecting to this story because I think it is universal,” Garfield said. “Whether you’re an artist or not, we all are born with a calling, with a dream. Whether we choose to own it or not, it keeps calling to us, so there’s a niggling feeling.”

This constant calling is particularly intense for creative minds.

“It’s the same thing with Van Gogh, who obviously died without having any of his work recognized,” Garfield said. “He could have woken up any morning of his life and given up in the face of everyone telling him to, but thank God or whatever deity that he didn’t. The world would have been far less rich if he hadn’t left behind all of this incredible work.”

The same goes for Jonathan Larson.

“The fact that he woke up every morning in the face of rejection letters and an industry that was forbidding him from making his art in that way, and still sang his song, and left us all the richer for it, it’s so, so beautiful,” Garfield said.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his directorial film debut, using Larson’s story as a conduit for his own experience of struggling in Manhattan theater, just like Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (1979) and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman” (2014).

“You wouldn’t know that he’s a first-time filmmaker,” Garfield said. “He was so personally connected to Jonathan Larson. He owes his artistic drive and awakening to ‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ He saw it in his early 20s off-Broadway and realized what he had to do, realized the mountain he had to climb, and focused on writing ‘In the Heights.’ The rest is history.”

Indeed, one artist inspires another artist, who then inspires another artist.

“There really may not be the composer Lin-Manuel Miranda without the composer Jonathan Larson without the composer Stephen Sondheim,” Garfield said. “It’s really a love letter to the ancestors. It’s a love letter to this lineage of generative, soulful musical theater artists. That is definitely why Lin was the right person to tell this story.”

As for Garfield, it’s his latest acclaimed role after earning a BAFTA nomination as Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook pal-turned-rival in “The Social Network” (2010) and an Oscar nomination as a conscientious objector in the World War II flick “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016).

His most famous role remains Spider-Man in Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012-2014), following Tobey Maguire’s iconic turn in Sam Rami’s trilogy (2002-2007).

“I love all iterations of ‘Spider-Man,'” Garfield said. “For me, Tobey is the one that I grew up with, so he’s always going to have a really [special place in my heart]. He was really formative for me. I was in drama school when those films came out.”

Garfield’s successor was Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opens this Friday.

“What Tom and the director Jon Watts have created is a very Marty McFly, ‘Back to the Future,’ John Hughes, innocent, sweet goodness,” Garfield said. “He’s a really young Peter Parker, which is absolutely perfect and right and just so charming and lovely. … I can’t really objectively talk about what I brought, but I’m a big fan of both iterations.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Andrew Garfield (Part 2)

Listen to the full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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