Garfield has found that sort of work to be the thing that helps give his life meaning. “I find spiritual pursuit to be the only pursuit, really, for me,” he says. “And that’s with my work and otherwise.” He lost his mother not long ago, and her passing only deepened that conviction. “There’s an acute awareness of just the ephemeral nature of this. And that is what gives it all meaning. I think the consideration of what’s going on behind everything is the only thing I’m interested in.”
That’s what makes this latest stretch seem so treacherous. Garfield’s years of self-work might ensure that this process won’t rearrange his soul the way Spider-Man did, but getting these films out into the world is nonetheless beginning to dredge up all the stuff that used to drive him crazy. The fact that people keep asking if he’s in the new Spider-Man, despite his constant denials, doesn’t help. (“I am not,” he tells me.) He hasn’t worked intensively since 2018, and he’s become comfortable not working: He’s been renovating his home in London, turning the basement into a sort of minimalist zen chamber. He’s been swimming and practicing woodworking. He isn’t sure how this reentry into the world of celebrity is going to go.
“A lot’s changed since then,” he says. “Like losing my mum, and my psyche being totally rearranged by that. And life taking on a completely different hue and texture and color. And my inner being totally different. Tasting things differently. Hearing. Smell. It’s all different. Nothing’s the same.” So now he’s this newly formed person—one we haven’t met before, but about whom we presume to know plenty—reemerging into the world.
Underneath all of this is, of course, the work. The possibility, however rare, of submitting to something shaggy and weird and altogether consciousness reordering. The possibility—available from the theater, but even from Spider-Man too—of a life-changing interaction with a piece of art. “That thing of when you read a great piece of literature and you feel the author reaching their hand through and putting it on yours and saying, ‘Me too’—it’s that feeling,” he says. When everything else seems a little too big, a little too bright and loud and pointed in the wrong direction, there is still, at the end of the day, this.
It’s why you put up with all the other stuff, he says, growing expansive and speaking rapidly. “That existential anxiety dissipates, and you suddenly remember your belonging,” he says. “You suddenly remember you deserve to be here. There’s no such thing as ‘deserve,’ actually. Deserve is a construct. We’re here. And we’re meant to be here. And so let’s be here fully.”
Sam Schube is GQ’s deputy site editor.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2022 issue with the title “Andrew Garfield’s Answered Prayers.”
Photographs by Katie McCurdy
Styled by Mobolaji Dawodu
Grooming by Dana Boyer at The Wall Group for Dyson
Tailoring by Samantha Mcelrath at Carol Ai Studio
Set design by Jacob Burstein for MHS Artists