The press tour is a funny sort of crucible for an actor. Its primary purpose, of course, is to sell a movie to the press, and by proxy to audiences. Crack a few jokes, relate a couple of funny or horrifying or otherwise bizarre stories from the set, repeat ad nauseum. Some actors love them — witness Chris Pratt playing fun Instagram jokes on Jennifer Lawrence while promoting Passengers. Others hate them: This is how I imagine Jeremy Renner feels, having taken every available opportunity while shilling for Age of Ultron to put his foot in his mouth. But sometimes an actor transcends the gauntlet of 15-minute hotel room interviews with movie bloggers and magazine writers, giving us a performance that measures up to (and sometimes even improves upon) the one they’re publicizing. That’s what Andrew Garfield is doing right now, while on the trail for Martin Scorsese’s Silence: He’s throwing a goddamn press-tour no-hitter.
The story of Andrew Garfield’s Silence Press Tour doesn’t even begin with Andrew Garfield’s Silence press tour. It goes way back to 2014, with Garfield promoting 99 Homes, his film with Michael Shannon about the mortgage crisis. Garfield’s hair is scraggly, and he’s got the beginnings of a mustache: prep for Silence, which began production around the same time Homes was released. Here is the face Garfield makes when the interviewer asks about his experience working with Scorsese:
You know what that face says? It says: What is 99 Homes? Why are we even talking about it? I am Andrew Garfield, Actor, and I am making a movie with Martin Scorsese. It is so, so intense.
The Andrew Garfield Silence Press Tour has only gotten better from there.
Have you heard? Silence is brutal. Horrific. The story of two 17th-century Portuguese priests sent to find their colleague in Japan, it’s said to be torturous and sadistic, but also deeply concerned with faith and doubt. Don’t believe me? Just ask Andrew Garfield: “It’s meditative and brutal simultaneously,” he told Fandango. Meditative and brutal simultaneously! At the same time! Perhaps you think Silence sounds mysterious, what with the meditation and the brutality and also the priests getting lost in a foreign land. You would be correct, friend. “It’s a very mysterious film,” Garfield explained to Fandango. “… Every time me and Marty would try to get to the bottom of its themes and what the character is going through, we would wind up talking for two to three hours, and every time there would be five minutes of silence at the end because we had exhausted the conversation and had no answers, only more questions. Then he’d look at me and go, ‘Okay kid, until next time …’”
(One of the best things about Andrew Garfield’s Silence Press Tour: the number of times he talks about silence. Not the movie — that’s Silence, with the capital S and the italics — but silence: being quiet. Silence the movie so confounded its director and star that they were reduced to … silence. The themes of Silence, one of which is silence, were so powerful that they compelled Scorsese, a famously chatty director, to call for — you guessed it — silence while on set. “Marty insists on having silence on the set,” Garfield said to The New York Times Magazine. “The silence says: ‘Something is happening here.’” It’s silent — but it speaks. Andrew Garfield is an actor, sure. But I think maybe he should be a philosopher.)
I haven’t yet seen Silence, but I don’t have any reason to doubt that Silence manages to be both meditative and brutal. The priests suffer all manner of spiritual and physical injury along their journey. But Silence is also — and I don’t mean to be blunt here, but stay with me — a movie. A Hollywood confection, if one that’s scary and mean. Someone forgot to tell Andrew Garfield that, because my man went to make a movie in Taiwan and came back pretty well convinced that he’s a priest.
Garfield spent the year leading up to production completing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, a series of Jesuit practices meant to bring the subject closer to God. And gosh, he put that knowledge to use: “I was filled up with all this information and all this longing to spread the teachings of Christ, which I truly started to adore,” he explained to The Hollywood Reporter. But not, like, that adoring: “There were moments where I thought, Maybe I could do this,” Garfield told Vogue about actually becoming a priest. “But I knew that I wasn’t ultimately built for it…I probably enjoy sex too much.” (I mean, same.) To be fair, this level of immersion isn’t unheard of, and it was probably much more enjoyable for Garfield’s castmates than for the actors in Suicide Squad who were sent rats by Jared “I am actually the Joker, who is Jared?” Leto. But Garfield wasn’t just sending rats. He was going deep. And when you think about it, that’s really the only option when you’re making a movie set in a time when, Garfield explained to Vogue, “Catholic saints were … ‘the Kanye Wests of their day.’” Jesus walks!
But Garfield’s career counseling didn’t stop there. Consider this, also from the Times Magazine:
That is super cool, Andrew. But it is not exactly “telling funny stories about starlets I have slept with,” or even the gentler “I can laugh at myself, really, I promise, it’s cool.” No, we’re on a higher plane. It’s a plane I like to call We’re All Being Crucified All the Time, Actually, Even When We’re at Cafe Gratitude. Try this gem, which Garfield dropped to Time while noshing at, yes, Venice, California, vegan haven Cafe Gratitude:
One minute you’re having a beer with one of the finest actors of your generation in one of the most charming neighborhoods in all of New York, the next you’re in Wales — Wales! — not speaking to that actor for seven whole days. Can you imagine not talking to Adam Driver for a week? I can, because I was not cast in a movie with Adam Driver. But Andrew Garfield? Andrew Garfield had already had one beer with Adam Driver, and then had the opportunity to spend 168 consecutive hours with Adam Driver — and then hung out with him without talking the whole time. And now Andrew Garfield is being resurrected anew with each rising sun. Hollywood!
I don’t mean to give Garfield a hard time. Movies are better, or at least more fun, when our movie stars play ball — when they get weird, and reveal things of themselves that maybe they didn’t intend to. And I’d bet this is all cathartic for him: After spending four-plus years wearing Spider-Man pajamas and being bossed around by the guy who made 500 Days of Summer, it must feel fantastic to be a part of a movie that demands a level of maturity and discipline, and that’s concerned with the big questions. I hope Andrew Garfield keeps asking them. Preferably in 15-minute interviews in random hotel rooms.