Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield

The Sundance kid

Miles Fielder meets the newest kid on the Hollywood block, Andrew Garfield, and finds out how he went from Croydon to being in a room alone with Robert Redford

Unless you happened to catch fresh-faced actor Andrew Garfield on the London and Manchester stages – where in the last three years he’s won various newcomer awards for well-received performances in plays by Enda Walsh and Mark Ravenhill – chances are you won’t have heard of the 24-year-old north London resident. Until now, Garfield’s most significant screen appearance has been a supporting role battling Daleks in Dr Who.

His big screen debut, however, will change all that. The actor scooped an enviable starring role in Lions for Lambs, a high profile political drama that engages critically with issues surrounding America’s war on terror. It’s the first project produced by Tom Cruise under the newly revived United Artists banner. Cruise also appears alongside Meryl Streep in the film, which is directed by and co-stars screen legend Robert Redford, with whom Garfield shares virtually all of his scenes.

‘I have no idea why I was cast,’ says Garfield with charming incredulity. ‘But I really worked hard for the audition, and I think it makes a difference that I’ve had the American accent in my ear my whole life.’

Redford has said he had no idea Garfield was from the UK until they had an informal chat after the actor’s audition for the role of Todd, a privileged and politically disengaged American college kid who goes head-to-head with Redford’s idealistic professor in the film. Garfield was actually born in Los Angeles, but was brought to Surrey as a toddler by his American father and British mother. Making Lions for Lambs, Garfield says, was his first time back in America.

‘Acting came from me being depressed,’ says Garfield. ‘I was a gymnast and swimmer until 13. Then I gave sports up and started naval gazing. I needed something to keep me afloat, so my parents suggested acting classes. I took them and a very encouraging teacher suggested I could make a career out of it. As soon as that happened, I felt some kind of purpose. The difference between Todd and me is as soon as someone said I had potential for something I grabbed hold of it. Todd just wants to have fun.’

Garfield made the most of his big break, holding his own opposite the blonde screen legend. ‘I was very scared,’ he admits. ‘But as soon as I met Bob, he made me feel at home. He’s very gentle and encouraging. In terms of our characters’ relationship, I needed to make sure I wasn’t intimidated by him, so that I could attack him and play the arrogant little prick.’

Far from arrogant, Garfield’s nervous about the future. ‘Having worked with these enormously talented people, I feel I’ve now got to make good choices. It’s opened some doors, but it’s much more difficult to accept a job just for the sake of it. That’s a luxury, but also a curse.’ With a leading role in the British crime drama Boy A with Peter Mullan, and a part in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, the lad who once called Croydon home seems to be doing just fine so far.

Lions For Lambs, general release from Fri 9 Nov. Win free tickets to see the film in the magazine.