Garfield said he was inspired by a screen test opposite Ryan Gosling where “it was like being in a scene with a wild animal where you don’t know whether he was going to kiss you or kill you.”
Method acting remains a controversial and at times confusing technique some actors use to immerse themselves in roles. There’s been a backlash against the practice in recent years, as it can involve rapid weight fluctuation and mental health struggles.
Perhaps the most recently polarizing example was the late Heath Ledger’s performance in 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” where he reportedly went deep method to immerse himself into the twisted psyche of Batman villain The Joker.
Ledger would go on to die from an accidental prescription drug overdose shortly after filming had completed. He’d publicly admitted the role was mentally challenging for him, and had been using prescription drugs in response. Ledger would go on to win a posthumous Oscar for his performance.
Other actors who’ve opened up about their method acting in recent years include Jared Leto, again with a take on The Joker, and Jeremy Strong in HBO’s “Succession” series. While opinions vary about what it’s like to work with these performers, Andrew Garfield defends the practice.
During a recent appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF Podcast,” Garfield shared that he chose to go method for his performance in Martin Scorsese’s 2016 movie, “Silence.”
He said the decision to push himself in this way came in part because he and co-star Adam Driver both had to lose weight for their roles, per The Hollywood Reporter, so he opted to abstain from sex while fasting to put himself more in tune with the real-life 17th century Jesuit priest he was portraying.
“I had an incredibly spiritual experience. I did a bunch of spiritual practices every day, I created new rituals for myself. I was celibate for six months, and fasting a lot,” he told Maron. “It was very cool, man. I had some pretty wild, trippy experiences from starving myself of sex and food at that time.”
The actor suggested that he first encountered a fellow actor immersed in the method acting technique during a 2005 screen test opposite Ryan Gosling for a possible film adaptation of Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” It was Garfield’s first time in front of a camera after launching his career on the stage.
Garfield said he was mesmerized by Gosling in that room, saying of his potential co-star, “He was alive, he didn’t care about doing it the same way over and over again. He was listening, he was very present, he was spontaneous, he was surprising, he wasn’t trying to be those things.”
There was a Zen quality to it, but it was like being in a scene with a wild animal where you don’t know whether he was going to kiss you or kill you,” he continued. “And you hook into that, and you’re like ‘Oh, I want to follow whatever that is.'”
That’s not to say that Garfield believes there should be a complete abandon when an actor chooses to go method for a role. “It’s not about being an asshole to everyone on set,” he said.
“It’s actually just about living truthfully under imagined circumstances, and being really nice to the crew simultaneously, and being a normal human being, and being able to drop it when you need to and staying in it when you want to stay in it.”
He argued that anyone who calls method acting “bulls—” either doesn’t know what it really is, “or you just worked with someone who claims to be a method actor who isn’t actually acting the method at all.”
According to Garfield, method acting is also a very private thing, per The Daily Mail. It’s what a performer does to immerse themselves in the character, but “I don’t want people to see the f—ing pipes of my toilet. I don’t want them to see how I’m making the sausage.”