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Why Was Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man ‘Messy’?

In the book The Art of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Andrew Garfield discussed how he played Peter Parker as “messy and free and playful and silly” in his return to the character for the MCU.

Garfield explained that there was an “undeniable excitement” at the three cinematic Spider-Men (Garfield, Tobey Maguire, and Tom Holland) sharing the screen:

“[There was] undeniable excitement at the concept of just the simple image of the three of us together.”

He added that this excitement existed on “so many levels,” be it “a fan level … an actor level … [and] an even deeper level:”

“It was exciting on so many levels. On a fan level — which I am — and on an actor level, being able to work with my Spider-Man, Tobey, and then the brilliant Tom. Then, on an even deeper level of, well, what does that mean? What can we explore about these three brothers who are separated through time and space?”

Garfield began answering that question by looking to the “essence” of Spider-Man, comparing his version of Peter Parker with Holland’s, and discussing how “that character is so much about isolation and being a one-man army:”

“The essence of that character [Peter Parker] is so much about isolation and being a one-man army, especially in the origins of the story. Obviously, with Tom’s iteration, joining in with the Avengers is a deeply reassuring thing — but I think, essentially, he’s a lone kid, and that’s what makes him so compelling and relatable because we all know what that is somehow.”

From there, he explored in his performance what it would feel like for Peter to learn “that someone was going through the exact same struggle:”

“It was just suddenly mind-boggling and incredibly healing and beautiful to think, ‘What if you discovered you weren’t in fact alone and that someone was going through the exact same struggle that you felt like you were uniquely going through?’ That feeling like you’re not alone in the universe is quite a powerful thing.”

In that interpretation, Garfield allowed himself “to be messy and free and playful and silly” for his performance:

“I felt like the pressure was off, and I was given a lot of freedom to explore and be the irreverent version of the character that I always felt a connection to — to be messy and free and playful and silly. It just felt like a very free, healing experience.”

Garfield credits the ability he had to play Spider-Man the way he wanted to him “and Tobey just [getting] to show up and support [Holland] and have some fun:”

“And that was probably a lot to do with Tom. Tom had to carry that movie. Me and Tobey just got to show up and support him and have some fun.”

A More ‘Irreverent Version’ of Spider-Man

Garfield’s “irreverent” Peter is what drew many to him in the new movie, as it re-invigorated a spark and love for his version of the character that had seemingly dwindled since The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

This silliness and goofiness is an essential aspect to several iterations of Spider-Man — a character known for being quippy and witty and capable of turning even a villain attack into a fun time.

As Garfield re-shaped his version of Spider-Man into what fans fell in love with (or re-fell in love with) in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the work he put in to bring that goofiness back really showed.

Garfield brought much of his own charm to the role, improvising the “I love you guys” line, for instance, which was consistently endearing to fans in both his original two movies and in his No Way Home return. It makes sense that he saw his role as being that “playful” and “irreverent” side to the character.

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