Spotlight on Andrew Garfield: a career that went tick tick BOOM!

With Andrew Garfield taking his second shot at an Oscar for his role in Tick, Tick…Boom!, Rory Doherty revisits his greatest performances.

It’s a tale as old as time: an actor has a dazzling breakout role, gets snapped up by a tentpole franchise, is left dissatisfied with the studio system and sets out to take only the most striking and challenging roles thereafter. Few have mastered it quite like Andrew Garfield.

The Brit has been on our screens big and small over the last year. After being very selective with his roles recently, he has treated us loyal admirers to three feature films in the last 12 months—and he’s arguably been the best thing about all of them. It also means we’ve witnessed a slew of press tours during which we all fell in love with his charm, candour and incredible hair just like we did 10 years ago.

In anticipation of his second shot at an Oscar with the pulse-pounding musical Tick, Tick… Boom!, we’re taking a look at the road that got him here.

The Social Network (2010)

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Andrew Garfield’s breakout turn as the slighted Eduardo Saverin in Fincher’s The Social Network proved to be the emotional core of a story about the dangers of giving immature young men access to instantly gratifying money and power. Less subversive and more socially accepted than his best friend Mark Zuckerberg, Garfield’s Saverin has some scene-stealing moments in which he pierces through all the snappy, smarmy quips of wannabe-cool entrepreneurs to bare the hollow, pathetic soul of his former closest ally. Garfield came out swinging as a wounded, bitter man who got out of a bad situation before it got a whole lot worse.

The Amazing Spider-Man series (2012-2014)

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If anyone is blameless for the underwhelming nature of the 2012-2014 Spider-Man reboots, it’s their star. Garfield’s Peter Parker was a marked difference from his predecessor Tobey Maguire: he’s quick-witted, dashing, and with more of a guilty conscience than we’ve seen before (not to mention an inordinate amount of hair gel). Some had problems with how cool this Peter was compared to the comics, but few had problems with his alter-ego; in the iconic costume, his web-slinging and quip-spouting was filled with limitless joy and passion. Garfield threw himself into the role in a way many actors don’t with blockbuster characters.

Silence (2016)

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Two years after his disappointment with Sony’s treatment of Spider-Man, Garfield landed himself a role with filmmaking legend Martin Scorsese. In his most challenging part yet, he plays a Portuguese Jesuit travelling incognito to Shogunate Japan to find a former mentor who disappeared under Japanese persecution of Christians. It is, unquestionably, Garfield’s greatest performance. His character is riddled with conflict as he finds himself depending on the guidance of a god he is increasingly losing grasp of. The character is equal parts gentle and devastating, with vulnerable qualities that Garfield is known for.

Under the Silver Lake (2018)

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All of Los Angeles, its culture and geography, comes under paranoid scrutiny in this surreal shaggy-dog mystery, with Garfield playing an aimless, unlikeable slacker who tries to locate a missing woman he’s only known for one night. Fixation, confusion and parasocial relationships plague the hapless detective, as the clues he gains offer more befuddlement than elucidation. From the director of indie horror It Follows, the film got a botched release post its divided reception at Cannes. But for patient and weird viewers, Garfield is a perfect, often amusing audience surrogate for this exposé on warped human relationships.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

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Garfield’s dynamic performance in Tick, Tick… Boom! as Rent composer Jonathan Larson overshadows his bright, sickly turn as televangelist Jim Bakker, alongside his long-suffering wife Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain). Both Garfield and Chastain wear facial prosthetics for the film—a choice that could have been distracting, but ends up adding to the artificial quality of the couple. Especially as Jim’s faux niceness and moralism covers up a manipulative and abusive nature.