Andrew Garfield Defends Method Acting, Details ‘Starving’ Himself of Sex and Food for ‘Silence’

Method acting has taken something of a beating from celebrities in recent years, with stars like Brian Cox, David Harbour and Mads Mikkelsen calling the process “dangerous,” “pretentious” and even a “disease.” But the art form has a defender in Andrew Garfield, who spoke about the method in an interview on popular podcast “WTF with Marc Maron.”

“There [have] been a lot of misconceptions about what method acting is, I think,” Garfield said. “People are still acting in that way, and it’s not about being an asshole to everyone on set. 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.”

Garfield appeared on “WTF” to promote the FX limited series “Under the Banner of Heaven,” which landed him an Emmy nomination for his lead performance. Speaking further about method acting, Garfield said that it is far more internal than people realize, and that the perception that the method is dangerous or pretentious comes from people who act out on set under the guise of doing the method.

“I’m kind of bothered by the misconception, I’m kind of bothered by this idea that ‘method acting is fucking bullshit.’ No, I don’t think you know what method acting is if you’re calling it bullshit, or you just worked with someone who claims to be a method actor who isn’t actually acting the method at all,” Garfield says. “It’s also very private. I don’t want people to see the fucking pipes of my toilet. I don’t want them to see how I’m making the sausage.”

Method acting came up in his conversation with Maron when Garfield spoke about doing a screen test with Ryan Gosling in 2005 for a potential film adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” Garfield described acting alongside Gosling as a formative moment for him, as it was the first time he’d ever acted on-camera after starting his career on stage. A few years later, Garfield would end up studying with Gosling’s acting coach, Greta Seacat.

“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,” Garfield said. “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. And you hook into that, and you’re like ‘Oh, I want to follow whatever that is.’”

Garfield also spoke about his own method acting approach to 2016’s “Silence,” where he played a Jesuit priest in the 17th century. Garfield spent a year preparing for the part by studying under Jesuit writer Father James Martin, reading and researching Catholicism and undergoing spiritual exercises. For six months, he went celibate and undertook fasting in preparation for the acclaimed Martin Scorsese film.

“It was very cool, man,” Garfield said. “I had some pretty wild, trippy experiences from starving myself of sex and food at that time.”

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