Andrew Garfield was excited to make new movie music about “Tick, Tick … Boom!”, “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson – and the former “Spider-Man” actor’s first singing role.
“I don’t say ‘like’, but I definitely say ‘horrified’,” Garfield recalls with a laugh. “I was very scared, but because of the story and the character, I knew I had to do it and (cinematic director Lin-Manuel Miranda), gave me a lot of confidence. He told me, ‘John’s not a good singer. He’s a passionate singer. You don’t have to be Audra McDonald.’
“Tick, tick … boom!” Adapted from Larson’s semi-autobiographical music (now streaming in theaters and on Netflix), he performed as a “rock monologue” in the early 1990s and later became a three-person off-Broadway show in 2001, five years after the playwright. Death from aortic aneurysm at age 35 in 1996. Garfield plays Larson in the film, which shows his struggle to finish high-concept sci-fi music behind “Rent.”
Rated:Best Movie Music of 2021 (including ‘Tick, Tick … BOOM!’ And ‘Diana’)
The 38-year-old Garfield, who was not familiar with the show before Miranda contacted him about the film, proved to be a blessing.
“This means that Jonathan Larson’s legendary ghost has never appeared on me,” says Garfield. “So when I introduced his work through Lynn, I felt like I was meeting a really lost brother I didn’t know existed.”
The actor spent more than a year learning the piano and working with a vocal coach to sing the show’s anthemic rock score. He obtained a perm to mimic Larson’s confusing scrolls and closely studied the creators’ performances on YouTube. It is a physically and emotionally demanding show, and it is widely speculated that Garfield will earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actor after he was previously approved in the category for the 2016 war drama “Hacksaw Ridge.”
“I work really hard when I care about something, and this may be one of the things I care about the most,” says Garfield, who was fostered by Larson’s “overwhelming” desire to do justice. “I think it’s the weakest thing I’ve ever done.”
Garfield’s most heartbreaking scene comes at the end of the film, after John’s close friend learns he has been diagnosed with HIV / AIDS. He wanders into the outdoor theater in Central Park late at night, where he sings a tangled ballad “Y” while playing the piano.
It’s the first week of production and “the first real ‘musical moment’ we’ve ever caught up with Andrew,” says producer Julie Oh, who says “tick, tick … boom!” He worked for about eight years to bring in. Screenshots. “I remember the moment he sat down at the piano and started singing – as time went on. We were absolutely thrilled with his performance.”
Garfield insisted on singing the song live because it was “an emotional pulse for John.” “Lynn is an easy cry, but after the second take, I can tell by his response that we have it.”
“Tick, tick … boom!” Wrestling with the loss and the cost of making art, both of which resonated deeply with Garfield. He remembers his first year out of drama school, waiting tables and working as a telemarketer, wondering if he would get a chance to act professionally.
After his first feature in 2007’s “Boy A”, his breakout role in “The Social Network” appeared three years later as a friend-turned-rival of Mark Zuckerberg (portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg). After winning the Tony Award for the 2018 Broadway revival of “Angels in America,” he co-starred with Jessica Chastain on stage and screen juggling and most recently the awards promise, “The Eyes of Tommy Faye,” as the humiliated televangelist Jim Bakker.
Garfield credits his career to his mother, Lynn, who died of cancer in late 2019 during the production of “Tommy Faye.”
“I was so lost when I was a teenager,” he says. “I was full of confusion, anxiety and sadness. I felt there should be more life; something else. Have you thought about something creative? ‘ “
After flirting with painting, sculpture and music, he finally found his way into acting, performing in the young theater productions of “Buggy Malone” and “42nd Street.”
“It was a big thank you to my mother and thanks to my father’s displeasure, I was worried that I was living a life of poverty and destitution,” says Garfield. “She had faith. She wanted me to live the life I love. And she was incredibly artistic: she was a wonderful drawer, knitting, crocheter, cake-maker – you name it.”
Garfield fondly remembers that shortly before she died, she was brought to see “Come From Away” in the West End.
“They managed to muster a little energy to get into the theater and it was one of those beautiful days,” he says. “And it’s one of those beautiful musicals about human spirit and small kindness. It’s the perfect symbol of my mother. She’s a gentle, subtle influx of love and kindness into the world – she’s just one of the people who do it. The cashier at the grocery store with a question or a laugh.
“I was really lucky that she was the one who brought me into this world.”