Hero unmasked

Hero unmasked

Is anyone born to play a superhero?

Andrew Garfield thinks he is.

"Peter Parker is skinny. He's neurotic. He fumbles and stumbles... I am Peter Parker," declared the 30-year-old US-born British actor.

"I always was Peter when I was growing up. I was always the outsider kid, always bullied. I always want to have more strength and power.

"I have to relate to Peter, otherwise I shouldn't be taking the job."

He is, of course, referring to his big-screen alter-ego Spider-Man, the Hollywood breakout role Garfield reprises in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, opening here May 1.

This time, the beloved web-slinger runs the gauntlet as the company Oscorp sends up a slew of super-villains against him, affecting his life and his relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

Putting on Spider-Man's iconic mask two years ago placed Garfield, a then-unknown actor from the independent film circuit who appeared in The Social Network (2010), on the map.

When he was in Singapore last month to promote the sequel as well as participate in Earth Day activities, he told M that he wasn't prepared for the international recognition when he signed on to play Spider-Man.

He said he had a lot of "self-doubt and self-admonishment" when he was shooting the first Spider-Man movie which was released in 2012.

"I kept thinking, 'Do I have the right to be here? Have I earned it? Am I enough for this? Is this role too big for me?'

"I had a lot of fear in the first instalment. I was nervous about whether I was good enough. I just wanted to hide behind the mask."

He shared how like Peter Parker found courage through fear, he too, eventually found his courage and confidence, which made going into the sequel easier.

"I've got to a place where what I am and what I have is enough. I learnt not to criticise myself and be worried about the outcome. Just to do your best," he said.

"I'm older now too. I might as well enjoy the opportunity of representing Spider-Man, someone whom we can all project our hopes and dreams onto. That's empowering."


Garfield is certainly embracing the famous Spider-Man quote - "with great power comes great responsibility". His eyes lit up when he talked about how playing Spider-Man allowed him to meet many young people and help influence them.

"I don't see myself as a role model. I just see myself as a person trying to do his best, just like everyone, just like Peter who may be a hero but he still screws up and struggles all the time.

"That being able to stand up after you stumble is the most powerful thing about Peter Parker, and that's important for young people to know, that it's okay to be imperfect."

Garfield's newfound confidence probably also stems from the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man was a huge box-office hit, grossing over US$752 million (S$940 million) worldwide.

Judging from the early reviews and box-office forecast from entertainment trade website Box Office Mojo, this follow-up is likely to do as well or even better.

Garfield and his castmates Stone and Jamie Foxx, who plays main villain Electro, have been doing their part by plugging their movie in China, Singapore, Japan and various European cities such as London, Paris, Rome and Berlin.

These obligatory duties have taken a toll on Garfield.

"You just start to get bored of it. You get sick of your own voice, your own answers, but you also want to give everyone all the energy you have. It's hard," he said, though clarifying that he was not tired of talking about Spider-Man but rather answering questions about himself, which he said was "uncomfortable and unnatural".

What frustrates him most is when people ask about his personal life, primarily about his real-life romance with Stone.

"There is this thinking where people assume they have the right to intrude into your personal life just because you're an actor. That's not true.

"I don't talk about my personal life. I won't confirm or deny anything because my life is mine."

He said: "It's not my business that people see me as a star. I'm just an actor who gets to play a role that I love. Peter Parker is just one of those roles."

This article was published on April 23 in The New Paper.

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