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NEW YORK - Many forget the criticism Sam Raimi and Sony Pictures endured when they first cast Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker in 2002's "Spider-Man." He wouldn't be funny enough, he wasn't skinny enough and not a real star. So, there was some irony, less than a decade later, when Spidey fans questioned director Marc Webb and Sony Pictures for casting Brit Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") in the reboot, "The Amazing Spider-Man." But, like Maguire and Christian Bale before him in "Batman Begins," Garfield will likely silence many of his critics when the tentpole opens early next month.
He started to win over the fans, however, with his heartfelt speech at last year's Comic-Con. Unlike many other actors, Garfield was actually a big Spider-Man fan growing up. When I asked him if that made him want to fight for the role his answer was as polite and laid back as his on screen demeanor.
"I'm not that kind of person that would be, 'I need.' I'm an ambitious person, but I'm very English," Garfield jokes. "So, like, I'm not pushy in that way. I'm like, 'Eh, that's fine. We can do it if you want. If they want to call me they can call me.' When I first heard they were starting again I was just excited was a fan. I was like, 'Omigod. I get to watch Spider-Man on the big screen' again. That was all I was feeling. Now, that's obviously different. Now, you can't enjoy it as much when it's you because actors find it hard to watch themselves most of the time. But when I auditioned I was excited."
Having spoken to his rumored girlfriend, but confirmed co-star Emma Stone (aka Gwen Stacy) a few minutes earlier, I reflected on how both she and Martin Sheen (who plays Uncle Ben) praised him for his intense preparation. In fact, Stone put him in the legendary company of Meryl Streep.
Garfield laughs and shrugs saying 'Stupid" under his breath with a huge smile. Was he blushing? Watch the video embedded at the top of this post and you tell me. Still, Garfield admits this was absolutely his toughest role to date.
"I think on this I worked harder than I ever worked. For many reasons," Garfield reflects. "There was a lot of work to be done because it was such a huge undertaking for everyone in terms of making sure the story was as robust and kind of true and logical and emotional."
He continues, noting, "There were questions about costume and accent and every time we'd come to a scene we'd re-write it and try to make it better. And there was a lot of improvisation and accent work and physicality work, of course, and emotional work. And then you had the humor of the character. There were a lot of things to bring to it. And on top of that I thought, 'I can show up and do my best or I can really, really work hard at it. And I had to do the later because of how much I care about the character."
As our time winded down, I had to ask Garfield about a slight affectation in his accent for Parker. The character has always been a Queens borough native and in this film the 28-year-old actor would add a shy, "yeah, yeah, yeah" before some of his lines. Especially when Parker is nervously interacting with Stacey.
Garfield looks stunned that I noticed it replying "Seriously, you picked that up?"
(I won't be the only one.)
He continues, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. We sat down with a couple of high school kids and I have it on my iPod, he's like 'yeah, yeah.' Just that one thing and the higher tone. That's really cool [that you picked it up]."
You can check it out yourself as "Amazing Spider-Man" opens nationwide and in 3D on July 3.