Nominee Q&A

Andrew Garfield Has Already Given His Oscar Acceptance Speech

David Needleman
Andrew Garfield

Garfield talks to THR about his first-ever Oscar nomination ("I feel OK about it, weirdly") and not having to audition for Mel Gibson ("He thinks it's cruel and unusual punishment to actors").

"Never say never," says first-time Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield.

Vying for best  actor in a category that includes Manchester by the Sea's Casey Affleck and Fences' Denzel Washington, as well as Ryan Gosling and Viggo Mortensen, the Hacksaw Ridge star earnestly notes, with a laugh: "I don't believe I am going to have to go up there and make an acceptance speech this time around."

In the Mel Gibson-directed biopic, Garfield plays real-life World War II U.S. Army medic Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who served without a gun.

The English actor, who's currently in London preparing for a run of Angels in America, spoke with THR about his nonaudition for Gibson, his paradoxical affinity for war movies and Mahatma Gandhi and the Oscar acceptance speech he's already given.

What was your first meeting with Gibson like?

It was more about us getting to know each other. He doesn't audition people, now. He thinks it's cruel and unusual punishment to actors — which, I think, actors would agree with. He is so instinctive about everything, so he can feel if a person has the right qualities to play a part.

When you first read the script, did you see any immediate similarities between you and Doss?

I don't know if there were a lot of similarities. It was things that I longed to be more of myself that I saw in him. I've always loved war films. I am fascinated by the violence that man does to his fellow man. The fact there was a man of peace in the midst of a horrible war — I was interested in that.

Where does that interest come from?

When I was a kid, I understood my own capacity for violence and ability to hurt another human being. All of my experimentations with violence happened with my brother — an older brother thankfully so I wasn't able to hurt him all that much. But, my god, I wanted to, just as brothers do. I think that is a strangely innate thing in young boys, especially brothers. I can't speak for young girls. After I understood my own ability to do damage to people, I found out about Mahatma Gandhi and was drawn to him, even before I was a teenager. I think Desmond shares certain qualities that Gandhi embodied, so it was more of a longing of knowing the pacifist in myself.

What was a tough scene to shoot?

It was all pretty rough. There was a scene that was a very intimate moment in the midst of utter chaos — when Desmond realizes he lost his bible after having his legs blown up, and he's being injected with morphine. It was difficult, having to play the morphine hit, and you're in shock, and you are totally out of control because you are on a stretcher. Then there are explosions happening all around you, mud flying into your eyes, mouth and nose while you are trying to communicate an intimate longing for the most important thing in your life, but you also can't speak.

Because this is your first nomination, has anyone reached out to offer you any advice?

I feel OK about it, weirdly. There was something absurd about it. The Academy Awards are something that looms larger than life. They are so epic in their scale that there is something abstract about them. So, the idea that I would be included, in any way, is a very surreal thing.

You are back at work rehearsing for a play right now, so did you even have a chance to celebrate your nomination?

I celebrated with some of my closest friends, some of which I studied acting with here in London. We all kept on saying, "We got nominated for an Academy Award, today." It felt like it was us, as opposed to it was me, and that made me feel better. I could process it.

Never say never, but I don't believe I am going to have to go up there and make an acceptance speech this time around, so it was nice to be able to be with friends, and my family, agents and publicist — all the people who supported me and whom I support. And that allowed me to give thanks to all the people in my life that allowed me to be a part of those five men in my category. And I'm good now. That was enough. I got to do an acceptance speech to my friends and family, without actually winning.

A version of this story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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