Michael J. Fox almost came between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.
That is, he did it in the form of Scott Howard, the lupine character he played in 1985′s Teen Wolf. And he tangentially came up when Stone and Garfield bantered about their most beloved big-screen offerings the first time they met.
Looking back, says Stone to Garfield: “It was a good day. You asked me what my favorite movie was, and I said City Lights, and you thought I was being pretentious. I asked you what yours was, and you said Teen Wolf. Are you (expletive) kidding me? That’s even more pretentious! Please!”
Retorts Garfield, with no shame: “It’s my comfort movie. It kind of is my favorite movie. We had a giggle. It was a really nice day. I dropped you off at your hotel. We didn’t see each other for months until we started shooting.”
Now, Garfield, 28, and Stone, 23, find themselves in the rather complicated position of promoting a movie in which they play a couple, while they’re also a real-life item — something they resolutely avoid discussing. In The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot of the original trilogy that first starred Tobey Maguire as the titular webslinger, Garfield is Peter Parker, an insecure, insular high-schooler who gets bitten by an arachnid and suddenly finds himself with superpowers that he has to learn to control. Early reviews of the movie, opening tonight in select theaters and nationwide Tuesday, have been largely positive. And Stone is his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, an outspoken, smart and charismatic foil to Peter’s natural reticence.
To him, she’s Em. To her, he’s Garfy. During an interview at the Crosby Street hotel, Garfield and Stone are by turns giggly, focused and affectionate. She’s irresistibly outgoing and pulsates with energy. He’s a little more circumspect and restrained, but can’t sit still and keeps announcing how “hyper” he feels. You sense why they connected, both as actors and as individuals.
First impressions count
“I went and auditioned with this guy who, right now, doesn’t seem like much. But let me tell you, on-screen, what a joy! He’s really one of the best actors. Earmuffs, because I don’t want him to hear it,” says Stone. “He’s incredible to work with. At the audition, I was instantly like, I could learn so much from this person. I didn’t go to theater school. I’m learning by doing.”
Garfield had been reading with actresses when Stone came to meet him and director Marc Webb. “Em was the last, on the last day. I was knackered. I was toast. She came in, and I woke up. I remember what happened in between takes,” says Garfield. “I’d only ever seen her do Zombieland and Superbad. I knew you were funny as hell. We did the breakup scene, and it killed me. I was shocked and surprised and upset. And you were so hard on yourself. In between, she just made me laugh. And I made you laugh.”
The spark wasn’t lost on Webb. “She brought out this humor in him, and he brought out this depth in her. There was a magical quality about them. Andrew has an ability to do emotional gravity really well. Emma’s presence is so light. Put them together and they had spontaneous grounded realism. They were so naturalistic. They never fake things.”
Garfield and Stone found ways to humanize and ground the story, based on the Marvel character with a secret identity. Garfield’s Peter Parker is a loner who skateboards and takes photos, and is desperate to learn what happened to his dead parents. Stone’s Gwen is candid and confident, and befriends Peter, boosting his self-assurance.
Garfield, an American-born, English-bred actor who studied theater in the U.K. and was until now best-known for playing Eduardo Saverin in the 2010 film The Social Network, says he related to Peter entirely.
“I’m a skinny kid. He feels like an underdog. I felt like an underdog. He knows the difference between right and wrong, and I’m pretty sure I do, too,” says Garfield. “That heroic impulse, without having the physical authority to do anything about it. The science mind is something I admire in him that I don’t have. So? Gwen?”
Stone, a veteran of last year’s Oscar-nominated blockbuster The Help, picks up where Garfield left off. “Gwen is the oldest in her family and feels a certain sense of responsibility, and I relate to that. She’s valedictorian. I was first chair in flute. I made sure I got all A’s. It was weird. I didn’t like school at all, but I could not get a B,” says Stone. “I’m not a perfectionist. I was only in school until sixth grade, and then I was home-schooled. Whatever I could control at that time, I felt like I needed to control, which I don’t feel like so much anymore.”
Ask them what they took away from working together, and both seem a little bashful. “It’s so weird to compliment each other,” says Garfield, but with a little urging, he does it anyway. “Oh, boy. A lot. I learned so much. I learned about joy from Em. I learned how work can be — sorry, I’m getting a little bit serious here — I learned how important joy is within a work environment. And when you’re joyous and feeling confident, you can give your best.”
Stone, who wrapped the fall release Gangster Squad with Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling, says she too “learned so much. The level of preparation he comes with is staggering. He moves with you and gives you whatever you need to reach that place. He’s the opposite of an island. So many actors are out for themselves, and that’s the last thing he is. He’s also a total (expletive).”
“She’s a complete (expletive),” says Garfield.
Now, the two are adjusting to headlining a blockbuster. They’ve hop-scotched around the globe, promoting Spider-Man and eliciting the kind of attention neither had tasted before. Stone, with her penchant for zingers and wisecracks, seems like the least angsty person you could meet, but admits that she’s a little freaked out by the possibility of being a massive summer tentpole’s female lead, as opposed to part of an ensemble with The Help.
“I didn’t know this at the time, but this part of it is the biggest challenge. The aftermath. The anonymity loss. Your entire life has changed. My life changed doing the movie. I’ve had an anxiety since I was a kid, and I learned in therapy early on that I’m not supposed to be fatalistic. That’s where my brain goes. I’ve been taught to not think about these things, to not shoot myself into the future, and to not taking parts because it might change my life,” says Stone.
Garfield, despite the attention Social Network garnered, has stayed fairly low-key, recently finishing a Tony-nominated turn on Broadway in Death of a Salesman.
“I occasionally have someone going ‘Where do I know you from?’ It’s begun to be more, because people are more aware of this movie,” says Garfield. “I feel the exact same way as Em. My only hesitation in taking this on was the life effect that it would have. But here we are. So we’ll see. It’s a weird experience to have. It seems like certain people are good at it or welcome it or entertain it. It’s invasive, but you can’t complain. It is what it is. We knew walking in that it was a possibility, and you can privately freak out and, in public, be thankful that you can act for a living.”
“I completely agree,” says Stone. “I’m going to go to bed.”
“The paparazzi can’t get into your bed. Unless you date one,” says Garfield, causing Stone to laugh and cover her face in mock (or perhaps real) horror.
And while on the subject of dating, how do Garfield and Stone address their real-life situation?
“Hey!” says Stone, with a chortle.
“We’re not together in real life!” jokes Garfield. “It’s weird because of that question. We don’t talk about anything personal. That’s just the way it is. Right now, we’re just actors. Em will soon be a producer, too. It’s just something that’s personal, and this is work, really. Even though this interview is a genuine connection.”
Webb won’t go there, either. “Oh, I don’t know, and I’m not going to comment on that,” he says. “I don’t think they’re interested in contributing to celebrity culture. They like acting more than they like publicity. They’re private people.”
And that’s why Stone carefully, and sweetly, explains her unwillingness to discuss Garfield.
“There’s such a great sense of comfort in knowing that the only thing you have control over is what you say. People can say and do all they want. If it never comes out of your own mouth, you still get to keep that semblance of what is sacred to you,” says Stone. “You can’t undo things.”
“It’s pretty simple,” says Garfield.
Yeah, I think I've had enough of this couple, lol. They're still cute, though. I guess you can use this as a TASM discussion post if you want!