“Because of the character,” he says, plainly. “That character is, like, in me, at the bottom of me. I had no choice. I thought I did. For a month, I kind of convinced myself that I could say no to it. But at the end of that month, I was like, no, I have to do this. That voice, that 3-year-old voice, was like, ‘You’re going to do this, and you’re going to give it your all, because this is our life.’ ”
He uses the plural our but the singular life, as though he shares one backstory with Spider-Man’s everyday alter ego, Peter Parker — a role he’s called “every skinny kid’s dream.” And in a way, he does: They are two young kids who had a rough go of it in school, who never looked much like superheroes, who suddenly have a chance to do something great. It’s his story, and he had to tell it.
Nevertheless, he’s petrified. “Um, a lot. I’m feeling a lot,” he answers when asked how he feels about what’s about to happen to him. “It’s a scary thing — this movie, this big ol’ film.”
For a skinny kid, Garfield suddenly feels very heavy.
Every comic book hero has an origin story — a tale of how they transformed from average citizen into a superhuman being. The story of how Garfield came to be a hero could’ve been penned by Spider-Man scribe Stan Lee himself, so perfect it seems.
Garfield was born in Los Angeles, the city of film sets and gold stars in the cement, to an American father and a British mother. When he was 3, his family moved to Surrey, England, where he would spend the bulk of his happy, middle-class upbringing. That same year, his parents got him a Halloween costume that would change his life: a Spider-Man suit.
He loved the character from then on, but it was more than just a fan-boy affection for a butt-kicking action hero; he recognized a bit of himself in Peter Parker, the undersized protagonist who got picked on at school. While Peter’s strength was science, Garfield excelled at gymnastics, thanks to arachnid-like agility. But he also suffered from eczema, a source of embarrassment when he was a teen.
“Being a teenager I found really, really difficult and painful and anxiety-inducing because it was all a big popularity contest,” he says. “There was a lot of self-questioning and self-doubt.”
But Spider-Man, he says, made him braver.