But just as Spider-Man belongs to the world, so, too, will Garfield. There’s the professional side of this public offering: His visage will appear, as Spidey, on the standard-issue action figures, lunchboxes and T-shirts, like the one I picked up in one of a dozen generic Times Square souvenir shops. Now when 3-year-olds — too young to have seen Spider-Man played by anyone else — don the red-and-blue webbed suit for Halloween, they’ll be going as him.
There’s a personal side of this free-for-all, too, and that’s the part Garfield is far less comfortable with. As the spotlight shines brighter and hotter on him, his face will appear, as his own, in tabloids and on gossip websites — an ugly reality he’s already gotten a taste of, thanks in large part to the offscreen relationship he maintains with his Amazing Spider-Man co-star Emma Stone.
The worst, however, is yet to come, and he knows it. He sees the train coming but is tied to the tracks — there are no web-slingers that can stop it, nor scalable skyscrapers tall enough to escape it. He knows, too, that he bought his own one-way ticket to stardom when he signed on to play one of the world’s most beloved characters. Still, he wants what everyone does: the right to (gasp!) a personal life. And, heeding the advice of experienced peers — like legendary director Mike Nichols, with whom he worked on the recent Broadway run of Death of a Salesman, which last month won the Tony for Best Revival and earned a nomination for Garfield — he plans to protect his privacy by any means necessary. “I’ll have to run against the rapids somehow,” he says, assuredly. “I’ll do it in whatever way I can.” Even if it means going out in public wearing the combination mullet wig/sunglasses/Fu Manchu mustache disguise he debuted on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in April.
To be fair, Garfield admits that he’s prone to worrying. Anxiety, like what he’s experiencing now, comes naturally. “I’m trying to be better about that, but I guess I’ve learned that I’m built that way or something,” he says. In fact, the only thing he’ll grant an interviewer in relation to Stone, steering well clear of romance, is that she helped him to lighten up on set. “In the screen test with Em, it immediately felt loose, and it felt playful, and it felt like we worked well together, and that turned out to be the case,” he says. “I was very thankful.”
Thankfulness is a sentiment that comes up frequently in any exchange with Garfield. Despite his reservations about impending stardom, he knows how fortunate he is to be in such an auspicious position, dichotomous though it may be. It’s fun, and it’s scary. It’s a blessing and a burden.
“I’ve been so lucky, and I’m appreciative of it; I don’t know how it could get any better than it’s been,” he says. “It’s every young boy’s dream to be Spider-Man, and I had the opportunity to do it. And someone after me will have it as well, and I can’t wait for that person to take it on.”