Andrew Garfield is often recognized for portraying adorably awkward and charming characters, but all of that is changing with his new role in the film 99 Homes. It's an emotionally charged and heartbreaking two hours, telling the story of a Florida contractor named Dennis (Andrew Garfield) who is evicted from his home and works for the suit who did it to him (Michael Shannon) in order to get his family back on their feet. To no one's surprise, he absolutely kills it onscreen.
Andrew stopped by BuzzFeed New York to channel his inner Dennis by attempting to assemble an Ikea chair while answering our hard-hitting questions. And because he's cool as hell, he took off his jacket and shoes and got down to business. Watch Andrew hilariously struggle (and succeed!) at tackling the task so many twentysomethings know all too well.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Andrew Garfield: That’s a question that I’m actually asking myself. I don’t know where to live because my heart is in so many places in the universe. Well, in the world. My heart isn’t on Mars. But my heart is in England, where my family are and the majority of my closest friends are. But then on the West Coast of America I have the ocean, and I need the ocean in my life. That’s where I surf and I have very close people there as well that I adore. And New York City has great, fond, lovely memories — and also the problem is, I don’t like cities. And I’ve just named three cities. So I’m really having major issues about where I belong.
Have you ever worked at a job you hated?
AG: Yes. I did a lot of odd jobs when I was a struggling actor. I worked at Starbucks and I really liked that. I really liked Starbucks.
Did people ask you for secret menu items?
AG: I didn't even know there were secret menu items! Like what?
Cookie Dough Frappuccinos, Birthday Cake Frappuccinos, Cotton Candy Frappuccinos...
AG: We were in England, so. You guys are crazy! I liked working there. [Screws in a part on the chair] I'm literally going to kill myself if this doesn't go in.
So you don’t want to work at Ikea, is what you’re saying?
AG: Nooo. But god, I’ve spent many a breakup in Ikea. Just a surefire way, if you don’t have the courage to break up with someone, just suggest a trip to Ikea, and it’ll do it for you! That should be the Ikea commercial.
No, but I worked at a clothing store called Reiss in London. Reiss was terrible because not a lot of people came to the store, so I would sit down a lot because there was nothing to do. And my boss was like, What are you doing? And I’m like, Well, having a sit-down. I’m reading the Vogue magazine. And she was like, Well there’s so much to be doing. And I’m like, What? No one’s here!
[Works on chair] You know what, I’m gonna cheat this. Sorry, Ikea, I’m cheating. Because you’re a nightmare.
So I sat down a lot and she would never let me, and she’d be like, Separate all things on the rack six inches apart with a ruler! Anyway, I was fired, because I would just always sit down. And I argued. But then I got another job at the Wigmore Hall, which is a classical concert hall in London — I really liked that! But then I actually did go through a pretty grief-ridden breakup and again I would sit down a lot. I would find ways to sit, whether it was in the toilet cubicle — or, the stockroom became my place of choice to just cry and grieve the loss of my first love.
If you had to trade lives with one of the characters you've played, who would you pick: Spider-Man, Eduardo from The Social Network, or Dennis from 99 Homes?
AG: That’s tough! None of them. I don’t wanna. Do I have to? I would pick Spider-Man, because I do like responsibility, I do like helping people, and being of use — as you can see. And I like pressure, and I kind of like the difficulty and confusion of being misunderstood.
There’s something kind of nice about that, and [it's] important to not be totally liked by everyone all the time, and obviously Spider-Man goes through that as a teenage boy. I love that it speaks to all of our ordinariness and all of our extraordinariness. So, I just love that. It’s like we have a duty to be simply who we are, in a simple way, as human beings. And we also have a duty to this very extraordinary thing we are gifted with, and we all have it, we all have some genius, we all have some extraordinary gift that we’re supposed to bring to the world. But none of them — I’d rather just be me!
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would you say to your 16-year-old self?
AG: I would probably just say keep going, like, stay true to yourself. I was pretty lonely as a teenager. I was on a different track than my mates, who are still my closest mates in the world. Because I looked much younger than everyone else, I couldn't get into the pubs they were all getting into when I was a teenager. So they all started drinking, and I was turned away at the door because I looked like a 12-year-old. And it kind of sucked, to be honest — it was really hard just to watch them all bonding over this new thing and I just wasn’t interested in it, I guess. I just wanted to keep skateboarding and being stupid. I was just like a perpetual child. So I’d probably just say, "Ah, no, it’s OK. You’ll grow facial hair at some point. Just keep going!"
[Continues to work on chair] OK, look! At least a part of it is done! I like it because it’s so distracting. Because then I'm just talking and I'm not worrying about what I'm saying. It’s actually pretty nice. This is actually going to be a prerequisite to every interview I do. From now on, I have to be building an Ikea chair.
Have you ever been mistaken for a doppelgänger?
AG: [laughs] I don't want to talk about this! It makes me kind of embarrassed. Some sweet girls from Japan, I believe, would give me pictures of Bambi the deer. And I didn't really understand what that was about, but I think they were thinking that if there was ever a live-action version of Bambi, that I would play Bambi.
Andy Murray — my friends take the piss out of me because they think I look like the tennis player Andy Murray. I genuinely don't think I do.
What’s one thing on your bucket list you haven’t been able to do yet that you want to do?
AG: I’m 32 years old! I don’t have a bucket list. Um, gosh, it’s a strange thing; my dreams are very strange and very weird. Very weird things I dream of doing — and it’s not, like, bungee jumping off the highest place in New Zealand. The bucket list is hard. I really want to live a full life, a life of meaning. So I think that’s a constant bucket list. I feel like I’m always in the bucket list because every moment is so fleeting and vital and important.
And again, it kind of relates to that seriousness thing of relax and just let yourself enjoy the wind and the air. I have a real hunger to understand what life is about, and for, and I get lost in that. So maybe my bucket list is to be more present, and maybe breathe a little deeper and notice how beautiful the world is and how beautiful people are — outside of, you know, Donald Trump and the other sociopaths out there.
Puppies or kittens?
AG: Puppies! Well, only because I'm allergic to kittens. And I don't know, just puppies. That's a BuzzFeed question right there. That is a full-on BuzzFeed question.
It feels like we’re just hanging out, it’s really nice. I'll probably regret everything I’ve said. But I'm happy, right now, in this moment.
It’s going to be totally fine.
The film is based in Orlando — have you ever been there in real life?
AG: Well, first of all, I went there as a kid for family holidays to Disney and all that. You know, what I thought was good stuff. I loved it as a kid, it was heaven. Roller coasters and water parks and miniature golf and excessive amounts of bloomin' onions and Bennigan's. But I recently went for research for 99 Homes, this particular subject matter of eviction and the economic crisis and the housing crisis — specifically in 2010 Orlando when Florida was hit particularly badly, and I just met a lot of families who lived down the street from Disney, and worked at Disney. A lot of the guys that I was speaking to would get often employed by Disney World and just had pretty rotten things to say about it, kinda behind-the-scenes stuff. And ironically, the motel I was staying at, which is based on the motel the Nash family stays at in the film, was five minutes away from Disney World. So you have all these families who have been exiled from the American dream — exiled from, you know, feeling worthy in the society they're in, five minutes away from one of the main symbols of what it is to live the American dream. The excess and the "everything’s fine," while, you know, five minutes away there are families who have been put in the most impossible circumstances to make ends meet.
But I'm really excited for people to see the film, because it's a part of culture that we don't want to look at. Everyone has their own problems, and we’re all dealing with our own stuff, but I believe we were built to be empathic, we were built to be full of compassion and love for our fellow man, and we're in an economic system right now that is kind of set up to pit us against each other.
So, yeah, I like escaping as much as the next person, and I need it in my life, but also in order to feel like I'm living a life of meaning, I need to be involved in things that are life-giving. And that's why I'm so excited about the uprisings that are happening around the country that are economic rights–related, or gay rights–related, or transgender rights–related, or feminist-related — anything that's bridging the gap between people and calling for a more decent system, and a more decent way of perceiving each other. I'm really excited about that.
What's the last album you bought?
AG: Oooh, OK. Raury! A young kid from Atlanta, check him out. He’s very soulful. I think the album is Indigo Child. He feels like a really exciting part of a next generation of artists — again, cares about people, cares about love and compassion and the idea that there’s no separation between me and this chair and me and another person. Anyway, Raury. He's really powerful and really beautiful.
A lifetime supply of chocolate or pizza?
What's the last book you read?
AG: Gosh. I have a problem with reading, I get so interested in so many things that I'm doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that. So right now I'm reading a lot about the next project I'm doing, which is about a guy Desmond Doss, who is an amazing person who lived an amazing life, so I'm reading a lot about him. I'm reading a lot about World War II, and I'm also reading about grief. There's a book that a friend gave me about grief and praise which is very beautiful, very, very difficult to read because it's about how we've lost our sense of what grief is in our culture, and how to grieve — you know what, I loved Inside Out. And talking about sadness being the partner feeling to joy, and you can’t have one without the other. I just love this consciousness that I think the mainstream culture is coming into, because we’ve exiled grief, we’ve exiled these emotions we’ve deemed as negative for so long. I think they're coming back into fashion, and I'm really happy about that. Because there’s no such thing as a negative emotion as far as I'm concerned — they’re all needed. Oh, there’s another book I'm reading called The Soul’s Code, which is beaaauttiful, which is speaking to this idea that we all have inherent gifts.
Is there anything else specifically you want to do in your career? Do you have a big goal?
AG: Nahh, I’m done. I’m over it. Um, SO much. Unfortunately. So many scary things. I'm scared every time I go to act. But I'm scared of everything, really.
Every time I go to start something new, all the voices come in saying, Who do you think you are, and why do you think you have any right to be making a chair right now? You're gong to fail at this chair-making and everyone’s going to see how wrong you are!
You’re doing great!
AG: Thank you! It will collapse. So, I love storytelling and I love people and humanity and making sense of what we’re all doing here, so I love acting, I absolutely love it. But I would like to be more involved. I produced 99 Homes, so that felt really good to be more hands-on with the process from the beginning, but that still wasn’t enough. It kind of makes me think maybe, Oh, you need to try to direct, just because life is short and also you never know, maybe you’ll enjoy it and maybe you’ll be good at it, and maybe you won't be! And then you’ll know and you won’t try again. But the hesitancy and the not doing is what scares me the most. The bucket list is just doing, doing, doing, doing.
And also I love young people. I'd like to be involved with young people and teaching about acting maybe, or theater, because theater was my first passion. Without my first teacher bringing me to that, I would not be building this chair with you right now. I'd be somewhere strung out, on some awful class-A substance — homeless, probably. I don’t know what I'm talking about. But I'd love to give opportunity to young people who maybe don’t have the opportunity to explore whether this is something that they're called to. Those are the things that are kind in the forefront of my mind right now.