‘The Social Network’s’ other Jewish star: Andrew Garfield [UPDATED]

Who said Jewish actors had to look like Woody Allen?

Andrew Garfield, the 27-year-old star of “The Social Network” is about to become something Jewish men have rarely been: a leading man.

It’s a role that’s in high demand: The L.A. born, England-raised actor plays a central role in Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Network’, about the creation of Facebook, and also stars in the screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s sci-fi bestseller “Never Let Me Go” co-starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan. And his next move, taking over the role of Spiderman for Sony’s $2.4 billion movie franchise, is likely to catapult his little-known status into superstardom.

When it was announced last July that Garfield would inherit the role of Spidey from actor Tobey Maguire, he was virtually unknown. He had appeared in bit parts in Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and the Robert Redford-directed “Lions for Lambs” but nothing commercial that showcased the classically-trained actor’s full emotional range (note: As pointed out in the comments, “Boy A” displayed the depth and range of his talent though it was little seen). That will change this weekend.

In ‘Social Network’, which arrives in theaters Friday, Garfield plays Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s best friend. The two eventually have a falling out and Saverin sues Zuckerberg for hundreds of millions of dollars. Up against the seething, callous coldness of Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg, Garfield’s Saverin becomes the emotional center of the film.

The son of an American father and British mother, according to Wikipedia, Garfield and was raised in a middle-class Jewish home in Surrey, England. He attended private school and a theater training program before being named to Variety’s “10 Actors to Watch” list in 2007.

He spends most of his time shuffling back-and-forth between England and Los Angeles, where, according to Blackbook Magazine, he has a girlfriend. He told the same magazine that he loves L.A. weather, the television show “The Wire” and regularly surfs and snowboards (though he’s better at snowboarding, he said).

About being asked to play Spiderman, Garfield recently told the Daily Beast’s Nicole Laporte:

“I’m one of millions and millions of guys who have been waiting for that phone call since they were 4-years-old—for someone on the other line to say, ‘Hey, is that so-and-so?’ Fill in your name here. ‘Would you like to pretend you’re Spider-Man professionally?’ So that was kind of the best phone call I’ve ever had. Or the best offer I’ve ever had. My 7-year-old self was leaping for joy within me. And my mid-twenty-self was leaping for joy externally.”

Even with such a promising trajectory, Garfield is trying to stay modest. “I don’t take it lightly,” he told Laporte. “I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, and waiting for everything to fall apart, which is an inevitability in someone who’s fatalistic in that way and can’t believe his good fortune.”

Yep, sounds pretty Jewish to me.

UPDATE: Garfield has since been nominated for a Tony award for playing Biff Loman, Willy Loman’s son in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” Again, his emotional effusiveness was noted. The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood wrote, “Andrew Garfield’s Biff has come in for some criticism that he is too young and fresh-looking to portray a man of 34 who has kicked around the country for years and even landed in jail. That seemed incidental to me, given the intense feeling he brings to this agonized character.

“The production rose to greatness,” Isherwood continued, “whenever Mr. Garfield and Mr. Hoffman were illuminating how this loving father and son were unable to shed the guilt and the ghosts of the past to bring into the light the natural, indelible affection between them and reached a fierce climax in the play’s penultimate scene, the final showdown between Willy and Biff… Mr. Garfield’s superlative performance brings a rush of emotional heat to the moment that seared itself into my memory, as the primal conflict between father and son at last reaches resolution.”

But The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane saw fit to criticize Garfield for his lachrymose portrayal of Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Lane writes:

Garfield was excellent as the hapless Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network,” and he still bears the mournful traces of a smart kid who had to agree to an out-of-court settlement. If anything, he is rather too mournful. I know that years of sappy cinema have left me lachrymose-intolerant, but I really couldn’t understand why Garfield’s Bambi eyes kept glinting with a mist of tears. Peter lives in Queens with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). His closest friend is a skateboard, which I guess is a step up from Mark Zuckerberg.


Garfield once explained his conscience-stricken complex to IndieLondon:

IndieLondon: Where does the guilt complex come from?

Andrew Garfield: Being Jewish and, yes, I’m sure it stems from being privileged. I was brought up in a middle class home. I went to private school. And I was always very aware of me not earning that. I got a very good lot in life – I have two very loving parents, and I have a loving older brother. I’ve had a lot of love, care and guidance in my life and I rebelled against that by being depressed and not wanting any kind of guidance. I didn’t want it. Everyone has that phase of naval gazing where they try and figure things out but I did it to an extreme. I had nothing to really struggle against apart from myself. I didn’t have to make money from an early age, I wasn’t sent out to support the family, I went to privileged schools, so even though I’ve been given all this kind of privilege I didn’t appreciate it as much as I probably should have.

So there you have it; being Jewish makes him misty eyed.

More on “The Social Network”

Mark Zuckerberg can’t handle his own spotlight

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook to get girls (just not Jewish girls)