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Hollywood star Andrew Garfield’s spiritual journey: ‘I want to know how to live’

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/30/16

From The Los Angeles Times, the star of “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Silence” opens up:

Garfield is a young man who feels things. Deeply. During a leisurely conversation at a vegetarian Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood, the 33-year-old British actor speaks often of “welling up.” It happened recently, he says, at the first public screening of “Silence” when during a Q&A Scorsese recalled telling Pope Francis that Garfield spent so much time preparing to play a Jesuit priest that he could easily be ordained. (“It just brought back the sincere feeling of ‘Maybe I could do this,’” Garfield says. “Hearing Marty say that opened something up in me.”) And it happened early this year when he watched Mel Gibson, who directed Garfield in the war drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” counter a jab from Ricky Gervais onstage at the Golden Globes. Responding to Gervais’ question about something he said while inebriated, Gibson said, “I don’t know. Ask the guy who said it. It wasn’t me.” “That’s a man seven years sober that knows himself and knows there’s a demon there,” Garfield says. “I just burst into tears when he said that.” That kind of deep-seated empathy is plainly evident in Garfield’s work in both “Hacksaw,” in which he plays Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in combat as a medic during World War II, as well as “Silence.” In Scorsese’s film, a gaunt Garfield portrays a priest grappling with a flagging faith while on a mission in 17th century feudal Japan. Both roles, Garfield says, deal with men in touch with the self-sacrificing Jesus Christ archetype that “lives within each of us.” Preparing for “Silence,” Garfield communed with that symbol of Jesus by asking himself — and Jesus — probing questions while going through a 30-day structured retreat called the Spiritual Exercises. The meditative course had Garfield contemplating every aspect of Jesus’ life, from birth to resurrection, asking questions, waiting for answers, entering into conversation. Garfield filled up five journals with his findings. (The actor doesn’t align himself with a particular faith.) …But he’s also a big-picture guy whose favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Frank Capra’s dark fable about disappointment, community and second chances. It’s a film he watches this time every year — in a proper theater, mind you, usually the Everyman in London’s Hampstead neighborhood — because its story asks the one question Garfield regularly asks himself: How do you live a full life of joy within the hand you’ve been dealt? “That’s what I want to know,” Garfield says. “I want to know how to live.”

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