Andrew Garfield usually does not talk about his private life publicly, but the Hacksaw Ridge actor revealed that his mother died just before he started filming Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tick, Tick... Boom! Her death just before the coronavirus pandemic began was a major influence on Garfield's performance in the movie. Tick, Tick... Boom! is Miranda's first film as director and is based on the late Jonathan Larson's semi-autobiographical musical of the same name.
Garfield, 38, called his performance an "honoring" of his mother. "She is someone who showed me where I was supposed to go in my life. She set me on a path. We lost her just before COVID, just before we started shooting, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer," Garfield told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday. "So, for me, I was able to continue her song on the ocean and the wave of Jonathan's songs."
The Social Network star did not even want the production to end, because it gave him an outlet for his grief. "The privilege of my life has been being there for my mother, being the person that gave her permission when she was ready," Garfield said. "We had a very amazing connection, and now an audience will know her spirit in an unconscious way through Jon, which I just find so magical and beautiful."
Garfield was "hesitant" to talk about his mother's death, but the actor understood this was a universal situation. He recalled spending her final moments with her, getting to read her her favorite poems and join his father and brother in taking care of her. People in his life have died before, but losing his mother was a different experience.
"It's the person that gives you life no longer being here," Garfield said. "Nothing can prepare you for that kind of cataclysm. For me, everything has changed: Where there was once a stream, there's now a mountain; where there was once a volcano, there's now a field. It's a strange head trip."
Although his mother is gone, Garfield noted that her "essence" is still alive in him, in a way that is "even stronger" than before. "For me, it only comes when one can accept the loss, and it's so hard for us to do that in our culture because we're not given the framework or the tools to," he told the Times. "We're told to be in delusion and denial of this universally binding thing that we're all going to go through at some point, and it's fascinating to me that this grand adventure of death is not honored."
Garfield plays Larson in the film, which will be released on Netflix on Nov. 12. Larson died at 35 in January 1996, just before the first Off-Broadway preview performance of Rent. The 1996 musical won Larson a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and three Tony Awards. Larson wrote Tick, Tick... Boom! as a one-man play in 1990, and it was re-worked into a three-actor play for its Off-Broadway premiere in 2001. The film adaptation also stars Vanessa Hudgens and Alexandra Shipp.