Andrew Garfield Explains Why He Plays So Many Religious Characters

It's been five years since Andrew Garfield delivered his powerhouse performances in the religious double feature of "Silence" and "Hacksaw Ridge." These two films came from Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson, both Catholic directors who have helmed other films about the life of Christ. Yet now — over and above his collaborations with these two filmmakers — Garfield finds himself lining up other projects that deal with religious subject matter.

One of those is "Under the Banner of Heaven," a Mormon murder mystery bound for FX on Hulu. The other is "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is in theaters now.

While promoting "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," Garfield spoke with Collider about what draws him to characters who are "defined by their faith or loss of it." Here is what he said:

"It's mysterious, isn't it? We are drawn to what we're drawn to and we love what we love. So, for me, I guess I have this endless curiosity towards, you know, the spiritual dimension of being alive. You know, the fact that we're all going to die. That fascinates me. And how do we get ready for that? Because it's coming.

"And that's what spirituality is for me, I think. It's a kind of awareness of the finite nature of being here. And making sense and meaning out of it while we are here. And where do the main world religions get it right? Where do they go astray? Obviously, in this film, there's a lot of going astray. There's a lot of delusion and a misinterpretation of the gospel of Christianity, specifically."

'Life and Death ... and What's More Vital?'

Storytellers often talk about raising the stakes, and for Garfield part of the appeal of revisiting spiritual territory seems to be tied to that, since there are ultimately no greater stakes than life and death. He continued:

"For me, it's a very fertile ground that is endlessly interesting. Because if you're dealing with spirituality, if you're dealing with faith, then you're really dealing with life and death. And what's more vital? What's a greater question?"

In "Silence" Garfield plays a Jesuit missionary in 17th-century Japan, and in "Hacksaw Ridge" he plays a Seventh-day Adventist who becomes a World War II hero while serving as a medic. "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" sees him playing televangelist Jim Bakker, who was convicted of fraud and imprisoned in the late 1980s.

These roles and his upcoming one in "Under the Banner of Heaven" traverse different time periods and center on religious characters who are both upright and unscrupulous. However, they're united by Garfield's recurring interest in matters of faith on film.

I don't know Garfield's religious persuasion or if he even has one, but back in 2016, Amy Adams — who comes from a Mormon background herself — did an artist-on-artist interview with him for Variety, where they touched on some of the same questions as Collider. Discussing his year-long preparation for "Silence," which included not only growing a beard but also undergoing guided spiritual meditation from Jesuit consultant Father James Martin, Garfield admitted that he went Method to the point of feeling like a Christian himself:

"You imagine yourself into the life of Christ, enough so that ... I have an actual relationship to Jesus ... I say that with an awareness of the weirdness of it."

Say what you will about religion, but that's some serious dedication for an actor.