By Dallas King
Andrew Garfield is currently riding a career-high following his win for Best Actor (Musical/Comedy) at this year’s Golden Globe Awards for his role as Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick…Boom!” and conquering the worldwide box office with his brief but enjoyable appearance in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Many have been wondering all season long, but with this recent surge of success, the question now is: can he ride this wave to not just an Oscar nomination but a potential win for Best Actor?
Playing the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright of “Rent,” Jonathan Larson is Garfield’s finest on-screen performance in an already stellar career. From the opening bars of “30/90,” it is a revelatory turn where he displays an impressive vocal range many did not know (and apparently he didn’t) he even possessed with an unmatched level of physicality and endearing emotional heft. He perfectly captures Larson’s neurosis and struggles to achieve greatness on the cusp of his 30th birthday in 1990s New York City during a time when the AIDS epidemic was claiming the lives of his young friends. Honestly, such an acclaimed performance from Garfield should not really have come as a surprise to anyone. A self-confessed theatre kid, he is a Tony Award winner for “Angels In America” but to this point had never starred in a musical before.
He was the favorite to win the Musical/Comedy category at the Globes but has often been seen as the lesser contender when compared to the two frontrunners in Best Actor – Drama at the Golden Globes, Will Smith for “King Richard” and Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power Of The Dog.” Garfield has been holding his own and doing well with the critics’ groups as he’s been picking up momentum (He has four other wins so far to go along with his Golden Globe win) as we head into the final stretch before Oscar nominations are announced on February 8th. However, the road to the Academy Awards is always a marathon and not a sprint. Will Smith was heralded as the frontrunner and favorite following “King Richard’s” premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. He may have backed that up with a Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Drama, but he has several contenders nipping at his heels, including Garfield.
Let’s be honest, we all know that when it comes to the voters, one would argue it should be about who gave the best performance that year, but that is simply not the case. One famously remembers when Eddie Murphy looked like a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor for “Dreamgirls” but lost to Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine .” Rumour has it the negative response to “Norbit” released in the run-up to the voting deadline seemingly turned opinion against him. Voters can be swayed by many things when it comes to putting an X next to someone’s name on the ballot. It can be how the actor is viewed within the industry and the public, their body of work outside the nominated film, and also how well they play the Oscar campaign, appearing at festivals, Q&As, etc.
Garfield has a lot going for him in that respect. He is well-liked within the industry, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” allowed him to showcase a different side of his talents while portraying a real person (always a plus for voters). Similar to the current wave of support for “West Side Story,” the film’s links to the recently departed Stephen Sondheim will play well with Academy voters. Plus, he received plaudits for not one but four fantastic performances this year. Rave reviews were posted for his turn as Jim Bakker in “The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” and his gonzo performance as No One Special in “Mainstream.” The character of No One Special is easily one of the most toxic and obnoxious screen characters of recent years, yet it’s a testament to Garfield’s immeasurable talent he makes the despicable character utterly magnetic to watch.
One would argue that Garfield’s most significant rival to the Academy Award is, in fact, not Will Smith but another actor who is having a banner year in his career: Benedict Cumberbatch. He has also received critical acclaim for multiple performances in 2021 including, “The Mauritanian,” “The Courier,” “The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain,” and the one he will be nominated for, “The Power Of The Dog.” Coincidentally, Cumberbatch also appeared in the year’s highest-grossing film alongside Andrew Garfield, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” With both likely to be nominated for their roles in Netflix movies, it will be interesting to see how the streaming service pushes both actors over the next few weeks.
However, what should swing it in favor for Garfield is arguably the most committed performance he delivered in 2021: his consistent and unwavering denial that he would appear in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” throughout his various press tours. Following his BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated turn in 2010’s “The Social Network,” including the epic “You’d better lawyer up asshole!” speech, he was thrust into the limelight as the spandex-wearing, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man with two feature films in the earlier 2010s. After his brief dalliance with Hollywood blockbusters, Garfield walked away and went down the same path as fellow Brits made famous by a major franchise, Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson, that led to exciting projects such as the underrated “Under The Silver Lake.” He would also work with Martin Scorsese on “Silence” and gain his first Oscar nomination for his riveting portrayal of American pacifist and combat medic Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge.”
In recent years, he has been very outspoken about his disappointment, even heartbreak, on how the end of his tenure as Spider-Man played out. So it was not always a guarantee he would return to the role. Sony and Marvel Studios obviously were keeping their cards close to their chest so as to allow fans the chance to experience any possible reveal in the cinema. This, of course, did not stop the near incessant online and social media speculation. Forget the frustration of directors continually being asked their opinions on Marvel movies. Imagine attempting to promote not one but three different film projects that you are incredibly proud of, and every interview involves someone asking if you are in the new Spider-Man movie! To his credit, Garfield dealt with every single question with humility, good humor, and a dedication to keeping up the pretense. He recently spoke about it in an interview for The Wrap, “It was like this massive game of Werewolf that I was playing with journalists and with people guessing, and it was very fun.” It was an impressive method performance that he lived in all year.
The end result was cheers of unspoiled delight from audiences able to enjoy the moment he appeared on the big screen again as Peter Parker. The joy was replicated in his performance as he was clearly having a blast at being able to tie up loose ends with his character’s arc and share some touching moments with his fellow Spider-Men, Tobey Maguire, and Tom Holland. It was the icing on the cake for what was a banner year for the 38-year-old actor. Having found closure as Spider-Man, it would be fitting to see him close out the awards season by hearing his name read out on Oscar night for his magnetic turn as Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick…Boom!.” It’s a performance that resonates on a deep level with not just actors, but any artist who has had an unquenchable thirst to create and change the world through their art. Such qualities are inhabited by Garfield himself, making him a lovable on-screen presence who audiences want to see succeed and rightfully rewarded for his dedication and impactful performances. He would make a worthy Best Actor winner on an extra ordinary Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Do you think Andrew Garfield will win Best Actor at the Oscars this year? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and be sure to check out the NBP Team’s current Oscar predictions here.
You can follow Dallas and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @DallasKIng1138