One can only imagine the kind of emotional and spiritual journey Andrew Garfield has been on over the past couple of years, filming Martin Scorsese’s Silence and Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge back-to-back, in which he plays characters from different times who are both men driven by their faith.
In Hacksaw Ridge, he plays Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who became the first conscientious objector to win the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor for saving lives on the battlefield during World War II despite his refusal to carry a weapon. In Silence, he plays a Jesuit priest who travels to 17th-century Japan to promote Christianity and locate his mentor, who’s gone missing.
It’s the latter film we’re itching to know more about considering it’s been a passion project for Scorsese for decades, and because we haven’t seen or heard much of anything about it save for a couple of images. It’s due in theaters on December 23.
“It’s meditative and brutal simultaneously,” Garfield told Fandango when we asked whether it was also a violent movie at times like Hacksaw Ridge. “It’s a very mysterious film and I can’t quite put it into words. Every time me and Marty would try to get to the bottom of its themes and what the character is going through, we would wind up talking for two to three hours, and every time there would be five minutes of silence at the end because we had exhausted the conversation and had no answers, only more questions. Then he’d look at me and go, ‘Okay kid, until next time…'” [Laughs]
Knowing the novel on which Silence is based features a specific kind of Japanese death called “anazuri,” which involves being hanged upside down, we asked Garfield to explain more. “There is a lot of violence in it, but it’s done in a very different way,” he said. “It’s a very specific type of brutality that was being done reluctantly, and yet with this Japanese eloquence — it had a real seduction about it. It’s really fascinating… but I don’t want to say too much until you see it. You see it and then we’ll talk about it.”
One thing Garfield is anxious to talk about, though, is just how enriched his life has become since filming with both Gibson and Scorsese.
“Being in the artistic act with both [Mel Gibson and Martin Scorsese] has just been a joy and a great privilege of my life so far, especially for Marty with it being such a passion project for him,” he said. “That he’s been trying to make it for 30-odd years. There’s something very humbling about being on that journey with him, even if I was only involved for two-and-a-half to three years.”
Garfield went on to explain how he had an exceptional amount of time to prepare for Silence, which only helped inform his performance on Hacksaw Ridge even more.
“I had a whole year to spend preparing for [Silence],” he said. “I got to spend a lot of time with Marty and with Jesuit priests; one in particular being Father James Martin, who’s become a real mentor to me and a spiritual director for me, basically. Teaching me about all things Jesuit in a visceral way, not just an intellectual way. In a ‘lived’ way. I just fell in love with the whole process of what it is to be a Jesuit priest, and I took that experience directly into working with Mel [Gibson] and in trying to get under the skin and into the heart of Desmond Doss.”
We’ll have more with Garfield leading up to the November 4 release of Hacksaw Ridge. Silence, meanwhile, arrives in limited release on December 23 and will expand in January.