Andrew Garfield has revealed that acting in the movie Silence, in which he plays the role of a Jesuit priest and missionary, taught him a great deal about the person of Jesus Christ.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor, who recently starred in Hacksaw Ridge - another faith-based film - shared how he studied Christian writings to prepare for the film, and Jesuit priest Father James Martin served as a mentor for his journey.
"He gave me spiritual direction as if I were a Jesuit in training. It became a very personal journey for me," Garfield said. "It's almost like a 12-step program. In fact, it's the basis for a lot of 12-step programs, a long-form meditation and prayer spent imagining the life of Christ, story by story, gospel by gospel, and sitting with his teachings, sitting with Him as He discovers who He is in the wilderness, and really meditating upon His life and even crucifixion.
He added, "I was filled up with all this information and all this longing to spread the teachings of Christ, which I truly started to adore."
In a November interview with Time Magazine, Garfield opened up about the tremendous impact the film had on him - both personally and spiritually: "I was prepping for a year," he said. "I underwent this spiritually transformative process that St. Ignatius created-a retreat where you meditate and imaginatively walk with Jesus through his life, from birth to resurrection. My experience was very personal."
He added, "Hopefully we're dying on the cross every day and being resurrected in a truer way every day. That's the idea, for me-the old self being shed in order for the truer self to emerge."
While he is interested int he person of Jesus Christ, Garfield was quick to emphasize he does not identify with the Christian faith: "I'm not a Christian person," he told HR. "I consider myself pantheist, agnostic, occasionally atheist, and a little bit Jewish, but mostly confused."
The film, which hits theaters December 23, tells the story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Garfield and Adam Driver), who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor, played by Liam Neeson, who renounced the faith under torture at the hands of the Japanese regime.
Director Martin Scorsese, a devout Catholic, recently met with Pope Francis to discuss the film and has referred to "Silence" as his "passion project". The director posted the trailer to the highly anticipated film on his official Facebook page and said, "It's been a 28-year journey of mine to bring Shusaku Endo's story to theaters and now it's almost here."
The film was also screened before 300 Jesuit priests in Rome. James Martin, S.J., editor of America Magazine and a consultant for the film, reported that the Jesuits were deeply moved by the film. "You could hear a pin drop by the end."