Andrew Garfield On The Grief He Experienced Following His Mother’s Passing - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Andrew Garfield On The Grief He Experienced Following His Mother’s Passing

The actor opened up about how his recent film helped him cope with such a profound loss, calling his grief for his late mother “unexpressed love.”

If you’re in the loop of Netflix binge-worthy watches, it’s likely that you’ve heard about tick, tick…BOOM! Despite having only just recently landed on the streaming platform, the film has become something of a pop culture phenomenon, amassing countless views and garnering rave reviews from critics and fans alike, most notably concerning Andrew Garfield’s performance as Jonathan Larson, the Rent lyricist and composer who died the same day as the musical’s debut. But as is so often the case with portrayals that transcend the screen and stay with you for some time, Garfield has opened up about how the role was more than just a character to him. Rather, it was one that helped him cope with the recent loss of his mother. 

During an appearance on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert asked the actor “how doing this show, or any show, and art itself helps you deal with grief.” Garfield was silent for some time as he composed himself, before sharing an extraordinarily heartfelt response about his own experience of loss. “I love talking about it, by the way, so if I cry, it’s…only a beautiful thing.” He continued, “This is all the unexpressed love. The grief that will remain with us until we pass because we never get enough time with each other, right? No matter if someone lives until 60, 15, or 99. So I hope this grief stays with me because it’s all the unexpressed love that I didn’t get to tell her. And I told her every day! We all told her every day, she was the best of us.”


Garfield’s mother, Lynn, died of pancreatic cancer in 2019. He went on to explain that it was thanks to his recent film that he was able to “step into this in a way where I could honour this incredible life of Jonathan Larson. He was taken far too soon. He died at the age of 35 on the night of the first preview of Rent off-Broadway in the New York Theatre Workshop, some strange twist of fate that he was taken that soon. And this film is kind of to do with that, it’s to do with this ticking clock that we all have. That we all know somewhere deep down that life is sacred, life is short, and we better just be here as much as possible with each other holding on to each other.”

Garfield added: “I got to sing Jonathan Larson’s unfinished song while simultaneously singing for my mother and her unfinished song. And I’m indebted to John, and I’m indebted to Lin-Manuel Miranda, I’m indebted to everyone who’s brought me to this place so I can honour the most beautiful person that I’ve ever experienced in my life through my art and use it as a way to heal, use it as a way to sew up the wounds.”

The closeness of Garfield’s relationship with his mother is clear, but in sharing his story, Garfield is encouraging others to feel such emotions like grief and loss and the sadness that comes with it, and to not shut them down. Rather, he speaks of the celebration of life and love, and the importance of acknowledging love for those closest to us daily. In an interview with GQ, he explained: “I find spiritual pursuit to be the only pursuit, really, for me, and that’s with my work and otherwise.” 

It’s a perspective that’s only come to be strengthened by his parent’s death. “There’s an acute awareness of just the ephemeral nature of this. And that is what gives it all meaning. I think the consideration of what’s going on behind everything is the only thing I’m interested in.”

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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