Bleecker Street/Participant Media/Laurie Sparham (NEW YORK) — Andrew Garfield knows how rewarding it can be to tell an untold story. He brought us the little-known-yet-remarkable true story of war hero Desmond Doss in last year’s Hacksaw Ridge — which earned him an Oscar nomination. And now, he’s helping bring another true-life hero’s story to light in Breathe.
Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, a man who ends up paralyzed from the neck down after contracting polio in the 1950s. With his wife Diana by his side, he becomes an advocate for the severely disabled and helps develop a revolutionary wheelchair with a built-in ventilator.
“It’s really about how him not compromising his own life made so much change in other people’s,” Garfield says.
To get to know the real man behind the character, Garfield spoke with many who knew Robin. This included chats with Robin’s son, Jonathan Cavendish, who is a producer on the film, and Robin’s best friend, Colin Campbell, who is played by Ed Speleers in the film.
Garfield says he learned that humor was a major part of how Robin coped with his situation.
“I think the way he saw it was — I mean this is just me interpreting and theorizing, but — if God wasn’t gonna take him seriously then why should he take life seriously?” he says. “And I think funnily enough, he created a lot of meaning out of that stance.”
Seeing the love story between Robin and Diana made Garfield think about whether he would take care of a loved one in a similar situation.
“I believe if I was with the love of my life I would, yeah,” he says. “But, you never know, do you?”
Breathe also stars Claire Foy and Hugh Bonneville, and marks the directorial debut of Planet of the Apes motion capture acting pioneer Andy Serkis. It hits select theaters today.
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