One of the most devastating and powerful films coming out this fall is director Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, in which Andrew Garfield – fresh out of the Amazing Spider-Man movies – plays Dennis Nash, a young single father who loses his job and, along with his mother (Laura Dern) and son (Noah Lomax), faces eviction from their Florida family home. When he gets a chance to work for the stone-hearted real estate magnate (Michael Shannon) who repossessed the house, Nash sees it as a way to get his home back – but begins to realize that he has made a deal with the devil.
Garfield gives a superb performance as an everyday, honest working man who sees that the American Dream is a lie and that he can only claim a sliver of it at the cost of his own soul. Even though the movie takes place in the immediate aftermath of the banking and housing crisis that nearly brought the U.S. to its knees, its impact is just as searing five years later. We spoke with Garfield about delving into the role and how it felt to be out of the shadow of Spider-Man.
Can you imagine yourself in the scenario that your character, Nash, finds himself in?
Yeah, I think that was my job that I had to do in this film. So yeah, I did that as much, as best as I could. And I think, you know, when I read the script, I got to that eviction scene on page 30 and for some reason – well, not for some reason – I just started crying. It was very deep and just hit me in a very visceral way. I’ve never been through that. I’ve never been evicted. But I do know what it feels like to be exiled, I do know what it feels like to be deemed worthless, I do know what it feels like to be shut out of my life and to be ostracized by a system that’s supposed to be serving me. I think we all know what this is, somehow, so I think that’s why it’s an important story and an important film.
What kind of research did you do into the actual industry?
My instinct was to spend as much time as possible with people who had been through it, who have been through the thing that I am trying to live out in the film. So yeah, I spent a few weeks down in Florida with families who are going through the thing that Dennis is going through. And it’s just devastating to be around and so vital that we pay attention and see how the system isn’t serving anyone – the people who are doing the evicting aren’t happy, the people being evicted are definitely not happy. It’s a system and a society that we’re in that is setting us up against each other and tearing us apart from each other.
You know, the idea of community is long gone, as far as I can see, in a massive way in this country. In fact, in order to be successful, to be deemed of value and of worth, you are asked – as this film depicts – to trample on your brother, to trample on your fellow man. That’s when you’re going to be deemed worthy and valuable. It’s a scary psychology. It’s a scary mindset. You know, I think about The Wolf of Wall Street and stories like that and how big companies from Wall Street bought out theaters to watch and celebrate the excess and the greed and the lack of consideration for other people that that movie is kind of trying to show and not glorify, I believe. But I think this is the flipside of that. This is the human cost of the excess and the greed and the dog-eat-dog competitive system that we are being forced to live in.
This is the first movie we’ve seen you in since you completed the last Spider-Man film. Any sense that you are putting the rest of your career back into play now that you don’t have to worry about making a third one?
I don’t really know what you mean...
In other words, with Spider-Man, it’s like they were coming out pretty fast and furious. But now you have a chance to breathe and get into some other stuff.
Well, yeah, five years of one character and dedication to something that I really cared about – so thankful that I got to do that, you know. And I’m really glad that it’s over and I’m excited about what’s next. I don’t really know what’s next. I try not to think about it all that much. I try to just follow where my heart wants to go and hope that I can trust that, you know.
99 Homes is directed Ramin Bahrani from his and Amir Naderi's screenplay and story and stars Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Tim Guinee and Laura Dern.
Ruthless and charismatic businessman, Rick Carver (Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon), is making a killing by repossessing homes and gaming the real estate market. When he evicts Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father trying to care for his mother (Academy Award nominee Laura Dern) and young son (newcomer Noah Lomax), Nash becomes so desperate to provide for his family that he goes to work for Carver – the very man who left them homeless in the first place. Carver promises Nash a way to regain his home and earn security for his family, but slyly seduces him into a lifestyle of wealth and glamour. It is a deal-with-the-devil that comes with an increasingly high cost. On Carver’s orders, Nash must evict families from their homes – an undertaking that grows more brutal and dangerous than he ever imagined.
99 Homes hits theaters on September 25, 2015.