A Man of Many Hats
Written by Kerry O’Donnell | Posted by: erin
Third-generation actor/writer/producer/director David J. Garfield was born to entertain — literally. “I started acting in the womb,’ he said in a recent interview. ‘My father rehearsed his soap opera roles and taught Shakespeare to my mother’s pregnant belly. So I popped out asking for a diaper commercial.”
Garfield, son of actor Kurt Garfield, is the founder of the New England film production company Open Heart Cinema and the post-production facility Make a Killing Films. His newest film, The Suitcase, is a suspense thriller that pays homage to Hitchcock’s visual style of story telling. It held its Boston-area premiere on July 25th in style — complete with red carpet, photographers, media interviews, limousines and a catered after-party with live music. While working on The Suitcase’s post-production, Garfield added The Fighter, Grown-Ups, Valediction, and Furry Vengeance to his acting résumé. Past film credits include Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, What Doesn’t Kill You, The Pink Panther 2, My Best Friend’s Girl, Wayne’s World, and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Garfield, raised in New York and California, now calls Chelmsford, MA his home. NewEnglandFilm.com had the opportunity to talk with Garfield and learn what drives his inner storyteller.
Kerry O’Donnell: How did your father’s career path influence your childhood?
David Garfield: My dad started acting, believe or not, in his late 30s, early 40s in New York where I was born. He progressed onto the Broadway stage by continually traveling around the New England area as a member of different acting companies, which paid for housing back then. I can remember Stratford, Connecticut for example. He eventually made it onto soap operas, commercials and movies. I remember he had a Dannon Yogurt commercial and a Crest commercial where he played a dentist, which was big money for us back then. He taught acting classes wherever we were as well, and when we got to California, he continued to do so at Cal Arts University, which is how I got in there and was able to attend classes even prior to being college-aged.
KO: When did you start acting?
Garfield: I officially started at five years old. I can remember acting for commercials, as well as whatever schools we lived near which had programs for drama or stage. I believe my first on stage performance was when I was around seven or eight in a reenactment of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
KO: What kind of experiences did you have as an actor while living in California?
Garfield: I was 19 when I made my last trip to California. I had gone out there four other times, not counting when I lived there as a kid. My first job was on an HBO show called First and Ten with Delta Burke. I was selected from a stadium of spectators, about 200 of us, to be a soda vendor. I bumped into some associates I had met previously, and was brought down on the field to meet the director, cinematographer, and O.J. Simpson.
Further experiences unfolded, allowing me to do several interesting jobs. A memorable one was working with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey on the first Wayne’s World movie. I did an impersonation of Garth for Dana that he said was scary accurate. It was a big deal for me since at the time he was a legendary impersonator from SNL.
I also worked closely with Keanu Reeves on Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. I was [the character] Bill’s photo double and Keanu came right up to me and introduced himself. “Keanu,” he said and shook my hand. I didn’t know what that meant as he walked away so a P.A. told me it was his name, like an Indian sounding name. I said “Oh I thought it was like a new buzzword they’re using, like, ‘Hey, it’s totally Keanu!’” Mr. Reeves plays bass guitar, as do I, so we hung out together in his trailer at lunch the following days and I brought my guitar with me to the set. Soon after that I was able to get my SAG eligibility, working with Jared Leto and Claire Danes on the pilot of My So-Called Life.
KO: How did you end up in New England?
Garfield: I was living on the West coast, but my mother, aunt, and cousins were all on the East coast, in New York. I wanted to come back closer to home. I got a job as a computer program developer in Rhode Island, which was close enough to New York. I immediately fell in love with New England.
KO: Your acting résumé is pretty extensive, with films, television and stage. How did the writing and directing come about?
Garfield: I decided when I was 13 and my father gave me a stop motion super-8 camera. Stop motion means you could also animate a frame at a time, so I remade The Blob with a sleeping bag eating my friends. To act is really just one job or function in a movie. It’s great, helping to bring enjoyment to people, for that moment of their time, with their own imagination. But to actually write and direct/produce the entire story from the beginning, now that’s real story telling. That’s the craft that flowed into me when I was making The Blob. I looked up at the sky and said to myself, ‘To create all that and what everyone says… the way I want a story to be told. That’s what I want to do!’
KO: Is there one role in this process that you enjoy most?
Garfield: I enjoy the writing, then the creation of the storyboard, and then the shooting, and then the sound mixing and editing to get it to screen, all to get the story told the best way I possibly can, all exactly the same amount. It’s three jobs — writing, directing, and producing — three very different and all very difficult and challenging jobs. Each one has its own set of creative demands and expectations of the world. But I enjoy them all equally. Without each one I haven’t accomplished my goal — sharing a story to people as if we were all friends.
KO: So what’s next for David Garfield?
Garfield: I have two projects in development which are battling it out right now, and casting will start in September of 2009 with an expected production start date spring of 2010. I really want to bring back the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s styles of storytelling that allows viewers to use their own imagination while watching a film. To bring this to the younger generations, I believe, will be refreshing and interesting to them, rather than always being spoon-fed Hollywood style.
For more information about David J. Garfield, visit www.davegarfield.com. Note the incorrect trailer was originally posted with this article for several hours, but has since been corrected. More information can be found at http://www.suitcasemovie.com/.