In Andy Serkis' directing debut Breathe, Andrew Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, the real-life polio patient who devised a chair to give independence to others like him. Garfield says he was proud to take on the role and "get a chance to understand the man". 

Andrew Garfield stars in 'Breathe'Andrew Garfield stars in 'Breathe'

He also notes that the film was produced by Robin's son Jonathan, who "was up for exaggerating parts of the truth. But I always looked to him to make sure it looked like his dad."

For Garfield, what was most inspiring about Robin was his "way of laughing at the universe". He explains: "I'm an able-bodied actor playing someone who is disabled. It was wonderful, incredibly inspiring. I got to learn a lot about myself and my privilege and the things that I take for granted. The fact that I have a body and I can move it. That's one of the main things I took away from the film. I thought, here's a man I can learn from because I haven't faced the kind of adversity he's faced, and yet he had this unquenchable spirit and longing to live. And I found that incredibly uplifting and inspiring."

The actor has had a gruelling year, playing a series of demanding roles in films like Martin Scorsese's Silence, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge and the eight-hour London stage production of Angels in America. "I'm not very interesting," he laughs, referring to why he chooses roles that are far removed from his own life. "I'd be a rubbish film!"

Watch the trailer for 'Breathe' here:

So he takes his roles seriously, and has passionate views that he hates to discuss in the press. "I can talk to a bunch of people who think I shouldn't play Robin or Prior [his gay character in Angels in America]," he says. "I would like to sit in a room and have a deep talk about disabled and LGBTQ representation in the arts. It's a conversation I want eye to eye! I don't want it in public. It's not constructive. Let's get in a room and talk about it."

More: Read our review of 'Breathe'

And after five months on stage for Angels in America, which was originally produced in 1991, he feels that the play is as timely as ever. "It's sadly very pertinent to the political climate," Garfield says. "It's deepened my longing to get the world to where we want it, in terms of how we treat each other. The fact that certain communities have to fight for equality to be treated as the divine creatures they are: that is outrageous."