Spiderman is in the dining room


Andrew Garfield with Ben
Andrew Garfield with Ben

In November 2014, I was putting my cereal bowl on the trolley at the end of the (silent) breakfast at St Beuno’s when Ben, the Assistant Chef, sidled up to me, inclined his head towards one of the retreatants and whispered, ‘Father Roger, is that Spiderman in the dining room?’  ‘Don’t tell anyone, Ben!’ was the reply. 

Andrew Garfield, the star of two Spiderman films, supporting actor in ‘The Social Network’ and the lead in Scorsese’s new drama ‘Silence’, had been booked into St Beuno’s under conditions of strict secrecy. 

In order to prepare for his role as a Jesuit priest who travels to Japan in the late 16th Century to find his mentor who is rumoured to have apostatised, Andrew Garfield  had embarked on the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life under the direction of the Jesuit writer Fr James Martin.
Garfield, who was brought up in England, was due to visit the UK and asked if he could experience a silent retreat  in preparation for his role in ‘Silence’.    I duly received a request from Fr Martin asking if he could come incognito to St Beuno’s for a week.  A few of the staff were briefed and sworn to secrecy, and he was booked in under the pseudonym of Jonathan Jokovic. 

A short time later his Silence co-star Adam Driver, who took the lead role of Kylo Ren in ‘Star Wars – the Force Awakens’, heard that Garfield was coming on a silent retreat and asked if he could come too.  Adam also flew over from the States to St Beuno’s for a five day retreat.

Both of them had to lose a significant amount of weight for their roles and were on special diets, so one of those ‘in the know’ was Sam, our Head Chef.  Sam, who is normally a man of few words, was beside himself when he heard that Spiderman was coming to St Beuno’s, and I have never seen him so excited as when I took Andrew Garfield to meet him.  ‘I can’t believe that I have got Spiderman in my kitchen!’ he said. 

Unlike Ben, most of those on retreat in St Beuno's in November 2014 had probably not seen the Spiderman films or the newest ‘Star Wars’, and were unaware that they were dining in silence alongside celebrity retreatants!   But Ben did manage to get a selfie with Andrew Garfield before he left. 

Read more about the actors’ spiritual preparation for playing Jesuit priests.

Martin Scorsese talks to 300 Jesuits about “Silence”