How Andrew Garfield Recovered from His 'Starvation' Diet After Dropping 40 Lbs. for 'Silence'

"I found that it gave me so much clarity about what was important to me in my life," Andrew Garfield tells PEOPLE of living a restrictive lifestyle while filming Silence

Photo: Kerry Brown

Andrew Garfield shed 40 lbs. to portray a Jesuit missionary in Silence, and while the experience was eye-opening, the star was happy to re-emerge from isolation.

“I gave myself a lot of rewards,” Garfield tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue of life after his extreme diet.

In the Martin Scorsese film – which is based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo – Garfield and Adam Driver‘s priests travel to Japan to locate their missing mentor, played by Liam Neeson. The film takes place during the 17th century, when Christianity was strictly outlawed and the presence of the priests was forbidden.

Garfield saw losing the weight as a journey into his character’s mindset, he says, rather than a burden.

“It was really great to know that experience of fasting, starvation, it was really an amazing opportunity to know that,” he shares. “What it revealed to me, because not only were we in this losing weight and trying to – just because the reality of the characters is such, there’s no food on the island and the villagers are rationed anyway and eat even less than we do. Even on the journey over to Macau it would have been rife with dysentery and all kinds of sickness and hardly any food, so that hunger was really important.”

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Silence shot in Taiwan, which is culturally “incredibly different” than what Garfield says he is used to. “[I was] away from all the people I love and all the things that I love, the places and not being able to eat, not being able to go out. I didn’t really socialize, I isolated myself as much as possible.”

He explains that by doing so, he “found that it gave me so much clarity about what was important to me in my life, about who was important, and about what kind of food I missed and the restaurants I was excited to visit after.”

The 33-year-old, who is also currently starring in critically-praised drama Hacksaw Ridge, says he celebrated the end of his self-imposed confinement by driving along the California coast, and stopping at Big Sur.

He says, “There was a lot to take stock of, a lot to unpack and a lot to give thanks for, really.”

Silence hits theaters Dec. 23.

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