Garfield was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Alice (née Lavroff) and Philip Goorwitz. A graduate of Weequahic High School, he was a sports reporter and Golden Gloves boxer before becoming an actor. He studied acting at The Actors Studio in New York City, studying with both Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, and worked in stage before film. Garfield is a quirky and prolific actor who has appeared in over 100 films and television shows. He is known for playing nervous villains, corrupt businessmen and politicians. In addition he has appeared in two art films by German director Wim Wenders, Der Stand der Dinge and Bis ans Ende der Welt.