Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Matthew Goode To Go
Expanded Edition of 7-23-08 Windy City Times Interview
by Richard Knight, Jr.
Goode at a recent premiere, in Brideshead Revisited with co-star Ben Whishaw and as Ozymandias in the forthcoming Watchmen
You’ve seen British actor Matthew Goode before. Sometimes mistaken for fellow countryman Hugh Grant, Goode has played quiet,
self-effacing roles in Match Point, Imagine Me & You, and Copying Beethoven but in The Lookout he was suddenly menacing as that movie’
s seductive villain. Now in the big screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited he takes on his first starring role
as Charles Ryder, a young innocent who falls under the spell of the wealthy, powerful, and deeply Catholic Marchmain family,
especially the gay Sebastian and his troubled sister Julia. The novel, which spans 20 years, was first made into a 14 hours
miniseries in 1981 starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. In person Goode is tall (6’3”), laughs easily, and was excited to talk
with Windy City Times about his first starring role and the prospect of being a gay heartthrob. Highlights:
WINDY CITY TIMES (WCT): Charles Ryder kisses Sebastian and Julia once each and changes both of their worlds forever. With one
kiss. Wow. Did you ever think about that why you were filming?
MATTHEW GOODE (MG): Well it’s funny because I look upon it as that Sebastian kissed Charles and the first time Julia kissed him
as well. So they both made the move, rather than him sort of imposing himself. I thought it was quite brave of the production
to…because there is the ambiguity and there is no such scene that happens in the original. I think because we’re not in 1980 now it
was nice to actually make that part of the relationship come to the front. I think it’s underlined that we’re not trying to get some
more things that are possibilities of what went on between them at Oxford. It was just saying that there was a deep love between
these two incredibly lonely, fucked up kids from their childhood. There’s a huge love – platonically, I think from Charles although
there may have been some…you know when you haven’t experienced love before and you are that lonely I think he would have been
confused about his feelings. That’s what I love about that little scene, beautifully shot as it is.
WCT: Well it makes me wonder if Julia hadn’t been around things have gone even further. As a gay man I read that that is what
would have happened and perhaps down the road when he met someone else – a woman—
MG: It would have got even messier. Exactly. But I think what was really interesting about the book is that it does say that these
two people (Sebastian and his sister Julia) are very alike in the way they look and in their manner and sort of in the dark, you
couldn't tell one between the other (lowers his voice conspiratorially) unless you’ve got your hand down their pants (laughs).
Psychologically it makes it very easy to believe that someone who is as full of love for Sebastian could have a complete transference
to their sister because they’re not that way inclined. That makes a lot more sense to me rather than the idea that Charles is deeply
ambitious and was using Sebastian to get to Julia or to use the aristocracy to get where he wants to be. I think that’s not true.
WCT: I love at the outset of the movie where the cousin warns Charles as they’re touring Oxford when he sees Sebastian and his
friends and warns him, “Stay away from those sodomites.”
MG: Sodomites – stay well clear!
WCT: Yes. You know immediately he’s going to be drawn to this group. They’re so colorful and fabulous and enticing to someone
who is yearning to break out.
MG: I love Ben’s performance, I really do and the character is gay for sure and that’s partly because now it’s 1980 and the world is
still not where it should be but it’s certainly much more comfortable with how male love is put on the screen.
WCT: Actually what was brave of him was to play such a queenie-nelly stereotype. Now you’re going to get flak for that.
MG: Yes but he’s bang on believable and I think he fucking well owned it, I really do. The “sodomite” line isn’t in the original
adaptation – it couldn’t have been.
WCT: I read that you originally wanted to play Sebastian but “I wasn’t pretty enough. They gave it to Ben because when the
camera settles on him you gasp at his beauty. I mean I have a girlfriend and all but still…” (laughs)
MG: I think I also mentioned his extraordinary talent as well and that seems to have been cut out for some reason!
WCT: He’s a cutie pie.
MG: He’s just brilliant. He’s got this real delicacy, Ben, because he is smaller and has this fragility which I think really comes
through. I would not have done it justice to the production we did. That’s all supposition all the same. Do you not think he’s
WCT: Oh yes. I loved him passionately in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I was crazy about that film and his performance.
MG: He’s a chameleon; a real one.
WCT: Speaking of amazing actors. Emma Thompson: hold me back.
MG: (laughs) Hold me back! Pin her down!
WCT: She’s only in five scenes and every time you see her in the movie she’s more imperious.
MG: She is the nicest woman in the entire world and she could come in with her Oscars and her talent and the fact that she’s a
national treasure and that could loom over you. But the fact is that she loves to goof around. She’s just so fucking normal and so
talented that it’s like – that’s how it should be. Everybody who’s successful should be as nice as her. In print people will be going,
“Oh God, that’s so actor-y. They always say nice things about each other” but she is the real deal and the moment she acts some
sort of magic happens.
WCT: Were there scenes that more explicitly dealt with the physical relationship between Sebastian and Charles? Remember I’m
writing for a gay paper and details are appreciated.
MG: Were there scenes where I held his cock?
WCT: (laughs) Yes, were there scenes like that – please!
MG: Tell me, “Did you put his cock in your mouth?” (laughs)
WCT: You dirty little…
MG: (laughs) You dirty little so and so! No. I think it’s not that we would have been afraid to have done that if it had been in the
original novel and trying to uphold the ambiguity and integrity of their relationship it would have been in slightly poor taste to have
suddenly had a sex scene with them. The sex scene with Julia could have been a lot more graphic but if it is then that’s the reason
it becomes an R-Rated movie.
WCT: You’re going to hear, “Well, he only has the chaste little kiss with Sebastian and a full on lovemaking scene with Julia.”
MG: Well, again, it’s not in the novel so why put it in there. I mean the audience aren’t afraid of those kinds of scenes.
WCT: No, certainly not after Brokeback.
MG: Right – which again could have been more explicit but then again there’s always that thing of showing sex on screen actually
detracts from what it is. The Donald Sutherland-Julie Christie scene (in Don’t Look Now) is the only one I know that’s been done that
well. There could have been more aggression in the scene with Julia but what are you really gaining from it? Nothing that services
WCT: That’s true. Just a greedy homo audience wanting more, more, more! (laughs)
MG: Also – you should have erect dicks in that kind of scene. No really. I think the moment you have a sex scene where there’s
not an erect cock it’s like, “I don’t believe it anymore.” You know what I mean? It’s like, “Put a dick in there.”
WCT: (laughs hard) Yes, actually I do know exactly what you mean. It’s an idea I’m very familiar with. Okay, let’s change tracks
for a second. You played Heck the husband whose wife Piper Perabo falls for another woman in Imagine Me & You and your character
is so sweet and understanding and you insist she follow her heart.
MG: “Go and do your thing.” Well, slightly unlike life. Most people are like, “Go and fuck off with you!”
WCT: How would you react?
MG: I honestly don’t know. I think any kind of rejection is going to be hard but I think if you do truly love the person you ultimately
have to do that. But it doesn’t work out quite as nicely as it did in that film, I think, in real life.
WCT: I can’t let you go without mentioning how much I loved that 360 degree turn you made in The Lookout. You were so menacing
and sexy at the same time. That role must have done so much for you. I hope it did.
MG: Well no one in the world saw it but the industry did. It’s a role by all rights I should never have had. I knew that when I was in
L.A. but I thought, “I’m not working now” so I shaved my head and spent a couple of days smoking in a room trying to learn the big
monologue and luckily – because we’re all pretty clued up to the fact that producers have a list of names and how much money their
film’s made – so Scott Frank the director took a real risk with me. Getting The Lookout meant that people said, “Oh, you’re alright at
WCT: I have to imagine that the “poor man’s Hugh Grant” thing is going to be over with after Brideshead. This is certainly going to
put you on the map. Are you ready to be a heartthrob? A gay heartthrob?
MG: (delighted) It would be thrilling. I lead a pretty quiet life. I’m 30 now. I can turn up to a premiere with my girlfriend on my
arm and not be told by a publicist, “You can’t bring them; the audience won’t like you.”
WCT: Well just get ready to make romantic comedies with Kate Hudson, Drew Barrymore and Sandra Bullock.
MG: One day doing a Kate Hudson film, next day chugging cock. I mean what more can you ask for? (laughs hard)
WCT: Well it’s starting already. There you are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly for Watchmen – your first comic book mega
blockbuster coming out next spring in which you play Ozymandias.
MG: Yes! And he’s homosexual, isn’t he as well? By the look of things, that suit he wears as well. I can tell you, it’s still
ambiguous. Right now I think it’s running about three hours and it’s kind of an arthouse film and it’s very much the graphic novel. I
haven’t seen it yet but I’m hearing really amazing things about it. I haven’t seen any of it. There’s a lot of big, muscley costumes
and you know, oooooooh (laughs) and manly men and there’s a rape scene in there.
WCT: Well good luck with that. It’s been nice to talk with you about your first real starring role. I hope you’re happy about it.
MG: I am. I was exhausted at the time. It was intense work but that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?
NOTE (3-6-09): With the arrival of Watchmen in theatres and Brideshead Revisited on DVD, I thought it timely to repost my
interview with the charming Mr. Goode. The interview was conducted in conjunction with the theatrical release of Brideshead but
even then fans were buzzing about his casting in Watchmen and we discussed his role at the end of the interview. Goode gave good
interview - he was funny, filled with candor and totally unflappable about being considered a gay heartthrob. Enjoy!