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Breakout Role Revisited: Goode Two Shoes

August 1, 2008

By Michael Smith, Tulsa World, Okla.

Aug. 1–Listen to Michael Smith’s interview with Matthew Goode

Intelligent, cool, handsome, great sense of humor, British: Matthew Goode should be a big film star, loved by women and admired by men the world over.

That’s coming soon.

As the lead in “Brideshead Revisited” (which opens Friday in Tulsa; see review on D1), Goode plays the role that made a young Jeremy Irons an international star in the smash 1981 miniseries.

Playing no less than the smartest man in the world in next year’s hotly anticipated “Watchmen” cult graphic novel flick from Zach Snyder (“300″), he’ll be scrutinized further.

But first things first, and that’s getting “Brideshead” right for its own rabid fandom. The spotlight has never been brighter on Goode.

“I can say I realized that on set, because there were so many bloody close-ups,” the 30-year-old Englishman jokes during a recent phone interview. He’s well aware of his breakout potential after being noticed for character roles in such films as last year’s “The Lookout” (as a particularly nasty leader of a bank heist) and Woody Allen’s “Match Point” (the fellow whom Scarlett Johansson cheats

on).

“I know what happened to Jeremy (Irons), and that things might blow up a little bit, I suppose. But I’m also aware that I’m not terribly well known, and what an awful thing it would be to become better known for f—ing ‘Brideshead’ up. There are pressures on both sides of that equation.”

Goode has the cheeky honesty of a young actor climbing the ladder of success, something like Charles Ryder, his “Brideshead” character who finds his humdrum life intertwined with the terribly rich, terrifically unhinged Flyte family in this period piece, based on Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel.

The actor simply pays no attention to past or present observations — the next Brad Pitt, the next Hugh Grant, the next Jeremy Irons — and concentrates on selecting works that depend on the words.

“I love the job, I really do, and the rest of it’s all really not quite real, you know,” he says of the cult of celebrity. “I like to think I don’t just accept anything. If the people you’re working with (have a vision) and the script is there, that’s what’s important. I mean, you really can’t polish a turd.”

Goode found inspiration in the book to shape Charles for the big screen, forging his young man “desperately in search of love in those days, a sponge waiting to soak up life’s curiosities” for a complex, complete performance. The script demands that he convey emotions without words in two hours that Irons could sometimes deliver in narration and over 11 episodes.

The period clothing and enormous Castle Howard, the Yorkshire estate standing in for Brideshead, were also wonderful motivation in getting into character.

“Oh, a huge amount. There’s nothing like going to work in white tie and tails,” he said with a laugh. “You do hold yourself a different way, especially in these modern times. I’m in jeans and a T-shirt most of the time, and my posture’s pretty f—ing awful.

“And then using Castle Howard, you’re just aware of a decadence there. You’re just thinking, ‘OK, this is how rich we’re talking about.’

“It does do a huge amount of work for you.”

Not to take anything away from the hard work put in to create the nuance and subtlety of his performance, mind you. Goode says he’s more proud of his “Brideshead” accomplishment than any before. It’s just the latest conquest for a young man whom filmgoers will be hearing more about on both sides of the pond.

Michael Smith 581-8479 michael.smith@tulsaworld.com

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Copyright (c) 2008, Tulsa World, Okla.

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