Interview: Matthew Goode Focuses on Inner Challenges in New Film ‘Brideshead Revisited’

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CHICAGO – The celebrated Evelyn Waugh novel and 1981 BBC miniseries “Brideshead Revisited” have put the unusually titled story into cultural consciousness. Beloved by readers for years, the adapted miniseries brought the popular characters to life and further cemented the epic and literary journey of class awareness, star-crossed love and fine estates.

The latest adaptation is a truncated film version that stars Matthew Goode as main protagonist Charles Ryder. HollywoodChicago.com recently interviewed Goode on the task of fulfilling the expectations of the much-loved work.

Actor Matthew Goode for Brideshead Revisited in Chicago on July 10, 2008
Actor Matthew Goode for “Brideshead Revisited” in Chicago on July 10, 2008.
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited
Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain in “Brideshead Revisited”.
Photo credit: Nicola Dove/Miramax Films

“Charles has definitely been my biggest acting challenge so far,” Goode said. “I was very scared because the elephant in the room is the miniseries adaptation and Jeremy Irons’ performance in it. That is a bit of a burden. But because of the script and the people involved, it actually became an easy decision to take the part.”

Charles Ryder is an introverted, middle-class artist who gets the opportunity to attend a prestigious men’s college in England.

While there, he gets swept up into an outsider group of individuals led by a precocious fop named Sebastian (Ben Whishaw). The estate that Sebastian’s family owns is called Brideshead and it’s anchored by a stunning mansion of magnificent size and beauty.

Charles is taken in by both the estate and the family along with the free-spirited daughter Julia (Hayley Atwell).

Goode explained the difficulties of playing the internal Charles without the device of hearing what he was thinking as in the miniseries: “I didn’t have the benefit of a voice-over in this adaptation to explain my thoughts. In the initial reading of the script, I thought the character of Charles came across quite cold.”

“But in essence, he’s not that way,” Goode continued. “Once you look at the psychology of the character – who grows up without a mother in a post-Victorian society and without love essentially through being raised by his father – he’s an incredibly lonely guy. [This is especially true] in the sense where most of his companionship is male.”

Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte and Ben Whishaw as Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited
Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte and Ben Whishaw as Sebastian Flyte in “Brideshead Revisited”.
Photo credit: Nicola Dove/Miramax Films

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

Sebastian has outward affection for Charles. In this film version, it’s acted out physically. This is noticed by the overseer and matriarch of the family, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), and she cautions Charles about his attachment to the strict Catholic clan.

“The religious theme is a very important issue,” Goode related. “The audience might think: ‘Oh, Christ!’ The use of organized religion and how it can be not a good thing is there, but the film comments more on parenting and how parents can screw up a person.”

When Charles’ attraction for Julia deepens, Sebastian’s jealousy threatens to topple everything. This is where Lady Marchmain steps in. She alters the circumstances to prevent her children from making – in her view – fatal mistakes.

Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte and Ben Whishaw as Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited
Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte and Ben Whishaw as Sebastian Flyte in “Brideshead Revisited”.
Photo credit: Nicola Dove/Miramax Films

“Emma’s character says to Charles: ‘All I ever really wanted was for my children to love me,’” Goode said. “In Emma’s performance, you have incredible sympathy for her. Though people who read the novel know Lady Marchmain’s backstory, Emma still gets it across for people who haven’t read it. There is too much humanity there for her to be seen as a villain.”

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Charles is forced away from Brideshead and the family. Still, a couple meetings through the years again involve him with Sebastian and reunite him with Julia. This “revisited” part of his life could determine the fate of everyone.

“It’s notable that Sebastian treated Charles like crap and was a petulant child and a drunk,” Goode explained about the characters. “But Charles actually does as much as he can and he loved him in friendship. He gets screwed over in so many ways but never tries to enforce his integrity on anyone.”

Goode concluded with an observation about Charles: “There were particular ambiguities that we wanted to remain ambiguities. While it’s explained beautifully through prose in the book, Charles doesn’t show much of himself in the film. That was the challenge. I had to get all of that [across] and not make him morose.”

“Brideshead Revisited” features Emma Thompson, Matthew Goode, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell and Greta Scacchi. The film opened on July 25, 2008 in Chicago at AMC River East 21, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema and CineArts 6 in Evanston, Ill. “Brideshead Revisited” will then expand to additional theaters on Aug. 1, 2008.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2008 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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