Matthew Goode (Watchmen, Match Point) strolled into the press day for Park Chan-wook’s latest, Stoker (review), wearing a belt so we were all immediately nervous. After all, Goode’s character, Uncle Charlie, prefers, at times, to use his belt for something other than just holding up his britches.
Jokes aside, Matthew was almost as charming as his sociopathic character in the film as we spoke, a similarity that added a little menace to the proceedings.
Dread Central: How do you feel being chosen for this type of role, a sexy killer?
Matthew Goode: Typecast again! It’s a Park Chan-wook film so you think that you’re probably doing something right. I was lucky, my good friend Colin [Firth] became too busy to do it. That was the first time I’ve ever had that happen. It wasn’t offered by any stretch of the imagination. It was a process as you’d imagine with Nicole and Mia already attached to do it and Director Park and a really great script. I knew it was going to be competitive. And a few of my good friends were in the hat but it just comes down to the director’s taste and luckily on this occasion he went with me!
DC: What does this director’s style bring? Visually, when you see the film it doesn’t look like a Hollywood film at all. What was his approach?
MG: He’s so fastidious. I haven’t seen anyone come to pre-production with ninety percent properly made in his mind, then drawn out frame by frame. Which in some ways was slightly disconcerting. It’s all pre-determined. He storyboarded the hell out of it. Not stick men but beautifully drawn images with a team of people doing it. He was like, “We can’t start filming in this location yet because I haven’t got the color of the walls the same as this eggshell.” That was mind-blowing. He had to adapt himself because it would have taken twice as long in Korea. Just his meticulous nature, I suppose, and we were lucky to have his cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung. But I think the script is sparse of language with only Nicole having a lengthy speech and so that kind of is linked to the operatic nature. It’s not the most naturalistic dialogue. Everything is there for a reason and it’s a clue for something else and that adds an extra level of intrigue.
DC:What was it like shooting the duet scene at the piano? Was that particularly challenging? Do you play the piano?
MG: It was actually quite liberating in the end but I hadn’t played the piano for twenty-odd years. So, coming back into the fold with a Philip Glass piece was unbelievably daunting. It was a lot of arpeggio and luckily I don’t have a bad-size hand, so it wasn’t hard to leap around. It was hard work but it was really great working with Mia. We learned about three-quarters of it but some of it was just too hard. We were able to fake some of that so he was always given the opportunity to shoot the whole thing from whichever angle he wanted to. And we kind of recognized that in the vocabulary of filmmaking when someone starts playing a musical instrument you’re like, “Hang on, is he really playing?” So, [Director Park] was able to dip down and you can go, “Oh! They are!” It’s not a trick on the audience but it’s a nice payoff.
DC:People will just think it was CGI.
MG: [Laughs] Oh yes, people will think we’ve got green gloves on!
DC: How do you think Charlie saw his relationship with India? Is she a daughter? Lover? Protégé? Also, this movie brings up so much about evil being inherent. Can you expand on that?
MG: It’s what Director Park calls bad blood. That there is a predisposition in the family bloodline to do these acts. With Charlie, he’s isolated, he’s lonely. It’s not a vampire film but there are some things that are similar. The idea of it. That he is trapped in the past and never really grew up. So you wanted to confuse the audience my being very masculine but there’s almost an innocence as well. He must have heard that this niece is like him and that is very powerful to him. He’s not alone. We didn’t seek to answer every question. Audiences are intelligent and I think it gets fairly boring when everything is concrete. With these kinds of complex emotions I don’t think you can answer those questions. It never became a sexual relationship but, as you see, when Mia is in the shower, there is a definite link between sex and violence. I think India sees him as being a tutor almost and he needs to go.
DC: Right, where the antagonist takes on the role of mentor. Like, in The Hitcher…at the end of that movie, C. Thomas Howell is a man. He just had to be put through hell to get there. At the end of Stoker, India is definitely a woman. Do you think she’s better off having met Charlie? Did he help her find her true self or was it probably better to never have you come to visit at all?
MG: Is she better off? Is the world better off? Ultimately, she’s essential to the story and we are kind of, bizarrely, happy for her to get away from the tendrils of her mother which, again, is another complicated relationship.
DC: How involved was Tony Scott in this production and did this lead into The Vatican with Ridley Scott?
MG: Tony, god rest his soul, was not around behind the scenes and either was Tony. My relationship with Ridley…he was going to do a film called The Counselor with an amazing cast and I was up for a part in that and then Cormac McCarthy said he’s too young which was really depressing but Ridley really liked me. Low and behold, he said he’d love me to be in this.
DC: The timing couldn’t be more perfect.
MG: I was deciding between two roles so I take it as kind of a sign. But the cast they’re getting together is tremendous and hopefully Bruno Ganz (Downfall) will play the Pope.
DC: Well, the actual Pope isn’t busy anymore.
MG: Yes, he’s learning his lines right now!
DC: Was it difficult speaking through a translator with Director Park on set?
MG: It was actually very easy. He does talk from time to time as well. Get a couple of Lagavulin’s in him and he won’t stop. The only thing that was tricky at the beginning was who do I look at and I’m not being facetious. The translator will come over quickly and tell you something and it all became very truncated and you work in a kind of shorthand. And if not, just gesticulate wildly.
DC: Going back to your character being a complete sociopath, what was it like doing some of the murder scenes in the film?
MG: Yeah, it was slightly uncomfortable in some ways. When we were filming with Alden [Ehrenreich] we had to hold up filming for several hours because there were some issues about safety. I’m coming up from behind and have to throw a belt over and I can’t see him so we had to get that right. It became slightly choreographed so you came out of it slightly.
DC: Was a dummy ever used instead of the actor? So you could really go for it?
MG: No, you couldn’t. It wasn’t a dummy but it was a dummy over my shoulder that I carried.
DC: How many of Charlie’s letters were actually written? Did you read most of them?
MG: A lot of them. It’s amazing. Our Production Designer was just unbelievable…
DC: Yes, I remember meeting her [Thérèse DePrez] in Nashville.
MG: Yeah, she’s absolutely fabulous. So it’s that thing of attention to deal where it’s just done for you. Everyone on their team had the most calligraphic handwriting. What kind of school teaches you how to write like that? But yeah, it was done which just adds an extra layer of confidence.
Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Dermot Mulroney, Phyllis Somerville, and Alden Ehrenreich star in the film directed by Park Chan-wook. Look for Stoker in theatres on March 1st, 2013.
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