For someone suffering the ill-effects of over-indulgence he’s looking good on it.

This man doesn’t do a deathly pallor, perhaps a little alabaster on the cheeks but not mossy green, nor shrunken blackcurrant eyes. He is, you notice, even too young to have nicotine’s crows’ feet and hiding his cropped hair away under his hat only serves to accentuate the handsome line of his jaw. It’s all a bit unfair, but Goode insists that if he looks vaguely human today it’s just luck, the same good fortune that has shone on his acting career.

These classic looks had the New York director cast him as a British toff, Tom Hewlett, in Match Point, the first of three new Woody Allen films set in London. The story is all about luck, both good and bad.

The tennis ball bounces off the net cord and could fall either way, a ring is lost and found again in some of the dark and unexpected twists of a passionate drama that sees a return to form for Allen.

Match Point is the best Woody Allen film since Hannah And Her Sisters, his mid-Eighties, middle-aged family-based drama starring Michael Caine and Mia Farrow. This time he has cast young actors with Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in the leads. Instead of reflecting on mature relationships, the director’s fans are now looking back through the mirror at how love flourishes and flounders in its early days. It’s not a comedy, but it is a triumph.

Goode, reassuringly tall, with an easy warm charm and not posh, plays Johansson’s fiance in the piece, and he has an old ‘movie star in the making’ story about how he found his way into Allen’s film.

“It was a tense process, getting cast, ” he says. It was all quite odd and it was very secretive. There was no script in advance and I found out what they wanted literally when I got there. A couple of weeks later I get a phone call from my agent saying, “It’s weird but you’re top of Woody’s list.”

Luckily Allen was sitting down.

“I’d been told not to shake his hand, sometimes he’s a bit neurotic like that.

What was the first thing I did? I shook his hand. Ahh! I was in and out in two minutes.”

Next thing he knows, Goode’s on set, mingling like a moose, thinking: “Please God, just a little scene just to ease me in.

My character doesn’t really advance the plot, nothing too emotional, please”.

No, the first afternoon is all him being filmed on the office set. But Woody turns out to be really sweet, telling him to do what he wants, to bring English diction into a script that was originally set in New York. It all becomes a breeze.

“We were all in it together and after a week when none of us had been fired we thought, ‘Hey, we can get this done.’ It ended up being the most relaxed job I ever had, ” says Goode. By the end of the shoot the young actors were improvising whole scenes for the director. “After the first couple of days we realised we were going to be fine. There’s very few close-ups the way he shoots, just masters and wides and you don’t know if you’re going to be in frame or if your line is off camera. It’s a really quick way of working.”

“Suddenly you have a profile and you’re given more scripts, ” says Goode. “And then you get stopped in Tesco. I’m not really good at all that sort of stuff, but I do know you need the public profile.”

Growing up in Devon he didn’t come from a theatrical background, if you exclude playing a mouse in Wind In The Willows aged six, because his mother was involved in the local drama society. He comes from a big family. His mother, a nurse, had three children in her first marriage and two in the second. “I don’t know where the thespian genes came from. Probably being the youngest and fighting for attention is something to do with it, ” says Goode.

He’s not into self-analysis for motivation, but he decided after three years at Birmingham University studying drama and theatre that if he wanted to be a serious actor he had to go to drama school.

“I was quoted in some magazine as saying I was trying my hardest to look bad at playing. I wasn’t that bad, we did get some coaching before we began.”

Never mind working with Woody Allen and the tennis coaching, what was it like snogging Scarlett Johansson, one of the hottest women in Hollywood and Allen’s current muse? Why, his pale white cheeks almost blush.

“Snogging her? Er, It was kind of weird, I had a girlfriend at the time you know.” Yes, yes, professional detachment and all the rest but details man?

“Well, we were getting on fine and then we were told one morning: ‘This is the scene where you kiss Scarlett up against the wall. I want your right hand up her skirt and your left hand on her breast'” A true gent he got it right after only two takes. “I don’t think I messed it up but it’s not the worst morning’s work I had to do, ” says Goode with, you imagine, the understated manners of a young David Niven.

“In New York, when we were doing the promos for the film, it was Scarlett’s 21st birthday and only then do you realise that she’s so young but so in control of it all.

There’s a slightly scary child star thing but she’s not precious about it at all. And she is so good at acting.”

The other star of the film is the city of London and the several stunning locations that Allen used as a backdrop to the drama.

Like Match Point, the next film, Scoop, described as a light romantic comedy about “sex, love, suspense and murder” stars Scarlett Johansson. The American actress plays a journalism student who investigates a series of murders while studying in the capital.

Hugh Jackman and Ian McShane costar, as do actors James Nesbitt and Colin Salmon – both of whom can also be seen in Match Point. Allen appears himself as a man posing as Johansson’s father. In another Allen era that casting would make great comedy material given the scandal he created by having an affair with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his then partner Mia Farrow, in 1992.

The director, who turned 70 in December, recently spoke of the relationship as one of the luckiest things that ever happened to him. Age, he said, gives you no great insight and he would probably make all the same mistakes all over again. Some of that may explain his current fixation with the youthful casting and the alluring Ms Johansson.

In the US the London settings of his new body of films will work well, but to a British audience, used to seeing domestic television drama through a London lens, it might have a slate-grey familiarity. In fact Allen apparently loves the the city’s plain, dull light. “He doesn’t like filming in direct sunlight, ” says Goode. “I don’t quite know why – maybe we look better in the shade?”

When the film opens this week, Goode will have stepped out of the shadows. He’s already been on Christmas television alongside Imelda Staunton in My Family And Other Animals, about the hilarious life and times of Lawrence Durrell. He’s already familiar with TV dramas, the BBC production of Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right being his last outing.

We’ll be seeing quite a bit of Goode in the next few months. Next he plays the cuckolded husband in Imagine Me And You which is due out early in the New Year. Goode describes it as a dramatic comedy with a twist. “Boy meets girl, they get married but coming down the aisle she sees this other girl and the whole movie is about her realisation that she’s a lesbian. I’m the cuckolded husband. It has a kind of Richard Curtis feel and it works.”

In May he appears in Copying Beethoven with Diane Kruger and Ed Harris as the composer. He broke an ankle on the shoot lending new meaning to that traditional theatrical salutation of luck.

He’s fine now and there are, as there always are with rising stars, other projects in the pipeline.

“It’s not that I can pick and choose roles, it’s just what I can win away from my contemporaries, ” says Goode who is part of a wave of young British talent establishing itself in the industry. The same list of names, including James D’Arcy and his ex-flatmate Lawrence Fox, are up for every part.

“It’s a nice friendship, and even when they get a job over you, we’re all very glad for each other. After all, we’re all making our way through life.

“I’m not constantly in work; if I was I’d be sitting here with a much wider grin on my face. I’ve been in LA recently and there are some rosy prospects which haven’t been given the green light yet, so hopefully that will go well, ” he says lighting another cigarette for good luck.

Brits go down well in LA. The Americans just can’t get enough of Hugh Grant types, but that doesn’t necessarily mean LA is Goode’s cup of English breakfast. “I’ve made peace with it, but I didn’t like it when I first went there. I felt like the village boy in town. Everybody drinkdrives over there and I have to rely on Russian cabbies to get me around.”

Which brings the subject back to drink.

For a long time he was linked with Margot Molinari, an actress he met at drama school, but this morning’s hangover is the aftermath of the aftermath of a “meet the parents night” with his new beau, whom he doesn’t want to talk about. “I don’t want to put the mockers on it. She’s a girl, normal and grounded, which is so nice.”

It turns out he’s also a bit of a whisky lover. His late father, a geologist, taught him the geography of Scotland’s whisky map so he knows his Taliskers from his Laphroaigs although he’s never been on a distillery tour.

“My dad was a great champion of malt whisky and now I really like taking a nip before I go to bed. Does that mean I’m getting old?”

Match Point is out on January 6