Press Archive 2010

Ricky Gervais’s ballad of Reading jail – The Guardian 8th April 2010

By Ben Walters
With their new film Cemetery Junction, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wanted to create a classic British tale of smalltown escape. Ben Walters goes on set and hears how they left irony behind
Ricky Gervais in Cemetery Junction
‘It’s straight down the line’ … Ricky Gervais in Cemetery Junction

The pavement outside Victoria House, an imposing interwar office building on Bloomsbury Square in central London, is cluttered with bins, bikes and bus-stop signs from the 1970s. In the square, men in pale-blue dinner jackets, extravagantly frilled shirts and bravura sideburns stroll in the July sun, talking on their mobile phones. In a bar deep inside the building, women with elaborately waved hair stroll past clusters of tan leather chairs, walnut-wood tables and chrome deco lamps, cordoned off behind yellow crime-scene tape to keep them spotless. Large flatscreen monitors show images from the film shoot underway in the ballroom next door. The monitors aren’t needed to hear the piercing hoot that is Ricky Gervais’s laugh.

Gervais and his writing and directing partner Stephen Merchant, with whom he created The Office and Extras, are five weeks into the seven-week shoot of their first feature film together, Cemetery Junction. Set in Reading in 1973, it focuses on three teenage mates deciding what to do with their lives: Bruce (Tom Hughes) is a disillusioned tearaway, Snork (Jack Doolan) is a clown with a romantic streak, and Freddie (Christian Cooke) is already on course for a comfortable suburban existence he isn’t sure he wants. Today’s scenes are set around the annual ball of the insurance company for which Freddie works, and to which he ill-advisedly allows Bruce and Snork to tag along.

“There’s only one social faux pas in the movie, unlike The Office, where there was one every 30 seconds, but it’s a big one,” says Gervais, wearing the black T-shirt and trousers that seem to be his on-set uniform. He heads through to the ballroom to shoot the ensuing falling-out. “A few home truths are shouted at each other. Best friends arguing. Should be fun.”

When, with the scene in the can, the three leads sit down together, their rapport seems to continue after the cameras have stopped rolling. Doolan was cast early and participated in workshops with other hopefuls, including Hughes and Cooke. “Within five minutes, in my head it had to be the three of us,” Doolan says. During the month it would take Gervais and Merchant to make the decision – “the hardest month of my life,” according to Cooke – the trio spent a lot of time together. “The night before they called us back, we all met up at Tom’s house and went over a couple of scenes,” Doolan recalls, “so when we went in for the final meeting, we came as a package. It was impossible for them to split us up, really.” Hughes reiterates the importance of their bond: “If you don’t believe they’ve been together since they were four, you don’t believe the film.”

Like The Office and Extras, Cemetery Junction is a story about aspiration and self-realisation. “I don’t want to mix aspiration up with blind ambition,” Gervais insists later. “Ambition is risible in many ways, but aspiration is just acknowledging that there’s something more and you’d like to try it. It’s something lots of people have beaten out of them until they’re embarrassed or think it’s wrong. A lot of that comes from fear, thinking they’re doing it for your own good. There’s a line that’s put in there affectionately that my mum said to me when I was 18. I said, ‘I’m going to France.’ And she said, ‘What do you wanna go there for? There’s parts of Reading you ain’t seen.'”

“Aspiration is the common link in our work,” agrees Merchant, who sports an unflattering moustache for his walk-on role as one of the ball-goers. “We aren’t fighting political injustice. We weren’t raised in a brothel with a crack addiction. The thing that unites us is the upper-working-class/lower-middle-class world we come from, which was about keeping up with the Joneses, either making something of your life or growing old with a sense of resentment. That was what we saw around us, from family members unhappy with their lot to schoolteachers saying, ‘What makes you think you make it in comedy? You’d be better off working down NatWest.'”

Still, Gervais is keen to establish distance between Cemetery Junction and the sitcoms for which he and Merchant are best known. “We embraced the uncool in The Office and Extras,” he says. “That’s what was funny in them. In this one, we’ve left irony behind. It’s straight down the line. We’re trying to do a British Rebel Without a Cause, Saturday Night Fever, with some funny bits, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid set in Berkshire, that sort of thing. There’s a glamour to it, there’s a cool to it. It doesn’t have to be depressing to be real.”

Everyone agrees that the pair had a strong conception of the film they intended to make from the off. “They’re very clear about what they want,” confirms Felicity Jones, who plays Julie, daughter of the insurance company’s reptilian boss, Kendrick (Ralph Fiennes), and, to Freddie’s chagrin, fiancee of slimy company man Mike (Matthew Goode). “There’s no indecision. Or if there is, they’ll go off to the loo together and come back having resolved any differences.”

Goode also has no complaints. “We’re waiting for the shit to hit the fan but no. It’s just roses. I would love to be the one person not hanging out of their arse, but I am. There’s one big rope leading up to Gervais’s reccer, and we’re all trying to get inside ‘cos he’s so fantastic, and so’s Stephen. A lot of people say, ‘Absolutely, British film’, then they go off and suck Hollywood’s cock. Or Satan’s cock, really, if we’re honest. So it’s really nice to see someone stick to the gumption of making British films.”

Goode is also in awe of Fiennes. “The moment he walks in the room, the temperature goes down a couple of degrees. He’s quite smooth and intimidating.” This is confirmed when, a little later, Fiennes arrives, also sharp in black tie, as the three lads huddle for a joint breakfast television interview. Looming over their shoulders, at first unnoticed, he seems both avuncular and somehow menacing. Emily Watson, playing his wife, cuts a more ethereal figure, gliding through in blue chiffon.

Lunch brings the peculiar spectacle of around 100 extras in various combinations of pastel polyester and facial hair patiently queueing for the buffet. You can’t help wondering if Gervais and Merchant have any self-consciousness dealing with the situation. “It’s not awkward,” Gervais insists. “It’s not like we walk into a room thinking, ‘Have they seen us?’, like a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Obviously, we exaggerated how sad most extras are. A lot of them are doing it just for a laugh, or a little adventure. There are very few that do it hoping Steven Spielberg will give them the lead in his next movie.”

Merchant’s small role sees him seated on a table with background artists. “They’re such a random bunch,” he says. “A retired bank manager, a housewife from Putney. It’s like being at a very strange dinner party with an arbitrary collection of people, none of whom seem to know the host. One of them told me he’d been inspired to become an extra after seeing the show. I was a bit confused by what aspect it was that he found appealing. Maybe he thought he could offend Samuel L Jackson or something.”

Although the idea for Cemetery Junction in fact predates Extras, the series turns out to have been a useful training ground. “This is the kind of film we imagined those people were making,” Merchant says. “We used to spend a lot of time on the spoofy little clips from the films being made by Orlando Bloom or whoever, making it look cinematic, getting the lighting right. In a way that’s what we’re doing today. And working with stars primed us to be able to explain what we want in the way you need to when you’re working with great actors like Ralph.”

In the afternoon, a five-piece band in pale blue suits takes to the ballroom stage to play Tie a Yellow Ribbon. The directors hunch over a monitor watching the performance; at the end of the song, Gervais applauds while Merchant delivers some direction. A little later, Gervais’s longtime foil, Karl Pilkington, appears in period sideburns and moustache for his cameo. He’ll only be on screen for a matter of seconds, but still manages to spoil the take by cracking up. Gervais howls, walks over and claps Pilkington on the shoulder.

By the time I catch up again with Gervais, the film is done and dusted (“It turned out better than I imagined”), and he and Merchant have completed a script for their next project: a sitcom featuring Extras guest star Warwick Davis as a version of himself, which Gervais describes as “a cross between Curb Your Enthusiasm and One Foot in the Grave. But with a dwarf. Now that we’ve got this nuanced coming-of-age-drama out of our system, it’s great to go back to comedy.” The pilot will shoot this summer under a title that seems like a no-brainer, but could apply just as well to The Office, Extras or indeed Cemetery Junction: Life’s Too Short.

Cemetery Junction is released on 14 April


Bafta Awards 2010: Matthew Goode Interview – The Telegraph – 23rd February 2010

Matthew Goode yearns for the days when actors behaved badly and got away with it.

There was a time, says Matthew Goode, when actors were free to speak their minds, when agents and PRs didn’t control the film industry and it was a lot less bland as a result. I can see a wistful gleam in his eye as he says this and it’s plain this is a time he hankers after – and indeed is on a one-man mission to recreate. 

Certainly, it’s hard to think of any other actor who says of his last film, the romantic comedy Leap Year, that ‘it’s turgid’. And,what’s more, that, ‘I just know that there are a lot of people who will say it is the worst film of 2010.’ Possibly he will be carted off in the middle of the night shortly after this interview and re-emerge with his lips sewn together, but for the moment, at least, he seems to be doing very well. 

We’re actually meeting to discuss his other new film, Tom Ford’s acclaimed, Bafta-nominated adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel A Single Man, in which he plays Colin Firth’s lover. On screen, Goode is apt to look rather smooth and neatly turned out – he was once the face of Hackett, the Sloaney men’s outfitters – but in the flesh he’s a bit more shambolic, bouncing into a pub in north London in jeans, heavy spectacles and a woollen hat. 

In fact, there’s something Tiggerish about him, not only in the jangle-limbed way he moves – he’s 6ft 2in – but also in the way he is utterly confident in his ability to win people over, no matter what he says. Every so often, he claps his hand to his mouth and says: ‘Oh God!’ as if he can’t help himself. Yet at 31 he’s old enough, and bright enough, to know exactly what he’s doing. Partly he’s shooting his mouth off because he believes he has every right to and partly because he thinks he can get away with it. It’s a test of his charm, something of which he has considerable reserves. 

I’d better make it clear at this point that Goode has no intention of bad-mouthing A Single Man, although he does admit that when he first read the script he found his scenes ‘a little banal’. But when he sat down with the film’s writer/director, fashion designer Tom Ford, he came to see that this banality was deliberate. As for the finished film, he insists he found it brilliant – unlike some of the other films he has appeared in. 

‘When you see a finished film, it’s very rare that it exceeds your expectations. Generally, you’re thinking: “Oh no, I don’t think this is going to work out the way I hoped.” This was one of the few occasions when I thought: “Wow, it’s really brilliant.” And I’m hardly in it, so there may well be a correlation there.’ But even here Goode couldn’t resist putting his foot in it. At the New York premiere of Leap Year, a journalist for New York magazine asked him about the marketing of A Single Man. After criticising the distributors for putting co-star Julianne Moore’s face on the poster instead of his – thereby implying it was a heterosexual romance – he weighed into the film’s producers, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, for not doing enough to sell it: ‘It doesn’t seem to be getting a push from the Weinsteins too much.’ 

Up goes Goode’s hand to his mouth once again when I mention this. However, he’s grinning when he takes it away. ‘Do you honestly think I wanted to pick a fight with Harvey Weinstein? To be honest, I’ll know how serious this is when A Single Man premieres over here. He’ll be over for that so we’ll see. He’s a lovely man, though,’ he says, grinning all the harder now. ‘I did get told I would have my wrist slapped as a result, but I didn’t even know about the article.’ If Weinstein stays his hand, it may well be because he read the online comments by those who read the New York article. They are, without exception, lavishly gushy about Goode: ‘I saw him in Brideshead Revisited and looooooved him’, ‘He is so cute’, ‘He’s such a cutie’ – and so on. One man, though, confined himself to a single, plainly hopeful, comment: ‘He’s gay, right?’ 

Actually, Goode isn’t gay, he lives with his girlfriend, Sophie Dymoke, and they have a 10-month-old daughter. But on screen he has an intriguingly bendy quality – both physically and, so it seems, sexually. In Brideshead he played Charles Ryder, who’s rather more bisexual than he likes to admit. Yet this, alas, was another film that made Goode’s heart sink when he watched it. ‘I got f—– over,’ he says disarmingly. ‘By the script and by what happened with everything else, because there was just nowhere for me to go as the character. I don’t think it necessarily helped that Ben [Whishaw, who played Sebastian Flyte] went down the path of making it so…’ Goode breaks off – but when I say ‘Dour?’, he does not demur. ‘Still, you know, it’s a film. It’s fine. I can sleep at night now. But I do think that Julian [Jarrold, the director] should have given Sebastian to me.’ 

Soon after the film came out, Hackett, whose posters Goode had graced for the past couple of years, dispensed with his services. ‘It was perfectly amicable, but I think maybe they’d banked on me becoming a bit bigger as a result of the film – and it didn’t really work out that way.’ 

The only thing that bothers him about being indiscreet, Goode says, is that it might make people think he doesn’t take his work seriously. ‘Because of the way my repartee comes out, people tend to think that I don’t care. Actually, it’s often just a result of my being in a situation where I’m embarrassed about having to talk about a film which I don’t think is that brilliant – but obviously I can’t say that.’ This, however, is not the full story. ‘All right… I do think that it’s important that one should be able to speak out without worrying about causing offence, or whatever. And it saddens me that the romanticism has been ripped out of being an actor.’ You mean the raciness, the bad behaviour? ‘Exactly! It wasn’t like that in Peter O’Toole’s time, was it? Maybe that’s what I love.’ 

If anyone becomes an actor, and is lucky enough to be successful, then they should just shut up about the less-welcome stuff that comes with success. That, at least, is Goode’s take on fame and its consequences. ‘If there are photographers outside your home, you’re just going to have to get used to it. Most of these people get paid an absolute fortune, so don’t live in LA. Go and find somewhere where these people aren’t going to bother you.’ 

One of the things that’s most interesting about all this tongue-flapping is that not so very long ago Goode used to be an extremely bashful little boy. Brought up in Devon where his mother ran a local amateur dramatics group, he started off by doing small parts in her productions. ‘I was roped into it at first. It wasn’t as if I was this all-singing, all-dancing child ferret that wanted to find some theatre trousers to run up. The trouble was I used to go this beetroot colour. What made it even worse was that the same thing happened when I started trying to go out with girls. I think I was probably quite confident on the one hand and a little shy on the other.’ 

After doing a degree in drama at Birmingham University, he went to drama school and started getting work pretty much from the moment he left. ‘I suppose it helped that I’m 6ft 2in and I don’t make people physically ill when they look at me. A few, but not all.’ He played Inspector Lynley’s brother in the Inspector Lynley Mysteries and then in 2004, aged 26, he starred in the film Chasing Liberty opposite American pop star Mandy Moore. 

‘I think for tax-break reasons they needed an English actor in it. To my amazement, I got the part.’ As for the finished film… Goode grimaces. Nor, he points out, did he get paid anything like as much as people assumed for starring in it. ‘It was one of those classic things where you find out that everyone else is being paid millions of dollars and I got $50,000 – which, when you’ve got bugger all, is great. The trouble is, I ended up with about £12,000 after tax.’ 

Money is clearly another subject that rankles with Goode. Indeed, he becomes uncharacteristically glum as he considers his own comparative penury. ‘Some actors go, “Bing!” and suddenly they’re being paid huge sums. Me, I seem to get screwed every time. It’s a lot better than it was, but people have this odd idea that I must be a millionaire who swans around accepting roles whenever I care to. I’m very much a jobbing actor who’s still trying to find a place to rent down the road.’ 

There is a chance that all that might be about to change. After starring in the superhero saga Watchmen last year, Goode’s American agent is keen that he should move to the United States – a move he’s determined to resist. ‘If I lived in LA, I’d be schizophrenic after a week. I’d just sit in a hotel room with a shoebox full of weed going: “I’m not f—– moving. If they want me, they can come here”.’ 

Now he’s a father, Goode doesn’t even like travelling that much. But just before we met, he’d auditioned for the role of Bilbo Baggins in Guillermo del Toro’s two-part film of The Hobbit. As he is the first to admit, he’s not an obvious choice – ‘Look at the size of me for Christ’s sake!’ If he got the part, he would, he says, find it almost impossible to refuse – despite the fact that it would involve him spending several months in New Zealand. 

His unwillingness to travel – or travel far – was behind his decision to appear in Leap Year, in which he plays an Irish innkeeper who finds his flinty heart melting in the presence of an American tourist, Amy Adams. ‘That was the main reason I took it – so that I could come home at the weekends. It wasn’t because of the script, trust me. I was told it was going to be like The Quiet Man with a Vaughan Williams soundtrack, but in the end it turned out to have pop music all over it. A bit like Chasing Liberty again. Do I feel I let myself down? No. Was it a bad job? Yes, it was. But, you know, I had a nice time and I got paid.’ 

Since then he’s appeared in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s insurance comedy, Cemetery Junction, in which he plays Ralph Fiennes’s prospective son-in-law. ‘Ralph’s character is a complete a—hole and I’m an a—hole in training.’ Cemetery Junction is due out in April, by which time Goode might be Hobbiting about in New Zealand wearing pointy ears and prosthetic feet. 

We go outside so that he can smoke a cigarette. ‘I know that in a few hours I’m going to think: “Oh f—, I shouldn’t have said that”,’ he says. 

Goode blows out a stream of smoke, looks contemplative for a moment and then perks up. ‘What the hell, you write what you bloody like.’ 


An Awesome Video Interview with Matthew Goode; Talks A SINGLE MAN, LEAP YEAR, CEMETARY JUNCTION and WATCHMEN – Collider – 8th January 2010


I recently got to speak with Matthew Goode and while some actors are guarded and careful with their answers and opinions, what I love about Matthew Goode is his honesty and his willingness to talk about anything and everything.  Also, he was willing to light up and smoke on camera and not apologize for it.  Trust me when I say most Hollywood actors would never do this.

The reason I got to speak to Goode was for his recent work in Tom Ford’s great debut film A Single Man.  But with Goode also in Ricky Gervais upcoming Cemetary Junction and the romantic comedy Leap Year, we also covered those films.  And for fans of Watchmen, we discussed that film at length as he played Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias.

If you’re a fan of Matthew Goode, trust me when I say this is a must see interview.  Hit the jump to watch it.

Since the interview ran for so long, I broke it up into two parts and I also listed what we talked about.  Finally, if you haven’t seen A Single Man, it’s absolutely worth seeing.

Matthew Goode part 1

  • We discuss the last time I’ve seen him…Watchmen
  • Cemetery Junction talk (the Ricky Gervais film)
  • 4:00 A Single Man talk.  We talk about the sexuality, how he came to the project, working for Tom Ford, the story, the book, the lack of graphic sex scenes and how that might help the film, and a lot more

Matthew Goode part 2

  • More A Single Man talk – when you’re on set and you see all this great clothing and furniture, did he want to take a lot of it home
  • 1:35 – did he do a lot of research for A Single Man
  • 2:45 Watchmen talk – has he seen the director’s cut and his thoughts on all the extra scenes.  Plus talk on the movie and it’s reception, his character, and so much more. A great conversation about Watchmen. Trust me.
  • 6:20 – Leap Year talk.  We joke around about what is the hook of this romantic comedy and the genre in general