• Matthew Goode talks about working with Anthony Hopkins in “Freud’s Last Session” and how inspiring Hopkins is as an actor.
  • Goode shares his nerves and challenges while working with Hopkins, but also expresses pride in the film.
  • “Freud’s Last Session” represents a conversation that is needed in the world today, where people can talk intelligently and have intellectual debates.

From director Matthew Brown, who co-wrote the script with playwright Mark St. Germain(adapting his own stage play), Freud’s Last Session tells a fictional tale about what a meeting of the minds might have been like between Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins), the father of psychoanalysis, and author C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode), at a time when war was raging around them. The two men clash and challenge each other as they debate their views, but their mutual respect allows them to listen and understand their different beliefs about life, death, love, faith and science in a way we could all learn from.

During this interview with Collider, Goode talked about being a lifelong fan of co-star Hopkins, the first time he saw the Academy Award winner act in a movie, how he got over his own nerves the first day on set, why the added flashbacks were a useful tool for the story, how he approached bringing out C.S. Lewis’ humanity, who he talks to when he wants to have a challenging conversation, and why he thinks world leaders could learn something from being open to conversations about differing viewpoints and listening to each other.

Freuds Last Session Film Poster

The movie’s story sees Freud invite iconic author C.S. Lewis to debate the existence of God. And his unique relationship with his daughter, and Lewis’ unconventional relationship with his best friend’s mother.

Release DateJanuary 12, 2024
DirectorMatt Brown
CastAnthony Hopkins , Matthew Goode , Liv Lisa Fries , Jodi Balfour
Runtime108 minutes
Main GenreDrama
WritersMatt Brown , Mark St. Germain
Distributor(s)Sony Pictures Classics

Matthew Goode Says You Should Work With Your Hero, If It’s Anthony Hopkins

Matthew Goode as author C.S. Lewis and Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Sigmund Freud in Freud's Last Session
Image via Sony Pictures Classics

MATTHEW GOODE: I’ll tell you how it happened. My agent suddenly started repping Anthony, or Tony. I can’t call him Anthony. And I was like, “Get out of town. That’s amazing.” And then, he goes, “He’s circling a script that you are kind of right for, but it’s unlikely you’ll get it.” And I was like, “Well, thanks very much.” And this kept going on for another couple of months until I finally got to read the script, and then I really wanted to do it. They finally made up their mind, and it was a delicious prospect, Anthony being one of my all-time heroes. Sometimes you should work with your heroes. Also, the elephant in the room was that he had already played C.S. Lewis in one of my favorite films (Shadowlands). It was quite a worry, but he’s such a brilliant character. There’s so much wonderful research that you can do, and I did because I didn’t want to let anybody down and I’m quite thorough when I put that stuff together. The book [C.S. Lewis] wrote in 1955, Surprised by Joy, was the one that really, when he talks about his early life, was of the utmost help. And then, you have to throw it all out the window. You’ve got the script, which we both learned and knew all of before we started. That helped us make it flesh.

GOODE: It’s a funny one. I actually haven’t seen the final version. I saw an early cut. I can always close my eyes and ears. I don’t love it, but I’m really proud of this. It wasn’t easy. We didn’t have much time. We only had six weeks for the entire film. I’m the luckiest actor in the world. I don’t think many people have three weeks when they just have Tony Hopkins to themselves. It was difficult to make into a screenplay from the play. I thought (writer/director) Matt [Brown] did a brilliant job. And it’s not just Tony and I, it’s Liv [Lisa Fries] and all the other actors and all the technicians and the crew. So, although it’s uncomfortable to watch yourself, there’s the pride of us all coming together, executing what we needed to under pressure, and the conceit works.

GOODE: Yeah, it was not an easy thing. When Matt built the screenplay, the flashbacks were very useful tools. He was aware that we needed to get out of the room a little bit. Maybe we could have held it up by just being in that room, but it certainly would have been a bit more of a challenge.

What was the first thing that you saw Anthony Hopkins in that made you want to know who he was and that made you want to seek out other work of his that you could watch?

GOODE: I saw The Lion in Winter when I was very young, which is ironic because we shot [Freud’s Last Session] in Dublin at Ardmore Studios. I remember watching that with my mum when I was about six or seven. It was the same film that was my introduction to [Peter] O’Toole. And then, there was a BBC drama about Donald Campbell (Across the Lake). I’ve seen everything he’s done now, but those were probably the two earliest.

Matthew Goode as author C.S. Lewis in Freud's Last Session
Image via Sony Pictures Classics

You’re an actor and you know what you’re doing, but it must feel different when you’re working with somebody like Anthony Hopkins. Do the nerves go away once you start shooting the first scene, or are there always a bit of nerves there, throughout?

GOODE: There are several different types of nerves. There are your nerves about the project and if it will work out or not. Those are always there. And then, there were the nerves of meeting Tony for the first time. I met him on the phone and we had a lovely chat for about 45 minutes prior to me getting there, but we weren’t rehearsing. Some people spend a couple of weeks before. Tony doesn’t love it. I don’t particularly love it. I like rehearsing on camera, so it was really wonderful. Tony made me feel so at ease, very quickly. He could be really intimidating if he wants to, but as we can see from his acting, he’s so generous and giving.He’s also a brilliant composer and he composed some of the music for the film. That’s how generous he is. He gave it to the film for free. He donated it, the benevolent man that he is. He’s just exactly what you would want him to be.

GOODE: Well, 50% of any performance you give is what you’re getting from the other person. You can work harder and raise your level. His level has been at such a great height for such a long time. He’s 86 and still knocking it out of the park, which is very inspiring for us all, if I’m honest.

Is there a time, early in your career, that you were very nervous about starting the first day on set? How did you get past that feeling?

GOODE: It’s a funny thing, I was trained for the stage. We didn’t have camera phones and all that jazz then. That’s how old I am. I’m 45, I’ll be 46 next year. When you’re trained for the stage and you’re trained to do long form, you’re trained to do plays. You’re trained to do something that’s gonna take two or three hours. Being on camera felt like a different kind of acting. It’s like working out a code, in a way. It’s a different kind of truth. You’re not attacking the whole film in one go, thankfully, because that would be a challenge. I know some people have done that, and that’s extraordinary. It’s bite size. It could be over in 30 seconds, and then you get to go again. And so, I’m always nervous, and then you just settle in.

Matthew Goode Likes to Immerse Himself in Research Before His First Day on Set

Matthew Goode as author C.S. Lewis in Freud's Last Session
Image via Sony Pictures Classics

When you play someone like C.S. Lewis, are you always thinking about playing C.S. Lewis, or do you approach it more from the layers of all the things that make up the man that you’re playing and how that shapes him, rather than thinking about his famous name?

GOODE: There are two schools of thought on that. If you’re lazy and you don’t think about it and you just say the words, if the script is good enough, we’ll believe you. I prefer all the research and going through all the layers of the onion. You find out everything, and then you’ve got to throw it away and just bring the humanity. I also spend a lot of time visualizing, as well. If I’m working at C.S. Lewis, I’m looking at pictures of Magdalene College, so that if he talks about his school, those are the pictures in your mind. That actually just makes it easier to do the job for me. I’m being a bit facetious. It’s just in there and you don’t have to try to bring it up. It’s difficult talking about acting. I don’t particularly like talking about acting, I just like doing it.

GOODE: I find it exactly that. I don’t care that he’s a famous person, at all. I care about how the film is received after I’ve done my job, but at the time, the only thing I’m really thinking about is, “I just want to get this man’s humanity onto the screen.” That’s my job. Tony’s gonna bring his thing, and we’re gonna do our thing together. Hopefully, the whole thing will sort itself out.

Matthew Goode is Proud of All His Past Projects, But Wants to Look Forward

Matthew Goode as C.S. Lewis in Freud's Last Session
Image via Sony Pictures Classics

Now that you have this wide and varied collection of work that you’ve done, if someone watches this movie who has never seen anything else that you’ve done and they want to look at your previous work, what should they watch first and why?

In this film, Freud and Lewis are two men who have a similar level of intellect in common, which leads to interesting conversations because they really challenge each other. Is there someone in your own life that always challenges you in conversations and that you always look forward to talking to again?

GOODE: Yeah. My wife is the person who challenges me the most. She isn’t challenging. She’ll call me on things, and I’m like, “Okay, that’s interesting.” She’s wonderful. My friends James and Adam and Ken are pretty incredible. They keep me grounded. We try not to chat about religion too much, but it comes into everything in some way. So, I’ve got my people, for sure.

GOODE: Judging by his books, I think that Lewis might have talked more. I think he could talk at great length, so he’d probably have a couple of big speeches in there. His faith was challenged every single day, so it was a struggle that he fought with. As a person, he was very understanding and very compassionate, and I think Freud was, too. It would have been a very interesting conversation that they would have had. It just shows the kind of conversations that we need in the greater world now. We need leaders who actually have written a book and know a bit about philosophy. If we can’t talk intelligently, then we’re gonna fight. We’ve got two fights going on right now, in Gaza and Ukraine. So, I just think now is the time for great oratory and great intellectual debate, and we need the right people in charge.

GOODE: Yes, listening is key.

Freud’s Last Session is in theaters now.