Matthew Goode puts his angelic good looks to sinister use in Park Chan-Wook's dark and defiantly odd coming-of-age fable "Stoker."
In the "Olboy" director's English-language debut, Goode plays uncle to India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), a young troubled woman with harboring some daddy issues after the surprise death of her father (Dermot Mulroney). When Goode's character, Charlie, returns home under mysterious pretenses for his brother's funeral, his arrival causes friction between India and her widowed mother (Nicole Kidman), throwing India off the deep end.
Indiewire sat down with a dapper-looking Goode in Manhattan's Crosby Street Hotel to discuss the sociopathic nature of his character, the pleasures of working with Park, and why "Oldboy" makes for a great date movie. "Stoker" is currently in limited release.
“Watchmen” obviously wasn't the first thing I saw you in but I did draw some parallels when watching this performance -- you have a knack for playing duplicitous characters. Why is that?
Oh, Christ, I don’t know really. In some sense one is deeply sociopathic and the other one I always thought was the most intelligent man in the world making a decision, somewhat mathematical, so I never looked at him as morally ambiguous as much as everyone else did. Everyone wants to save the world, he just does it. The world’s going to end anyway, everyone forgets that the doomsday clock is at midnight and so that’s it.
But with uncle Charlie -- I don’t know. I wouldn’t say I’m drawn to dark roles, and it’s not like I pick and choose. But I love Park, the role became open, and I loved the script. The character was fascinating and the story was fascinating. There’s such a small amount of actors, and it’s quite meaty, although there’s not a lot of dialogue. So all of those things together mix up, and you’re jumping through hoops trying to keep your name in the hat for as long as possible.
It’s a bit of a lottery really, but it’s nice when it's a director like Park. For him to choose you to be in his film, it’s quite something. It was a long time, I remember them saying, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll hear this week,” and two months passed. It got to the point where I was like, “Please just tell me I haven’t got it already.” And luckily they gave it to me. And then you have to go do the job after all that. But it’s a good thing, and many people would cut off their arm to be in the same position.
Actors are prone to saying they can’t judge a character to truthfully portray them. Did you find yourself doing that with Charlie?
Yes, I’m not a method actor, I think that would be rather exhausting on this sort of a project. But I don’t judge the character; I think that’s safe to say. You’re conning yourself between action and take. I don’t think about it too much, I just do what you have to do. You know there’s a camera in your face, and there are times when you can just get completely lost in it and the take is over. Then sometimes it’s very choreographed and you have to get your head in there to match with someone’s eye line, and I love that. I love the technique.
But ultimately you’re there to do a job. It’s a director’s medium -- I’m there to please one person and I don’t go AWOL. Sometimes you don’t see what someone wants you to do and in your mind you think, “I don't know if that’s right,” but you still have to commit to it. It’s their vision. So with a darker character like this, it’s quite fun. It’s something that’s very different to who I am. I’m not a sociopath and I don’t go around strangling people. It’s just like kids playing. That’s really what our job is. We haven’t grown up.
It kind of harks to the twist in the film.
Well, that’s true. That was also what we wanted to try to implement with Charlie. We didn’t want to answer every single question about him. I think with all of the characters there’s a certain interpretation. Some people think it’s "vampiric" in ways, which it is. I don’t eat, really, and I wear sunglasses. There are all sorts of little things that are sort of interesting.
But as much as it's a coming of age story for Mia’s character, I always felt that Charlie was stuck in the past. There’s a sort of childlike quality to him. Not an innocence, but the loneliness. They’re all very lonely characters. It’s an isolated location, a Gothic horror kind of thing. Although it’s set in the South, it’s not set anywhere. It’s not given a discernible time period, but we know its sort of ‘90s, ‘80s, somewhere around there. And the way that I dress sort of reflects that. Seems sort of washed and from the past. A sepia quality to the clothes I wear. We wanted him to be masculine, male and adult and then a childlike innocence back and forth so that you don’t necessarily know. It’s oft-kilter watching it and it’s quite disturbing because you don’t know what he’s going to do.