Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult have something in common – Colin Firth. Both actors play Firth’s character George’s lovers in the movie. Goode portrays Jim, a longtime partner to George (Firth) who dies in a car accident. Hoult plays Kenny, a young student in George’s class, who is coming to terms with his nature, and who feels George is a kindred spirit.
I spoke with both the British actors about their American roles in the movie.
Was the American accent difficult to master?
Matthew Yeah, it’s a little tricky, just because there are slightly different rhythms to both accents and it draws you back into doing what you would do normally. It’s only for a couple of minutes each take, but it’s definitely tricky.
Nicolas Colin and I had one rehearsal session and I remember after it having a bit of a panic attack whereby I started to get dragged back into the English accent a bit from hearing Colin’s. It’s a lot easier when you’re hearing an American accent to do one. But as long as you work a little bit harder and concentrate you’re all good.
How did you become involved with the project and did you do your own nude scenes?
Nicholas Colin and I both participated in our own ass work, and even if we didn’t we wouldn’t admit to it. I got involved very late in the project, I got sent the script and I was asked to go on tape in London the next day. So I read the bar scene between myself and Colin, I sent it over and got an e mail from Tom saying he liked my audition. I had dinner with him a week later and just realized how passionate he was and what a great story and how personal it was to him and trusted him to look out for me and make a great movie.
Matthew Not to embarrass Nick, but there was actually another actor who was penned to be in the film who pulled out very late. I think when you consider the film was made over 21 days, which is a very short period of time, and what Nick managed to do with that character with only having five days to prepare and to do an American accent. When I watched the movie I was very proud [of him].
Had you read the book before starting this?
Nicholas The script was very different to the book. Basically, the script was more what I worked from, because it’s very personal to Tom and it’s quite autobiographical. The book is all written inside George’s head. So Tom had to find a way to developing that onto the screen.
The gay community has changed quite a lot since 1962.
Matthew Well, I suppose the gay community has changed but we were making this at the same time as Proposition 8 [the Gay Marriage Act which did not pass] so there was a general sense of irony at that fact, and we were slightly disgusted at the fact that was happening, so it was a bit of a let down. It’s a depiction of what a gay relationship was like in the 1960s.
I think one of the finest bits of acting I’ve seen in awhile was Colin getting the phone call about Jim. I find that incredibly moving.
Kenny is a ray of hope in George’s life – can you talk about the scene where you go back to the house with George and your relationship develops from there?
Nicholas Well that was actually my first day of shooting, where we arrive back, so obviously we explored what was happening before even though we hadn’t shot it, so we could get ourselves in the right mind frame. Tom’s just very clear and eloquent in what he wants and how he sees the character, and he doesn’t put a lot of pressure on you when you’re on the set, he lets you be free with it and Colin is an actor whereby each take he will change something subtly which alters what you’re giving to him, and then you find all these brilliant [moments] in the scene that way.
I do take my clothes off in front of Colin and Tom described what it means to the story, it’s me bearing my soul to him, and then those things aren’t awkward and you know exactly why you’re doing it in terms of the story, so it makes sense.
How would you describe this movie?
Matthew The movie is obviously about love and loss and we’re making it about the Sixties. Our modern viewpoint, despite Prop 8, is I thought we were slightly beyond ‘how funny, if you prick them they bleed too.’
So what I loved about this story was the fact that there is nakedness and there is sexuality, people discovering their sexuality, and it would have been fine if Tom had wanted to incorporate a sweaty clinch, but what I think sums it up and what he’s trying to achieve is not a bold statement of saying gay people have feelings too, but the memories of sitting on a sofa, they’re quite banal scenes and in some ways I was worried as an actor that they were a little undramatic, but there is a real beauty in that banality, because those are memories that are just about life.