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INT: Mortimer / Goode

12.30.2005

After years of mining the neuroses of wealthy Manhattanites, Woody Allen hops across the pond into the world of London elites for his latest film, MATCH POINT. A straight-up dramatic thriller, the film represents a departure of sorts for Allen. It’s also one of his most acclaimed films in years, opening to rave reviews at Cannes .

Last week Emily Mortimer and Matthew Goode stopped by the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles to talk about their experience making Match Point. Check it out.

Emily Mortimer Matthew Goode

Woody Allen has a reputation for giving very little direction. What was your experience like with him?

Mortimer: The same. (Laughs) At first it’s pretty hairy, not having any direction. But you didn’t seem to mind it so much.

Goode: It’s scary as shit.

Mortimer: I don’t really trust myself to be any good unless I’ve practiced until I’m blue in the face and had long, detailed discussions with everybody I can lay my hands on about how to do it. It took a long time to kind of trust that I wasn’t completely fucking up…I think a lot of people have heard this fact that there’s not much rehearsal and not much discussion of the job in hand, but they haven’t heard that he – with us, anyway – was incredible jolly and in a very good mood, very relaxed. Like the least neurotic person there at any one given time.

Goode: Twinkly. Very twinkly.

Mortimer: He didn’t seem fazed by anything. I find that often with writer/directors, that they seem to be more relaxed, generally, about the script than directors that haven’t written it. It’s their world. They understand everything that’s going on in it and so they can very quickly assimilate if you change something or suggest something or do something differently, they know immediately whether it works or doesn’t. They don’t have to ring up a hundred producers and get a writer there to write the dialogue that you’ve suggested. He just seemed calm, and that kind of calmness rubbed off in the end. It was really easy once you learned to trust what was going on.

Did you get to see a complete script?

Mortimer: We did.

Goode: I think it was six of us who got the main script, the names on the poster.

Mortimer: Yeah, the people on the poster got the script. No one else did.

Goode: Which was great! It was quite hilarious, to a certain extent. My wife (in the film) came up to me and was like, “What the fuck is going on, by the way?”

Mortimer: She didn’t know she was married to you!

Goode: I was like, “I’m Matthew, and I’m marrying you today.” And literally two seconds later (during the scene), she’s like, “I do.” (Laughs)

Mortimer: We kept stealing people off into the loo, these poor actors that had come, not knowing where they were or who they were playing and just telling them the story.

Goode: But if you think about it – not to sound like a dick – in a weird way, it’s kind of like how…

Mortimer: Shakespeare. Were you about to say that?

Goode: Yes, it is. And let me tell you why. In Shakespeare’s time, they only got the line before their cue, which is kind of great because – it’s such a shit point, because it’s not about theater – but it does make you listen and respond.

Mortimer: It does. It forces you – even if you have the script – because you’ve had very little rehearsal time, you don’t have the memory of having said the lines in a certain way that you can fall back on.

Goode: It doesn’t get staid.

Mortimer: No. You have to just really listen and you’ve got nothing but your wits to sort of get you by. It forces you to be very in the moment.

Goode: Organic…it was quite nice because 80% of (Woody’s) job seemingly is done by just casting you. He’s really hands-off. He just kind of goes, “You’re actors, so you go and do it.” And he couldn’t really understand a lot of what I said. He’s losing his hearing a bit, so there were generally not that many notes…you just kind of get on with it. It was really refreshing.

Mortimer: His most detailed notes are about the costumes - girls’ clothes and hair and makeup.

Goode: And bottoms.

Mortimer: Not bottoms! (Laughs)

Goode: Scrap that. Scrap the bottoms comment.

Mortimer: But he was very particular about the way that we looked. That was the most notes we got, about our appearance.

When you got the script, were you disappointed that it wasn’t a comedy?

Goode: It’s kind of an interesting question. When I first read it I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t really know what to make of it, to a certain extent, because I wasn’t sure what the genre of the film was gonna be. And there were certain points where I looked at my character and wondered, am I kind of the light relief? I think he is, to a certain point, but he does serve the plot in certain ways in the fact that Johnny’s character does sort of look to him and he represents the sort of like that he covets. But I did read it and kind of go, “Well, I haven’t got a fuckin’ clue what to make of this.”

Mortimer: I find comedy very frightening.

Goode: It’s the hardest.

Mortimer: And in some ways it’s a relief not to be…I just did this Pink Panther movie. It’s just coming out. We did it a while ago, but…that was really frightening, because the thought of telling a joke that isn’t funny in front of millions of people on the big movie screen is just so embarrassing. I’m not embarrassed by many things – I’ve been quite happy to take my clothes off at times and get smothered in custard on celluloid. (Laughs) But to try and be funny and not be is pretty embarrassing, I think. So that, to me, is really scary. In a way it’s a relief to me to not try to be funny and see what happens. But I was really taken by (Woody’s) script.

I found it really odd and cool and unlike things that I felt that I’d been reading. I found that reading it was a very arresting experience compared to reading all this mountains of stuff you read. It’s so kind of laconic and economic, the way that he writes. There’s hardly any stage direction; it’s just bare and constant and…strange. It was such a strange script and such a strange ending. I was really taken with it. It felt really fresh and bold. Although I’d never in a million years ever would have imagined I’d be in a Woody Allen film- that just seems such and absurd kind of fantasy that you wouldn’t even allow yourself to engage in – I had always identified with his heroines and felt like that sort of woman is someone I could understand.

A worrier, like myself, naturally. And I was playing someone that wasn’t a typical Woody Allen heroine. So it was weird to be in a Woody Allen film playing a girl that didn’t have kind of an introspective, anxious thing. It was just a very straightforward, decent girl. That was odd.

Goode: You’re the straight man.

Mortimer: Exactly.

How well did you feel that Woody captured the look and feel of London?

Mortimer: I think he captured it brilliantly. I think that we have a problem as a nation--

Goode: More than one, darling…

Mortimer: Many. One of them being that we are completely neurotic about class and we can’t make films or anything about class without it being kind of skewed in some way. You can’t really see the edges of it; it’s in close-up for us. We’ve been obsessed by class for hundreds and hundreds of years, and we still are to such an extent that it’s very difficult for us to make films about very posh people which are unjudgmental, I think…I feel like it often takes directors from the outside to come in and observe.

They can observe English manners better than we can ourselves, like Ang Lee did with Sense and Sensibility. Robert Altman did it with Gosford Park. Shekhar Kapur did it with Elizabeth. These foreign directors are able to observe the peculiarities and the oddness of the class system better than we can ourselves. It’s because they’re not judging it. They’re just seeing it for what it is.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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