Matthew Goode is an actor by profession, but he’s also a cinephile — and a big fan of Korean director Chan-wook Park.
“I love his style and sensibilities; he’s a proper auteur,” says Goode. He co-stars with Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in Park’s new film Stoker, which opens Friday.
The chance to work with Park on his first English-language film attracted Goode — who saw Park’s infamous Oldboy on a date, grotesque octopus-eating scene and all — to Stoker, a mannered, mesmerizing thriller about India, a watchful young woman (Wasikowska) who forms an unusual bond with her mysterious Uncle Charlie (Goode) after her father’s funeral. Kidman plays India’s unhappy widowed mother.
“One of the great things about the script is that you don’t show your cards immediately, but it’s not a whodunit. We realize early on there’s something about this guy, but he’s sort of charming, too. ... The movie is a coming-of-age drama for Mia’s character, but I saw Charlie as being the boy who never grew up,” says Goode, who has starred in such films as A Single Man, Watchmen, Match Point and an update of Evelyn Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited (“The elephant in the room was Jeremy Irons,” he confesses of the latter).
Working with such a visual director might daunt some actors. But not Goode.
“He’s such a considerate filmmaker,” he says of Park. “His preparation is second to none. It never felt like the camera came first. It’s a visually exciting film, but he’s respectful toward actors.”
The film was storyboarded, of course, so the actors did have some idea of the rich, magnetic style the final cut would bear.
“We had a sense of the soul of the movie, of what it was going to look like,” Goode says. And yet they still gasped over the finished version. In one transition, India drags a brush slowly through her mother’s hair, which seamlessly melds into a shot of grasses waving in a field.
“Nicole said, ‘I had no idea that was going to happen, but I wondered why that scene took so long to shoot,’ ” Goode says. “So it’s still a surprise when you’re watching the film. One of the great compliments of his process is that you can still feel natural in front of the camera.”
Goode isn’t sure what audiences will make of Stoker, which is definitely not an ordinary slam-bang thriller.
“It’s polarizing to the Adderall generation,” he says. “People are spoon-fed. They’re used to the quick cutting, and it’s slow-paced, character driven; it’s my kind of film! But the audience has to work.”
Whether viewers love the film or not, Goode, who also starred in the World War I television drama Birdsong with Eddie Redmayne of Les Misérables, says he’ll “keep plugging away” at acting, wherever the future might lead.
“I have to say I did really enjoy doing a war film with a lot of boys; you could go out after work,” he jokes. “Nobody cares if you get drunk as long as you know your lines the next day.”