- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

Matthew Goode knows firsthand that many in his native England didn’t see the need for a new adaptation of “Brideshead Revisited.”

Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel had already been made into a seemingly verbatim, 11-hour 1981 miniseries that is widely regarded as one of the best British television programs ever.

After he found out he was up for the part of Charles Ryder in the big-screen version (Jeremy Irons played the role on the small screen), he went home to a meal with his family.

“Did you know they’re going to do a film version of ‘Brideshead’?” he asked.

We can’t print what Mr. Goode tells us his mother responded. Rest assured, it wasn’t positive.

The actor blithely continued, “And they’re thinking of casting me as Charles.”

This time his mum was more encouraging: “That’s wonderful, darling!”

As Mr. Goode wryly notes, “I went into it with some concerns.”

He was likely helped by what seems a very supportive family. Along with his agent, they paid his rent as he struggled to establish himself. It was a good investment - the 30-year-old actor is about to become a star.

He has just 14 entries in his Internet Movie Database listing (and only eight are films), but Mr. Goode is proving quality can trump quantity, even in the film business. He first drew attention as Mandy Moore’s love interest in 2004’s “Chasing Liberty.” His next film was Woody Allen’s 2005 masterpiece “Match Point,” in which he played Scarlett Johansson’s fiance. He transformed himself into an American con artist in last year’s “The Lookout.” Now he’s the star of one much-anticipated adaptation and is on the cover of this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly for another: He appears with the cast of the graphic novel adaptation “Watchmen.” The big-budget superhero movie hits theaters in March.

To be a star rather than a mere actor, though, you need more than talent. You need charisma, and Mr. Goode has it in spades.

At a press stop in the District - which he calls “the nicest place I’ve been in America” - even the toque covering his thick brown hair doesn’t detract from his good looks. Sure, he does shoot his eye, every now and then, to a television he’s switched to the British Open. And he peppers his speech with a bit of profanity. But he also intersperses it, unasked, with kind mentions of fellow thespians. (On his “Match Point” co-star Jonathan Rhys Meyers: “He’s a nice chap. He’s been troubled, but he’s a good guy at heart, really.”)

He’s the kind of guy another guy would want to have a pint with and a woman would want to have, well, just about anything with. In other words, matinee idol material.

He laughs when he admits, “I really don’t work that much.” He has a simple explanation, though: “I’m not very good at auditioning for stuff that’s [bad], so I stopped. Now I only go in for things that I like.”

In fact, this actor-on-the-verge doesn’t even have his next job lined up. “I don’t think the world necessarily tolerates you putting out loads of work,” he says. “I want longevity, so I don’t see the point of doing five films if they’re all [bad].”

Don’t look for him to spend his free time in hot Hollywood haunts, either. “I’m never going to move away,” he says. “I don’t like being away from England.”

He says it’s his friends and family who keep him there: “It’s quite simple: I don’t like being away from them.” But he also gets wistful talking about the English summer and all the cricket and golf he gets to play.

He spent much of his youth focused on sport after a brief flirtation with acting. His mother is a theater director and, he says, “When I was 7, I remember being slightly seduced by this world of hanging out and people who drink and smoke.” He lights a cigarette himself at this point.

He decided to return to his first love when his father insisted he go to university. Acting was the only thing he was interested in enough to study while at the University of Birmingham.

He isn’t one of those actors who always knew he’d be a performer, though. “I just didn’t think I was terribly good,” he says. “I’m still waiting for that definitive ‘I’m all right.’”

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