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Matthew Goode on Making Bad Films…

It’s turgid. I just know that there are a lot of people who will say it is the worst film of 2010. [The location] was the main reason I took it – so that I could come home at the weekends. It wasn’t because of the script, trust me. I was told it was going to be like The Quiet Man with a Vaughan Williams soundtrack, but in the end it turned out to have pop music all over it. … Was it a bad job? Yes, it was. But, you know, I had a nice time and I got paid.

– Matthew Goode on Leap Year

It’s rare to hear an actor being so candid about a film that met with… less than stellar reception. On one hand I admire the guy’s honesty in speaking out, but on the other I kinda wonder if he really has the right to label the movie as ‘turgid’ after starring in it and whether ‘I got paid’ is really a justification for inflicting that racist romantic comedy upon mankind.

Look on my works ye mighty and despair...

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. ‘Inflicting’ is a loaded term. It isn’t like he was intentionally spreading swine flu or dealing drugs or anything that might actually cause some damage. He simple took two hours of a lot of people’s lives, two hours that they aren’t ever going to get back. I’m not pretending that anybody on their deathbed will rue the two hours spent at Leap Year or anything so melodramatic, but does an actor owe a duty of care to his audience? Why make an intentionally bad movie?

Fine, he argues that he was told it would be The Quiet Man. And he believed that? Really? Next thing you know, Neil Patrick Harris will be claiming he was sold on Harold And Kumar as a modern-day version of The Godfather. Goode isn’t an idiot, he seems to have the where-with-all to realise that a romantic comedy where a girl plans to propose to a guy after trekking through a stereotypical depiction of rural Ireland isn’t quite up there with the Duke’s best work. It’s more like He’s Just Not That Into You if it featured the Lucky Charms Leprechaun as a supporting character.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Roger Ebert noted that actors shuffle around an industry which treats them like meat. They have very little say in what they do and what they want to do doesn’t exactly pay the bills. John Turturro has conceded that his roles in the Transformers films are all about the paycheck, so there’s nothing new in a supremely talented actor ‘selling out’. In fact, the original animated Transformers feature film was the last role of Orson Welles. The more you know, eh?

That part, I’ve come to terms with. Actors make bad films. The last decade has been a humbling experience for a young fan of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino – I’ve learned to accept it as an inevitable fact of life. And, in the end, it doesn’t matter whether the actor up there is doing it because he truly loves the material or simply to cash a paycheck like any other working stiff, the result is ultimately the same. A terrible film that is tough to sit through.

Being honest, it’s actually moreso the fact that he is admitting it that makes me slightly uncomfortable. I don’t think too many will disagree with him and I think at least he’s being honest, but it just seems a little bit… smug to say ‘I got paid’. Maybe if he pulled “a Clooney” and promised to individual refund anyone who paid to see the movie (for Clooney the film was, of course, the ‘more than turgid’ Batman & Robin), it would be a decent way of conceding the same point, but there’s nothing even hinting that he might be embarassed or shamed about being a leading man in ‘turgid’ film.

Leap Year might be more than a little patronsing its portrayal of Irish (or “Oirish”) culture, but there might be a hint of truth to our portrayal as a nation of Catholics. Of course, it’s more complex than that, but I think that we all came through school with Catholic notions of guilt and shame and atonement hammered into us, even if we don’t go to mass regularly anymore. And that guilt and pride and shame tells me that the only value in admitting a mistake is in seeking atonement for it. It’s empty words to make fun a film you wasted several months of your life on and drained two hours of the audience’s time for. The only value that conceding that it was a terrible film is if you try not to make the same mistake again – or at least apologise for it.

Of course, Goode doesn’t concede it was a mistake. His statement isn’t an apology. It’s a defense and – in some ways a vindication. In fairness, Goode is notoriously prickly about his work, offering this rebuttle to critics of performance in Watchmen:

The negative feedback is relayed by my friends. I think the fanboys aren’t particularly happy – there are a load of people they’d have rather had in before me. It’s already being slated before they’ve seeing anything. But if fanboys still hate the film after going and seeing it, they can all line up and s*** my d***. I don’t give a f***.

I accept the reality of the movie industry. Economic necessity and family concerns dictate job choices there as they do elsewhere. Sometimes it works out – as in the case of John C. McGinley working on Scrubs, in order to stay near his family – but sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, comments like those from Goode don’t come across as an honest concession of an unspoken truth, they just seem like an attempt to rub our noses in the fact that he was perfectly happy to make something which sucked away an evening of the audience’s time.

Part of me wonders how many friends in the industry Goode has made by being willing to label a film he worked on as turgid.

7 Responses

  1. Goode’s comments make him sound like a spoiled brat. No one begged him to be an actor. Of course, I don’t have to pay to see his films either. At least we are all now aware that his presence in a film is no guarantee that it’s worth watching. If anything, it’s a warning to beware, lest the film might not be worth watching.

    George Clooney offered refunds for Batman and Robin? Guess it’s too late to get in that queue. Pity.

    • It’s an urban myth I’ve heard reference of, but can’t find any proof of (hence no link). Yep, Goode doesn’t exactly have the kinda track record that justifies that sort of arrogance (“Oh my god, I made a bad film!”). If anything, I think Amy Adams has more explaining to do…

  2. I haven’t seen Leap Year and honestly, I barely have any idea who Goode is so I can’t comment on the movie itself but I have no problem with actors “selling” themselves out to cash a paycheck now and then to work on more substantial movies. However, they still need to do their job to the best of their abilities.

    • I know, stuff happnes, and maybe I’m just being irrate today, but it just seems a little bit… snide to on one hand concede that a movie was ‘turgid’, but seem entirely unapologetic for that. There’s no element of “mea culpa” there (he even argues that he was tricked into believing it was The Quiet Man II… really?), just “I made a crap movie, but it’s cool, because I got paid.” It always struck me as something you leave unsaid, unless you’re willing to throw your hands up and say “I’m sorry, it was a dumb call on my part, and I’m a little bit embarassed.”

      Or you can be witty, like Michael Caine.

  3. Please. Any actor in their right mind would be THRILLED to get the chance to act opposite the formidable and two time Academy Award Nominee Ms. Adams. A huge reason that this film might not have been so well received is Matthew Goode. It’s a romantic comedy!! It’s supposed to be a fantasy romp and a good time! Goode is …..well…NOT so good. He is clearly out of his league with Amy Adams. He dragged the entire film down. And now he makes an excuse for his incredibly lackluster performance? We’re smarter than that. What an arrogant jackleg. HE is “turgid”…and I suspect he doesn’t even know the meaning of the word.

    • With you on the Amy Adams love, she’s certainly one of the best talents to emerge over the past few years. And certainly agreed that chemistry (or at least parity in skill) between the leads is a key part of making a romantic comedy work. Bonus points for use of the word “jackleg”, which I haven’t heard in yonks.

  4. I agree with Matthew. Playing in a movie doesn’t mean you love the role. Not all actors like they roles. But they have to do it plus they need the job. I don’t find anything bad in his honesty

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