One of the most redeeming qualities of The offerthe highly publicized series from Paramount+ which chronicles the making of The Godfather, is Matthew Goode’s performance as Robert Evans. Here, the English actor best known for his work in The crown and The good wife talks about stepping into the shoes of the studio’s iconic leader, as well as what it was like to have all 10 parts scrutinized for authenticity.
“It’s hilarious to me that this [project] seems to be abused,” Goode told Deadline. “I’m like, okay, so maybe it didn’t happen and maybe it didn’t happen. But did you like the acting? Did you like the amazing job that people did, how they used the original Godfather blueprints and remade the same set? Did you like the way it was shot? I think he was treated a bit harshly, but the audience seemed to like him. That’s all we can hope for.
DEADLINE I can think of nothing more intimidating than playing a Hollywood icon. What was your first reaction when you were offered the job?
MATTHEW GOODE It was an incredible opportunity. It’s amazing when someone gives you that kind of trust to do it, but it was terrifying because I obviously saw The Kid Stays in the Picture at the time and absolutely loved it. It’s a documentary that stands up. He’s no small character, this man. His voice terrified me. I phoned director Dexter Fletcher and said “thank you very much”. It’s great that you trust me, but I’m going to have to work really hard on this. There are a lot of wormholes on YouTube that I’ve found, fabulous interviews that Bob gave in 1977. I would listen to them hundreds of times. And then I would tentatively start doing this speech in episode six, and then I would send it to Dexter to see what he thought of it. Then I almost lost my job because of the visa. It took forever. So I had a week when I finally got on set. All the others had done rehearsals. In fact, in some ways it was kind of nice because I can lose confidence quickly. Sometimes it’s better to start hitting, start cutting than to think too much about it.
DEADLINE How would you describe Bob’s voice?
MATTHEW GOODE It looks like he has a permanent cold, but there is an extraordinary musicality. It’s hard to describe, the cadence and the timbre. I spent a lot of time learning this speech. I was methodical in my room and had conversations all the time, like hours and hours. There are so many things I can do. I’m actually a foot taller than Bob. You are working all over the body. It’s not just the voice. But for me it was huge. Because he deduces everything else. It infers how you move. What’s great is that once you’ve done all that work on the voice and your movements, you’re confident in your own skin. It’s like stepping into another person’s body. And then you protect yourself with a lot of 1970s polyester. And the finishing touch, of course, was the first day they released this awesome box of glasses. They were 25 pairs. They would ask, ‘Which one do you think will work, blah, blah, blah.’ And I was like, let’s use them all..
DEADLINE There had to be a tan too, right?
MATTHEW GOODE Yes. I mean, it would have been nice to do a Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast where they sat him by a pool for two months. Although I would be a bit worried about getting skin cancer. The first few days I sat up and got a little flushed from my English alabaster skin. So I started getting a spray tan. It’s just awful. It’s not like a friend of yours did it. He’s another stranger. You’re stripped down to your pants, and I’m not talking about pants, and you’re asked to do these kinds of moves while they’re spraying. Eventually they had to stop because I was taking most of the makeup budget.
DEADLINE The series touched on Bob’s relationship with Ali McGraw. One thing that stands out from your performance is how much of an impact it had on Robert. He was a very sensitive man.
MATTHEW GOODE Knowing that he married six other women afterwards! You might say, ‘oh, womanizer, blah, blah, blah.’ But I interpret that as a romantic, someone who really tries to find the right person and it doesn’t work. In The Kid Stays in the Picture, you can hear his sense of loss when he talks about Ali, like he knows he’s made a huge mistake and she’s the love of his life. We also know that she later moved on when they had a child together. So they had to co-parent, which is not addressed in our version of events. There was a closeness with them. But it was that little moment in Kids where I really wanted to bring that in. This scene wasn’t necessarily on the page, that we were going to see it fall apart. His ego was also shattered at that time. I think there’s a kind of naivety at the beginning of this scene where [Ali comes to his home] ‘he’s like, ‘well, I’ve got the chef, I’ve got the food and here we go. I will get it back. And then oh, those divorce papers come out and he can’t believe it. It’s good to show that, this man who is so passionate and very intelligent and a walking public relations exercise to run a studio. You can’t have that passion for your work and not have it in your private life. It was a great bow, one of the best I think you could ever have. To be the king of Hollywood at first, then literally a tramp, like a wanderer in his own living room. And be this phoenix rising from its ashes. He was nailed by Nikki Toscano. We had great writing.
DEADLINE The series made people very nostalgic for the way movies were made.
MATTHEW GOODE It was a real sweet spot in 70s Hollywood. We lost the film at $50 million. Shawshank Redemption wouldn’t happen today. Where is the texture? I would like a new Harold and Maude. This is why television is in a golden age. Most of the really great work comes from people who adapt books. Why would you want to adapt a book into a film now?
DEADLINE What would you have asked Bob if you had had the opportunity to discuss with him before his death?
MATTHEW GOODE If I could come over for dinner, just to see how close I got, really. I just want to hear all the stories. Where you really get lucky is when you work with some of the old greats. I never got to work with Peter O’Toole, which is a shame, but I got to work with Michael Caine, which was pretty cool. One of my favorite books is The Moon’s a Balloon, by David Niven. It is one of the great autobiographies. I kinda want after that. Seems like Hollywood was a more romantic place in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. Now it’s become, I don’t know, such a business and you have to be very careful because you can get canceled for the slightest little thing these days. And it’s good. People have to behave and everything has to be better. But he lost that slight twinkle in his eyes. That’s what’s so enjoyable about watching The Offer is because it sends you back to a time when that twinkle still existed.
DEADLINE It was interesting to see the reception of the film. It’s been mixed up and I wonder if it’s because people are very protective of the film’s legacy?
MATTHEW GOODE I had some of that tied to me and was kind of shocked I guess, but hey, freedom of speech. I won’t prevent anyone from having their own opinion on this. Everyone worships him. Isn’t it possible that when Al Ruddy was dealing with all this, he didn’t say so? There were many secrets he had to keep to himself. Regarding Francis Ford Coppola, he said, “I don’t remember him being on set.” Yeah, because he was dealing with the mafia and he was putting out a lot of fires. Some of these critics just say it was turned into 11 or there is a lie. There’s a classic Bob Evans quote: “There are always three sides to anything.” There is your version. This is my version. And here is the truth. I haven’t seen any of this written about on The Crown, which was a joy to be involved with. Whenever you take something that’s based on real-life experience, the writers know the little bits and bobs, but it’s all just kind of fiction, honey. Of course, some things are going to be slightly off because this isn’t a documentary. We weren’t there. We don’t know what was said. We know the benchmarks. If you do a series, you get to those precise points and the rest is creative imagination. There is a great creativity that emerges from it. But that’s hilarious to me [project] seems to be abused. I’m like, okay, so maybe that didn’t happen and maybe that didn’t happen. But did you like the acting? Did you like the amazing job that people did, how they used the original Godfather blueprints and remade the same set? Do you know how it was shot? I’m passionate about it. I think he was treated a bit harshly, but the audience seemed to like him. That’s all we can hope for.