One of the more redeeming qualities of The OfferParamount+’s much-talked series that chronicles the making of The Godfather, is the performance by Matthew Goode 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 iconic studio executive, along with what it was like to see the 10-parter scrutinized over its authenticity.
“It’s hilarious to me that this [project] seems to be mistreated,” Goode told Deadline. “I’m like, okay, so maybe this didn’t happen and maybe that didn’t happen. But did you like the acting? Did you like the incredible work that people did, how did they use the blueprints from the original Godfather and made the same set again? Did you like how it was shot? I think it was slightly harshly treated, but the audience seemed to love it. That’s all we can ever hope for.”
DEADLINE I can’t think of anything more intimidating than playing a Hollywood icon. What was your initial reaction when you were offered the job?
MATTHEW GOODE It was an incredible opportunity. It’s amazing when someone bestows that kind of confidence in you to do it, but it was terrifying because I’ve obviously seen The Kid Stays in the Picture back in the day and I truly loved it. It’s a documentary that stands up. He’s not a small character, this man. His voice terrified me. I got on the phone with director Dexter Fletcher and said ‘thank you so much. It’s great you’ve got the confidence in me but I’m gonna have to work really hard on this.’ There’s a lot of worm holes on YouTube that I found, some fabulous interviews that Bob gave in 1977. I would listen to them hundreds of times. And then I would start tentatively doing this speech in episode six and then send it across to Dexter to see what he would think. Then I nearly lost the job because of the visa. It took forever. So I had a week when I finally arrived on set. Everyone else had been doing rehearsals. Actually in some ways it was quite nice because I can lose confidence quickly. Sometimes it’s just best to start whacking, start chopping away at this rather than overthinking it.
DEADLINE How do you describe Bob’s voice?
MATTHEW GOODE It does sound like he’s permanently got a cold but there’s an extraordinary musicality to it. It’s difficult to describe, the cadence and the timbre. I spent a long time learning that speech. I was method in my bedroom and just having conversations all the time, like hours and hours. There’s only so much I can do. I’m actually a foot taller than Bob. You’re doing a whole body job. It’s not just the voice. But for me it was huge. Because it excludes 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 are confident in your skin. It’s like entering into another person’s body. And then you shield yourself with lots of 1970s polyester. And the final touch, obviously, was on the first day when they brought out this great box of glasses. They were 25 pairs. They would ask, ‘which ones do you think will work, blah, blah, blah.’ And I was like, let’s use them all..
DEADLINE There had to be a tan involved as well, correct?
MATTHEW GOODE Yes. I mean, it would’ve been nice to do a Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast where they him sitting by a pool for two months. Although I would be slightly worried about was getting skin cancer. The first couple of days I sat out and I went a little bit red because of my alabaster English skin. So I did start getting spray tanned. It’s just awful. It’s not like it’s a friend of yours who does it. It’s another stranger. You are stripped down to your pants, and I’m not talking about trousers, and asked to do these sort these moves while they spray. Eventually they had to stop because I was taking up most of makeup’s budget.
DEADLINE The series addressed Bob’s relationship with Ali McGraw. One thing that came through in your performance was how much it impacted Robert. He was a very sensitive man.
MATTHEW GOODE Bearing in mind that he married six other women after! You could say, ‘Oh, womanizer, blah, blah, blah.’ But I interpret that as a romantic, someone who’s really trying to find the right person and it just doesn’t keep working out. In The Kid Stays in the Picture, you can hear his sense of loss when he talks about Ali, like he knows that he made a massive mistake and that she was the love of his life. We also know that she then moved back in when they had child together. So they had to co-parent, which isn’t touched upon in our version of events. There was a closeness to them. But it was that tiny moment in Kids were I really wanted to get that in. That scene wasn’t necessarily on the page, that we were going to see him crumbling. His ego was shattered as well at that point. I think there’s a sort of naivety in the beginning of that scene where [Ali comes to his home] ‘he’s like, ‘right, I’ve got the chef, I’ve got the food and here we go. I’m gonna get her back.’ And then wham, these divorce papers come out and he can’t quite believe it. It’s nice to show this, this man who’s so passionate and very smart as well as a walking PR exercise for running a studio. You can’t have that passion for your work and not have it in your private life. It was a great arc, one of the finest I think you could ever be given. To be the king of Hollywood at the beginning, and then literally a bum, like a hobo in his own living room. And to be that phoenix rising from the ashes. It was nailed by Nikki Toscano. We had some wonderful writing.
DEADLINE The series made folks feel very nostalgic for the way movies used to be made.
MATTHEW GOODE This was a real sweet spot in the seventies Hollywood. We’ve lost the $50 million movie. Shawshank Redemption, it wouldn’t get made today. Where’s the texture? I would love a new Harold and Maude. That’s why television is in a golden era. Most of the really great work is coming from people adapting books. Why would you ever wanna adapt a book into a film now?
DEADLINE What would you have asked Bob if you had the opportunity to chat with him before he died?
MATTHEW GOODE If I could come around for supper, just so I can see how close I got, really. I just want to hear all the stories. Where you get really lucky is when you get to work with a few 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’s one of the great autobiographies. I slightly hanker after that. It seems like Hollywood was a more romantic place in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies. Now it’s become, I don’t know, such a business and you have to be so careful ’cause you can get canceled for the smallest thing these days. And that’s fine. People do need to behave and there needs to be better everything. But it’s lost that slight twinkle in its eye. That’s what’s so nice about watching The Offer is because it sends you back to a time when that twinkle still existed.
DEADLINE It’s been interesting seeing the reception for the film. It has been mixed and I have to wonder is it because the folks are very protective of the movie’s legacy?
MATTHEW GOODE I have had some of this related to me and I was a little shocked, I guess, but hey, freedom of speech. I’m not gonna stop anyone having their own opinion about it. Everyone does revere it. Is it not possible that when Al Ruddy was dealing with all this stuff, he wasn’t telling it? There were a lot of secrets that he had to keep to himself. As far as Francis Ford Coppola was concerned, he was like, ‘I don’t remember him being on the set.’ Yeah, cuz he was dealing with the mafia and putting out a lot of fires. Some of these critics are just sort of saying it has been turned up to an 11 or there is an untruth being put across. There is a classic Bob Evans quote: ‘there’s always three versions to anything. There’s your version. There’s my version. And there’s the truth.’ I didn’t see any of this written about The Crown, which was a joy to be involved with. Anytime you take something that is based on a real-life experience, the writers know little bits and bobs, but it’s all a sort of fiction, darling. Of course some things are gonna be slightly wrong because it’s not a documentary. We weren’t there. We don’t know what was said. We know pinpoints. If you’re doing a series, you get to those pinpoints and the rest is creative imagination. There’s great creativity that goes into it. But it’s hilarious to me that this [project] seems to be mistreated. I’m like, okay, so maybe this didn’t happen and maybe that didn’t happen. But did you like the acting? Did you like the incredible work that people did, how did they use the blueprints for the original Godfather and made the same set again? Did you how it was shot? I am passionate about it. I think it was slightly harshly treated, but the audience seemed to love it. That’s all we can ever hope for.