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And When Did You Last See Your Father? - Matthew Beard interview

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EMERGING British actor Matthew Beard talks about appearing in And When Did You Last See Your Father?, tackling first-day nerves and learning to drive on a beach with Jim Broadbent…

He also talks about experiencing a different kind of nervousness as the film reaches cinemas, where he’d like to see his career going and why people like Paddy Considine and Jamie Bell are role models…

How did you first get involved with And When Did You Last See Your Father?
Matthew Beard: It was very lucky really. I was with a Yorkshire agency and film roles don’t generally come that way! It’s generally the Heartbeat’s [laughs]. But they came up north to look for kids and I went to the audition, I didn’t think much of it to be honest, but I got a recall and went down to London to meet Anand [Tucker, director] and the producer. That was enough for me really – just to meet them was an event in itself, especially since I was sat in a waiting room with Colin Firth look-alikes. But somehow I got it and I was really happy.

Anand says that you’d been going through some hard times in your own personal life at that time and that’s what swung it for him…
Matthew Beard: Well, some things weren’t serious at all. I could just relate to having a father that’s quite impatient. If he’s in a queue he’d be asking what was going on. But also my parents got divorced. It wasn’t a dramatic divorce or anything, there was no fighting, but going through all that kind of experience where everything is changing. My parents got re-married, so I had new stepsisters all of a sudden and a half sister came along. Everything happens really quickly when something like that happens, which I think is what Anand means. I guess the same applied to Blake [Morrison] in that everything he thought was safe and secure suddenly was not.

How did you enjoy dealing with the coming of age scenes?
Matthew Beard: Well, they’re either something that was incredibly embarrassing, like trying to chat up a girl, or something that was incredibly enjoyable, such as learning to drive a car on the beach, or really upsetting for him such as arguing with his father. As an actor, that’s brilliant because it cuts out all the boring bits. It just goes straight to the peaks of emotion, so I had great fun doing that.

How much fun was that scene on the beach in the car?
Matthew Beard: It was the best day of my life… ever. It was amazing. They cordoned off the beach, so we had it all to ourselves, and then we had the museum piece vintage car that they got in from Berlin or somewhere crazy. And then, of course, a national treasure in the passenger seat! We also had the James Bond stunt driver give us a quick lesson because I couldn’t drive. I’d only had two lessons. It really was like a real driving lesson. It was odd because the handbrake turns and figure of eights that you think would be difficult were really quite easy, maybe because it was on sand. What was harder was doing the bad driving, such as the rabbit hopping. But it was ridiculous, we were sat there with the sun setting over the sea, a pink sky, Anand Tucker standing over you with his camera and Jim Broadbent sat next to you. I just kept smiling but I couldn’t help it.

How was working with Jim Broadbent?
Matthew Beard: Amazing. He’s very quiet – not in a rude way but he’s quite shy. And he’s always thinking. You just sit and watch him and want to go in his head a little bit because you can see his cogs working. He’ll be doing his crosswords or looking up at the cieling and you’ll be wondering what he’s thinking about. It was really useful to listen in when he was asking Anand a question about the script, or character, or the scene. It helped me to consider what questions I should be asking of the director or of myself. It was learning about acting but also how to conduct yourself on set. No one on this film was walking around with a big pair of shades on, or had loads of people following them… Jim will sit there in the corner with a paper.

Did you have any nerves to overcome on your first day of filming?
Matthew Beard: I was terrified. But Anand very cleverly had a day of rehearsals before, where we sat in one of those posh Soho club places and talked about the book and the screenplay with Jim and Colin [Firth]. But they were talking to me and asking for my opinion on the script, or the character, and they were just as interested as I was. That was clever because it meant when I went onto the set for the first day of filming I already knew Jim and we already knew what we were doing with the script. It also wasn’t scary to go up and talk to Jim, or to talk to Anand.

Is that difficult to comprehend at first, that someone like Jim Broadbent becomes Jim?
Matthew Beard: Yeah, exactly [laughs]. I’ll catch myself saying it sometimes… I’ll say “Colin” to someone I know and they’ll ask: “Do you mean Colin Firth?” But they’re so utterly normal. What’s harder to comprehend is when you see your name written out in the credits, or when I got the rehearsal schedule through for that day it just said: “At 9.30am we’ll have Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth and Matthew Beard…” Just reading that triplet out is really bizarre – hearing your name alongside the best and knowing that they must have read your name. That’s really weird at first.

Is it a different kind of nervousness now that the release date is approaching and people are starting to see the film?
Matthew Beard: You’re right, it’s a very different kind of nerves. Now, it’s like: “Oh God, I’m going to get found out now!” When you’re on set this [the release date] is very far away and you don’t really think about it. You’re thinking about the job at hand and getting the scene done. You’re not thinking: “Oh, I’m going to regret this in a year’s time when the press say ‘Matthew Beard handles this scene terribly when he does this..’.” You’re not thinking about that, you’re just having a good time with the people you’re with and trying to focus on the character. It was such a long time ago as well that it almost seems alien to see everyone again [on the press tour]. It’s strange and very nerve-wracking. But I enjoy it even though I really hate watching myself. I also hate the film poster because it’s got my head plastered right in the corner! But at the same time I’m very proud of the film. When I saw it for the first time, I thought it looked beautiful in the way Anand shot it, and I’m now looking forward to it coming out so that people can see what Anand has done, and what Jim does with his character.

Has this first experience of movies whet your appetite? Are you intending to pursue it as a career?
Matthew Beard: Fingers crossed, I hope so. There’s so much luck involved and you need things to fall into place at the right time but this has given me a huge opportunity. If it goes down OK then hopefully there’ll be auditions and parts for other things.

You’ve just finished The Hippie Hippie Shake
Matthew Beard: It’s just a tiny part but it was great just to be able to sit and watch Cillian Murphy and Sienna Miller, as well as Beeban Kidron, the director. Basically, I wanted to go and sit on the set and the only way I could do that was to get a job! So, I have two lines or something – if you go to the toilet you’ll probably miss me [laughs]. But it was perfect because he’s one of those characters that’s always there in the background somewhere, which meant I still got to be on set all the time, watching. It’s exactly what I need right now, because it keeps me ticking over.

Q. You’ve been acting since the age of five, though…
Matthew Beard: Yeah, little bits of TV and stuff. But this is the first role that I actually think I’ve brought an acting mentality to. All the other roles I’ve brought a kid having fun on a film set mentality to. The acting bit was great but there really wasn’t much thought going into it. I learned a lot, however, which meant that when I came on set on this, I knew how to deal with Jim Broadbent but also how the camera works, what the DOP does, what it stands for, and things like that. Even though a lot of it was rubbish, I wouldn’t trade it in ever. I’ve had some of the best times of my life on film sets and people I’ve met have been the best friends I’ve ever had, so I definitely wouldn’t swap it.

Would you like to write your own material?
Matthew Beard: Yeah, I always wanted to be a journalist when I was younger. Writing screenplays does interest me but I’ve never had an idea that I’ve sat down and written. I’ve had ideas but I give up too early. One day it would be nice to write a script. But I always thought if I don’t become an actor, I’ll become a film critic – if I can’t do it I’ll just drag everyone else down with me [laughs]. I want to be an actor, for sure, but I’m also aware that it doesn’t always work out. Even the greatest actors in the world can not do anything for a while – either because they haven’t got a pretty face for that film, or whatever. If you look at someone like Orlando Bloom, he’s doing more or less every blockbuster around. And yet you look at someone like my favourite actor, Paddy Considine, and he seems to be struggling for work sometimes. And yet he’s like the greatest actor we have! People like James McAvoy, too, although he’s not struggling.

There are a lot of really good British actors at the moment, such as Jamie Bell…
Matthew Beard: Jamie Bell is a definite role model for me. He’s young as well and followed a very similar route to me in that he’s come from up north and got a bit of a break. But he’s done it so cleverly. It’s exactly what you should do. He’s managed to mix the blockbusters with the roles that matter to him a bit more. I think I’ve watched all of his films and every one has been great. You can see exactly why he’s done it. Something like Dear Wendy, I know exactly why he did it – because Thomas Vinterberg was the director and he has the Dogma background. So, as a film fan it interests you more than any five star reviews would. Ben Whishaw is another one. He was in Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer and he was the youngest ever Hamlet. I think he’s just done the new Bob Dylan film. You look at his career and think: “That’s exactly what I want.” He’s doing it perfectly and he’s really, really good. People aren’t going to be screaming Ben Whishaw over Orlando Bloom but people want to be him.

I actually feel sorry for Orlando because he is a trained actor, and he’s a very good actor. But he’s been unlucky in the sense that other actors might look at him and see the route he’s taken as an easy route. It takes a lot of guts, if you’ve got a three film project called Pirates of the Caribbean sitting on the table with Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley and a film in the Hebrides for six weeks with no money and someone you don’t really know, to turn the former down. I don’t think I’d have been able to do it. I would have followed exactly the same route he did. So, he’s lucky in that way. But they always reinvent themselves. He’s doing In Celebration in the West End now. Daniel Radcliffe is doing the same thing at the moment. He just did Equus and his new film December Boys is a very low-key film compared to Harry Potter. You can see how they’re so desperate to prove themselves [outside of a franchise] because they probably are all brilliant actors. They just get unfairly branded.

b>Read our review of the film