Matt's Nothing But a Trollope (Nov 2001)

Matt's Nothing But a Trollope

Tim Randall (Daily Record - Glasgow, 10 Nov 2001)

Matt's nothing but a Trollope; He's a drunk and a womaniser, but the ladies love Matthew Macfadyen's new character, says Tim Randall

BBC1, Sunday, 8.45pm


IN his latest role, Matthew Macfadyen plays a cocky slimeball who would happily sell his own mother to pay off his gambling debts.

He has no morals, is totally selfish and is constantly scrounging money off his poor old mum. Think of a posh Nick Cotton in period costume and you'll be along the right lines.

For Matthew, who was catapulted into the spotlight in the acclaimed Bosnia drama Warriors, it is the role of a lifetime.

He says: "When I read the script it just clicked, I knew I had to do it as it's such a great part. I auditioned twice and then I had to wait all over Christmas and New Year to find out if I'd got it, which was terrifying.

"What's so great is that my character Felix is a total s**t. He's a totally irresponsible spendthrift, a drunkard, a womaniser, gambler and all round cad. He can't really think further than this afternoon. He likes his drinking, his gambling, his sh**ging and getting money off his mum. And that's his life."

Sir Felix Carbury is one of the central characters in the new BBC1 adaptation of the Anthony Trollope novel The Way We Live Now, which hits our screens this week. Also starring David Suchet, Douglas Hodge and Rob Bryden, it is a story of Victorian power, passion and corruption as old money is swept aside by the forces of business and finance.

Felix may be useless, spoilt and lazy - but for some reason the ladies find this very attractive. Which is pretty handy if you are a skint con artist.

So he uses them for sex, screws them for every penny and then tosses them aside. But is he about to be out conned by businessman Augustus Melmotte (David Suchet), perhaps the biggest user of them all?

"This isn't a typical costume drama. It's much more spunky and feels more up to date," says the actor, whose family hail from Glasgow. "I hope it's not going to be thought of as just another frock coat and corset show. It's actually quite raunchy."

So how does Matthew feel about becoming a sex symbol?

"I suppose it would be rather nice," he says, with a bemused grin. "But I really don't think of myself like that."

He's taken anyway. His long-term girlfriend is actress Surita Chowdry, who lives in New York.

"I go backwards and forwards a lot, which isn't that great," says Matthew, 27. "I'm not sure what the solution would be. I may go and live there one day, but not at the moment. Now isn't the right time."

For the RADA-trained actor, The Way We Live Now is yet another quality drama to add to his CV.

He was scouser squaddie Private James in Warriors, starred alongside the likes of Michael Gambon and Lindsey Duncan in Stephen Poliakoff's Perfect Strangers and Kate Winslet in the recent British movie Enigma.

Basically he's not the kind of actor you'll find popping up in Where The Heart Is or The Bill.

"I've been tempted to do that kind of stuff for the money when I've been really skint. But then you think, I can't really. I think it would be madness not to be a little bit canny when you can and think long-term. I suppose I can be quite selfish at the moment as I haven't got any responsibilities. I don't have any kids or anything like that," says Matthew.

"I know I've been totally jammy with my career so far. I know one guy and his first job after RADA was playing a penis. That was his first job.

"I mean, how do you explain that one on your CV? So I appreciate I've been very lucky.

"I remember when I was doing my GCSEs my mum bribed me to do some terrible project with the promise that if I did it, she'd buy me a ticket to go and see Michael Gambon in some play he was doing. I remember going to see it and being blown away by him.

"And then suddenly you find yourself on Perfect Strangers sitting there with him having a fag and a cup of tea and talking about what was on telly last night. And trying to act cool at the same time. It's all very weird."

Acting always seemed to be on the cards for the rising star. His mother trained as a drama teacher and his grandfather was a director.

However, it was after the harrowing Warriors that his career really took off.

Matthew explains why it was so humbling to film as the actors were surrounded by the British soldiers - as extras - whose work they were attempting to portray.

"If I ever I felt like a luv, it was on the first day. You've got all this kit on and you're not wearing it properly and you feel like a total s**t. And they've all been to Bosnia. You are aware that it is so much artifice," he recalls.

Next up, the actor has recently filmed the medieval whodunit The Reckoning, directed by Paul McGuigan of Gangster No 1 fame, and co-starring Willem Dafoe and Gina McKee.

But it's not all heavy going drama and luvviedom for the actor.

One of his favourite roles was in a much more lighthearted vein.

He says: "I did Ben Elton's film Maybe Baby where I played the controller of BBC1.

"I basically went round screaming at Hugh Laurie for five days. Now that was a real laugh."


David Suchet plays financier Augustus Melmotte - a far cry from mild-mannered detective Hercule Poirot. Suchet played the rather dapper cop for more than seven years. He has a long line of TV, film and theatre credits, including Victoria & Albert, A Perfect Murder and Sapphire & Steel.

The familiar face of Shirley Henderson was Robert Carlyle's love interest in Hamish Macbeth and was also in Trainspotting, Rob Roy and Bridget Jones' Diary. Her latest Hollywood venture is in Harry Potter as a ghost . For now, she's Marie, daughter of David Suchet's Augustus.

As the dazzling Twinkle in Dinnerladies, Maxine Peake turned a few heads with her close to the bone sense of humour. In The Way We Live Now, she continues to turn heads, playing passionate country girl Ruby Ruggles - the object of Felix's rather dubious affections.