"MI-5" Super Star Matthew Macfadyen (Aug 2003)

"MI-5" Super Star Matthew Macfadyen

by Alex Simon (Venice Magazine, August 2003)

by alex simon photography patrick fraser film processing the icon

"I used to dream I was James Bond when I was a kid. That and being the hero of a John LeCarre novel, that was my fantasy." For 28-year-old actor Matthew MacFadyen, his childhood dream has become a reality, playing lead "spook" Tom Quinn in the BBC/A&E espionage series "MI-5," which is currently playing on the A&E network in the States. The series, which follows a disparate group of British intelligence agents (MI-5 is the British equivalent of the CIA) as they combat enemies foreign and domestic, is a compelling new addition to the line-up of espionage series that is currently traveling the airwaves.

After leading a gypsy-like existence during his childhood, living all over the United Kingdom, and later the Far East (his father is an oil executive), Matthew attended boarding school at the Oakham School in England during his high school years, falling in love with acting naturally through the influence of his mother, who is a drama teacher. "My grandfather was very passionate about amateur dramatics, as well, even though he was an engineer by profession," Matthew explains. "With both those very dominant figures in my life, I didn't stand a chance," he laughs.

After graduating the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1995, Matthew toured the UK with a theatrical company, performing in dozens of plays and honing his craft in the process. The company later traveled the world, visiting places as diverse as the U.S. and Colombia. "Colombia was a real example of culture shock," Matthew remembers. "We were put up in this beautiful hotel and told very explicitly that it was okay to go outside and to the left, which was all tourist-friendly shops and things, with loads of police to look after you, but under no circumstances were we to turn right, in which case we wouldn't come back alive. It definitely makes you appreciate what you have back home."

After making his television debut in a 1998 production of Emily Bronte's classic "Wuthering Heights," Matthew went on to star in two more British telefilms, before making his feature debut in the comedy Maybe Baby, followed by an almost unrecognizable turn as a disfigured soldier in Michael Apted's WW II thriller Enigma. "That was a great experience. Michael is such an amazing director and being at Chichley Hall, where all that history took place, was quite extraordinary." Matthew does confess to one embarrassing moment on the set, however: "Mick Jagger was one of the producers of the film, and had a bit part. I saw him on the set one day, but didn't have the nerve to say hello," he admits sheepishly. "Just when you think you're beyond getting star-struck, something like that happens."

ln addition to Matthew and co-star Keeley Hawes (who is his leading lady off-screen as well), the "MI-5" cast is rounded out by veteran actors Peter Firth (Equus) and Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf in London). "We all get on like a house on fire, which doesn't always happen. Keeley and I get along particularly well, of course, but it's been funny on this press tour we've been doing in America: all the publicity people have been rather shocked by how well we all get on. I think they're used to more temperament, more "drama" amongst the cast members. I much prefer our side of the temperament scale, thank you."