Prime Time: Leading man gets spooked by fame (June 2003)

Prime Time: Leading man gets spooked by fame

The News Letter (Belfast, N. Ireland) June 3, 2003

"The weird thing about it was getting used to it," he says. "It was a shock seeing it. Then the really weird thing is it was up for weeks and weeks and I started thinking, 'Who is that?"'

Macfadyen, 28, is far from comfortable with the fame side of his chosen career. While not a household name as such, he got the juices of the tabloid gossip pages flowing last year when he fell for his married co-star Hawes during filming of the first series of Spooks.

The couple got together just five months after Hawes, 25, had married Spencer McCallum, the father of her son Myles. She then moved out of her home with McCallum to live with Macfadyen.

"I was very uncomfortable with all the attention," says Macfadyen. "I want to avoid that again. I think anyone would unless that's the sort of attention you're after."

Macfadyen has developed something of a reputation as a discerning actor, choosy about the parts he plays. He has an impressive CV that kicks off with roles in the 1998 TV version of Wuthering Heights and acclaimed war drama Warriors. Since then, he's flitted between TV to film, starring in Enigma and Maybe Baby.

But Macfadyen laughs at the idea of his accumulation of estimable parts being down to his own insight and good judgment, claiming it's more a case of good luck.

"In the beginning it was completely luck," he says. "I was on-my-arse broke and would have done pretty much anything. I've been up for The Bill about four times and never got it.

ONCE again, actor Matthew Macfadyen's face is plastered on billboards across the country to advertise the new series of his hit spy drama, Spooks.

Looking mean and moody, he's flanked by his co-stars - off-screen girlfriend Keeley Hawes and David Oyelowo - but all the somewhat embarrassed Macfadyen can see, when he can bring himself to look at the posters, is what he describes as his "pudding face".

Seeing himself on walls was an even worse experience for the actor when the first series hit screens last year, however, as he had a billboard right outside his flat in north London.

"I've never been snobbish about roles, I just haven't done things I know I won't be very good in. Even now I don't get offered stuff all the time, I still have to go up for things.

"But when you do more and more work and people get to know you, it's quite good to be fussy. If you're canny and you're able to be then it would be silly not to."

Even his profile-raising performance as cool and calm MI5 spy Tom Quinn in the ultra-successful Spooks wasn't a canny move on Macfadyen's part. He went for it because, "I thought the writing was very good, but you never know how well something will do."

However, the success of the show - it got an average audience of 7.6 million and picked up a BAFTA for Best Drama Series - was a pleasant surprise for him.

"We were all surprised and delighted with how well it did," he says. "I hadn't really taken any notice of ratings before because I'd not done a series like this."

l Spooks is on Mondays on BBC One.