The former Warrior is Poliakoff's latest recruit (May 2001)

The former Warrior is Poliakoff's latest recruit

by John Naughton (RadioTimes, 5 May 2001)

The English language is overflowing with words to make the mind soar but, as yet, "Hillingdon" and "surveyor" have failed to do so. This may change thanks to Matthew Macfadyen, the lead in Perfect Strangers summoned to an intriguing family reunion.

Macfadyen, 26, laughs when asked how he gave his character, a surveyor from Hillingdon, dramatic appeal, but anyone who saw his startling performance as squaddie Allan James in Warriors will not doubt his powers of transformation.

In the office of Perfect Strangers production company Macfadyen is nursing a hangover. However, he remains an articulate interviewee and one with catholic cultural tastes, declaring that Popstars recently "ruled my life", but has equal enthusiasm for seventies classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

"It's brilliant," he explains, "because it's so slow. And that's one of the things I love about Perfect Strangers. It's slow and not over-explained. It's like reading a book."

Macfadyen will soon be seen in two other dramatisations, first on TV in Trollope's Way We Live Now as the despicable Sir Felix Carbury - "It's great fun, he's a total shit" - and in Morality Play, Barry Unsworth's medieval-set story.

This marks a welcome upturn after a slim period between leaving Rada and Warriors. It was largely theatre that sustained him and remains his passion: "I love the gladiatorial aspect of theatre, the showmanship of it." And it was the theatre that brought him to the attention of Stephen Poliakoff, a man for whom Macfadyen expresses unlimited admiration.

"He's a very hands-on director," he says, "but he isn't overbearing. He's very specific, very clear and he's a dauntingly articulate man."

Equally inspiring, too, for Macfadyen was the starry cast of Perfect Strangers, not least Michael Gambon - "a glorious man".

Hangover lifting slightly, he recalls the shoot. "Just working with all those people," he says, "having cups of tea with Gambon at 5am. I'm proud of having been a part of it and thrilled that Stephen took a risk with me."

Matthew Macfadyen - you don't need to be a surveyor from Hillingdon to say the foundations look good.