Living a Lie and Loving It (May 2002)

Living a lie - and loving it; Phil Gould talks to actor Matthew MacFadyen about spying and standing naked beside a lake.(Features)

Daily Post (Liverpool, England); 5/9/2002

Byline: Phil Gould

IT WAS a case of turning the other cheek for actor Matthew Macfadyen in his latest role as spy chief Tom Quinn as he had to strip off in front of a load of unsuspecting rowers.

His outdoor strip happened when he was filming BBC One series Spooks, set in the shady world of the national Security Service, M15. But the 27-year-old actor reveals that removing your clothes is a regular part of a spy's job.

``In one episode I had to meet this IRA guy. To check that we're not bugged in any way we had to take all our clothes off. It was very cold - so I didn't feel at my best.

``We were in this field somewhere near Maidenhead. It was supposed to be a really deserted spot but we were next to a lake and all these rowers kept going past. We had to stop every five seconds and dive for cover.''

Macfadyen is certain he's not cut out to be a real life spy. ``I don't think I would like to be a spy and have to live a lie for 24 hours a day. It must be strange having to befriend people then get to know them really well without revealing anything about yourself. That must put you under a great strain.

``There is a glamour associated with spying but I don't think it is that glamorous. In Spooks I didn't have many James Bond type devices although there was this thing which punctured tyres.''

A ND he certainly doesn't want to play the ultimate fictional spy 007 James Bond either ``I don't have any burning desire to play Bond. It must be exhausting and tedious. I know that sounds awful but when you are in an action movie they spend so much time setting up all the stunts there are very few other scenes. Although I don't suppose I would ever have to buy a suit or car again.''

Macfadyen however admits he is intrigued by the shadowy world of M15 - one of his friends was approached to spy for her country.

``She was approached to be a spy while she was at university. She went for an interview which was four hours long. There was this man behind the desk who just got everything out of her about her life and family.

``What was strange was that she couldn't remember anything about him. He sucked her dry of information, but she never heard anything again.''

As part of his research for the role Macfadyen met some former spies.

``I was really impressed by their physical presence. They were very calm, there was no waffle and there was something in their eyes which was a bit daunting but they were not aggressive at all.''

His latest role sees Macfadyen cast in a sexy role but he shies away from any suggestion that he is a pin-up. In real life he has a long-term girlfriend, actress Surita Chowdry.

``I suppose it would be rather nice to be seen as a sex symbol,'' he says looking somewhat bemused. ``But I really don't think of myself like that.''

He has a long list of credits including playing all-round bad egg Sir Felix Cadbury in the BAFTA award winning The Way We Live Now, which has just been released on BBC video.

The Glasgow-born actor says: ``That was a great part. Felix was a totally irresponsible spendthrift, a drunkard, a womaniser, gambler and complete cad. He liked drinking, gambling, sleeping around and getting money off his mum. That was his entire life.''

He first got noticed played Scouser squaddie Private James in Warriors and starred along with Michael Gambon and Lindsay Duncan in Perfect Strangers and with Kate Winslet in the film Enigma.

Acting always seems to have been on the cards for Macfadyen. His mother trained as a drama teacher and his grandfather was a director.

HE admits he has been lucky with some of the plum roles he has played so far in his career. ``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 would buy me a ticket to go and see Michael Gambon in some play he was doing. I went to see it and was blown away by him.

``Then a few years later I got the part in Perfect Strangers. I was sitting on set having a fag and a cup of tea with him talking about what was on TV the night before. I was trying to act cool but it did feel strange.''

His big break came when he appeared in the harrowing army drama Warriors. The role meant he had to take part in military training with real soldiers.

``I felt like a real fraud. Just about all of the guys had done a couple of tours of Bosnia. It was a pretty humbling experience.''

But it hasn't all been heavy weight drama for the talented actor. One of his favourite roles was a lighter moment in his career.

``I did Ben Elton's film Maybe Baby where I played the controller of BBC One. I basically spent five days going round and screaming at Hugh Laurie - now that was a real laugh.''

Spooks begins on BBC One Thursday, May 16


This interview was obtained from