LOS ANGELES -- If there's one thing Matthew Goode likes, it's a challenge. That's why he was so excited to play the complicated role of Charles Stoker in director Park Chan-wook's psychological thriller "Stoker." The role was not only a complicated character involved in a story that brushes insanely close to multiple taboos, but Goode would be working for a Korean director who spoke little English.
"The role is so psychologically interesting. It was confusing and brilliant," Goode says. "The whole framework of a Park film is that they are operatic. They are big stories told quite beautifully, evocatively shot and yet we are allowed to do quite subtle work some of the time."
Goode's character arrives at his brother's funeral after being gone so long that his niece, India (Mia Wasikowska), who's just turned 18, didn't know he existed. It slowly becomes clear that all memory of Uncle Charlie had been erased.
It's a little difficult to talk with the actor about the role without giving away the film's darkest secrets. Goode's comfortable talking about him being a "Peter Pan" character.
"There's an innocence to him in sort of a bizarre way and that was one of the things I wanted to get across mostly in the flashback. I wanted to feel at that point that there is a childlike thing going on with him," says Goode. "There was so much more to him. How much is he manipulating people? How much of this is a facade?
"To earn those kind of questions, you have to have him be mysterious and likable and odd."
Goode loves that the movie has a timeless feel and no specific geography. That lends to it feeling like a very odd Gothic fairy tale. He says the ambiguity of time and place makes it far easier to look at the complexity of his character and the story.
There's also the sexual relationship between Uncle Charlie, his niece and his sister-in-law. The challenge when dealing with Wasikowska's emotionally cold character was getting across a sexual tension between two people who don't like to be touched.
That was accomplished in a scene where the two characters play a piano to the point of an emotional frenzy.
Goode didn't play the scene for its sexual tones, but he saw the moment as the first true connection between the pair.
"But he sees her as his Wendy," Goode says. "The piano scene is not sexual but it is sensual."
Juggling all the psychological elements of the role was done while dealing with a director who passed on a lot of his insight via a translator. It only took Goode, and the rest of the cast, a few days to adjust to that style of directing. He just saw it as one of the challenges of being an actor.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355.