I spoke with Matthew Goode, who plays Robert Evans in The Offer, which premiered on Paramount Plus this Thursday, April 28th.
In the series, Evans is a larger-than-life character. A self-proclaimed messiah of epic proportions. With a perpetual shit-eating grin, he dominates the screen every second the camera is on him.
In person, Goode couldn’t be further from his screen persona. Soft-spoken with an English lilt, he’s affable and thoroughly charming as he answers some rapid-fire questions about the show. The following is edited for length and clarity.
How much did you know about the making of The Godfather before this project? Does it still hold up after making this?
I’ve been sent a couple of scripts in conjunction with a different part. I read them and went, “well, maybe they’ll call,” and nothing happened. But I liked the writing so much that I hoped to at least see the show when it came out.
Then one day, I was playing golf, which I enjoy. This is boring the hell out of you, but roll with it chaps! And I noticed my phone was blowing up with messages. All my agents had called. I was so scared I had done something bad. But it was them saying I got the job.
I was shocked, because I, like everyone else, love The Godfather. It’s so seminal and important. Even at its length, which is massive for today. My kids, bless them, they’ve got all these things, TikTok and ThisThat, and their attention spans are shocking.
But I love something that takes its time and has texture and is nuanced, so The Godfather is just a joy to me. There aren’t many films like that, that have that level. So it was a cinematic treat for me to have an excuse to go back and watch it again.
I was initially terrified when offered the part, I’m not going to lie. I told my agents, “I don’t think I’m anything like him!” So my hat’s off to (showrunner) Nicky Toscano and (director) Dexter Fletcher for seeing the possibility of me doing it.
The Godfather has millions of fans around the world and all generations. Did you feel extra pressure in telling the story of something that means so much to people?
Luckily for us, the level of writing is through the roof. We had that on our side. If the writing wasn’t good it would have been a disaster. Let’s just say if I had a valet, I’d have asked him to bring my brown trousers.
Robert Evans is a massive personality. He commands every room he enters. You don’t seem that way, and your previous parts haven’t typically been as loud.
He (Evans) is extremely emotional and brilliant. Luckily I had Youtube to mine a wealth of material from the 70s. He gives fantastic interviews. That was my approach at least initially.
There’s a line early on in the show: “Robert Evans is more connected than God.” Is he basically the stereotype that now defines other producers?
We have to remember that he was a producer in the golden age. That sweet spot of movies. He was a charismatic man, truly eccentric. But also a tastemaker. He made movies others would shy away from now. Like Harold and Maude. That’s why his relationship with (Gulf & Western owner) Charlie Bludhorn was so fascinating. They’re both gamblers.
But I don’t know if folks are still like that. I live in the UK. I’ve got three kids, so I don’t know what’s going on in Hollywood!
This is clearly a portrait of a time with rampant misogyny and difficult attitudes. How did you approach it?
It was very much a time capsule and pretty much a very misogynistic time. But there are also interviews where Evans says he likes hiring women rather than men because they’re smarter. So maybe he was ahead of the times in some way.
How do you avoid it becoming a hagiography? Does it even come into consideration?
If you’re lucky enough to get a script that allows you to be in a sandbox, like this, you do your homework and worry about the truth of the project. Is it true to the script, is it believable, and does my director like it?
I have to give Dex a huge shout-out again. When you’re playing Bob Evans – or any of these icons! – you’re terrified. It’s like going down the rapids in a canoe. But I try to do what’s right. I try not to judge them. Because even it’s a time capsule, if I judged them beforehand I wouldn’t be doing my job. Because while we’re doing a look back, for them, it’s as modern as can be.
That’s a rambling answer. I got lost without Dex here.
Did you have a chance to meet with (The Godfather producer) Al Ruddy?
I had an opportunity earlier and I didn’t take it. Al wanted to say something nice over the phone, but I was terrified of it affecting the performance. So, no, I didn’t meet him. But I had many stories down the line from Miles Teller, who plays Ruddy on the show. But I’m meeting the real man soon, luckily! The series is a love letter to Al, really.
Did anything particularly shock you about the behind-the-scenes drama?
I knew some of the myths about it, the famous ones, like Marlon Brando putting in the tissues to become Don Corleone. That must have been an amazing thing to witness.
But shocking? Maybe just how much Al put on the line. There’s that line in the show how “every day producing this is the worst day of my life.” That’s the scale and enormity of what he went through.
I also didn’t know how close he got to (mafia boss) Joe Colombo. It’s hardly a shock, I guess. A man you don’t want to get close to you befriend. But it’s a shock in the sense of, wow, how did that happen?
After playing a producer, would you want to try it for real?
I’ve been afraid of doing that for quite a while. But now, I think I’d like to direct something. Maybe I should try producing something first. I just hope to God that nothing like what happens in this series happens to me. Even if you don’t like The Godfather you can appreciate how much luck and genius it takes to get something on the screen.
Let’s see, maybe down the line. Until then, I’ve got some avenues to look at in my day job.
You seem like a bit of a masochist with your roles. First a major part of a seminal comic book Watchmen and now an iconic film in The Godfather. What's the attraction?
The responsibility is huge. It’s terrifying. But sometimes there’s a choice and sometimes there’s not. With this, I don’t understand how they thought I could pull Evans off. Luckily Dexter and Nicky had the vision that some gangly bloke from England could do it. After that, it’s the fear that propels you because you don’t want to be the weak link. It drives you to a very focused place.
For a show talking about the love of movies, it’s ironic you’re making it for television. In some sense, The Godfather probably wouldn’t be made today as a movie, but as a show.
That’s an astute observation. Today there’s that gulf between budgets. There’s the five-million-dollar movie that goes into TV and a two-hundred-million-dollar movie that’s completely different. Something like Shawshank Redemption wouldn’t get made today as it was.
I think The Godfather would still get made, but, as you said, on television. It was the biggest book in the world at the time! But it would probably be a show because we’re in such a good time for new series. Shows that get texture and time to evolve. I still love film, I do. But I really, really enjoy being part of the TV business too.
(The first three episodes of The Offer are now out on Paramount Plus.)