SADLY, Matthew Macfadyen has no plans to release his latest performance as a single.
The former Spooks, Pride and Prejudice, Little Dorrit and Criminal Justice star plays Enid Blyton’s first husband Hugh Pollock in Enid (BBC4, 9pm tomorrow).
At one stage singing along to the Flanagan and Allen song Run Rabbit Run.
But the iTunes store will just have to do without Matthew’s rendition.
“No, I won’t be releasing it,” he laughed when we met back in April.
“Hugh used to sing Run Rabbit Run to this wind-up record. He’d drink and sing it on his own in the living room at the top of his voice.
“I’m not doing it at the top of my voice, but I thought it was quite a nice scene.”
One that was filmed on a day after the rest of the production had finished, so keen were the TV team to include it.
Enid Blyton was a woman ahead of her time in so many ways.
This new film also shows how she shut Hugh out of her life when they divorced, cutting him off from his two daughters.
I thought Matthew’s many fans might also like to read some of what he had to say about the film and his role in it.
On the day of the press round table interviews, he and his actress wife Keeley Hawes had just returned from a Disney theme park trip with their three children – Myles, nine, Maggie, five, and Ralph, three.
“We were there for five days, which is about three days too long,” smiled Matthew. “My youngest took it very seriously and was kissing Mickey and talking to him.
“We had to queue up and meet Donald and Mickey and then meet Woody and Jessie, which was a very big moment for him. And he said, ‘Thank you having us.’ It was so sweet.
“But Noddy is a big person in our house…”
Was Matthew a Blyton fan as a child?
“I read The Famous Five, primarily, and I read The Magic Faraway Tree. I didn’t really get into The Secret Seven. I sort of graduated from The Famous Five into Roald Dahl, I suppose.”
What does he think is the appeal of Blyton?
“There’s lots of absolutes and certainties in her writing, which is very reassuring for children. There’s the moral certainties, the good and bad, there’s a bit of danger in there and there’s a sort of continuity and a sameness about her stories which children like. They enjoy that repetition. And she wrote masses, didn’t she?”Did you know much about her life story before working on Enid?
“Not really. I’d heard rumblings about her not being terribly good with children. But she was good with children – perhaps not so good with her own. But it’s a different time.”
“He’d been married before. He’d come back from the Great War and he worked for a publishing house. He was a quite dashing guy. Like a lot of men, he’d come back from the First World War quite affected by it. He met Enid and was sort of besotted by her early on. Imogen, his daughter, was saying he had a very dry wit. But he carried a sort of melancholy from the First World War.
“It was a different time. Like all good writing and the way that it’s presented, it’s interesting, it’s not black and white. He must have been fairly difficult to live with and she had this huge career. She was a real taskmaster for herself. She was manically ambitious and busy.”
The divorce? Enid went on to marry second husband Kenneth Waters, played in the TV film by Denis Lawson.
“She sued Hugh for divorce on the grounds of adultery, rather than the other way around. That was the sort of man he was. He was a gent. She cut him out of her life very quickly once they divorced. And he didn’t maintain a relationship with the two daughters. And you see Enid going out of her way to stop him coming round. She drew a line under their relationship.”
(Kenneth later adopted the two girls, further pushing Hugh out of their lives. Hugh went on to marry his third wife Ida. He died in 1971 but she is still alive and at 101 is reported to be about to publish her own autobiography)
The Second World War:
“I think Hugh was profoundly worried by the the beginnings of the rumblings of the Second World War and couldn’t understand why his wife wasn’t sharing his sense of worry, fear and anxiety about it. In the Second World War he was in the Home Guard with his old regiment in Surrey.”
Matthew has a moustache in Enid. Was it his own?
“It was not,” he laughed. “No, we made friends every morning. Helena kept making me laugh. Lots of giggles.”
Hugh was a drinker. Is acting drunk difficult?
“Once you analyse it, it’s actually someone trying to do something very precisely, because no-one really thinks they’re drunk when they’re drunk, unless they’re really gone. You’re trying to stay in control. It’s tricky. Some people who drink just top themselves up and you don’t really know that they’re permanently pickled.”Why did he take this role?
“It just came along. It’s quite bleak out there at the moment. There’s not a lot happening. I was going to do A Passage To India and that was pulled. It’s a strange time. So it was a nice day when my agent rang with this.”
Would he work in America?
“Well, the family, we live here. There’s enough work. I don’t have any ambitions to live there, really. I don’t mind going where the work is, I don’t mind going to wherever, but…if there was nothing going on here, I’d probably go to LA for the pilot season. But there’s plenty of good stuff here.
“I’m doing a little bit with the Robin Hood film. I’m the Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s a very incidental character. It’s not the Alan Rickman Prince of Thieves. I just get humiliated. He’s a local bureaucratic idiot who’s after taxes. The bigger the movie, the more impersonal it is, the less you know.”
Is he thinking about theatre work?
“Yeah, it’s just whatever comes up. I really take it day by day, because that’s all you can do, unless you’re in a position where you can go, ‘Right, I’m going to do this…’ Which I’m not. If a great play came up, I’d jump at it.”
(Matthew has since signed to star on stage with Kim Cattrall in the Noel Coward play Private Lives, at London’s Vaudeville Theatre from Feb 24 2010, following a two week run in Bath which starts on Feb 10)
Keeley was working on ITV1 drama series Identity at the time of this interview and is now filming the final series of Ashes To Ashes:
“We’ve got three kids, so we’ve got a nanny and child care help. We’ve just moved house, just as the western economy collapsed. So we need to go out to work.”
Does he watch much TV drama?
“I watch very little. I really don’t. The last few years I haven’t watched anything. I kind of feel like it’s wasting my life. Once I’ve got the kids in bed and all that, the last thing I want to do is sit and watch TV. I’d rather read a book or have a glass of wine with my wife. I can’t remember the last thing I watched. That’s terrible.”
So you haven’t been watching Keeley in Ashes To Ashes? (He also appeared in a guest role for one episode)
“Oh yes, I’ve seen that, yeah, yeah. I saw it a while ago. Unfortunately you can’t be a guest twice. I really loved that. And that was my own moustache.”What kind of father is he?
“I hope I’m a good dad. I’m a pushover, really. My daughter, especially, runs rings around me.”
Is the outdoor childhood of Blyton’s books one we should return to, rather than children sitting in front of TVs and playing computer games?
“I think there’s something lovely about kids going out. I try and make my kids independent and encourage them to take risks. I think I’d worry if they were sitting in front of the TV all day, which they’re not. But I think it’s quite good for kids…it ties in with what we were saying about why Enid Blyton’s fiction is comforting. It’s a routine and I think over-stimulus is not always a good thing.
“I remember when I was little, I wanted and I needed time to stare at the wall and think and stop. And nowadays there’s a lot of, ‘Let’s do this, and we’re doing this.’ And actually it’s quite nice just to sit. My kids are very good. They sit and pick up a toy and they play with it for ages on their own.”
Were you ever in a Famous Five style gang yourself as a child?
“No. I wanted to be. My brother and I tried to create adventures. My father worked for an oil company so we moved around a lot. We were in London and then Lincolnshire and then the Far East, and Scotland as well.
“My youngest likes Noddy. And then my eldest has got into Mr Gum, written by Andy Stanton. He’s very funny. I tried him with The Famous Five but he’s not really bothered.”
Is there a pressure when you are an actor and a parent to do the voices when you read a bedtime story?
“It depends on how much wine I’ve had when I’m telling the story. If we’ve had a few glasses of wine of a night and then I pick them up and start reading them, then I really go for it, yes. ‘Ho, ho, ho…’ But I try and skip pages. Some of the books are really long. And they always know: ‘Daddy!’ There’s a long one called The Night Pirates. It’s a good 10 minutes.”
Working on talking books?
“I’ve read two and I never want to do it again. I’m really bad at it. Awful, like torture. Some actors are very good at it. I’m really bad and I don’t enjoy it. Life’s too short. I did a Tony Parsons book, awfully. And I hadn’t really done my homework. I had all these accents to do. Two days in the recording studio. Even the sound recordists were going…really bad. Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter books is amazing. That’s such a feat of stamina. The muscles start going in your mouth.”
Matthew met Blyton’s surviving youngest daughter Imogen:
“She was lovely. It’s nerve-wracking in the sense that you’re playing her father. But she was very sympathetic and very sweet. She said she was glad I was playing him and that he was very dry and funny. She had seen a few things I’d done, so that was quite nice.”