Behind the Scenes, Charlies Gift

Q&A with Matthew Marsden

Charlie’s Gift star Matthew Marsden shares his thoughts on making the award-winning short film.


Q. What drew you to Charlie’s Gift?
A. I thought the script was delightful. When I first got it, I didn’t know it was a true story, but when Ricki Anderson Maslar told me it was, and that Dee was playing the lead with Duane directing, it was a no-brainer!
Q. How did you prepare for your role?
A. I take a different approach to a character, if I know the person is real. With this one, I tried to capture the essence of who Fred was, but not mimic him. When you watch the movie, I think it is clear what kind of person Fred is, so I just used that as a base, and put my own spin on it.
Q. What was it like to play a real life character?
A. When you play a real person, the stakes are always higher to get it right. I have done it before, and there is definitely a different kind of responsibility that comes with that, especially when the person is on set. You hope that you make the right decisions and that that person is happy with your portrayal. When I met Fred, he was so warm and welcoming, all I had to do is concentrate on doing my job. There was no pressure at all, which is a wonderful environment for an actor to work in.
Q. When you leave a role do you keep the characters with you? Do they become a part of you?
A. When I approach a character, I look for all the hints that are on the page that reveal traits that might not be immediately apparent to the casual reader. It’s like a treasure map that the writer has given us to decipher. Once I have done that, I find the parts of that character that I can relate to, and build from there. Sometimes that leads to a lot of self-reflection, and self-evaluation. It can be hard at times, but can also be a very positive experience. Would I do what that character did? If yes, why? If no, why not? Those things stay with you, and often times can be very profound.
Q. What was it like working on this set?
A. It was an absolute dream. Latitude from the director to make character decisions, fantastic co-stars and crew, great story, and a thoroughly pleasant set. These are the kinds of projects an actor lives for. I was very lucky to be a part of it.
Q. What advice would you give to actors about sustainability in this business?
A. Once I asked Michael Caine if he had any tips for me on acting. He replied, ” You’re doing just fine son”. I found out later that he never ever gives advice on acting, because when he was younger, he asked someone, and they said: “Give up.” So my advice to any actor is, NEVER give up.

More about Mr. Marsden:

Matthew Marsden (born 3 March 1973) is an English actor, film producer, singer, and model. He has appeared in films such as Helen of Troy, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Tamara, Resident Evil: Extinction, Rambo, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Atlas Shrugged. Marsden’s acting break came in 1995 when he joined the cast of the ITV soap opera, Emmerdale, playing the upper crust Daniel Weir, lover of Linda Glover. He remained in the role for three months before the character was written out.  He went on to play the role of surfer Philip Kennedy in Island – a Jersey-based ITV mini series.  Marsden also dressed in drag when he appeared in the Jeannot Szwarc French film Les Soeurs Soleil (The Sun Sisters).

On 3 March 1997, he joined the cast of Coronation Street as mechanic Chris Collins and he remained with the series until 29 March 1998. Marsden quickly became one of the soap’s top pin-ups and during this time he was besieged by fan mail and was also voted Best Newcomer at the British National Television Awards. Following his departure from Coronation Street, Marsden decided on a change of direction and a fleeting career as a pop star followed.  He signed a £500,000 record deal with Columbia Records and released his debut single in July 1998 called “The Heart’s Lone Desire”, which reached number 13 in the UK singles chart.  He followed with a second single, a cover of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone”, with his label-mates Destiny’s Child providing backing-vocals, which reached number 24 in the UK singles chart. A third single and an album were recorded, but Marsden’s career as a singer stalled when he parted company with his record label due to creative differences.

Marsden returned to acting, portraying Paris in the USA networks mini-series Helen of Troy; Army Ranger Dale Sizemore in Ridley Scott’s blockbuster film Black Hawk Down. He starred in John Irvin’s feature Shiner, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (the sequel to Anaconda) and Tamara, a supernatural thriller by Final Destination screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick. He made appearances in the films DOA: Dead or Alive and Resident Evil Extinction. He co-starred in Rambo (2008) in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. He won the “Best Actor” award at the Doorpost Film festival for his performance in the short film Eyes to See.

Marsden trained with United States Army Rangers prior to filming his role in Black Hawk Down. In 2008, he teamed up again with the technical adviser on that film, former United States Navy SEAL and Silver Star recipient Harry Humphries on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

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