I found an interesting snippet as I was reading an old Collider.com interview with Matthew Goode about filming “Brideshead Revisited” (2008) with Patrick Malahide. Mr. Goode played Charles Ryder and Mr. Malahide played Edward Ryder, Charles’ eccentric (to put it mildly) professor father.
[Collider:] Those are some great scenes though with your dad—the actor playing your father.
Matthew: Patrick Malahide, I know. He’s wonderful.
[Collider:] We were discussing those scenes got really good laughs in the theatre. When you were filming them did you realize they were going to come across that funny?
Matthew: I think when I first heard him laugh I knew it was going to be fairly amusing. But also touching as well. When he says your mother was always so good about….you kind of go “oooh”. You know? It’s a tough relationship when he doesn’t have that much time. We only have these tiny few little segments that come in here and there and it could be non-believable very easily and luckily with everyone kind of…I can’t talk about myself but I think we nailed it. I think we did all right. I think considering the time constraints and all of the constraints that were part of trying to tell an epic story with so many, as you say, thematically rich I think we did a pretty good job.
Very true that we didn’t get nearly enough of Mr. Ryder as we might have liked. Mr. Malahide played him with slightly off-kilter charm, so you were never quite certain if he was teetering on the brink of senility, or just taking the mickey out of everyone and making them think he was teetering on the brink of senility… but if he was going dotty, he was being very pointedly witty about it. And he had a delightfully scratchy, raspy little laugh.
I think we were short-changed in not seeing more of Mr. Ryder as a single father. We learn that he was widowed when Charles was quite young and (obviously) never remarried, but Mr. Malahide also showed us that the long-deceased Mrs. Ryder was never too far from his thoughts. It all comes across in flickers of expression when he mentions her – there’s sadness, loneliness, and longing. It is indeed very touching. But I also thought it likely that Mr. Ryder was the most absent-minded father alive, and that he probably left his infant son on the bus a few times by mistake. Oops.
Although Mr. Ryder is something of a remote father, Mr. Malahide very effectively conveyed his love for Charles and his hurt and sadness at knowing he was losing his son to the Flytes. He’s lonely for Charles yet he doesn’t seem to know how to interact with him when he’s there, except by playing chess. He doesn’t know how to, or can’t, express his need for Charles’ company either, so he uses his scratchy (yet still deadly accurate) sarcasm and sharp intelligence (hiding under the dottiness) to communicate his disapproval instead. The message is veiled, but it’s definitely there.
As mentioned in my earlier review, there’s a deleted scene on the “Brideshead” DVD where Mr. Malahide plays a markedly warmer and slightly less dotty Mr. Ryder. In that version, his love for Charles was plain to be seen – although Charles still couldn’t quite see it – and he was somewhat more approachable and appealing. It made me wonder if there were other scenes of Mr. Ryder that had been cut, and I wished they’d kept the warmer version for their final choice. Nonetheless, Mr. Malahide conveyed humour, wit, and warmth with the screen time he had, and the film is well worth watching for him alone. It’s nice to know that Matthew Goode enjoyed working with him as well.