Stage and screen star Mathew Horne talks to us about playing a role close to his heart in the stage version of hit movie, Rain Man.
For anyone who doesn’t know the film, what’s Rain Man about?
It’s a heart-warming story of love and tenderness between two brothers. It’s about a 29-year-old car dealer who believes the route to happiness is money and success. He’s a narcissist with a troubled past and he’s trying to keep his head above water. When his father dies, he discovers he has an autistic brother. He effectively kidnaps Raymond and they go on a road trip, where Charlie learns the route to happiness and peace is not money, success, cars and women, it’s love, family, connection and compassion.
Why did you want to be part of this production?
I wanted to get back to the theatre. I’d taken a year off theatre after doing a long West End run. Then this came out of the blue. It’s a film I’d studied at university and Dustin Hoffman was my favourite actor when I was growing up. I used to watch his movies religiously. When I was presented with this offer I felt both excitement and terror, because they’re big shoes to fill. But apparently not enough terror to say no. You just can’t turn down a challenge like this.
You’re playing Raymond, the autistic brother. How challenging is it to follow Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance?
I want to pay homage to what he did, but I also want to bring my own ideas to it. My older brother is autistic. I’ve lived with somebody facing those challenges and I’ve also met hundreds of people with similar challenges to Raymond. Hopefully having lived it, I will bring my own unique take to the character. There may be tiny details that perhaps people won’t see but are there. With enough detail and nuance I should be able to build something that is fresh while remaining faithful to what Hoffman did in the film.
What’s your Raymond like?
He’s the same as he was when he was 4 years old. He’s a man of routine and rituals and a constant need to keep himself safe from the dangers of the outside world.
How is seeing the story on stage different to watching the film?
The heart of the story is one that I think should really be experienced live. There’s something exciting and raw about being in the room with these characters. And to be in the room with Raymond is an exciting prospect for audiences because we don’t always experience people like him in daily life.
People know you best for comic performances like Gavin And Stacey and Bad Education. Was it a deliberate choice to take on a different type of role?
It was a deliberate move, yes. You do get pigeonholed in this industry. Everybody does. But it can take just one job to change perceptions. People will be surprised, but it’s not surprising to me. Because of my family, it was obvious to me.
Are you excited about touring?
I am. I toured with the Catherine Tate Show a couple of years ago. That was like a rock and roll tour though. It was unreal. This will be different. I’m pretty well travelled in the UK. I know most cities and I like travelling around. I think it’s vital to get out and take your work to people outside of London. It’s very easy to become institutionalised if you live and work in London, but we all need art.
Do you have any touring superstitions?
I do have a little ritual. Whenever I go into a new city, I listen to bands from those cities. It’s a weird thing that I’ve always done since I was at university.
Do people still think of you as Gavin?
They do. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It opened up lots of opportunities and I’ve also got a show under my belt that my parents loved watching. That might sound trite, but it’s really important to me. The flip side is that I am pigeonholed. People think I’m him and that’s fine. I totally get it. I just have to grab with both hands the amazing opportunities that come along because of Gavin And Stacey and challenge myself. That’s what I’ve done with Rain Man.