MATTHEW BEARD IN LONDON, DECEMBER 2014. STYLING: ELLIE GRACE CUMMING. COAT: BOSS. JACKET: BURBERRY PRORSUM. T-SHIRT: CALVIN KLEIN UNDERWEAR. NECKLACE: TOBIAS WISTISEN. GROOMING PRODUCTS: BAXTER OF CALIFORNIA, INCLUDING SOFT WATER POMADE. GROOMING: TERRY SAXON FOR JED ROOT. SPECIAL THANKS: CURTAIN ROAD STUDIOS.
When it came to his role in The Imitation Game—last year’s biopic of World War II code-breaker Alan Turing—Matthew Beard had one overriding concern. “ ‘I hope I don’t fuck this up,’ ” the 25-year-old British actor remembers thinking. “I’ve never felt this much responsibility toward a real person before.” Beard played the youngest, slightly at-sea member of the code-breaking team, which mirrored his feelings about working opposite the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Allen Leech. Not that he was new to the craft: Beard got his start at age four, when his parents sought to cure his rambunctiousness by putting him in a drama club near their home in Yorkshire. He was soon discovered by a casting director, who got him on numerous television shows. “I worked quite consistently as ‘the kid,’ ” he says. “I’ve never counted how many moms and dads I’ve had in my career—but a lot.”
Over the past few years, Beard has managed to land more complicated roles, in the 2007 drama When Did You Last See Your Father? and the acclaimed 2009 coming-of-age tale An Education. And last year, he tackled the West End stage opposite Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy in David Hare’s Skylight, playing the son of an adulterous man, who demands answers from his father’s mistress. The play reopens on Broadway this month, with Beard reprising his role. “This was my first ever play,” he says, recalling an initial terror that gave way to exhilaration. “I’d never even done karaoke—anything on a platform in front of people.” He’s also in the upcoming film The Riot Club, a thinly veiled account of a nefarious secret society at Oxford whose members went on to run various facets of the British government. “For research, I read this book called Mastery by Robert Greene,” he says. “It’s a self-help book for people who want to fuck everyone over in business.”
The next item on the agenda: getting work in America and admitting that this career is in his blood. “I went to university to explore other things, and not to get too spiritual about it, but something keeps pulling me back to acting. I keep making up jobs, like writing or learning Danish, so I never have to say I’m an actor,” he says bashfully. “I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to say it.”