By Michael Martin
Playing Luis Bu�uel, the brash, homophobic classmate of Federico Garc�a Lorca and Salvador Dal�, Matthew McNulty may be the odd man out in Little Ashes -- but he certainly isn�t bothered. �When I got the script I thought it was amazing,� he says. �It pulls you into the story of this love between Dal� and Lorca -- into their friendship -- and then pulls you down with all the characters. It was such an important time in history for artists and young people breaking free from conformity.�
The 26-year-old British actor is used to breaking the mold. His father, a soldier, moved the family around the world before settling in Manchester when McNulty was 10. There, McNulty found an exit strategy from his working-class upbringing. �The Manchester music scene -- Stone Roses and Oasis -- bred a real creative atmosphere, and I grew up with that,� he says. �When I was younger I never thought I would be an actor, but I always enjoyed performance.� He soon started hanging around theater types and enrolled in drama workshops. Then, at 16, he was spotted in an actors showcase by a TV executive and recruited for See No Evil, the intense retelling of a real-life slaying spree that had rocked McNulty�s hometown. Big-screen exposure followed with the 2007 indie drama Control, in which he played Nick Jackson, friend and drug buddy of Joy Division�s tragic hero Ian Curtis.
Cast in Little Ashes only a few days before filming began last year, McNulty was whisked off to Barcelona to meet costar Robert Pattinson. �I was a little bit nervous, to be honest,� he says. �Before I went I�d heard a lot about Rob and thought, All right, he�s really good-looking. When I knocked on his hotel room door, there was no answer, and I thought, God, he�s with girls or something. But he was just sitting on the balcony with his computer and a massive Dal� book.�
Though he is not part of the primary tryst, McNulty�s character -- a surrealist auteur who went on to become Spain�s premier filmmaker -- works out his fair share of drama when he reacts to evidence of his friends� romantic involvement by staking out a cruising spot and beating up a guy who propositions him. �You could easily label him homophobic,� says McNulty of Bu�uel (who collaborated with Dal� on the pioneering 1929 surrealist film Un Chien Andalou). �But when you look into it, he�s a very controlling person. The relationship between Dal� and Lorca was something he couldn�t have control over.�
As it turns out, McNulty�s older brother is gay. �It was obvious for all of us in the family,� he says. �We all knew, but it was so hard for him to come out and say it. We�d joke about it, and he�d deny it, and when he eventually did come out he couldn�t believe that we all knew and that it could have been so much easier.� Trips with his brother to gay clubs helped him prepare for his next film role, as a teen dance champion (and future middle-aged burnout) in Ken
Loach�s Looking for Eric, based on the life of soccer legend Eric Cantona.
McNulty isn�t getting out much these days (he�s married to his high school sweetheart and has two sons), but his name is starting to make its way stateside: He plays a cop investigating paranormality in Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, the prequel to 2007�s clairvoyant-kids thriller. Meanwhile, when he�s not in front of the camera McNulty runs a casting agency with his wife. �It really put things into perspective,� he says. �When I�d audition I used to spend all my time worrying about what people thought about me, not about the job. But I�ve learned that at the end of the day people just want you to be the best you can be.�
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