|At the Emporium Hotel and speaking with Caitlin Stasey,
star of Tomorrow When The War Began
|With Lincoln Lewis, star of Tomorrow When The War Began
and his brother Mitch, fellow critic from Nova 106.9.
For the third week in a row, I bring to you another exclusive Film Pie interview. My stars must be aligned at the moment.
I’m speaking with Caitlin Stasey, star of the new Australian action-thriller, Tomorrow When The War Began. Many will remember Caitlin as playing Rachel Kinski on Neighbours between 2005 and 2009. This is her first major film role and she’ll be worth keeping an eye on in the near future. Here’s what she had to say…
Matt: Many people dream about being an actor and they never actually make it. Only the small minority get through. Where does your love for acting come from? How did you start out?
Caitlin: My mother instilled a love for arts in me from a very young age. I’ve always loved watching old movies. I loved Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights and things like that because I loved pretend, I loved make believe. I started off with a child agency and I strongly urge that parents don’t sign their children up to agencies. It really increases your sense of self but not in a good way. It makes you so aware of how you look. It makes you quite vein.
That said, I was lucky with mine because as a result of signing, I got a job on The Sleepover Club and then with Neighbours. I’ve got a lot to thank my first agency for but in retrospect, I wonder if maybe I should have waited a little longer.
Matt: How old would you have been when you started out on Neighbours?
Caitlin: With Neighbours I was 14 turning 15. I was very young.
Matt: How do you balance up the school work?
Caitlin: I sort of didn’t. I’m not proud to say that I didn’t. I loved learning and I still have a real thirst for learning and research but I didn’t care for things I was learning about at school. All the history we were doing was about the dark ages and I didn’t give a stuff about the dark ages. It’s a time when religion ruled the world and there was no progression – morally and intellectually. The books we’d read were really dull as well. I love things like To Kill A Mockingbird, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and things like that but they’d force us to read these other books I couldn’t stand.
I did homeschooling for a long time – from 17 onwards – but that kind of fell away. When you’re young and you’re in an adult environment, your priorities are somewhat altered. You want to hang out with these adults and spend time doing adult things. School work doesn’t qualify. Part of me wishes that I had of paid more attention at school because I never actually finished. I’ve put my studies on indefinite hold for now. I hope to go back eventually but to do what, I’m not sure. I’d love to study sociology.
Matt: You mentioned some of the books kids are forced to read at school. Apparently Tomorrow When The War Began is the new craze. All the kids are reading it…
Cailtin: Yeah. We didn’t get to read that at school. We had this new wave of Australian literature about farmers and the dreamtime because people have such varied opinions about the invasion of Australia and the stolen generation. At the time, it didn’t really interest me but now I love reading books about Australia and things like Tomorrow When The War Began. When they were forced on to me, I couldn’t care less. I wanted to read about wizards and vampires.
Matt: I’m guessing you had to read this book at some point.
Caitlin: Yes, I read it when I was handed the script.
Matt: I went along to the Queensland premiere which was a big night. The first reaction I had when I saw the film was… wow, you’re in this a lot!
Caitlin: Yeah, it’s told from my perspective so there’s no way of avoiding Ellie. It’s her story.
Matt: How’d you land the role?
Caitlin: I was fortunate enough in that Stuart Beattie, the director, had been looking up pictures of Australian actors on Google for whatever reason. He doesn’t know how he came across the photo but he found a picture of me. He said that’s what Ellie should look like but he didn’t know if I was an actor or some completely random girl on the internet.
I went for my first audition and then got a call back. I sat with Stuart for about an hour or so – just chatting for the most part… and then yeah, I found out that I’d been awarded the role.
Matt: We should talk a little bit about the film. It’s about a group of teenagers who are out camping in the bush and then they come back to find the world has changed. Their town has been invaded. All these characters are very different. How would you describe Ellie as a character?
Caitlin: Ellie is essentially an every-day girl. The girl next door. She’s very logical, very grounded, very intelligent but she’s also a little reserved with her emotions. She finds it hard to “feel” things – she’s always thinking and she’s always coming from a diplomatic point of view. She’s just a girl who has been thrown into an extraordinary circumstance.
She’s incredible under pressure but a lot of that is a result of her upbringing. She’s not a hero per say but she’s a reluctant hero.
Matt: It is a good role. The character goes through quite a transformation during the film. She’s a lot more courageous in the end.
Caitlin: Yeah. The war is a huge element of the story but it’s more about Ellie coming to terms with her feelings for Lee and her friends. It’s a coming-of-age story essentially – her right of passage.
Matt: What I liked about the film was the tension. There’s that first scene where you’re trying to work out what’s going on and you’re hiding amongst all the cars. It’s a really intense scene. How do you build yourself up for that as an actor?
Caitlin: It’s scary when you think about it. We’ve got a dozen or so people running around behind the cameras but if you focus in on the fact that there’s three of us in this massive car park and we’ve no idea where our families are. Although you can’t empathise, you can relate in a way. You know that you would panic, you would be terrified in that situation.
There are also these men running around with guns. I’m really uneasy when it comes to gun even if they are fake. They make me feel really uncomfortable. That was helpful I suppose in making me look uneasy.
Matt: There must be a lot of special effects involved – there are guns and a car chase. This would have all been new for you as an actor?
Caitlin: Definitely. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. With Neighbours, we didn’t have (a) the budget, or (b) the make those kind of scenes.
Matt: With the guns and the explosions, are you actually in there? Or did you need a stunt double?
Caitlin: Yeah, most of the time we were in there. I think there was one explosion where we weren’t but that’s because it was fairly dangerous and people had to be set on fire afterwards. Most of the time, Stuart liked seeing our faces. He wanted the audience to feel like we there. The thing that makes this story is that these are ordinary teenagers that teenage audiences would love to do so you need to see them and realise it’s them that’s doing it. It’s not an adult pretending to be a 17-year-old girl who is doing it.
Matt: Now the director is an Aussie – Stuart Beattie. First time as a director but many people will know his works. He’s written a lot of scripts including the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies. What was he like? How did he operate as a director?
Caitlin: Incredibly generous. I said to him I don’t know what I would have done and how lucky I was that my first film experience was with him. He’s never been this imposing figure. He’s never been Stuart Beattie the famous screenwriter. It was just Stuart our director and Stuart our mate. The whole process was incredibly collaborative. There was no middle man between us and him. It was always – “go directly to Stuart and talk about anything you need.”
I would talk to him about personal matters as well. I had anxiety over the fact that Ellie had to be done perfectly and come across as she is in the books. I was terrified of letting people down but he always had faith in me and was so patient. I can stress enough how patient and wonderful and kind he is.
Matt: Do you still get your opportunity to put your own mark on the character?
Caitlin: Yeah. I’d say “I don’t think I’d say that” and “a teenager doesn’t talk like this”. We trusted Stuart implicitly about everything other than his sense of music. He has dreadful taste in music. We all sent him our songs and suggested you should listen to things like the Flame Trees by Sarah Blasko which is now in the film. There were a bunch of songs we sent and said “you should use this in the film”. Thank god he listened because he wanted to have 80s power ballads. We love him to death but it’s funny to think this man is so out of touch with his music tastes.
Matt: So if I’m buying the soundtrack it’s kind of a best of album from the cast?
Caitlin: It’s basically all our favourite songs and I think that’s really important. The score is beautifully written too and I think teenagers are more acceptable of classical music these days because it’s been integrated into our modern day music.
Matt: I get the impression that the film is aimed at a younger audience. Who would you say this is marketed at?
Caitlin: I know our main demographic is from 15 to 25 or so. The books have been out since about 1993 so a lot of people who started reading them are well into their 30s by now. We’re aiming it at teenagers because it is a story about them. It’s a story about your everyday teenager who has been flung into this completely alternate reality. Of course we want their parents to love and we want their grandparents to love it but I suppose our main target audience are the teens of Australia.
Matt: Has there been talk of follow ups? Sequels from other books?
Caitlin: Yeah, we want to make 2 and 3 but we can’t commit until we see know how well the first film has done. We’d love to be part of it though.
Matt: Let’s talk quickly about all the PR side of things. I’ve heard you on the radio and seen you at red carpet premieres. This must be all pretty new for you as well. Does it get tiring or is it energising?
Caitlin: It is tiring but it’s also nice. The main problem with marketing Australian films is that their budget never allows them to do so. With us, our main priority is pushing the film as hard as we can. It’s rewarding but it’s exhausting.
Matt: I’ll finish by asking what’s next for Caitlin Stasey?
Caitlin: I’m going to be the next Doctor Who. I think it’d be a great idea to make Doctor Who a female.
Matt: Caitlin, thank you very much and I hope the film is a big success.
Caitlin: Thank you very much.