Matt's Blog


Interview - Ryan Corr On 'Holding The Man'

Ryan Corr

Holding The Man was selected to close the 2015 Sydney Film Festival and is now being released across the country.  During his quick trip to Brisbane, I was fortunate enough to sit down with star Ryan Corr to chat about the film…

Matt:  Holding The Man is an iconic Australian novel.  When did you first come across it?

Ryan:  I first came across the story in Sydney.  I’d moved there to attend drama school when I was 17 and the play was being performed at the Griffin Theatre.  Talk of the play, the story, and the derivatives of the book were being discussed everywhere within the drama school.  Jumping ahead 7 years, I heard that Tommy Murphy, who had written the play, had also written a screenplay and Neil Armfield was attached as a director.  I knew then it was a story I really wanted to be a part of.

Matt:  A key part of any romantic drama is to have a connection between the two leading characters.  How did the casting process here work?  Were you and Craig Scott auditioned independently or were you brought together before any offers were made?

Ryan:  It was such a strange process.  Neil is famous for his strenuous and large audition process.  There were 13 stages in all.  The way he directs, he tries to find people that have the essence of these characters within them and he then facilitates an environment that enables them to jam with each other.

Chemistry for this film was paramount.  The first time Craig and I met was in a dinky little office in London’s West End.  I was in Manchester at the time, he was coming from Los Angeles, and two other actors were coming in from Amsterdam and Australia.  We’d all done the scenes with different partners and different groupings multiple times each.

In all the times that I’d auditioned and through all the boys that I’d met, no one else felt as available as Craig.  He was looking to go “let’s just see what we do, let’s see what our dynamic is.”  We found new things within the scenes that we hadn’t explored before.  We went downstairs afterwards and just quietly, within audition etiquette, we each said “I hope you get it.”  From that point on, we were each other’s rock throughout the whole shoot.  What you’re seeing on screen is a relationship forged between two actors that is hopefully representative of the relationship between the real Tim and John.

Matt:  There’s the text of the novel upon which the film is based.  Is that solely what you drew from in creating the character of Timothy Conigrave or was there other research you could do such as speaking with his friends and family?

Ryan:  The novel was the bible.  If I ever wanted to know what was in Tim’s head, I could refer to the novel as it was Tim’s perspective writing about John.  The research and material available extended far beyond that.  We got to meet the Conigrave family and work with them for a number of weeks.  They’d offer up family albums and come in for meetings with us for two hours where we’d just talk and get to know each other.  They’d tell us stories about the boys at different ages.

As well as the family, we spoke to friends, ex-lovers, and other people who knew these boys intimately.   We then had to collate all these ideas about who these people were.  If someone was asked to describe me, my mum would say something very different to my best friend who would say something different to my ex.

Matt:  Did all of that information help shape and change the screenplay?

Ryan:  Absolutely.  We had two weeks of rehearsal for this film which is rare in any Australian film.  We workshopped the scenes like it was theatre and Tommy would edit the script on the fly.

Matt:  As an actor, it seemed to be a challenging role in the sense that there are parts when you’re playing a high school teenager but other parts where you’re playing person who feels like he’s had a whole life of experience.  How do you do that as an actor and get inside the head of Timothy at those various points in his life?

Ryan:  Yeah, we had to have different entry points.  For me, playing the younger character, I fit into a school uniform very differently from when I was 17 but it’s more about how your thoughts change and how your view of the world changes.  I thought I had it all together and knew exactly what I was doing at 17 but the reality is that now, looking back, I realise I was a kid.  It’s about getting back into that mentality and realising who Tim eventually was and where that may have stemmed from and trying to replicate elements of that within a 17-year-old’s headspace. 

There was a bit of talk at the start about having younger boys play the roles.  There was a big discussion and they didn’t know what they wanted to do for a long time.  It was finally decided that in order to care about and connect with these characters, it would be quite jarring to switch actors half way through.  You need to be invested in them, their love, and their chemistry all the way through.

Matt:  It’s interesting the way the film is split up and events aren’t necessarily shown in a chronological order.  Do you know what was behind the decision of writer Tommy Murphy and director Neil Armfield in that regard?

Ryan:  It was a decision of both Neil and Tommy.  Speaking to them both, the editing process almost became a new way of writing.  They originally had a 3 hour cut with all the scenes from the filming script.  That was obviously too long and there’s only so many scenes you can fit in.  It’s not a film about how they went from 17 to 30 but rather it’s a window into a life.  You inevitably know that it’s going to have a tragic ending so it’s not about keeping that from the audience to reveal at the end.  It’s about showing moments in a life.

Matt:  What was it like working alongside acclaimed actors such as Anthony LaPaglia, Guy Pearce, Geoffrey Rush and Kerry Fox?

Ryan:  Incredible.  I remember watching Memento with Guy Pearce and Shine with Geoffrey Rush.  I was taken aback by how welcoming and supportive they were through the process.  We put them on a pedestal and idolise them but these guys were saying “this is your set” and were offering their help.

It was great to watch their process and see there are similarities in the way that we all work.  For example, Guy was really attached to how Richard would look.  That seemed to be his entry point.  He spent a lot of time getting his wig and his costume right.  Both he and Kerry Fox interviewed Tim’s mother to help develop their characters. 

Anthony LaPaglia knew Craig beforehand and actually housed him in America for a while.  He’s come out of the woodwork and has taken me under his wing.  He’s become a mentor in my life and is helping me navigate my way through the industry and the work itself.  I feel really blessed to have met these people. 

Matt:  The film had its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival back in June.  What was it like seeing it with a packed audience for the first time?  What sort of reactions have you received?

Ryan:  So warm and so legitimate.  It’s an emotional ride and so when people come and talk to us after the movie, they’ve been moved.  That makes this project standalone from others I have done and may ever do.  The book and story mean a lot to many people.  It changes your thoughts about what will make this film a success.  It’s not necessarily all about box-office figures but rather, whether we have done justice to the memory of these boys as far as their family and friends are concerned.

We also have a huge responsibility towards a group of men and women who went through the 1980s and 90s and experienced the myriad of young men who perished.  While we’ve had huge developments in HIV and AIDS in this country, the film hopefully acts as gentle reminder of the past.  It wasn’t all that long ago.

Matt:  What have you got coming up next?  When are we going to see you next on screen?

Ryan:  I’ve got a few films coming up that we’re yet to shoot that are vastly different from Holding The Man.  Part of this project was realising that scripts like this and opportunities to play real life characters come across very rarely.  It’s then a question of what do you do next?  For me, it’s any script that keeps me excited or that allows me to play a type of character I haven’t done before. 

In the next film that I’m shooting, I’m playing a sadist, a rapist and a horrible member of society in a film that uses this platform to talk about violence in society.  I’m following that up with a play at the Sydney Theatre Company directed by Richard Cottrell which is called Arcadia and is a Tom Stoppard classic.  I’m keeping it as varied as I can.


Interview - Joel Edgerton Offers 'The Gift'

Joel Edgerton

Not only does Joel Edgerton star in The Gift, it also marks his feature directorial debut.  I spoke with Joel about the whole experience.  You can listen to the full audio by clicking here.

Matt:  Many of us will have had friends pop up unexpectedly from the past who we’re not really interested in associating with.  Where did the idea for this story come from?

Joel:  My brain works in mysterious ways and a lot of times I’m thinking about stories that are going to make good fictional stories.  Given that I’m twenty-something years out of high school, what would it be like if someone from your past tapped you on the shoulder and you vaguely remembered them?  What if you hadn’t of been such a good person?  The possibilities of a story like that were very exciting for me. 

Nowadays with social media, it’s a lot easier for people to pop out of their hidy-holes and go “hey”.  You often don’t need to rekindle those relationships but what if someone has a psychology where they feel they need to.  You’re forced to deal with it.  It’s a social etiquette responsibility.

Matt:  You’ve written several screenplays such as The Square and Felony but you’ve handed them over to other directors.  Was the intention always to direct The Gift?

Joel:  The intention at first was just to write the story.  I was all excited about playing a creepy, overbearing character that became Gordo in the movie.  It wasn’t until I was in the experience of writing it that I realised it would set me up perfectly as a first time director because it wasn’t going to cost a tonne of money and it was quite contained in terms of its scale of set and character. 

Matt:  Did you find the process easier or harder than you anticipated?

Joel:  There were days when I found it incredibly hard but other days I found incredibly smooth and rewarding.  I actually called and texted some other directors I’d worked for to jokingly tell them sorry for anything I did that slowed down the process.  The second thing I said was that you had the best job in the world. 

Matt:  You’ve been working in the industry for about 20 years and have worked under a number of different directors.  Are there some in particular who have had an influence on you?  Those that have shaped the way you direct now?

Joel:  I feel lucky to have worked with directors who were loved by their cast and crew.  The reason was because they loved their cast and crew in return.  I learned that from Gavin O’Connor, Ridley Scott, Scott Cooper and a lot of the Blue Tongue guys.  I believe that filmmaking is such a collaborative art.  You hire great people and you get out of their way.  It should be a fun experience that is shared by all and contributed to by all.

I’ve learned that lesson from a lot of directors and it’s a simple “path of least resistance” thing that makes the job a whole lot easier.  I’ve had a front row seat to watch so many great people make movies and that’s the privilege of being an actor.

Matt:  Hollywood has a tendency to make people either good or evil.  There’s not a lot of room in between.  Without giving too much away, there’s a lot of greyness to all of these characters.  Was that always your intention when writing the screenplay?

Joel:  Yeah, suspense movies are intended to be a journey around a series of corners and the audience is not meant to know what happens next.  That extended to the characters themselves in this case and whether they were good or bad people.  It’s always been an interest of mine as an actor through movies like Felony where you get a good character and you give them a lot of “grey” space.  You then take a bad character and you give them a lot of “grey” space.  That has always interested me as an actor and it’s now filtering into my work as a writer and director.

Matt:  There are some intense scenes in the film where characters are walking around and you get the sense that something is about to happen.  How much post-production work goes into the editing and the music right in those moments?  How do you know you’ve got it just right?

Joel:  That work can’t be done alone with a director and an actor.  If you were there on the set on the day that Rebecca Hall was walking down corridors in the movie, it doesn’t feel half as suspenseful as what it does in the movie.  I was proud of the music of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, the sound design of Julian Slater, and the cinematography of Eduard Grau. 

Performance plus music plus sound creates something where the tension starts to build.  You can intensify that in the editing suite.  I need to drop the name of Luke Doolan, my editor, who cut Animal Kingdom and is a master of tension.   Together, we try to freak the audience out.

Matt:  Do you get to show the film to test audiences to see how they react?  Or do you just talk about it yourself in the editing room?

Joel:  The testing process in America is interesting and unique.  It’s frustrating, it’s wonderful and it’s everything in between.  You have to make use of it when making a movie that will be released widely.  My budget was very low so there wasn’t a lot of pressure but when the decision was made to release it on 2,500 screens, suddenly I was in the game of having to test.

I’m a big believer that if you’re told you have to do something, rather than resist you should lean into the experience and mine it for the benefits that it throws up.  We learned a lot about how to adjust the movie accordingly.  What I really fought for was sticking to my artistic vision that I wanted.

Matt:  The house you’ve used in the movie really does add to the tension with its spacious rooms, high ceilings of course, big glass windows.  Was it easy to find?

Joel:  Strangely enough, I’d written the film to be set in a more typical house rather than the mid-century modern house that we settled on.  My designer really loved the house.  The idea of a movie in a house predominantly made of glass was important to my cinematographer and I because we were talking a lot about reflection. 

Also, I remember as a kid growing up in a house with a lot of glass.  At night time, you get this feeling that anyone out there can see me but I can’t see them.  We start the movie going “wouldn’t you love to live in this house?” and by the end of the movie it’s like “get me out of this place.”   

Matt:  Did you always picture yourself in the role of Gordo?  Did you think about playing Simon instead?

Joel:  There were a number of incarnations.  At one point, I floated the idea of playing Simon to help get finance in the early stages.  I’d written the script with the intention of creating a weird character to play and then someone else would direct the movie.  Once I realised I was directing, I thought maybe I should let go of the idea of being in it as well.  I had such a clear vision of how the character was going to look and sound that it was hard to let go.  I ended up crossing my fingers and doing both.

Matt:  How did you get Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall involved?  As the director, are you also out there trying to find the right actors or do you have other people who help out?

Joel:  You have people throwing names in a hat and discussing concepts.  When you’re talking about a married couple in a movie, you have to find the “perfect storm” of two actors who are compatible.  Jason seemed like a really exciting idea to me as he wasn’t the typical choice.  As an actor, I’m always looking for people to cast me in roles that I’m not the typical choice for.  There was a bit of my own ego in the casting of Jason.  I wanted someone who would love the challenge of doing something they’re not used to doing.  Plus, he’s a comic actor doing a serious part when I think creates a surprising and exciting situation. 

It’s tough.  As a first time director, I was worried that people would be “I dunno if I can trust this guy.”  I’m an actor.  I get first time directors sniffing around and I’m like “I like the script but where’s the proof that you’re going to do a good job?”  What you need are actors who will trust you and have faith.  Jason and Rebecca were two who were willing to take the gamble .

Matt:  Can you tell us when we’re going to see you on screen next?  What’s coming up?

Joel:  Black Mass will be the next one in September.  It stars Johnny Depp and is set in Boston.  It’s about the Boston Irish Mafia figure Whitey Bulger and his relationship with the FBI agent John Connolly who I play.  It’s like a Goodfellas-type gangster story.  The movie is amazing.  Very rarely do you watch a movie that you’re in where it meets your expectations and goes beyond that.  I’m excited for people to see it.

Making The Most Of Q&A Opportunities

One of the nice perks of being a film critic is getting to host the occassional public Q&A when talent comes to Brisbane.  Below I've shared a few photos from some of the folk I've been fortunate enough to speak with this year.  Gillian Armstrong was in town last Friday night and she was wonderfully open about her experiences in bringing Women He's Undressed to the screen.

My next Q&A will be in August when author Bill Bryson will be speaking about A Walk In The Woods, based on his novel.  You can find out more and book tickets on the Palace Cinemas website.  I might see you there!


2015 Australian Men's Amateur
With director Gillian Armstrong for Women He's Undressed.


2015 Australian Men's Amateur
With director Damon Gameau for That Sugar Film.


2015 Australian Men's Amateur
With director Kim Farrant for Strangerland.



RIP James Horner & Thanks For The Music

It was around lunchtime today that I learned about the tragic death of 61-year-old composer James Horner.  Horner was an aviation enthusiast who died after the small aircraft he was piloting crashed 60 miles north of Santa Barbara, California.

Since I was 16 years old, I’ve had a love for movie music.  I’ve got a large soundtrack collection featuring some of my favourite composers – Thomas Newman, Randy Edelman, Michael Nyman, John Williams, Jon Brion and Jerry Goldsmith.

The very first soundtrack I ever bought was for Legends Of The Fall, composed by James Horner.  It was a wonderful score that I’ve listened to many times.  Since then, I’ve adored many of Horner’s works.  I was particularly pleased when he won an Academy Award in 1998 for his score of Titanic.  To this day, I still can’t believe that an orchestral film score was the highest selling album of 1998 (ahead of the Backstreet Boys, Shania Twain, ‘N Sync and Garth Brooks).

For this week’s blog, I thought I’d share my 10 favourite James Horner scores with a link to Youtube so that you can listen to them for yourself. 

Legends Of The Fall -

A Beautiful Mind -

Casper -

Braveheart -

Apollo 13 -

Titanic -

Avatar -

The Mask Of Zorro -

Field Of Dreams -

Glory -


Thanks James for all the music and may you rest in peace.