Matt's 2012 Oscars Form Guide & Competition
The 2012 Oscars are almost here. The ceremony will be held next Monday (Feb 27) at 11am Brisbane time. It’s always been one of my favourite days of the year and I’ll be taking some time off work this year to sit back, relax and enjoy the ceremony.
Billy Crystal has been dusted off and is ready to step in as host (replacing Eddie Murphy who had been previously announced). I didn’t mind Crystal in his prime (this is his 9th hosting of the Oscars) so hopefully he’ll be on his A-game.
Let’s quickly get down to business…
As I have done for the last 11 years, I am conducting my annual "pick the Oscars" competition. I have selected 6 of the more wide-open categories below (well, except for one) and everyone is invited to pick who they think will be the winner.
I’ve been betting on the Oscars since 1996 and this year is no exception. I’m hoping to build on my career profit of $3,733. These are the bets I have placed over the past few weeks:
$160 on Jean Dujardin (The Artist) to win best actor at odds of $2.25.
$200 on Brad Pitt (Moneyball) to win best actor at odds of $7.
$200 on Viola Davis (The Help) to win best actress at odds of $4.50.
$40 on Hugo to win best picture at odds of $15.
Those that know me are familiar with the fact that I stay away from favourites. I’m not a fan of odds-on betting. I backed Dujardin and Davis at juicy odds who have both firmed into favouritism (which pleases me). I think Brad Pitt and Hugo are crazy long shots now but hey, you never know.
If I can get Dujardin and Davis home, it’ll be a profit of $660 which will help me get over my loss of $400 from the Golden Globes.
Oscars Form Guide!
Let me get the main part of this special Oscars blog – my form guide. I draft this up every year to run through my tips and provide an insight into the expected winners. Here we go…
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
It’s kind of sad that this race has already been run and won. The Artist is currently $1.06 on Centrebet to win the award. You can get odds of $11.00 on any other film winning! That’s just ridiculous. The Artist is a very good film but so too are the other nominees. Well, most of them anyway. Of all the major awards, The Artist has a 100% record – the Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Directors Guild Award, the Critics Choice Award and the British Academy Award. Let’s face facts – the folk in Hollywood love this film and it cannot lose next Monday. Matt’s Pick: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Just kidding… make it The Artist.
Best Achievement in Directing
The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants - Alexander Payne
Hugo - Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen
The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick
He who wins best picture, wins best director. It’s a golden rule for an Oscar tipster. You’d be a brave person to try to pick a split. It’s only happened 4 times over the past two decades. The last was in 2006 when Crash won best picture (in a jaw-dropping upset) over Brokeback Mountain (which won best director for Ang Lee). The only danger is Martin Scorese but I’m playing this one safe. Matt’s Pick: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist).
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir in A Better Life
George Clooney in The Descendants
Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt in Moneyball
In the early stages of this year’s award season, I thought Brad Pitt had a legitimate chance of winning this category. My reasoning was (1) he’s been nominated before and hasn’t won, (2) he’s featured in 2 of this year’s best pictures – Moneyball and The Tree Of Life, (3) he’s one of the world’s most popular actors, and (4) he was a producer on Moneyball. He won some early awards but has come up blank with the big ones. Clooney took a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award but the momentum shifted in favour of Jean Dujardin when he won the Screen Actors Guild Award and the British Academy Award. It’s an interesting statistic that the Guild winner has taken the Oscar in every year since 2004. As I said above, people love The Artist and it stands to reason that Dujardin will win here. Matt’s Pick: Jean Dujardin (The Artist).
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn
Of the acting categories, this is the most interesting. Michelle Williams has an outside chance but the two main contenders are Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. Streep, a 2 time winner back in the early 1980s, is trying to break her streak of 13 consecutive losses. Her problem is that she often comes up against actors who have been nominated in “better” films. When I use the term “better”, I’m referring to those nominated for best picture. Her last 4 losses have been against Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Kate Winslet (The Reader), Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago). In those years, the film in which Streep appeared was NOT nominated for best picture. Guess what? We have the same situation in 2012. Streep is nominated for The Iron Lady (which has no chance at a best picture nomination) whilst Viola Davis is nominated for The Help (which has a best picture nomination). Seems like fate if you ask me. I backed Davis at $4.50 early in the campaign and can’t wait to collect. Matt’s Pick: Viola Davis (The Help).
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Nick Nolte in Warrior
Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Heath Ledger was at un-backable odds when he won in his category 3 years ago. We have the same situation this year. On Centrebet, Christopher Plummer is at odds of $1.01. Why? Because he was won every damn thing! I can’t help but think this Oscar has already been engraved. Hopefully they’ll make it the first award of the night to just get it out of the way. There won’t be any surprises here. The other nominees have about as much chance as the Labor Party at the upcoming State election. As a footnote, Plummer will become the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar in the process. Matt’s Pick: Christopher Plummer (Beginners).
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer in The Help
Octavia Spencer has this one in the bag too. She’s at odds of $1.03 and hasn’t lost a big award all season. Matt’s Pick: Octavia Spencer (The Help).
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
You’d have to think The Descendants is the front runner in this category. Alexander Payne is a great screenwriter and he won in this category for his last film – Sideways. He then took a 7 year break from feature films and is on the verge of returning to pick up a second Oscar. Hugo and Moneyball have outside chances of spoiling but I don’t think it’ll happen. Matt’s Pick: The Descendants.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Midnight in Paris
Let’s just say that I’ll be disappointed if The Artist wins here. Yes, it won the British Academy Award and I admit it’s a nice story but I would like to think that a film with dialogue (a big part in any screenplay) would have more worthy claims. Midnight In Paris is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film in history (yes, I know that’s not adjusted for inflation). Allen already has 3 Oscars but hasn’t had a win since 1987 (Hannah And Her Sisters). I think he’ll take this out… and since he never shows up a the ceremony, someone will have to accept the award on his behalf. Matt’s Pick: Midnight In Paris.
Best Achievement in Editing
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The film that wins best picture often takes this category too. I often wonder if it’s because the non-editing members of the Academy can’t quite appreciate this category and therefore vote for their favourite film. Probably. In that case, let me tick the box for The Artist. Matt’s Pick: The Artist.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
I love the cinematography category as it’s often one of the hardest to pick. Inception took it out last year, must to the surprise of many tipsters. This year’s race is very interesting. The Artist will win many awards… but will it win this one? Will they acknowledge a black & white film over more “picturesque” films such as Hugo and The Tree Of Life. As bored as I was by The Tree Of Life, you can’t help but applaud it’s amazing visuals. I think it might sneak a win here but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hugo or The Artist are in the envelope. Matt’s Pick: The Tree Of Life.
Best Achievement in Art Direction
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Midnight in Paris
Now this is a tricky one. I can confidently narrow it down to The Artist and Hugo. I don’t think the others have a chance. Hugo has a chance because it has a beautiful art direction. The Artist has a chance because it’s The Artist. Matt’s Pick: Hugo.
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Someone made an interesting observation that the last 5 winners in this category have had a queen – Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Duchess, The Young Victoria and Alice In Wonderland. Of the above, only Anonymous could continue that streak. It’s hard to tip however given it’s up against the power of The Artist and Hugo. Let’s take the chance anyway. Matt’s Pick: Anonymous.
Best Achievement in Makeup
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The Iron Lady
There are traditionally only 3 nominees in this category which makes it easier to pick. I’m not all that confident here but I’ll lean towards The Iron Lady. Matt’s Pick: The Iron Lady.
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
The Adventures of Tintin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Music is one of my favourite components of any film and I have quite a large soundtrack collection. I’ve been playing one track each week on my new Sunday shows on ABC Digital with Phil Smith. As The Artist contains nothing else but music, it’s home and hosed. Matt’s Pick: The Artist..
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Man or Muppet from The Muppets
Real in Rio from Rio
There’s been a lot of public outcry this year that the songs won’t be performed during the ceremony (as often tends to occur). Also odd is the fact that there are just 2 nominees this year. It’s a 50/50 choice and I think The Muppets have the power to get over the line. Matt’s Pick: The Muppets.
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Thank god The Artist was not nominated in this category. It earned a nomination at the British Academy Awards for reasons that I cannot fathom (as it has no sound except music). Will the Academy honour an action film like Transformers? Or will they simply stick with one of the best picture nominees, ignorant of the talent of each sound artist? Matt’s Pick: Hugo.
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
What’s the difference between sound editing and sound mixing? I’m sure one of the presenters will try to explain it to us during the ceremony using an array of positive adjectives. Given the strong overlap between this and the previous category, I think you have to pick the same film in each. Matt’s Pick: Hugo.
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
As much as I thought the film was overrated, I was impressed with the visual effects in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and the way the apes were brought to life. There was a strong push to get Andy Serkis nominated for best supporting actor (who played one of the apes using CGI). That bid failed but I think the Academy will honour the movie’s great motion capture work in this category. Matt’s Pick: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango was the big winners at the Annie Awards – winning best picture, writing, editing and character design. It lost best director however to which director Gore Verbinski proclaimed “The Freemasons have nothing on you f***ers.” I think he’ll get the trophy this time however in what has been a weak year for animation. Matt’s Pick: Rango.
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Bullhead - Belgium
Footnote - Israel
In Darkness - Poland
Monsieur Lazhar - Canada
A Separation - Iran
This is always a category to be wary of. There’s often a short-priced favourite but since only a small percentage of Academy members are allowed to vote (if they attend special screenings) you can get an upset if there’s a particular group who really like a particular film. A Separation has won most of the lead up awards however and so I must give it my selection. Matt’s Pick: A Separation.
Best Documentary, Features
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
I haven’t seen any of this year’s documentaries which makes it hard to pick the winner. For these final four categories, I often think you’re best to choose the winner out of a hat. Matt’s Pick: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.
Best Documentary, Short Subjects
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
The Tsunami And The Cherry Blossom
I must say that I’m impressed with all of these film titles. They are much better than films like “This Is War” and “One For The Money”. On that note, I will pick my favourite title of the bunch. Matt’s Pick: God Is the Bigger Elvis.
Best Short Film, Animated
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
A Morning Stroll
Um, yeah, sure, why not. Matt’s Pick: La Luna.
Best Short Film, Live Action
Eeny meany miney moe, catch a tiger by his toe, if he hollers let him go, eeny meeny miney MOE. Matt’s Pick: Time Freak.
Don’t forget to enter my Oscars competition and I look forward to talking about all the winners in next week’s blog!
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Drawn To Screen: A Great Program At GOMA
It’s been underway since the start of December but I keep forgetting to blog about the Drawn To Screen program which is currently on at the Gallery Of Modern Art in Brisbane.
For those who haven’t been there before, the Gallery has a nice theatre which is often used to show classic / cult movies. I remember going there a few years ago to see one of my all time favourite films, The Ice Storm, as part of an Ang Lee retrospective.
The current “Drawn To Screen” program features “over 60 films from around the world that chart the shift from printed page to screen and the way comic genres and themes challenge personal and cultural expectations.”
If that sounded a little too wordy, let me say this – there are some f***king good films being shown. I’ve only given out four A+ gradings since 2007 and one of them screened a week ago – Persepolis. I went along to see it for a second time and it was as wonderful as I remembered it. Has a finer animated film been made? I’m not sure.
Tickets to all films are just $9 and you can pick up a 5-film pass for $36. You won’t get fleeced with candy bar prices either (very refreshing).
The program continues for another month and so I thought I’d quickly mention some of those I’m more familiar with. If you haven’t seen any of these, here’s a great chance to do so on the big screen. I’ve included the quick plot overviews from the IMDB…
V For Vendetta (2006) – Saturday, 11 February at 3:30pm
A shadowy freedom fighter known only as "V" uses terrorist tactics to fight against his totalitarian society.
Weird Science (1985) – Sunday, 12 February at 1:00pm
Two nerdish boys attempt to create the perfect woman, but she turns out to be more than that.
X-Men 2 (2003) – Wednesday, 15 February at 8:15pm
The X-Men band together to find a mutant assassin who has made an attempt on the President's life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces.
Akira (1988) – Friday, 17 February at 8:30pm
A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psionic psychopath that only two kids and a group of psionics can stop.
Fritz The Cat (1972) – Saturday, 18 February at 8:00pm
A hypocritical swinging college student cat raises hell in a satiric vision of various elements on the 1960's.
Oldboy (2003) – Wednesday, 22 February at 9:00pm
After being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in 5 days.
The Dark Knight (2008) – Saturday, 25 February at 9:00pm
Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent are forced to deal with the chaos unleashed by a terrorist mastermind known only as the Joker, as he drives each of them to their limits.
Crumb (1994) – Saturday, 3 March at 2:00pm
A cinematic portrait of the controversial comic book writer/artist and his traumatized family.
American Splendor (2003) – Saturday, 3 March at 6:00pm
An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.
Ghost World (2001) – Saturday, 3 March at 8:00pm
Enid and Rebecca are social outsiders who, after graduating from high school, play a mean prank on a middle-aged geek.
Hopefully I’ll see you in one of the screenings!Add a comment
Oscar Nominations 2012: It's Hugo Vs. The Artist
It’s Christmas time for movie lovers. Tom Sherak, president of the Academy, and last year’s nominee, Jennifer Lawrence, just announced the nominations for the 2012 Academy Awards. It’s an event that always generates a huge amount of buzz.
I can’t quite believe this but I picked the 9 nominations for best picture back on 21 November 2011 in my awards season preview. Here’s a quote from that blog...
“This year’s best picture race has been made murky by a rule change – there will now be between 5 and 10 nominees depending on the support level for the top films. This makes it hard for me to give a set list in my predictions. Assuming there could be up to 10, I thought I’d list out my top predictions in order of likelihood…
1. The Descendants, 2. The Artist, 3. War Horse, 4. The Help, 5. Midnight In Paris, 6. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, 7. Moneyball, 8. The Tree Of Life, 9. Hugo, 10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
In turns out the films marked 1 to 9 were the ones nominated. I can take a little bit of credit but it does highlight the predictable nature of the awards season race.
It’s Hugo who leads the charge with 11 nominations in total. The Artist is nipping at its heels with 10 nominations. They’d appear to be the two most popular films amongst Academy voters as the next best are Moneyball and War Horse with 6 nominations each.
Australians nominated this year (from what I can gather) are editor Kirk Baxter for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (he won last year for The Social Network), producer Grant Hill for The Tree Of Life and sound mixer Andy Nelson for War Horse. We had 3 acting nominees last year but sadly none in 2012.
Let’s cut to the chase and get into the major categories…
This year’s best picture nominations were always going to be interesting since we didn’t know how many nominees there would be. It would be between 5 and 10 depending on the number of films to get at least 5% of the first place votes.
We have 9 nominations in all this year. Major films to have missed the cut included Bridesmaids, Drive, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Ides Of March and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
I was certainly surprised by the inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close given it’s had a lukewarm reception from critics. The film only earned one other nomination – Max Von Sydow for supporting actor. The film must have a few die-hard fans.
The same can be said of The Tree Of Life that also caught a few off guard with a best picture nomination. It was completely snubbed at the British Academy Awards which were announced last week.
The Artist is the clear frontrunner and it’d be hard to see it losing.
Some great stuff here. Leonardo DiCaprio (J Edgar) and Michael Fassbender (Shame) were the major casualties. Taking their spots were Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Demián Bichir (A Better Life). It’s wonderful to see Oldman get his first ever nomination! It’s well overdue and I asked him about awards recognition in my interview last week (see here). Bichir is a Mexican actor who I know most from starring in the television series Weeds. It’s always nice seeing small films recognised and I can’t wait to see A Better Life down the track.
Clooney should win here but don’t count out either Dujardin and Pitt.
Unfortunately for fans of Tilda Swinton, she missed out this year for her chilling performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin. I guess the Academy didn’t like the film. A shame. Also missing out was the wonderful Charlize Theron in Young Adult. The good news is that both have won Oscars before.
So who’s going to win here? It’s a coin flip between Davis and Streep. I hope Davis gets the nod. It’s interesting though that The Help picked up just 4 nominations – 3 acting and 1 for best picture. Many thought it would perform stronger.
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
This category was ripe for a few surprises and the lack of a nomination for Albert Brooks (Drive) is disappointing. Most thought he’d earn his first nod but I guess the Academy didn’t think too much of Drive. It received just one nomination amongst the categories. I’m thrilled to see Jonah Hill get his first nomination – he’s great in Moneyball. As proof that you’re never too old in Hollywood, two 82 year old actors have been nominated in this category – Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). It’s the second nomination for them both.
Plummer can’t lose this category as far as I’m concerned.
It’s great to see the Academy recognising comedy with the nomination of Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. Co-star Kristen Wiig is also nominated in the original screenplay category. It was sad to see Shaileen Woodley (The Descendants) miss a nomination here because her performance was excellent. It’s a tough field though and I guess someone had to miss out.
Spencer looks like she has the goods here but Bejo and Chastain will keep her honest.
With more than 5 nominees now for best picture, this category has become the pseudo “top 5” since director and picture often align. I dare say that only 3 of these guys will be appearing the ceremony however. Allen was last nominated in this category in 1994 (Bullets Over Broadway) and has never once turned up at the ceremony when nominated. The same applies to the reclusive Terrence Malick who scored a somewhat unexpected nomination for The Tree Of Life.
This looks like being a two horse race between legend Martin Scorsese and relative newcomer Michel Hanazavicius. You’d have to lean towards Hanazavicius but I’d hate to be putting money on it.
I was saddened to see 50/50 miss out in this category given my love for the film at the Toronto Film Festival. I’m very keen to see Margin Call given I work in the financial industry and have a keen interest in the subject matter. A Separation solidifies its reputation as the year’s best foreign language film with a screenplay nomination.
Woody Allen last won an Oscar in 1987 but I think that streak is about to be broken. Midnight In Paris should have enough in its bag to defeat the silence of The Artist.
Another solid crop of films. It’s interesting that only 5 of the 9 best picture nominees earned a screenplay nomination. And here I was thinking the script was the most important quality of a movie?
This is fairly wide open given Alexander Payne (The Descendants) has won here before. Aaron Sorkin (along with co-writers Steve Zaillian and Stan Chervin) will be going for back-to-back wins with Moneyball (following his success last year with The Social Network). I think Moneyball will take this out.
Best Foreign Language Film
Upsets are frequent in this category but you’d be a brave person to bet against A Separation.
Best Animated Feature
Chico & Rita
This has to be the strangest of all the categories. Who the f*** are Chico & Rita? What is A Cat In Paris? If only you could have seen my reaction when they announced them as nominees. They got in at the expense of big-budget productions such as Arthur Christmas, Cars 2 and Rio. The big surprise though is the lack of a nomination for The Adventures Of Tin Tin. How did this happen? The film won the Golden Globe and the Producers Guild but doesn’t even get an Oscar nomination? Very strange indeed.
Well that’s it from me. It’s time for bed and then I’ll be up early in the morning to discuss all the nominations on Brisbane’s highest rated breakfast show on 612ABC! Sweet dreams.Add a comment
Chatting With Stephan Elliott About A Few Best Men
It’s not often I laugh openly in a movie but there are some very funny scenes in the latest Australian comedy, A Few Best Men. I had a chat with director Stephan Elliott (Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert) and we spoke about the film.
You can download a 2 minute extract from the interview by clicking here.
Matt: It’s been almost 20 years since Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert but it’s a film that’s only grown in stature since it was first released. Did you have any idea that it was going to be so popular when you made it?
Stephan: No. The real fun of Priscilla was that we got out there and we made it up as we went along. I went into it with zero expectations. I said to myself “this is going straight to DVD, no one is going to care so we may as well have a good time”. No one saw it coming.
We have a stage show now that has just opened in Italy and it’s about to open in Brazil. I’ve only just woken up to the idea that this thing is going to outlive me which is kind of scary.
Matt: So you’ve been involved over the past few years with the development of the musical?
Stephan: Yeah. I’ve been writing the show again and again. It’s really hard. I wrote that script 25 years ago and now here I am still writing it.
Matt: We should talk about A Few Best Men. We’ve seen plenty of movies where weddings go wrong but I don’t think I’ve seen too many that are this crazy and this outlandish. When you picked up Dean Craig’s script for the first time, what was it that stood out?
Stephan: Since Priscilla, it seems the only thing I’ve ever been offered have been wedding movies. I’ve always turned them down because my career started as a wedding videographer. At about 14 years old, I started doing video weddings and I did about 3,000 weddings over a 7 year period. Let’s just say I have a lot of wedding rage. I have seen the worst behaviour from every member of the family in every possible religion. It started to drive me mad.
Dan’s script was the first one that arrived that was looking more at the dark side and I decided to go for it. A lot of me is in that script. There are lines and scenes that actually happened to me when I was recording weddings.
Matt: Wow. So you’re obviously very experienced with this subject matter?
Stephan: I’m the expert. Trust me. There’s nothing I don’t know about bad behaviour at weddings.
Matt: Was it an easy film to get off the ground and get finance for?
Stephan: It was actually pretty easy. I’ve been offshore for a long time and a lot of people have been begging me to come home and make a film again.
I just had a moment during a showing of Priscilla the musical where a drag queen in the front row refused to take her wig off and a fight broke out with the guy sitting behind her in the theatre. That was in London and at that point, I said it’s time to go home.
I came home, the script was on the desk, I have big opinions on weddings and I said “let’s go for it”. We did it in record time – inside of a year. Most scripts usually take about 10 years to get off the ground.
Matt: I always love seeing actors in roles that we’re not quite accustomed to. Olivia Newton John is swearing, snorting cocaine, hanging off chandeliers. Was it an easy sell to Olivia?
Stephan: It was a tough one. I’ve been friends with Olivia for a couple of years and have been trying to get her involved in projects for a while. She’s one of the sweetest, kindest, most generous human beings on earth… but get two glasses of red wine into her, and there’s a naughty Australia school girl in there. She never lets it out.
I was sitting there one day and watching her cackling away at something filthy and I said to her “we’ve got to let this person out”. She then got remarried, moved out of Los Angeles, met this fantastic guy and her whole life changed. It was then I said that it’s time to do a big change. Stick your head out and take a chance.
Matt: Well I’m glad you got her on board.
Stephan: Yeah. There’s a final shot in the film where she ends up swinging off a chandelier. That was the last day of shooting. I said to her “how do you feel about it?” She said she couldn’t do it so we got a stunt double in… but at the last minute she changed her mind and agreed to do it. Bless her cotton socks, she’s 63 years old and she was 3 feet off the floor swinging off a chandelier. At that moment, I was totally in love with her.
Matt: What about Xavier Samuel? He’s one of Australia’s brightest prospects and becoming very marketable.
Stephan: Xavier is going big places very fast. At the time, he was being offered one $300m movie after another. The one thing he’d never been offered though was comedy. He’s not a natural comedian but he was surrounded by comedians and had the task of playing the “normal guy” in the film.
I think there were a lot of pissed off agents in the world who then realised they weren’t going to get their commission from the $300m movie. He took a gamble and I think he did a spectacular job. It was very hard for him. We had 5 stand up comedians in that crew. Once they go, Rebel Wilson goes, Jonathan Biggins goes, there’s no stopping them.
Some days I realised that the set was losing control. All I could do was point the camera and get them to stand back. You’ve got to give points to Xavier and Olivia for holding their own.
Matt: I was going to ask what it was like on the set. The audience was laughing hysterically at the preview I attended. What was it like for you guys? How do you keep a straight face when shooting some of these scenes?
Stephan: You don’t really. It was hard being the teacher. At the end of the day, I’m still a director and have to bring a film in on time and on budget. One or two days, the giggles set in and I think my record was about 37 takes when Kris just got the giggles and the extras started laughing. When I saw the cameraman with the wobbles while laughing hysterically, I started to scream at everyone and told them to grow up. It only made it 100 times worse.
But what a joy. It was David Niven who once said that if you have too much fun on a set, the film won’t work. I can honestly say that’s rubbish. The last time I had this much fun was with Priscilla.
Matt: Everyone has a different sense of humour and from what I've seen on Twitter, there have been some very different reactions to the film. Some have loved it but others think it’s really rude and crass. What sort of reactions have you been receiving at previews so far?
Stephan: It’s a genre that took off a few years ago with Wedding Crashers – they’re wedding movies for boys. For many years, wedding movies were just for girls and then someone came up with the opposite. With that, comes a lot of crass humour. I went into this knowing that the very serious critics were going to crucify me and I had no problem with that. The film is what it is.
Matt: It’s so hard trying to sell Australian films in this country as we’re always up against the big budget U.S. films with their marketing campaigns. What can we tell people to make sure we get their bums on seats?
Stephan: It’s cyclic. I remember when I was first doing Priscilla, we were at the end of a period where we were doing lots of costume dramas and dark, “kitchen sink” dramas. Baz Luhrmann, P.J. Hogan and myself did Strictly Ballroom, Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla without even knowing each other. We retaliated and did the opposite – fun, bold, interesting comedies. They all worked.
I think we’re right in the middle of the “kitchen sink” dramas again and it’s time to turn it around.
Matt: Well I think it’s a terrific film. It’s one of the best comedies I’ve seen in the past 12 months. I hope it’s great at the box-office too. Stephan, thanks for speaking with me this morning.
Stephan: Brilliant. Thank you so much.
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