Exclusive Interview : Peter O’Brien

Clint Morris talks to the Aussie actor about “The Return”


Well-known Australian actor Peter O’Brien (“The Flying Doctors”, “White Collar Blue”) makes his American film debut this month in the new DVD release, “The Return”. In this exclusive interview with Clint Morris, the amiable actor explains how he scored the role in the spooky new supernatural thriller – and reveals how he didn’t even know who co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar was before signing on.

How did you get involved in The Return?
I just auditioned. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Its kinda funny – I wasn’t originally even auditioning for that movie. I was asked to come in – just before I was heading back to London – and read for it. I hadn’t even read the script. Still haven’t. I went in and the guy said, “What are you doin’?”. I thought I’d blown it. And then, funnily enough, I got called in to do it.

Had you been trying to crack Hollywood for a while?
Oh, I have and I haven’t – I haven’t really been trying to crack it, it’s more just a case of it being a bigger market and if there’s work there, you’ll take it. That was it really. I hadn’t really been pursuing it. I was getting enough work outside of [Hollywood] so it didn’t really matter. Suddenly, this thing came off and all of a sudden everyone knew who I was – I’d hop into a cab in L.A and the guy would ask me ‘How’s the movie going?’ That’s pretty funny.

It’s a very different world over there – 24/7 you live and breathe movies.
They take it very seriously, yeah. Before anyone even knew that I had booked the job [The Return] I was having phone calls from managers and agents asking if I wanted to have a meeting. I hadn’t even heard if I’d definitely got it yet… how did they know?

So that’s how it happened.
Yep, that’s how it happened – and I didn’t even know who Sarah Michelle Gellar was.

You weren’t a big fan of Buffy, then?
No, I hadn’t even seen it. No. I’d heard that she was an attractive and short girl, so when I walked into the room I spotted whom I thought was Sarah and walked up and said hello. Low and behold, it wasn’t even her. Good start! [Laughs]

Where did it film?
Austin, Texas. I had a great time there. It was wild. We were there for the South by Southwest festival. They were really nice people to work with there, too. Most of my stuff was at night so I had a pretty good time. Living in a good part of town, enjoying the music festival… it’s one of the good things about being on location. I tend to travel on my own anyway so you tend to rely on the people you’re working with and in this case, it was great.

Where are you usually based? London?
Yeah. I just went over and did some Casualty, which is a series. Did five months on that. I came in as the new lead doctor in that… actually while I was talking to you I was reading an email from someone whose telling me that I’ve been nominated for an award for my role on the series.

There you go! Now they’ll want you back!
Pretty funny. I’ll have to talk to my agent.

Do you like TV because of the job security?
I consider it to be my bread and butter – some people say theatre is their bread and butter, for me, its TV. I think there’s some really good TV out there and because I tend to take the best stuff I really can, it’s a no-brainer. There’s good and bad telly. There’s good and bad films, too. In an ideal world you’d like to do one or two films a year, a bit of a theatre or a good TV series, but then… you’d have to be Brad Pitt or someone.

Were you happy with the way The Return turned out?
I haven’t actually seen it! I was sent the DVD, but it’s the one from America so it’s in the wrong region. I can’t play it on my machine. I saw some rushes while I was there – I had to do some ADR – and it seemed fine. It was released in England whilst I was there – I was in Bristol though, and it was only on in London, so I never got to see it.
The guy that directed the film, Asif Kapadia, I really like him. He was a really nice guy. Stepping in to do a movie like that can be a daunting experience but he’s a genuine talent and he pulled it off. His heart is in the right place. I hope that it works all right for him. I hope that it works all right for everyone – so we can get work out of it – but I really hope it works out well for him.

Speaking of which, did you have any other offers as a result of your role in The Return?
Yeah, funnily enough, I have. I was offered a role in The Prestige, but I couldn’t do it. When The Return came out though, I was busy with other stuff anyway– including being a dad – but now that I’m free, I think I’ll go and test it out a bit. My wife Miranda [Otto] has got work over there in New York so we will be based there till the end of the year so now I’ll find out whether I’ve got anything else available to me over there or not.

THE RETURN is now on DVD