Hugh Humphreys, our Moviehole man in Sydney, has been lucky enough to sit down with the entire lead cast of “Any Questions for Ben?”, the upcoming film from Working Dog productions, who made Aussie cinema greats “The Castle” and “The Dish”. We’re going to unravel the rest of the interviews over the next few days – so stay tuned for our chats with Rachael Taylor, Josh Lawson, director Rob Sitch, Christian Clark and Felicity Ward!
But first up, here’s the interview with Daniel Henshall and Jodi Gordon.
HUGH: Congratulations on the film.
Daniel Henshall (DH): Thanks mate.
Jodi Gordon (JG): Thanks so much.
HUGH: Firstly for you Daniel, congrats on the AACTA Award too [for best actor in “Snowtown”], will you now make the guys change the trailer for this movie to say “AACTA Award-winning Daniel Henshall” in the trailer and the credits?
DH: No, definitely not! This is definitely Josh and Rachael’s film, they’re so brilliant and beautiful in it. Actually, maybe… [laughs]
JG: The most humble person I know.
HUGH: It might be worth a try?
JG: Yeah, maybe a small feature…
DH: Superimposed in each frame- “AACTA Award-winning Daniel Henshall” in every shot!
JG: Just a quick clip in each shot of your award…
HUGH: “Any Questions for Ben?” must have been a big change from something like “Snowtown”.
DH: Yeah, it was.
HUGH: How did you use the complete opposite spectrum of your acting skills?
DH: This one was pretty much straight after “Snowtown”. About four weeks after, and pretty much two weeks was rehearsals once “Snowtown” finished. Which was brilliant because it gave me the chance to focus on something completely different and not spend my time thinking and worrying about the last 5 months of my life, which was very intense, of course. And to be given the opportunity to work with the Working Dog crew and the talented cast and production team. But especially the Working Dog crew – people who I’ve been admiring since I was 7. You know, “The D-Generation”, “Frontline”, “The Hollowmen”, the numerous documentaries, all those things that I grew up and loved, and those things haven’t aged – and of course, “The Castle”! So I was just terrified when I walked in the room, because you have this wonderful history and brilliance in front of you. And all of them have been recognised with accolades continually, both internationally and home.
HUGH: For almost everything they make, really! What was it like working with Rob Sitch as a director?
JG: Awful. [laughs]. No, he’s such an interesting guy. He’s so funny.
DH: He’s so interested and so interesting. He’s so funny, so focused.
JG: He just doesn’t miss a beat.
DH: Very funny, very affable.
HUGH: How does he get the best out of you on set?
DH: He’s very specific.
JG: Yeah. You do your rehearsals, you do your script and character analysis, you go over all that stuff. So you know the nitty gritty of everything you have to get from that scene. But then on the day, something happens. They always made me feel very comfortable and let me inject whatever I wanted into the scene or into the character. So following their structure but still allowing me to be creative, I really enjoyed that.
DH: Yeah, they allow you to be really loose. It doesn’t matter how specific they go with the structure of what you were trying to deliver, they allowed you to be loose to create something that was yours. And if they weren’t happy, they wouldn’t move on. So you had that confidence to kind of throw it all in this 1 take, and if they’re not happy and want something else, they’ll keep on doing that until they’re happy. And you trust that because they’re so good at what they do.
HUGH: Yeah, you know they’re going to get what they want.
JG: So much about this is really trusting who you’re working with and just allowing them to direct you and know how to get the best out of you. And that comes with trust.
HUGH: Speaking of who you are working with, Josh Lawson and Rachael Taylor and the core group of your friends. I think you showed such a strong sense of that friendship on screen. How fun was that to develop?
DH: It was great.
JG: I think that comes from what those guys put on us. They’re creating that really comfortable and inspiring environment.
DH: And not in a forced way. It was very easy, it was like we had to have a drink and dinner, get to know each other and then it just happened organically.
JG: And everyone was so genuinely excited. You know, there was this buzz. I remember getting there first hour on set and Josh was just excited, and I was like, “I’m feeling this”. And you feed off that energy.
DH: And you know you want to do the best you can. Because you know this is the first film these guys have made in 12 years. [laughs] This is Working Dog, and you’re working with them. And these actors, and you want to be so good and not let anyone down. This positive energy when you’re on there, it really makes a difference.
HUGH: And did you have the same experience filming all around Melbourne? The way they make the film look…
DH: – it’s like New York! And it is like that! It hasn’t been captured like that on cinema and television before, and they didn’t do anything to make it look any better than it is, they had the city there in the first place to work with. And I know I went to a few places I’ve never been to before, and saw a side I hadn’t seen. I love Melbourne and the way they put it on screen was brilliant.
HUGH: Me being a Sydney boy, I looked at some of these great pictures and thought, “This can’t be Melbourne!”
JG: I haven’t been there! Where’s that?! It was good.
HUGH: How did you enjoy developing your characters? How similar are you to them?
DH: Well Jodi’s really like her character… [model, and the face of the Spring Racing carnival]
JG: Yeah, I’m pretty much Kelly! [laughs]. I think there’s certain elements of every character you do that you have to find stuff in you that you can relate. You know, for me the challenge was creating this person that’s just so annoying and irritating and self absorbed, yet lovable. Like, how do you kinda do that?! I found it fun to try and do that, but quite challenging.
HUGH: And you, Dan?
DH: Nick’s a sweetie. And it’s nice to play someone who doesn’t have the greatest confidence about him, but clearly has everything going for him. He’s got the job, he’s got the girlfriend who turns into his wife, and he’s a good guy, always trying to do the right thing. And there’s a sweet element to that, which is fun to play. I guess I can relate to the fact of not being confident all the time and not seeing what I’ve got, and then realising how good I’ve got it which puts you in a nice, relaxed, confident state where you don’t have to impose that on anyone. And I think Nick doesn’t impose himself on anyone and hopefully you can see by the end of the film how confident he is.
HUGH: Yeah I think one of my favourite scenes is when you give the advice to Ben just before you’re about to get married. And you know Ben is the talker, the loud guy who seems to have everything, and you go from not being sure about how you are, and all of a sudden…
JG: Yeah you’ve just got everything.
DH: Yeah, that’s me. [laughs].
JG: All his good qualities!
HUGH: And how did you all get along on set? Were there any memorable moments of something funny or disastrous?
JG: There were so many funny moments, eh! Everyone I’m working with, if they’re comedians, they all bat off each other.
DH: And the crew too, because they’ve worked together for so long because the guys hire the same people they form this relationship. They form this wonderful familiarity that puts you at ease. But Annie Maver the First AD, she was just spot on- very funny, very supportive. And had a great laugh, so if anything funny happened on or off set, you could hear this bellowing laughter that made you feel at home.
HUGH: What’s the reaction been from people who have seen this movie?
JG: Apart from my partner, who’s biased – I haven’t really had the chance to talk to many people!
DH: I took some friends to see it and there were about 400 people in the audience. And they were all heartily laughing out loud- one person started and cracked, it put everyone at ease. And my mates are very honest – I’ve done things before that they haven’t liked and they’ll tell me why. But each one genuinely had a good time, felt like they had experienced something that was warm and fun and inviting, and could relate to a lot of the story.
HUGH: It’s a story that hasn’t often been made in Australian cinema – people in their 20s and 30s where you don’t often see those kind of organic stories – and the comedy aspect of it as well.
JG: Yes, the comedy thing, that’s what got me. I thought, “Yes, finally!”
DH: And it’s comedy that’s real. It’s not gaggy or stereotyped – I mean, there are stereotypes in the film, but they’re done with 3 dimensions.
HUGH: You can find something to laugh at with all the characters.
JG: And about the whole situation that’s going on The whole soul searching, figuring out who you are; and love and life – there’s so much stuff in there that I think a lot of people will relate to.
HUGH: It covers a lot of ground.
JG: It sure does.
DH: A huge gamete. [laughs]
HUGH: Have you had those moments of – not self-discovery, that makes it sound lame – but figuring out the quarter life crisis?
JG: Everyone goes through it, everyone does!
DH: The epiphanies? Yeah you think, “Yep, I need to clean up my act, and do this”, like an Aha! moment.
JG: Yeah I always have those “Ohhhhh” moments!
DH: And you constantly learn the same mistakes.
HUGH: And just lastly, who was your favourite cameo in the film?
DH: I’ve got three, is that alright?
JG: Oh God, three?!. Calm down mate, he said one!
DH: I love how you’re like three, come on mate, get f*cked, it’s not a competition! [laughs]
JG: Come on then, let’s hear it!
DH: Ok, I’m going to say David James, because he’s so f*cking funny. When his head floats past the partition, it’s just so funny and so poignant. I’ve got 4, sorry.
JG:Oh my God.
DH: Lachy Hulme, because every scene he’s in he’s so funny and on the money. Especially at his godson’s christening – and he’s talking to Ben in his office and some of his reactions are so funny. When he tells his great-grandfather what life’s about and you think it’s going to be a funny, poignant moment and then he goes, “F*ck it, this is what life’s really about”. Rob Sitch as the headmaster, that’s almost a winner. But John Howard as the priest, that’s my favourite. He was just hands down, funny as sh*t.
JG: Was that hard on the day?
DH: Oh yeah, I was trying not to laugh! He’s such a big guy, like he’s tall. Not just a big man, but he’s tall. And has this intimidating presence. He’s been acting forever, been in everything theatre, film and stage, and he’s just so great. Then he just comes on set and is so interesting and interested, and he’s playing someone in authority. So I felt like a little schoolkid, trying not to laugh because I’ll get sent to the back of the room or something.
HUGH: And Jodi, what about you?
JG: Lachy. I’m just obsessed with him now, he’s just so funny. This whole side of him I didn’t know existed. His obsession with the phone, and the fact he can be in the deepest thought and the hardest conversation and still playing on his Blackberry. It’s just his pride and joy – and the swearing and what he did with that character is just wonderful.
“ANY QUESTIONS FOR BEN?” commences Thursday