Today’s interviews from “Any Questions For Ben?” are with Rachael Taylor and Felicity Ward. Hugh Humphreys did the interview with the pair at the very end of a long day of media, and they were in a great mood – the most fun interview he’s ever had!
HUGH: I have to say, both of you two were my favourite characters in the film.
FW: Thanks, Hugh!
RT: Thank you. I loved that character, so it was easy to play. It’s easy to play when you like the material and the people you work with. Then your job as an actor is pretty much done.
FW: When you think about it, our characters are kind of the audience. That the audience goes through –
RT: Yeah, the same feelings about Ben that we do.
HUGH: Yeah, you two are watching what the three boys do, specifically Ben.
RT: Yeah, it’s about a leading man, but the girls are really important in this movie. They’re ciphers.
FW: Even the girls who are dispensable to Ben each give him flack.
RT: They don’t take shit, and I love that.
HUGH: Yeah me too. I thought you guys had such a strong group of friends and I think you handled that friendship well – you know, coming from school and everything, it’s sometimes rare to see that closeness?
RT: You know, I think that was a genius casting moment. Because Felicity and I had never met. We went out for a cup of tea the day before we started shooting, but yet I did the same thing when I saw the movie. I thought, Felicity and I are doing a great job creating some sense of history between the two of us. It was surprising, I was like “Pat on back me, and pat on back Felicity”.
FW: But I feel like the fortunate thing is that we feel that in real life. That as soon as I met you, I felt like I’d known you forever.
RT: Yeah, we’re cut from the same cloth.
FW: Yeah there’s no rekindling we need to do if we haven’t seen each other in a while.
RT: Or like those people who are gorgeous but you don’t quite speak the same language. We speak the same language.
FW: I think there’s a scene when we’re dancing and Josh’s watching you. And we’re giggling and dancing, and all the giggling we do are stupid conversations we were having when the cameras were on.
RT: Felicity and Rachael stuff. You know, I felt really silly about dancing in front of Rob Sitch, who I think is one of the most talented filmmakers in Australia. It was just an added scene, and he goes, “Why don’t you and Felicity go and do some silly sexy dancing?”.
FW: Yeah – “Do that thing where you’re being girls and you’re talking, you’ve got that special chemistry”.
RT: And I just thought – silly dancing in front of people I hold in very high esteem is not my strong point, but I’ll have a go.
FW: See, that’s where we differ. I was like “Silly dancing, yay!” My favourite part of the trailer was when I saw they got dancing in. I thought “I don’t care if it doesn’t make the film, awesome, awesome, awesome.”
HUGH: How much are you similar to your characters? Especially when you had so much fun being yourselves?
RT: I’m quite a bit like my character.
FW: I’m very much like my character.
RT: I haven’t always been, and Alex has actually more of a gentle touch than I do. I’m a bit more of a bull at a gate, a bit more put foot in mouth. And actually, I’m quite a vulnerable, shy person but sometimes I can read as a little bombastic almost – that I’m muck-about and pretend to be – I don’t know, bombastic is not the word.
HUGH: Kind of like brash?
RT: Yeah. And I’m really not at all, but sometimes I put that on. Whereas Alex doesn’t put anything on, she has this very deep self-esteem and this core sophistication that I really envy.
FW: The difference between Emily and I is she gets paid a lot more than I do. She has a real job! And a consistent job!
RT: Yeah, the consistent job factor is where we both don’t relate to our characters…
FW: But I think as far as core values. There is one friend I have in particular who is very similar to Ben. And I’ve almost had that conversation where, a couple of times he’s gone “Oh, I’m sort of doing this”…
RT: “I’m sort of sleeping with 3 different models, what do you think?”
FW: And you’ve gone “I’m not going to judge you, but I’m not going to encourage you”.
RT: I’m not going to pat you on the head, sweetheart.
FW: Yeah, you’re not going to get a high-five for this. I know that you’re really proud of yourself, and you should be.
RT: Enjoy it, practise safe sex. That goes without saying. You know, I’ve actually been an advocate for safe sex all day. Because the film is not anti-fun, the film is endorsing fun but it says fun is all well and good until you give yourself a moment of pause to ask whether you’re living a fulfilling version of your life. And I keep telling people if they’re going to do fun, they should wear condoms.
HUGH: You’re going to get signed up to sponsor that, you know?
RT: You know, I’d actually really happily stand up for that. I worry sometimes that “these kids today” might get lazy because we don’t talk about it anymore!
FW: That’s true.
RT: I worry! I worry about the kids!
HUGH: Role model!
RT: Yeah, yeah…
HUGH: From what you were just saying, everyone has a friend who’s like all of the characters. You see bits of each character in yourself and in other people; it’s like you know these people, you know this life because it’s everywhere.
FW: I really liked that all the different facets of characters were put together as friends too. Like Nick, [Daniel Henshall] who is really adorable and does commercial litigation. But he’s a bit of a dag and is just all heart. But then having someone a bit more forthright like Emily, and then having this person that’s more worldly and elegant like Alex.
RT: But even though Alex is busy, but her priority is love and romance.
FW: And humans!
HUGH: She’s always coming home.
RT: Yeah, people. She invests in human beings.
FW: And then Christian’s character.
RT: Beautiful Christian [Christian Clark]! He’s one of my favourite people in this film; I think it’s an absolute breakout performance. He’s my favourite
FW: When he leans across you and Josh [Lawson] and goes “Sorry”, to get the computer, it’s one of the biggest laughs in the film.
RT: He’s intensely good.
HUGH: When he comes back the second time?
RT: For the charger! It’s really great. It’s classic Working Dog humour that is all in the details. I love that.
FW: And the scene when they’re sitting in New Zealand, and Andy takes a photo and goes, “How’s that?”.
RT: The details are just genius.
HUGH: How did you enjoy your leading men? How fun was it to work with them?
FW: Both were absolutely brilliant. Dan is so caring, supportive, kind, so much fun. We used to just roll around with laughter. I mean, when I was in a scene, most of the time Dan was in with me, so we spent a lot of time together. And if that was a person I didn’t get along with very well it would’ve been difficult, because we spent so much time in the trailer waiting together. But he made me feel so relaxed – because I was so nervous as I’d never done [a film] before. He made me feel so included, and then everyone else did too. And I was saying before – Josh set such a high standard of performance, comedic timing, and professionalism.
RT: Yeah, boom.
FW: So if he starts up there, you’re sort of thinking if you aren’t, you’re not doing the bare minimum that he’s doing. And he’s the leading man with the biggest job in the film!
RT: The thing that impressed me most about Josh, is that he’s just a movie star. In the sense that that’s what movie stars do. They show up, work 110%, they’re nice to everyone, they’re funny, charismatic. They work really hard, they carry the film and take it seriously, and they still have time to say please and thank you. That’s a movie star to me, and Josh is that.
HUGH: And that’s a rare quality? To see big name actors –
RT: You know, I don’t think it’s as rare as people think. You know, if I did a film [and I haven’t], with George Clooney or Brad Pitt, I reckon it’d have the same level of professional human beings. That would be my sense. The other thing I wanted to say about Josh – not just him but all the people with a comedic background – their brain to mouth connection; the rapidity of that connection is so unfathomable to me, it’s so impressive. That verbal dexterity, I just go, “Oh my goodness, how did you do that?”. To see people like that, the comedic improvisers, they are like elite sportsmen – people who can just fire away something. And Josh and Felicity have that talent where their strike rate is pretty high. So most of the funny things they make up with on the spot, are proper up-and-down funny. Some people can improvise a lot but their crash rate is higher. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it’s such a rare thing to find people who can strike gold so frequently.
FW: Josh really blew me away when I first started working with him. I thought to myself, “You need to go home, and figure out how you can be better, because what you’re doing is fine, but you’re not going to match what he’s doing”.
RT: I disagree, Felicity. I think you’re really talented. Josh is amazing, and he is very professional, but I think your comedic skill is on the same level, mate.
FW: Well, I very much appreciate that, but he set the bar so high that I didn’t know where it would possibly start because I had not done a film before.
RT: I agree. I’ve done a bunch of films but as soon as I got to set… We went straight into the scene outside Captain Cook’s cottage, and the scene’s got a bit of meat to it. And I asked if we could run the lines and he went “sure brrrrrrrrm”, and just spat out the lines. He had it and knew exactly what he was doing, so I thought I need to really bring my A+++ game.
FW: The scene where I ask “Do you ever follow through?”, leading into it he goes “I love the place, I think its missing something – a big concrete circle – oh wait, there it is.” And he improvised that. And you can see me pissing myself.
RT: That’s classic Josh; he says that stuff in real life. I cop that sort of stuff all the time. It’s pretty good.
HUGH: And what can you say to that?
RT: I just giggle.
HUGH: And how did you manage to keep it together on the set?
RT: I didn’t. My giggles are on the cutting room floor. Felicity was a bit better, her poker face is good. Mine is terrible…
FW: You don’ t have a giggle by the way, you have a honk.
RT: I guffaw. I do! And my girlfriends sometimes think it’s a fake laugh, but I have a big bang cackle and it’s embarrassing.
HUGH: I’m the same, it just comes out. Quiet moments at school assembly, someone would say a joke, and I’d just go:
RT: BAM! Yes, me too. Everyone’s like stop, immediately! And my cackle is in the film, my real laugh is in the film!
HUGH: Rob Sitch. He said he loved working with you – saying working in LA has made you really discipline and hard working. He said that you could half expect you two to come back to an Australian film and be big fish in a small pond?
RT: You know, I have no investment in even thinking about people who are too big for their boots in this business. We’re just lucky to be working. You know, I’ll muck around and have a laugh, but the only thing I would really say is that I know how fortunate both of us are to be in this film and be working. So the idea that anyone would want to show up on a Rob Sitch film or Working Dog film and be too big for their boots - they’re an idiot in my book. That’s not someone I’d want to work with. Working Dog is maybe the most celebrated film and television team in this country. What am I going to say, “Sorry, I’ve been working on something that didn’t do very well in the box office?” [laughs].
FW: Sorry, I’ve been busy disappointing someone else.
HUGH: And lastly, what was your favourite part of the film?
RT: My favourite part is how it describes the experience of questioning one’s life in the modern world. When we have iPhones, Blackberries, travel, boyfriends, girlfriends, dates, expensive cocktails, lots of TV shows – the list goes on of stuff to distract you.
FW: The dispensable life.
RT: Yeah, the dispensable life versus the life of meaning and value. That’s the core ethic of the film that’s interesting to me.
FW: What I like the most is when David James comes behind the partition and you just see the top half of his face and he comes out and he smiles. That and when Rob Carlton sits Josh down in the caravan and pulls out the fold-out table.
RT: That’s brilliant. That’s like a “Put it in the pool room” moment for me.
FW: Yeah, they’re my two “Castle” moments for me, my Working Dog moments. And Christian taking the photo and showing it to Josh. They, my friend, are the delightful little bits I loved the most. And it’s the detail, those little comedic details that just bring so much joy to me.
RT: I actually meant what Felicity said, but I thought I had to come up with something a little worthier [laughs]. But really, it’s the fact that it’s funny – that’s what I love about the film. It’s funny.
“Any Questions For Ben?” is out Feb 9.