The last of our “Any Questions For Ben?” interviews is here – with the star and title character Josh Lawson, and his character’s best mate (and friend in real life) Christian Clark. The film is in cinemas now, so make sure you go and see it!
HUGH: Josh, the last time I spoke with you was just before you were to start shooting “Dog Fight” with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis- and you said you hadn’t seen “Any Questions For Ben?” yet.
Josh Lawson (JL): Yeah, that’s right! I must have seen it just before Christmas.
HUGH: At the time, you said you loved being on set, and I quote, “It was one of the best professional experiences of my life”, but you hadn’t seen the finished product. Do you reckon the final product matches up to your expectations of that?
JL: Truly, I feel it’s better than that quote. It exceeded my expectations – and my expectations were pretty high. It just surprised me. The soundtrack is so strong, the editing is so slick. I guess, the way they put it together is something as an actor you have no idea about when you’re on set, but the finished piece was so impressive to me; and in fact, surprised me and moved me and made me laugh in moments I wasn’t expecting. After about 5 minutes I was tricked into watching and enjoying the movie, even though I was in it! I forgot that I was in it, and at the end I had to pinch myself and go, “Holy shit, I was in that”, and I was just enjoying it as a film.
HUGH What about you, Christian?
Christian Clark (CC): Mate, I absolutely loved it. You know, I grew up idolising Working Dog, and what they’re so good at – and have done here again – is that in “The Castle” they got those characters in Australia and told them in an accessible way that we found really funny. And the same in “Frontline” and “The Hollowmen”. And what they’ve done here is find those Australian characters who are in their 20s that we can all relate to; that we go out on the street and can all see. And they’ve done it in such an accessible and funny way; so when I watched it, without sounding corny, I kinda understood my 20s better after I saw it. And I understood my friends and what they went through a lot better.
JL: I think you’ve put it really well. What they do in their films is put a magnifying glass over the family dyamic. In “The Castle” it was a literal family, in “The Dish” it was a work family, and in this it’s a family of friends. And it’s still operating as a family dynamic, and that’s why we find their films so relatable.
HUGH: I think for me, I related to bits of every character and that’s what I loved about it.
CC: You most seem like Andy to me. [laughs]
JL: It’s funny you say that, because I think it’s deliberate that they try and give bits and pieces in everyone’s personality that you can relate to. When I watch it back I think there are times I’m Andy, and there are times I’m Nick. More times I’m most like Ben, frustratingly enough. There are even times when I’m Emily, when I call my friends on their shit. I think we can relate to everyone in some way in the film.
HUGH: On that point, how did you enjoy making the film, with that group of people as your family of friends?
CC: The first scene we shot was in the middle of New Zealand, in Queenstown. And we caught this helicopter up in the middle of nowhere, dropping us off. I thought I was in “The Lord of the Rings”, but then I was chatting with Rob about making “The Castle”, and it was a real “pinch me” kind of moment. And also from that perspective I was a bit nervous, but Rob instilled so much confidence in us. It was so amazing working with those guys.
JL: There’s something pretty magical when you can act as friends in a movie with your actual friends. It doesn’t happen very often, but when you get the chance to do it, I think that’s what they talk about when they say the X-factor. It’s chemistry, it’s magic in a bottle. There were times we didn’t even realise the cameras were on, we were just having fun, and they caught it, and put it in the film.
CC: Which was great to see. There were a few moments watching the film and I thought, “You dirty buggers”…
JL: They were filming!
HUGH: And they included that in?
JL: I think they wanted to get a really natural feeling, a real believability among this circle of friends. It’s where their comedy comes from, the truthful moments. It’s not this farcical, fart jokes or anything like that. I feel they have a love of words, they love dialogue in the way Woody Allen does. But they also celebrate the truth, the minutiae of the small stuff. They love putting that on the screen, and we love it. That’s the stuff the audience can look at and go, “Yep, that I know”. Even though I’ve never slept with a Russian tennis star, I know what it’s like to be grilled by someone’s father! They write it in a way we can all understand.
HUGH: And it’s never ridiculous or silly. Even in those moments that are fun, it’s so real and relatable and funny at the same time?
JL: And I think maybe some of that stuff will hit you a couple of days later for that reason. It’s so subtle in some parts you’ll wake up a couple of days later and still be thinking about certain bits and the messages you walk away with.
CC: My parents saw it and they finally booked their holiday to Alaska afterwards. It had that impact on them. And Josh was saying that some of his mates had such an impact on them he proposed to his girlfriend!
JL I think it’s that kind of film, you’ll leave wanting to have some sort of adventure. Make some sort of change, no matter how big or small. I think you’ll either propose to your partner…
CC: Book the holiday…
JL: Or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, you’ll start rectifying those regrets that you have in your life. That’s a good lesson; don’t leave anything on the table, you know? Live life to its absolute fullest and don’t have any regrets.
HUGH: You two in the film are part of that with your bucket list – holiday here, this place here. For me watching, I thought, “Gee, I’ve got a big list to cross off by the time I’m 30 too”! I’ve got to spur myself onto that.
CC: That’s awesome.
JL: And we all have little deadlines in our head. We should do that before we’re 30, or before we’re 35. And we always push that number back and back. And then it’s 40, and then it’s 50.
HUGH: Then it’s “one day”.
JL: Exactly! And I think that’s what these guys are great at – they’re great at marking things off the bucket list right now. I think 30 years ago the bucket list wasn’t that long. But now we have so many choices the bucket list is too long!
HUGH: The world’s too much of our oyster.
JL: That’s it. And everything’s achievable, and everything’s possible. And Andy and Ben try to do everything.
CC: And good on them.
JL: Damn right! I think when you leave you’ll want your own adventure.
HUGH: What was it like working under Rob’s direction?
CC: Absolutely amazing. I mean, Josh is an international comedy talent [Josh laughs], but me, I’m a drama guy. I’ve been on “Home and Away” playing a psychopath, so for me to play in a comedy with Working Dog, I was petrified. I didn’t want to be the person to ruin it.
HUGH: That’s what Jodi Gordon and Daniel Henshall said; they said the first day was terrifying!
CC: Yeah, but Rob has this way of instilling such confidence in me, and within 2 hours of working with him, I honestly felt I deserved to be a part of it. And I think we all felt that way. It was like an intensive rehearsal process, we walked in at the start looking a bit scared and sheepish, but at the end we were walking out going “Yeah, this is going to be great”. He has this way of understanding performance and getting the best out of actors.
JL: I think they’re all very aware they have this iconic image in the country, an Rob is very good at relaxing his actors and removing that stigma and making us all feel part of that one family.
HUGH: Who was your favourite cameo in the film?
JL: I have to say, I really struggled to keep a straight face with John Howard. It really did kill me. Honestly, you’ll see the out-takes and there are times when he’s really killing me! He plays it so straight, like this fastidious priest, but he’s so funny.
CC: I loved Ed Kavalee.
JL: Oh yes! He’s going to kill me for not saying him!
CC: With his blond hair. And of course I was living with him at the time, so seeing him getting his hair made blond, and going to archery lessons, just the way he played it was just hilarious.
HUGH: What was the biggest challenge for you making the film?
CC: Without a doubt, the comedy. It comes naturally to Josh, and I’ve been fortunate enough now to have done 3 comedies, but it’s not a natural thing for me. But again, working with Rob, he took me to that place that he calls the music, the rhythm of the thing that makes comedy funny. I had no understanding of that beforehand – I still don’t understand it that much! – but with Rob holding my hand that was also great. And on the flipside of that, doing bungee jumping was also a great experience. We did it all in one day.
HUGH: Getting dunked!
JL: I got more dunked.
CC: You did!
JL: Maybe I’m heavier. Maybe I’m too fat.
CC: You’ve got big legs mate, muscly legs.
JL: Maybe that’s what it is [laughs]. What I found the biggest challenge was balancing Ben’s flakiness. It’s such an unlikeable quality in someone, that thing where he promises to do something and doesn’t follow through. We didn’t want to make him unlikeable. Rob and I were so conscious of that –he does unlikeable things but we have got to get the audience on side, we’ve got to make him sympathetic. And I think Rachael’s character Alex really highlights the pathos of him. I think we really see his struggle and his love for Alex, and that’s when we go, “This poor guy, he can’t help himself”. Just pick up the phone, dial the number, write the letter. You idiot! For me it was finding that balance.
“Any Questions For Ben?” is in cinemas now!