It’s a sun-touched Spring afternoon and Moviehole is trekking off to Italy – or rather, Eltham, Victoria – to join a couple of local Fountain Lakes for a couple of hours of laughs, set-ups , nd lessons in how to craft a bonafide blockbuster success story out of a couple of sketch-show characters.
Jane Turner and Gina Riley have made household names out of their small-screen duo Kath & Kim – a daggy mother-and-daughter duo that come complete with their own language, ethical base and endless supply of free sausages (courtesy Kath’s beau, Kel, played by Glenn Robbins) – and now, with their first film ”Kath & Kimderella”, are about to douse the cinemaplexes with their special blend of humour and horn dog-loving dress sense.
Unlike the series (first shown on the ABC, now Channel 7), which is set primarily around the suburban home of the Day-Knight family in their humble home in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Fountain Lakes, “Kath & Kimderella” expands the comedy canvas by putting Kath, Kim, Kel, Kim’s husband Brett (Peter Rowsthorn) and Kim’s best friend Sharon (Magda Szubanski) on a plane bound for picturesque, Italy.
“We shot all the scenes in Italy first”, explains executive producer Rick McKenna. “We got some amazing stuff. And it is absolutely hilarious; it could not have turned out any better.
“And now we’ve returned to Australia to shoot the rest of the film.”
While in Italy, Kath, Kim & Sharon get caught up in a fairytale adventure that ultimately sees the men in their lives, Kel and Bret, having to come to their rescue.
A monastery in the beautiful hills of Eltham stands in for a cosy B&B in Italy, where Kath, Kim and Sharon have just arrived for their exciting holiday (The team travelled to Italy a couple of weeks beforehand to shoot several sequences.)
One particular building has been transformed into the holiday home base.
“This is where they’re staying on their holiday”, smiles McKenna, looking down at the almost Transylvania-like accommodation.
This particular building at the Monastery has been turned into a vintage-looking accommodation hub, complete with antique beds, trinkets and other anachronistic fixtures. The production team, led by Penny Southgate, has done an outstanding job transforming what’s normally a relatively vanilla-looking building into such a rustic little Bed & Breakfast.
There’s a special international guest in the scene, Richard E.Grant (“Withnail & I”, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”) playing a shady concierge.
“He was a fan of the show. He even did the, ‘Look-at-meeeee, Look-at-meeee’, when we first mentioned it”, McKenna laughs, explaining how the legendary British actor came to be involved in the Aussie comedy film. “He was excited to do it.”
Grant’s character welcomes – with almost no excitement – the excited Fountain Lakes women into the Bed & Breakfast, slamming their bags down as the reaches their room. They’re, of course, excited (Fountain Gate Shopping Center is beautiful, but this is much more exciting!) and not at all put off by the atrocious hospitality or dubiousness of their greeter.
McKenna (married to the wonderful Gina Riley) explains that near everyone involved in the production is super-excited to be finally working on a big-screen version of the series, having brainstormed about a feature for so long.
“We’re just loving it. There’s so many things we’re about to do on the film”, as opposed to a series, he explains. “For starters, we get to introduce new characters- there’s five new characters in the film. We’ve also got some surprise cameo appearances in the film, including appearances by some who have previously been on the show.”
And he’s not all surprised that some of Australia’s best talent have jumped at the chance to be involved, in-front of and behind the camera.
McKenna points out the film’s cinematographer.
“David Parker. Amazing film director himself”, he says of the “Malcolm” and “Big Steal” helmer who, with Nadia Tass, has helmed some of the country’s best flicks. “He’s doing the cinematography. It’s amazing”.
Seems anyone that’s anyone wanted in on the first “Kath & Kim” movie – familiar faces in the support cast include Mark Trevorrow, Jessica De Gouw and Rob Sitch, who turns on the charm to play the film’s Casanova, a European King who takes a shine to Kath.
McKenna, who has worked on the show since its inception, explains the success of “Kath & Kim” can solely be attributed to the brilliance of Turner and Riley, and their amazing skill to not only dream up such great characters but run a business.
“You never know when they’re going to come up with an idea. They don’t plan it – it just comes to them”, he explains. “The film came to [Jane and Gina] much the same way; they suddenly had a great idea – inspired by Princess Mary – and it was put into action.”
Turner and Riley didn’t want to just do a “Kath & Kim” film for the sake of doing one, it had to offer something more than what a typical episode of the show would.
“Thus, going to Italy”, says McKenna, “In the script, it was just written in as a foreign land. We ended up choosing Italy because it was reasonably affordable and provided great access. And it looks great on film – we shot it all in 35mm. It’s going to look great on the big screen”
The script was penned by Turner and Riley, who punched it out “fairly quickly”.
As we continue to converse with McKenna, Gina Riley starts belting out a tune for the hard-working crew, setting up the next scene.
One can’t help but stop and be mesmerized by the lungs on Riley, whose voice is truly remarkable (you’ll hear it each week via the show’s theme tune). Even McKenna, who has likely ‘heard’ it all before, is in awe.
“She’s very talented”, he smiles. “She has a great voice. I think she’s hilarious, too. I was sitting down last night watching some of the rushes from the film, and it’s just terrific. It’s going to be great.”
So confident he is that they’ve got a remarkable movie on their hands, even at this early stage, that McKenna takes us to a trailer to preview some scenes.
We can tell you nothing of what we saw, what we will say is that it’s absolutely hilarious. You’ll get nothing out of us – nothing, I tell you. Not one thing about the hilarious cameos. Not one thing about the lavish Italian locales Kath & Kim are seen in. Nor the moment that had us busting in laughter on the trailer’s cushy couch. Or the unexpected nude scene.
To see who ditches their duds for the movie, you’ll have to catch “Kim & Kimderella” when it hits cinemas on September 6.
– CLINT MORRIS and ASHLEIGH HILL-BUXTON