|Bruce Beresford and the big budget thriller
|by Stephen Lynch
Bruce Beresford is one of Australia's most prolific and influential film directors. With films like The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie, The Getting Of Wisdom, Don's Party and Puberty Blues under his belt, Beresford was one of the first to cross Russell Crowe's metaphorical bridge to Hollywood. After experiencing the highs (Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy) and the lows (King David, Her Alibi, Last Dance) of The Dream Factory, Beresford has another hit on his hands with the thriller Double Jeopardy. He talks shop with FILMINK's Stephen Lynch.
Stephen Lynch: What was it like being one of the first Australian directors to helm a film after such a long period of inactivity in the industry?
Bruce Beresford: It was fun making those films, but for me the Barry Mackenzie films were a big mistake. They were so badly received critically that they effectively put me out of work for three years.
SL: How did your first American film, Tender Mercies, compare?
BB: Tender Mercies is actually a very low budget film, but it was a huge budget compared to anything I had done in Australia. My fee for Tender Mercies was something like 5 times all of my Australian films combined.
SL: I heard there were some "creative differences" between you and Robert Duvall.
BB: The arguments were over all kinds of minor things. For example, he got really upset that a scene had to be lit. Then he went bananas because we were using microphones. He asked, "What is this thing that keeps bobbing down in front of my face?" I said, "It's the mike. It's recording you." He said, "I don't like it. When I'm acting it distracts me. It makes it feel very artificial." Very strange.
SL: And yet he would go on to win the Oscar for best actor.
BB: Well, it was a great performance. Fabulous. I knew he was going to win. Even the first day of filming he was so fantastic. He's a brilliant actor.
SL: How did you feel when Driving Miss Daisy took out the Oscar for Best Picture, and you weren't even nominated for Best Director?
BB: I didn't get upset because I wasn't nominated, but at the same time I was a little surprised. When we were trying to get the money together for the film, one reason that was consistently given for not investing in it was that everyone kept saying no-one could direct it well enough to entertain an audience for 100 minutes essentially watching three people chatting in the kitchen. So when the film was a big success, I thought now at least they will see that maybe it was directed reasonably well because it was entertaining. But then everyone sort of said to me "Oh well, the direction was non-existent. It doesn't look like there was any effort involved at all". Ultimately though, it didn't really matter.
SL: You like to use Australian actors in your films, such as Jack Thompson and Colin Friels.
BB: Some of those actors I just knew and remembered. Jack Thompson in Last Dance was wonderful and I used Frank Wilson and Aden Young in Black Robe. We were looking for someone to play an old priest and I couldn't find anyone in Canada.
SL: Your latest film, Double Jeopardy, belongs to a genre you're not normally associated with. What challenges did making a thriller present?
BB: I don't know if it's that much different to anything else really. Perhaps the main thing was that it was essential to keep the film moving pretty briskly. Also, I was careful during the making of the film to try to keep the audience in suspense, and have them not know certain things. As it turned out, everything I was concerned that they didn't know was given away in the trailer. When I complained, someone at the studio said to me "Audiences don't like going to films unless they know what's happened". So I thought bugger it, what does it matter.
SL: Has the success of the film come as a bit of a surprise?
BB: Yes it has. Though it didn't surprise the studio. They told me early on that it was going to be very popular. Certainly the most gratifying part is if you watch it with an audience, they love it, which is nice for a filmmaker. To see the audience absolutely enjoying something, you think "Oh well! I might have done something right."
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originally posted: 02/28/00 19:51:13