Matt's Blog

Blog

Interview - Anthony LaPaglia On 'A Month Of Sundays'

Anthony LaPaglia

The latest Australian film to reach cinemas is A Month Of Sundays and I recently caught up with star Anthony LaPaglia to talk about it…

Matt:  We know how tough it can be to get funding for Australian films and often you need to attract a big star on a project to really get the ball rolling.  How did this script come across your radar?

Anthony:  This project had a slightly different journey.  I’m friends with Matt Saville and I really like his work.  He’d been working on this project for a while and when it came time to get it off the ground, he sent me the script.  It filled two criteria – I liked it and I wanted to work with him so it happened fairly easily.

Matt:  You star in the film but you’re also credited as an executive producer.  What did that part of the role entail?

Anthony:  That’s garnishing I think. *laughs*  To be fair, I took that part seriously.  Matt and producer Nick Batzias included me in a lot of stuff to do with the film. 

Matt:  We all know about George Miller and Baz Lurhmann but Matthew Saville is quieting put together a very impressive resume (Felony, Noise, The Slap, Cloudstreet) and is becoming one of Australia’s more prolific directors.  What’s his secret?  What’s he like to work with?

Anthony:  Matt thinks outside the box.  He’s got a warped sense of humour that is in line with my own.  First and foremost, he’s very committed to his craft.  He likes actors and while that may sound unusual, there are times when you work with directors who don’t because they think actors are ruining their film.

Matt:  You grew up in South Australia but I was reading this was the first time you’d actually made a film in South Australia.  Was that the case?  What was it like?

Anthony:  In the 30 years prior I think I’d spent about 2 days in Adelaide.  That in itself was quite a surreal journey.  I caught up with old soccer mates and a bunch of extended family.   It’s funny because I failed to recognise a lot of Adelaide as so much has changed over that time.

Matt:  A Roy Morgan poll last year that just 8% of those surveyed felt that real estate acted with a high amount of ethics and honesty – ranking it the 3rd lowest profession behind car salesman and advertising people.  Was there a lot you learned having to play one in this film?

Anthony:  I’m now of an age where I’ve bought and sold a few properties and so I’ve had plenty of experience with real estate agents.  I drew on some of the not-so-positive experiences to put into the character.

Matt:  Who came up with all the blurbs about each property that we hear you narrating in the film?

Anthony:  That came from Matt as he wrote the script.  His father was in real estate and I think that background knowledge also helped.  Speaking the jargon felt like speaking Chinese to me.

Matt:  You play quite a forlorn, depressed character which can often be difficult to illustrate on screen as it’s something entirely within the mind.  What’s your approach?  How do you go about that?

Anthony:  I see film as a visual medium.  It’s not radio.  The less dialogue you have, the better.  When you look at it on screen, you can pick up on the subtlety of a raised eyebrow or a look sideways.  These things tell a story in themselves.  

Matt:  The plot device that brings you and Julia Blake together struck me as odd at first but then the connection that develops between you two really is the heart and soul of the movie.  Was it an easy connection to build?

Anthony:  When you’re working with fantastic actors, it makes you look so much better than you can be.  She’s so good as an actor but also as a human.  It was quite easy to develop that relationship with her.

Matt:  John Clarke offers the comic relief in the film where you’re playing the straight guy and he’s the one being sarcastically humorous.  I’m guessing those scenes were a lot fun?

Anthony:  He has the best comic timing of perhaps anyone I’ve ever worked with.  I messed up a lot of scenes with him because he’d make me laugh.  You could see the crew working hard not to laugh also.  You can’t teach that.

Matt:  You’ve been touring the film around Australia over the past week with some Q&A sessions.  What’s the reception been like?

Anthony:  It’s been fantastic.  You can always tell with Q&As.  The response has been enthusiastic and there have been a lot of questions.  A guy last night asked me about a transition from Julia’s character getting involved with John Clarke’s character’s father who was in an institution.  He didn’t see how that jump could possibly happen.  It shows that audiences are very astute.  My theory was that Matt Saville wants audiences to work as opposed to having the emotional content of a film spoon fed to you. 

Matt:  A lot is made about the state of the film industry in Australia.  Some are optimistic, some are pessimistic.  After a record year at the box-office in 2015 with films like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dressmaker, what are your thoughts on the state of Australian cinema at the moment?

Anthony:  My views of Australian cinema are always positive.  We have a track record over the last 30 years of consistently churning out world class movies.  We have world class talent not just in front of the camera but also in behind the camera.  Because of the lack of finance, Australian storytellers have to be so much more creative in how they achieve what they want to achieve.  That energy generates ingenuity and that’s what makes Australian films unique.  I’ve always said that the mistake to make is to follow the American model.  It doesn’t work here because Australians have a different sensibility and a different sense of humour. 

Matt:  What are you working on at the moment?  When will we see you on screen next?

Anthony:  I’ve had a busy year working on 7 independent films.  The next thing coming out will be the second series of The Code.  That’s the first thing that’ll be coming out.

An Unforgettable Golfing Bucket List Trip

My apologies for the lack of updates on the website for the past two weeks but I have been away on a golfing holiday.

It was a bucket list trip to the USA and it was an absolute dream. I met some amazing people, played some incredible courses, and created some unforgettable memories. It finished with a stop at The Masters in Augusta. I'm not sure how I'll top this but I'll give it a crack in future years!

I've posted a single photo from each day below but you can view more in my Facebook albums by clicking here (Masters only) and here (other stuff).

2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Friday, March 25 - After 22 hours of travel, it was good to set foot in New York City. Caught up with some old friends and went to dinner in the East Village at a cool place called Momofuku Ssäm Bar. The steamed pork buns were divine!

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Saturday, March 26 - I’d been to the baseball before so this time around, I attended my first NBA game. The Brooklyn Nets were taking on the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Centre.

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Sunday, March 27 - Couldn't get tickets last time I was in New York City but didn't make the same mistake this time! The Book of Mormon is a hilarious show.

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Monday, March 28 - The next stop on the bucket list was a golfer’s dream. Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey is often ranked as the #1 course in the world but you can only play there if in the company of a member. Pine Valley features a 10-hole short course. Most of the holes are modelled on the main course and it’s a great place to warm up and work on your golf game. We took to the challenge on the Monday afternoon before our round.

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Tuesday, March 29 - The par was 70. The scratch rating was 76. The slope was 155. The length was 6,500m. The wind was up to 50 km/hr. I shot 85 and had an absolute blast at Pine Valley Golf Club. As good as it gets!

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Wednesday, March 30 - It's hosted the Ryder Cup, US Open, USA PGA and US Amateur. Found a bit of form at Pinehurst #2 and shot a 77 (blue tees). As I learned after a 4 putt on the 2nd hole, you gotta watch out for the steep run-off areas on the tricky greens!

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Thursday, March 31 - At Pinehurst #8 and played with an old friend who now lives in London. He and his mate were off to Augusta on Sunday. Not to watch... but to play! I have officially concluded that tabletop greens are not my forte. Came home nicely on the back nine but the final score was 83.

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Friday, April 1 - Rory McIlroy won the US PGA here in 2012 and it's hosting the event again in 2021. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is the longest course I have ever played at 6,800m (with a scratch rating of 78). Played worse than a 3-legged mountain goat and shot 87 but had fun. The lone highlight was on the signature 17th hole where I hit a 200m hybrid over water to 15 feet!

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Saturday, April 2 - I've never had the chance to play a course so close to a PGA Tour event. Harbour Town is hosting the RBC Heritage in just over a week for the 47th time. Grandstands and corporate boxes were being erected as we went around. As for the golf, it was very ordinary! Doubled the 1st and 18th en route to a score of 80 (off the close-to-back tees).

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Sunday, April 3 - My week of golf came to an end with a round at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass - my third Pete Dye design in as many days. In last year's Players Championship, Rickie Fowler went 6 under for his last 6 holes to take the title. In contrast, I had 4,000 putts as part of round of 82 and will be keeping my day job.

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Monday, April 4 - I only had tickets to the Monday practice round but my first trip to the US Masters at Augusta was an absolute blast!

 

 
2015 Australian Men's Amateur
Tuesday, April 5 - The last item ticketed off the bucket list was flying business class from Los Angeles back to Brisbane. It was like a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. I put my feet up and watched a bunch of movies and TV shows. The food was great too!

 

 

Interview - Director Luca Guadagnino Makes 'A Bigger Splash'

A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash is in Australian cinemas from this week and I spoke to Italian director Luca Guadagnino about his latest film…

Matt:  I vividly remember your 2010 film I Am Love and it was a breakout film for you that got a lot of international attention.  Did you find your life changing a little after that?  People were a lot more interested in you and your work?

Luca:  For sure.  I Am Love gave me the confidence to manage my work and not necessarily follow the rules of Italian cinema.  The film allowed me to travel the world and make new professional relationships.

Matt:  The film is loosely based on the 1969 Italian-French film Swimming Pool.  What drew you to the screenplay and made you want to bring this story to the big screen once again?

Luca:  I was attracted by the possibility of revamping the movie because it had a quartet of people entangled in their own nostalgic desire for one another.  I felt it was still relevant today and that audiences could relate.  

Matt:  In my review of I Am Love, I wrote about the stunning visuals.  I feel like I could say the same thing here.  I noticed a lot of shots of body parts here – torsos, feet, teeth and so on.  What draws you to that particular imagery?

Luca:  Because I’m a pervert (laughs).  No, I consider myself a “voyeur”.  It’s a movie about desire and how we latch onto and covet other people.  I’m so fascinated by the motion of human bodies and they are truly fabulous objects to portray in film.  My next movie is going to feature a lot of dance because I’m a big fan of musicals and again, it’s going to be about bodies.

Matt:  I love the way the camera often zooms in or zooms out.  Again, I’m really curious to know your mindset when using that particular technique?

Luca:  It’s a question of taste.  On one hand, there were a lot of films in the 1970s and 1980s where zoom replaced the normal travelling shots.  It was a cheap way of avoiding scenes where you had to put a track down and push the camera along.  That costs time and money.  The zoom became a shortcut for many years.  You might remember Death in Venice or The Innocent by Luchino Visconti.

On the flip side, you have Stanley Kubrick using zooms in The Shining but for the opposite reason.  It wasn’t to save time and money but it was to express something strongly.  This I endorse.  It’s like an ultra-vista attitude and I love it.  In my next movie, I’m only shooting it with one lens which will be a fixed lens.  I have a lot of discussions with myself about how to shoot a movie and which lenses to use.  You’ve touched on a delicate subject.

Matt:  You’ve worked several times now with Tilda Swinton.  Given her increasingly busy schedule, was it easy to get her on board this time around?

Luca:  Tilda is a friend, a sister, a partner.  You never take her for granted but we are always looking for projects that we can work on together.  She’s been in high demand for 20 years but she has a great sense of partnership and I’m really humbled to say that she enjoys working with me.

Matt:  It’s funny though how she hardly talks for the whole movie due to her voice.  What made you incorporate that particular plot device into the script?

Luca:  It was an idea that Tilda had.  She wanted the character to express and communicate in a way that wasn’t verbal.  That led to a great physical performance by Tilda.  It was an inspired idea and I embraced it as soon as I heard about it.

Matt:  The opening the film is so free of dialogue and the wham, in comes Ralph Fiennes who never shuts up for the whole movie.  What was it like for Ralph trying to stay so hyperactive and energetic throughout?

Luca:  We all have friends like that (laughs).  Ralph is such a sublime actor.  He has an amazing concentration when he works.  His character has a manic attitude to life but Ralph’s performance is so balanced and precise.  It’s about being high, low, high, low.  Harry can be sombre when he’s hit by an emotion.  

Matt:  Who came up with dance routine?  Was that something you helped with or his own creation?

Luca:  That was written into the script.  We discussed it a lot and Ralph wanted to hire a choreographer who he’d seen on stage in London.  Her name was Ann Yee.  We discussed in both technical terms and conceptual terms what we were looking for from that scene.  We needed Ralph to find a level of confidence and looseness that reflected his life.  It was psycho-analytical choreography.  

Matt:  You tease the audience with brief flashbacks of Harry and Marianne and their previous life together.  How do you decide what exactly to reveal?  Some filmmakers might leave out the flashbacks while others might spend a lot more time in that area.

Luca:  There was a lot of collaboration with the cast and crew.  We had longer flashbacks in the script but we shot the scenes on the island first which gave us the luxury of knowing what we needed to fill in the gaps.

Matt:  I’ve been to Italy before but not to the island of Pantelleria.  How did you settle on that location for the film’s setting?

Luca:  I knew the place.  I went there when I was 15 years old for a holiday with my sister and I went back a year later with friends from school.  I remember the landscape being tough, relentless, beautiful and scary.  There were all these contradictory emotions that had stuck in my memory.  I felt like I needed a place like that so that it becomes a character that is going to shake up their neurotic quartet.  

Matt:  The film started in Venice and has done the film festival circuit.  Are there plans to take it to the United States for a wider release?

Luca:  We sold the movie everywhere in the world long before Venice.  It opened in Italy back in November and it came out in the UK in February where it did well.  We open in Germany and France soon and then we go to America after that for a May release.

 

Interview - Director Simon Stone Chats About 'The Daughter'

The Daughter

The Daughter is about to be released in Australian cinemas and I caught up with director Simon Stone to chat about it…

Matt:  You’ve appeared in TV shows like Blue Heelers, you’ve been in movies like Balibo and The Eye of the Storm, you’ve directed theatrical productions, and now here you are directing a feature length motion picture.  It’s a pretty good resume for someone your age.  Is this the career progression you always had planned for yourself?

Simon:  No, not really.  I wish I could travel back in time to when I was a 16-year-old and tell myself “hey, those things you were daydreaming about on the way to school… well, they actually happened.”  It’s very exciting.

Matt:  I guess you could say the creation of this film started more than 100 years ago with Henrik Ibsen putting pen to paper and writing The Wild Duck.  What was it that made you think it’d be ripe for a modern adaptation?

Simon:  It’s a very touching story about a family trying to stay together amidst the revelation of long buried secrets.  It’s classic story material.  I wrote a contemporary play based on Henrik Ibsen’s work which really connected with audiences.  The idea of then turning it into a film was a slightly easier decision than had it been taken from the original material.  The play was effectively the “road test”.

Matt:  You’ve got Jan Chapman here as a producer – a woman who has been Oscar nominated for The Piano and also involved on films such as Love Serenade, Lantana and Bright Star.  How valuable is she to you?  What can she offer as a producer?

Simon:  She knows how good films are made and she’s been involved with making several of them.  You get some great juju from her.  A common theme in my career is that I love to put myself in a scenario where I could look like a complete idiot because everyone around me is so much more talented.

Matt:  A lot of actors who direct often put themselves in the movie as a way of helping improve their chances of landing acting gigs down the road.  Did you give it any thought yourself?

Simon:  No, not at all.  I don’t have any ego from an acting point of view.  A joy that I’ve gained in my career is helping other actors find moments of great truth and vulnerability in their performances.  I admire actors because they’re always putting themselves in a situation where they could fail in the hands of the wrong director.  I much prefer to be a position where I can try to make sure that the position is not a horrible one for them.

Matt:  At the start of the year, I’d never heard the name Odessa Young and now I’ve seen her deliver two great performances – here and in Looking For Grace.  How did you discover her for this role?

Simon:  A friend of mine had worked with her on a short film and she mentioned her about 18 months before we shot The Daughter.  I remember the name because it was so unique.  I got her in for a workshop for the film and I could see that she was amazing on screen but I didn’t think she was right for this particular role.  Her agents convinced me to give her another look and so I sent her an email telling her to go completely in the opposite direction of her normal instincts when playing the character.  She took up the challenge and she really transformed during the audition process.  She’s one of the most extraordinarily skilful people at becoming someone else that I’ve ever worked with.

Matt:  You’re a 31-year-old directing your first movie.  What’s it like giving instruction to the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill and Miranda Otto?

Simon:  The thing that people often don’t realise that great actors like Geoffrey, Sam and Miranda are desperate for people to direct them.  If you’re an actor going “what should I be doing on the next take?” instead of thinking about the content of the scene, you’ll end up repeating the same performance throughout your career because people are too scared to direct you.  It’s why I became an actor in the first place.  I like transforming, changing and discovering things that I didn’t know I was capable of doing.  

Matt:  I liked the fast pace of the film in the early stages.  You move quickly from character-to-character, from subplot-to-subplot to create that backstory before we move into the meatier part of the film.  How easy was it to find that right pace?

Simon:  That’s a really good question.  It was something that didn’t exist in the script.  When it was cut together the first time, it was depressing how long-winded the introduction was.  I left Australia 3 hours after we finished shooting to go to Amsterdam to produce a play.  It gave me plenty of time to think about the edit and when I came home 2 months later, I had this idea that everything overlapped at the start.  It would be a good way to show the connectedness of these characters in a film that highlights the connectedness of their fates and destinies.  It also gives the audience a sense of security that something will actually happen in the movie.  

Matt:  Your film was selected to screen at the Toronto Film Festival – a great honour in its own right given they only select a small percentage of films that are submitted each year.  What was that experience like?

Simon:  Toronto was amazing because it was just off the back of having been to the Venice Film Festival.  I was like “oh wow, this is really the film world”.  The extraordinary thing when you go to festivals is that you get to meet the audience that is watching the movie.  It’s amazing to see their reactions.  It was deeply moving to see how the film affected them.

Matt:  What are the plans going forward?  Anything you’re working on at the moment?

Simon:  I’m currently halfway through directing a play in Germany and I’m taking a quick break from it to do publicity for The Daughter.  I’m then doing a play in Amsterdam, London, and doing an opera – all before August.  I’m writing a TV series, preparing film, seeing what happens next, trying to have a relationship, trying to stay connected with life… I’m in an incredibly lucky period of my life where I get to experience a whole lot of things that others don’t.