Category: Interviews

 

Few films that you see this year will match the power that comes from new Australian drama Undertow. The feature film debut for director Miranda Nation tells the powerful story of a young woman named Claire in the aftermath of her losing her baby. During this time she finds herself questioning the relationship between her husband, a young teenager called Angie and her husband’s best friend – a retired footballer.

Playing Claire is sensational Australian actress Laura Gordon who I recently had the honour of being to sit down with and talk about the film. “Undertow is a psychological thriller that focuses on the relationship between two women,” says Gordon as she explains the premise of the film. “I play Claire who loses her child during labour at the beginning of the film. Then during the film she develops this dangerous obsession with this young teenager who is pregnant. She becomes very obsessed with this baby that the woman is carrying. Her mental state and the obsession leads to things getting pretty dangerous for the both of them.”

No stranger to playing harrowing roles Gordon says she did have to prepare herself a great deal for this role. “I spent a lot of time with Miranda Nation the director,” she says. “We really went over the script and a lot of the things that Claire was going through at each specific time with a fine tooth comb. I think the script is such a fine blueprint on every job and then there were really specific things that I had to research, the things that my character would go through having a still-born baby. It is something that I have never experienced so I had to delve right into it so I could understand what it is like on a physical, psychological and a mental level. We also did a lot of rehearsals with the other main actors especially with Rob Collins who plays my husband, we did a lot of work on creating a background for our relationship from before the film began.”

“I guess with the mental illness side of things we looked at the things that Claire would specifically be going through,” she says continuing. “We looked at something called Briefly Active Psychosis which is a condition when trauma triggers a mental breakdown and it can happen to someone who has never experienced mental illness in the past, and they can have a full recovery from that kind of situation. So they were the key elements that were thrown into the pot and I kind of went from there.”

From there we begin to talk about what it was about Undertow that made Gordon want to agree to the film after she read the script. “There is something that happens to me when I read a script,” she answers. “And it is not something that I can even articulate, I just feel it in my bones. It is really something a gut level that just draws me in and I felt like that when I read Undertow. I think the fact that we are exploring topics like pregnancy loss and mental illness, and I think what really attracted me to it was the strong relationship with the young woman in the film, Angie played by Olivia DeJonge. There were so many elements that drew me in and then there was working with Miranda. But yeah playing this complicated, damaged and unlikable at times woman who had so many different layers to her was just a real drawcard.”

One of the things that has been talked about with Undertow is the amazing on-screen performances between Gordon and DeJonge and she tells me it was something that the two worked hard to replicate. “I think on the page a relationship like that will demand a certain intimacy or a certain level of connection regardless of whether it is a drama or a thriller. With the relationship between my character and Olivia’s character we meet for the first time on screen. So I didn’t spend that much time rehearsing with her, not compared to the time that I spent rehearsing with Rob because we kind of wanted to keep it fresh and to have that chemistry in front of the camera and I think that worked really well for us. We did have an enormous about of trust that we had to build though and we had to fee a safety between each other in order to be able to go on that journey together.”

The work the two put together is nothing short of amazing and if you haven’t seen Undertow yet then get out and see it this weekend.

 

Undertow is in cinemas now.

 

The mockumentary seems to be a long lost art form. For awhile they were a popular choice for filmmakers wanting to experiment a little with comedy. Films like Kenny made a big splash but now filmmaker Julian Shaw has just delivered a very ambitious project indeed. See Use Me is a mockumentary but it doesn’t deliver comedy – instead it is a thriller featuring a known online dominatrix Ceara Lynch.

To find out a little bit more about Use Me I recently caught up with Shaw while he was in Sydney to promote the film. We started off by discussing where the idea for the film originally came from.

“You know where it came from was I was looking to do a documentary series about internet entrepreneurs ,” he explains. “I was pitching to the ABC because they were looking for series and then I accidentally came across Ceara Lynch through a pirated Youtube clip and there was just something about her that intrigued me. I wanted to know more so I went to her website and my mind was kind of blown. I was kind of familiar with the fetishes that she dealt with but there were things I didn’t know about like financial domination… I didn’t really know about the more extreme kind of fetishes. So that intrigued me.”

“Then there was the fact that she had so much charisma,” he says continuing. “She had real star power and I just thought there was something so intelligent about how she constructed this whole persona so I reached out to meet her and asked about doing an episode of this documentary series. So I went to Portland to film and then we both just knew that there was something bigger there… we knew that right away.”

The unusual nature of the film also seems to be causing a little bit of confusion for people who think that the film is real. “The honest truth is that nobody has been absolutely correct,” he says with a bit of a laugh. “Everybody has these really strong opinions on what is real and what is not. Some say that the first half of the film is a documentary and then he turned it into fiction. But it really isn’t like that at all. I mean it is constructed from the very first scene and I knew after about three days that I did not want to make a traditional documentary. I knew that I wanted to do something different because Seara screamed out for it. I mean her whole career blurs the line between reality and fantasy , you know she makes men’s fantasies come to life – she brings them into reality through a roleplay session.”

“So I thought if I do a regular documentary I am kind of missing out on an opportunity here,” he goes on to explain. “I realised there was something richer and weirder that I could do with a blend of truth and fiction that I thought would capture her and her world more accurately then a documentary would. And I’m not just trying to be cute I sincerely mean that. I think this fictionalised movie gets deeper into who she is and her world than a traditional documentary would have. So I knew early on that I was going to do it that way and she was a great subject right from the beginning. But honestly she is just a really well adjusted person who is pretty down to earth. I just didn’t see it working as a documentary because there was no conflict and she is very confident about her life choices. Not that I would want to make a movie about someone who is a victim of the sex industry or anything like that but you do that conflict that is going to drive it and hold people. In the end I just felt this was the better way to go. Take her reality and turn it on its head a little bit… that felt like the right way to go.”

After success overseas Shaw now can’t wait for Australians to get a chance to see Use Me as well. “I know it looks like a very sexy and titillating movie when you look at the poster or the trailer but this is a movie that does have a heart,” he says. “It does have a through line through it and I think that maybe people who are dragged along to against their will and were like ‘oh I didn’t want to see some movie about some fucking dominatrix bitch from the internet’ will watch the movie and become invested in it. I’ve seen people shedding tears in the cinema watching it  so there is more to the film than it seems. Yes it is a sexy thrill ride but I think it is an emotional film as well. I just can’t wait for Aussies to watch it because this is where I grew up, this is home.”

 

Use Me is available on several streaming platforms right now.

 

Australian filmmaker Storm Ashwood is quickly becoming a director that the world is sitting up and taking notice off. His 2018 horror film The School was an eerie film that Del Toro would have been proud of and now Ashwood returns with the hard-hitting dramatic war thriller Escape And Evasion. In one sense Escape And Evasion is another type of horror as it depicts a soldier’s whose life is in ruin after a brutal covert operation in Burma has left him with PTSD.

When I get the chance to talk to Ashwood he is in a remote area of Thailand and he is overjoyed when I tell him how much I enjoyed the film. “Thank you, thank you,” he says humbly. “The film sort of matured out of two places. The first one came about when I was working on a documentary with a priest who funnily enough looked like Gandolf in Chang Mai who was smuggling refugees from Miramar over the border.”

“A close friend of mine who was ex-military and I got very close to being able to go on one of these jungle runs with this priest,” he explains. “We were going to see exactly what was going on and film it. But sadly the documentary was never finished because that priest was murdered, so it never got finished because I only had a little bit of footage. So, on top of that I also had a story that I had developed with a friends about events that had occurred in Iraq, it was quite tragic and it really showed the struggles of this particular guy trying to fit back into civilian life. Like he would be saying things like ‘I can shoot tanks and fly helicopters but I can’t get a job as a labourer, what is going on?’”

As Ashwood keeps talking to me about this solider it is easy to see the comparisons between him and the soldier that actor Josh McConville plays in Escape And Evasion. “He was having a lot of trouble with his family,” says Ashwood continuing. “Through all of that I was able to put together a story and I just kept hearing these stories. Then I also helped on a script on another documentary about child soldiers in Sierra Leone which was also another horrific story about children who were being abused and put into sex trafficking and drugs and stuff. Then I did a short film about refugees so I thought I would then put all these tales and stories into one script – one feature film. That was the birth of Escape And Evasion.”

One of the things that will stick with you after you watch Escape And Evasion are the harrowing scenes about PTSD and as Ashwood and I chat I soon learn that the amount of soldiers returning back to Australia with the terrible disorder is absolutely alarming. “Statistically they say about twenty per cent,” he answers when I ask what percentage of troops returning to Australia would be suffering from PTSD. “I think that it is more along the line of fifty percent, and it may even be a lot higher than that. I’m thinking about it rationally now because every single solider I have spoken to who has been in service you can see that they have undergone some form of suffering due to the events that they have been through.”

Perhaps the event though that has really shown Ashwood that his film hit its mark has been the reception it has received from military veterans with the film even picking up awards at the Veteran’s Film Awards. “That meant so much,” he says when I mention those awards. “One hundred percent hands down I knew that soldiers wouldn’t be the harshest critics. I know a lot of soldiers and I know some will say things like ‘I walked out of Black Hawk Down because Eric Bana was wearing the something wrong on his uniform for that time.’ They are really tough critics they’ll tell you that an actor has an elbow wrong when holding a gun or that he is looking over the barrel the wrong way so to hear that our film won those awards I was so honoured and so chuffed.”

 

The award winning Escape And Evasion is in cinemas now.

 

 

There is no disputing that director/screenwriter Leigh Whannell is one of the kings of modern day horror. The Australian was the writer behind both the Saw and Insidious franchises while in recent years he has also sat in the director’s chair for films like Insidious: Chapter 3 and the under-appreciated Upgrade.

Now Whannell returns as the director/screenwriter/producer of The Invisible Man – a modern day Blumhouse take on one of Universal Pictures most loved horror characters. And as we chat to Whannell in Melbourne we learn that this is not a task that he took lightly.

“I actually wasn’t thinking about doing an Invisible Man movie at all, says Whannell as we begin to talk about the origins of this film. “I had just finished Upgrade and I had been bitten by the action movie bug and I think I was keen to go and shoot the fifty million dollar version of Upgrade. You know we could crash forty cars instead of one car… i was keen to get my Michael Bay on. Then this idea was suggested to me… the idea of doing The Invisible Man and it was not something that I had given any thought to, but then as soon as it was in my mind it was truly an inception.”

“It wouldn’t leave my brain,” says Whannell with a big smile on his face revealing just how excited he was about the product. “It just kept taking up space rent free. And then I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and that is usually the first sign that I am going to make a film – when it just won’t go away. That’s how it came about and then I just went back to Blumhouse and Universal and said that I was interested in doing this and we were off to the races. It was remarkable just how quickly the pieces all came together.”

As we begin to talk craft I ask Whannell whether or not the fact that the idea of the film was planted in his mind rather than him just thinking it up changed the way he went about writing the original screenplay. “It did in the sense that I was aware of this legacy that was behind me,” he says after pausing to think about the question for a moment. “Other people have made Invisible Man movies and I wanted to avoid repeating them. I didn’t want anybody to be able to say ‘well this is just a retread of so and so.’ And so if anything it was more of an awareness to avoid those other movies- that was the biggest thing – trying to take this character and modernise it and make it very new. In other words I wanted to make it feel like no other Invisible Man movie had ever existed and that this was the first. I can’t tell you how many scenes I came up with that I put on the reject pile because I felt that they had been done before.”

Whannell’s version of The Invisible Man takes on a very different voice to any of the Invisible Man films of the past have. Here Whannell explores the dark topic of domestic violence and depicts in a very dark way that few filmmakers have been brave enough to do in the past. “Really early on I knew that I wanted it to be dark,” he explains. “I knew that I wanted to make something that was really tense and suffocating – not light-hearted at all. I didn’t want anything that was frolicking or fun I wanted to make something that was really relentlessly tense and suffocating to the audience.”

“That was a decision that I made very early on and then I began building out the story,” he explains. “The thematic elements of the movie about a woman being in an abusive relationship that just came out organically. As you start to put the pieces out on the table those things just kind of emerge on their own without you forcing them. It was all really organic and that is how it all fell together.”

With the legacy of the Invisible Man being so entrenched in Hollywood history and certain amount of fandom is also there, and that is something that Whannell is more than aware of. “Any movie whether it has a legacy like The Invisible Man or if it is stand-alone like Upgrade makes me nervous,” he says laughing out loud. “Even just thinking about it now is making me nervous. I think it is because you put so much of yourself into a movie an then you release it to the world and they get to judge it and it is just a scary moment. Eventually the nerves ease off once the movie is out there and you can’t do anything about it. Then you a start to relax but right now I am right in the middle of the white hot centre of nerves because it is just starting to get out there.”

 

The Invisible Man opens in cinemas today.

After working in the visual effects department on massive blockbuster movies like Avengers and The Hobbitt filmmaker Jason Lei Howden went out on his own in 2015 and made the cult classic action horror film Deathgasm. The film became a fan favourite at festivals right around the world and now Howden returns with his latest film – Guns Akimbo – which is going straight into Australian cinemas on February 28th.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving Guns Akimbo follows the story of a young games developer who suddenly finds himself in a cat and mouse game of survival with a psychopath after his interactions with an online, reality game go horribly wrong.

“The idea came from my love of 80s action movies,” says Howden when I get the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about all the ins and out of Guns Akimbo. “There were movies like Commando and Rambo of course, there were always those movies with the big buff action hero and they would be shooting like fifty people.”

“So I wanted to make an over-the-top action movie but instead of having Arnie as a hero I wanted to have the total opposite. So I ended up with a programming nerd with the guns on the hand. When I thought about I thought he would sit back or run away but then I thought what if he has the guns bolted to his hands so it is either shoot or die, it all kind of came from that.”

Then there is the smart-mouth psychopath Nix played by Samara Weaving who Howden also let his creativity run wild with. “I didn’t want her to be the standard femme fatale,” he explains. “I wanted her to be cool and fun but I felt her being a female baddie should not be her defining trait. I feel so many times when a female character is depicted that becomes the defining trait of the character, but she is not just a person she is a fucking psychopath.”

“Then there was some pressure from the producers to make her more sexy or to make her like Harley Quinn,” he goes on to say. “I had to keep saying ‘but she isn’t Harley Quinn, she hasn’t got time to sit there and make colourful clothes all day’, she puts on her jacket and jeans and goes and shoots fuckers all day. We ended up bleaching her eyebrows and putting tattoos and piercings on her and the producers were really freaking out and saying ‘she looks really un-appealing.’ But Samara and I just stuck to our guns… that is an awful pun… and I am glad we did.’”

That leads me to ask whether Samara Weaving was always in mind to play Nix. “No, we shopped around a little bit,” he admits. “I don’t think Nix was really written with anyone in mind because originally she was going to be a male character and I figured out really on that that didn’t really suit the story that I wanted to tell, it seemed to work better with Miles up against a female character. I had seen Samara in a couple of things – I thought she was great in The Babysitter so I knew she would bring something different to the role and that she had a great comedic timing which was cool.”

Of course the other big casting news around Guns Akimbo was Daniel Radcliffe being cast as Miles. And while some people maybe a little surprised that the actor who portrayed Harry Potter is now in an action film they should be reminded that this is the same actor who did films like Horns and Woman In Black. “I had a short list of about five actors and Dan was on the top of that list,” says Howden as we talk about how Radcliffe won the role. “I was really excited about Dan, but not because of the Harry Potter movies. I mean I like the Harry Potter movies but I loved him in Woman In Black, The Horns and especially Swiss Army Man which is a fantastic movie. So, I guess I really don’t get the whole Harry Potter thing around this film, but I see it has become a meme and we had people yelling it out on the street when we were trying to film which was really annoying.”

“But yeah I think he is like Elijah Wood,” he goes on to explain. “Or maybe it is a little worse for Dan because he did nine Harry Potter movies, Elijah Wood did three Lord Of The Rings movies and Kristen Stewart did five Twilight films but they don’t seem to be as related to their roles, plus Harry Potter movies were such a huge part of people’s childhoods as well. But as far as casting goes we went to Dan first and I heard back that he was interested which was quite mind-blowing because the casting process is a bit of a wing and prayer. You got out to people and they pass, so yeah it was a surprise that he was so excited by us and when I Skyped him he was like ‘dude I fucking love this movie man.’”

That statement alone shows what kind of man Daniel Radcliffe is because that seems to be what most people are saying after they have seen Guns Akimbo as well. It is a cult classic in the making and Howden has made another winner.

 

 

For most Australians Ross Noble needs no introduction. The talented comedian has become a staple on our television and radio. Perhaps not many people would know about Noble’s rising resume as an actor as well. I’m not talking about when he presented his own shows – but rather when his acted in horror films such as Stitches, Nails and The Circle.

Now however Noble is taking a turn away from horror and has instead lent his voice to a brand new family animation called Sanctuary City: The Wishmas Tree where he stars alongside Miranda Tapsell and Kate Murphy and he plays a frill-necked lizard… yes you read that right he plays a lizard.

As it turns out playing a lizard was one of the reasons why Noble decided to take up the role. “I literally got an email saying ‘do you want to play a lizard’ and I said ‘yes please,’” says Noble delivering his warm, familiar laugh down the phone line. “You can’t go wrong with playing a lizard, can you? So yeah, I then read the script and found it was one of those films where you find that it is a proper family film and it looked like a lot of fun. So I just replied to them and said ‘yeah I am in.’”

Of course playing a lizard is not an offer you get every day and here Noble gets the chance to play Yarra, a wise old sage who just happens to be a frill-necked lizard. “Well he is a lizard but he is sort of a kind of wise guy,” explains Noble. “He is the Obi-Wan, the Gandalf kind of figure in the film, but really kind of appealed to me was that he was a bit different. Normally the wise guy in a film, that is all they are, they are just wise. They are just there to be wise but what I liked about this script was the fact that Yarra is a little bit unhinged.”

That leads to both Noble and I laughing and when he continues he says. “You know he talks to his stick. It is just basically a stick with a face on it, but he talks to it. And because of that you don’t really know how reliable he is and because he is kind of old and a bit nuts. It really is a case where he isn’t just there for his wisdom, you find yourself asking ‘should we really be following him?’”

Anybody who has ever seen one of Noble’s stage shows knows just how good he is at lending his voice to any number of characters that he is impersonating but that still begs the big question of just how do you find a voice for a wise, slightly loopy frill-necked lizard?

“With the voice I wanted him to sound old and wise but because he is cracked I wanted to be able to take a left turn every now and then,” explains Noble as he gives me a bit of a taste of Yarra’s voice. “The great thing about it being animation is that you can try something else and you can try going crazy, crazy far. You can go much further than you think you could ever go and then the guys behind the glass can say ‘try that again but make it less insane’ or ‘you know what you can be more insane.’ So yeah, during that process I was just really going for and then they would look at it.”

“There was some stuff that they looked at and they were just rolling around going ‘really?’” he says laughing again. “But then once it is all put together it becomes something where you can choose the bits where you can say ‘yeah, he is properly helping this possum on the journey’ and then there are other times where you are like ‘I wouldn’t be trusting him.’”

The process though of finding Yarra’s voice was not easy though and Noble says he had to audition a few different voices for the creators of the film. “You kind of find the way you think he would sound,” he says explain the process to me. “And then you just play with it. We recorded a lot of stuff and it wasn’t quite right so we actually went back and re-recorded it. It was okay, but it just wasn’t quite right, because the thing is at the start of the film Yarra has to be sane – he is talking about the history and you know he is basically telling the story of the legend and that has to have some kind of authority to it but with what we recorded at first he was just a little bit too off the wall. We had to bring a little more authority to it and make it a little bit more steady. You do have to think about your performance but then you really just have to trust the guys that have created it.”

The guys that have created this film have certainly created something that is going to be very special for Australian audiences, so don’t be surprised if this film doesn’t become one of Australia’s next big hits.

 

Sanctuary City: The Wishmas Tree starring Miranda Tapsell, Ross Noble and Kate Murphy is in cinemas on 27th February.

 

When Australia does animation it always does it well. Think back to when you were a child and sat down happily to watch Blinky Bill. Now think about how the new generation enjoyed films like Happy Feet. When you really think about it it is a shame that Australia doesn’t do more animation, but that is why we should all be so excited about the brand new Australian animated film Sanctuary City: The Wishmas Tree which hits cinemas on the 27th February.

One of the stars of the film is Australian actress Kate Murphy who has gained experience as a voice actress on popular animated series like Shopkins and Space Chickens In Space. She says she couldn’t have been more excited about working on The Wishmas Tree.

“Well Kerry the ring-tailed possum is the lead character, but Petra, my character, is Kerry’s older sister,” says Murphy as we talk a little bit about the character that she plays in the film. “Petra is a little bit sensible, a little bit pragmatic, she likes her space and she likes not to put herself out of her comfort zone. She has an amazing journey throughout the film though and she learns so much from her younger sister.”

“I found though that I could really relate to her as a character,” says Murphy laughing as we continue to discuss Petra. “When I was reading it I kept on finding myself saying ‘oh there are some similarities between Petra and myself’. I find that something I can be a little bit safe and sensible at times. But having said that Petra can still have some fun and silly moments. When I was working with the directors in the booth I was always trying to find that fun part of her as well. So yeah, I was stoked at being able to play Petra.”

As far as characters go Petra is a very interesting character. In one way she is very much the voice of reason in the film but at the same time she is a character that can at times crack a joke. Murphy admits that it was at times hard to find that middle ground for Petra. “I was always conscious not to try and tip it too far one way,” she explains. “I remember being in the studio when we were doing it and we were always talking about it. The director and the producer would be there with me and we would always be discussing the lines and how we wanted her to come across. It was always an experiment because sometimes I would push it really far and then we would be like ‘nope that was too funny that doesn’t work for this moment’ but we were always trying to have that lightness in there even though there are dark moments. Even though she is quite sensible we did look for moments of comedy.”

One of the most interesting parts of voice acting is how the actor or actress comes up with the voice for the character they are playing but Murphy says she settled on the voice for Petra very early on. “Usually I try to hear the voice in my head,” she says after stopping to think about the process for a moment. “ I definitely play around with it, but I guess also it changes from project to project because the process can be very different”

“For Petra I guess I was kind of lucky because I got to see the director and the producer a few times prior to recording,” she says continuing. “Aside from that I would always be recording little bits and pieces on my phone and then sending it through. However, with voice over you can always be a little bit flexible and in the booth I found that we kind of found her in the first hour or so of recording. Usually though I have a bit of an idea in my head and I guess that is part of the voice artists job – they have to come ready to experiment and explore and not just come in saying ‘this is how it is’ because you do have to be prepared to change it vocally once you are in there.”

It is obvious when chatting to Murphy that she had a lot of fun playing Petra and while she was recording for Sanctuary City: The Wishmas Tree and she says that she hopes that audiences have just as much fun watching it. “Just go and see something that is completely Australian,” she says with an excited tone in her voice. “This is completely Australian produced, completely Australian created. Just enjoy the message and just really embrace the Australianess of it all. We have such beautiful land here and such beautiful creatures and we really need to look after them, especially now more than ever… so yeah go and enjoy it.”

 

Sanctuary City: The Wishmas Tree starring Miranda Tapsell, Ross Noble and Kate Murphy is in cinemas on 27th February.

 

You hear the saying ‘it was a dream come true’ used a lot about young actors and actresses. But never is it more appropriate then when you talk about young star Daisy Axon landing the lead role in the new Australian film H Is For Happiness. As Subculture found out when we sat down to talk to Axon she was a fan of the novel that the film was adapted from before she even had a chance to audition for the film.

“I knew the book a few years prior to when I knew it was going to be turned into a film,” the young star tells us. “Because my sister had the book at primary school and she lent it to me. So they ended up being quite special between us. I had read it and really loved it because I found that I related to the characters a lot. So when the email came through that said that it was being turned into a movie and that I would have the opportunity to audition for it I was pinching myself because I couldn’t believe it. I told my sister straight away.”

As we talk about what it is like winning the role of a character that you already love Axon said it didn’t make her more nervous. “I think it actually made me more confident if that makes sense,” she says. “I knew the character way more before the actual audition so it felt like her character was really clear to me, so it felt like I had really known for awhile, and that felt nice. When we actually got into filming of course I had nerves but I felt like I had Candace’s back and she had mine because she had been inside for such a long time.”

Candace of course is the character that Axon plays in the film – a character whose family have gone through a massive trauma and she is the win that feels like she can try and save her family from complete destruction. “Candace is a very unique character,” she explains. “She is full of optimism and she has a very unique view of the world compared to other people her age. She is able to see things in a very different light to her family who are under a very dark cloud. Her personality is one of the reasons that she is so headstrong and why she believes that she can fix her family. She has optimism, she is strong and she believes that she can do it. Plus she has her honesty which is a great personality trait, it does get her into trouble but it also makes the audience laugh and it is who she is so I wouldn’t change that.”

Of course the fact the film revolves around a family who are dealing with the loss of a child makes the performance for a young actress like Axon a lot harder. “I think from reading the book I had seen her traumas and her family’s grief,” explains Axon when I ask whether or not she had done any research into young people who had lost a sibling. “Naturally going onto set and seeing her room and where everything was going to be played out helped, especially the scene where Candace is asking her Mum if Douglas can come to the cemetery – when we practiced that scene it really felt like I got into her shoes and they helped me feel the grief that she was feeling.”

“I know you can play it both ways,” she says continuing. “That can be more of a light but because of the emotions that were running through me that day it made me feel like I wanted to just let loose and do what comes naturally. I think from the book and through the pre-production I was actually able to get some really interesting facts and those were things that I really did help me on set. But I think at other times I just let myself see what came naturally to Candace as a character as well.”

There is little doubt after watching H is For Happiness that Daisy Axon is going to be an actress with a huge future ahead of her. In performances here and in the amazing Judy & Punch suggest an actress that has maturity well beyond her years and the talent to make it big both in Australia and overseas.

 

H Is For Happiness opens in cinemas on February 6th.

 

The past twelve months may have been called the Year Of The Father for Australian actor Richard Roxburgh. From playing a father-like figure in Go-Kart drama Go! through to playing a father placed in a terrible predicament in Angel Of Mine. Now comes H Is For Happiness which once again sees Roxburgh play fatherly duties, this time he plays a damaged father whose family is being ripped apart by the trauma of losing a child. Meanwhile he is also in a bitter feud with his brother and it seems like the only person who wants to help the family is his very own daughter.

“I play a character called Jim Phee,” explains Roxburgh when he sits down to talk to Subculture about the film. “He is married to Emma Booth’s character and we are the parents of a twelve-year-old girl played by Daisy Axon and we have had a terrible incident in our life where one of our daughters, the younger sister to Daisy, has died. It does sound quite gloomy but it is incredibly funny and it is a beautiful big-hearted film and it is told pretty much through the eyes of Daisy’s character who is a kind of crazy optimist.”

As Roxburgh talks about the events that happen in the film we start to talk about the fact that while this is a film about a very dark period in the family’s life there is also an incredible light that shines through with the film as well. “Yeah, I think that is the point that it shows that kids kind of deal with grief, difficulty and adverseness in life in a very different way to we do,” he explains. “And I think that the film essentially brings that to life and shows this girl desperately trying to solve this puzzle of the sadness of her parents through the way that she sees the world – which is this incredibly vibrant and dynamic place which is full of larger than life characters.”

While the discussion goes on we begin to talk about the father roles that Roxburgh has played over the last twelve months and how he prepares himself to play fathers going through such traumatic experiences. “I guess it is not so much about research for a role like that,” he says after thinking about for a few seconds. “I am the father of three children myself so for a very large part of it I try to draw on my own experience and your own terrain – especially your emotional terrain as a parent and a father. You try to imagine what that would be like – having said that though there are always significantly different personalities so there is always that kind of work to do but that is the work that you do every time you do an individual new piece.”

Of course one of the major themes of H Is For Happiness is family and Roxburgh says the cast did get a little bit of time to bond to help out the younger actors as they prepared for the film. “We did get a little bit of time together,” he says. “It was a thirty day shoot so we didn’t get a lot of time but these kids were so, so great, they were such fabulous kids and they were so great to be around. I love working with kids because I just love their energy, so we had a short time to bond but I guess really it was just goofing off and having fun and making sure that they are okay with stuff.”

With some of the deep themes and emotional scenes in this film I asked Roxburgh how important it is for more experienced actors like himself to make sure that the young cast are dealing with it all. “It is always something to be reckoned with when you are working with kids,” he says after a deep breath. “You always want to them to be drawing on the thing that is really natural to them so that for them it doesn’t feel like they are acting because they are really drawing on the close version that they have of themselves, but in a really emotional scene, and in a scene that really counts you don’t really know as the director or one of the other actors that is in the scene how exactly it is going to go. But John Sheedy was a really wonderful director and he was great with the kids – he managed to really guide them through that stuff with great care.”

H Is For Happiness is one of those film that will make you laugh and it will make you cry but at the end of the day this is one of the most powerful movies you will see in 2020.