INTERVIEW WITH ERIC BANA, STEPHEN CURRY AND DAVE O'NEILEric Bana plays 'Lotto', Stephen Curry plays 'Wookie' and Dave O'Neill plays 'Sue' in THE NUGGET, an Australian film about 3 mates who stumble across an extraordinarily large gold nugget while gold prospecting one weekend. The film is directed by Bill Bennett. We caught up with Eric, Stephen and Dave to hear their tails of what the experience was like to work on this film. We find out how they enjoyed the premiere in Mudgee (the location where the film was shot) and read on to see what happens when you throw 3 stand-up comedians in a room together for a so-called serious interview!
How did you all find the premiere? Was it different to other premieres you have attended being in a country town of Mudgee?
DO: It was fun! Obviously we just had to have the premiere in the town where we shot the film. We went to the cinema and arrived on the back of a Ute and one of my friends who is a journalist made an announcement "Here is Eric Bana and he is flanked by two security guards" which of course was myself and Stephen.
SC: We didn't really get a chance to even scratch our arses really, did we?
EB: There was literally about 800 to 900 members of the general public at the premiere and at the after party, all of whom we have bumped into at one stage or another while we were filming the movie. And God help you if you didn't remember their names.
SC: " Yeah, like "remember me from the bakery?"
EC: It was great fun - it was the most polite red carpet in the history of mankind.
Is this the first of many movie roles now for you Dave?
DO: Yeah - I am expecting all of the movie parts to role in now. (Laughing) I've been staying at home a lot just in case they can't get me on the mobile.
(Here the three guys start in a series of jokes between themselves while we patiently wait for them to finish)
So guys - this kind of banter, was this a common occurrence on the set?
DO: Yeah - but much more polite.
EB: Definitely, we were pretty savage to each other and it was refreshing actually. Bill the director remained in a safe domain for the first couple of weeks and then I started attacking Bill and these two guys realised they could start getting away with it. So then we all gave him shit for the next few weeks.
Bill the director wrote The Nugget, did he base it on an Aussie yarn he had heard?
EB: I think it was based on a few different things he had heard and a few different people he had met. I can't answer for Bill but I think there was a basic fascination with the notion of people being able to solve all of their problems with a tatts ticket. I think that was part of the thing for him.
DO: Apparently there was a story about two Western Australian brothers who found and fought over a nugget. Bill said he had heard of it but had not investigated the story at all.
Eric, do you find it hard not to be affected by the windfall of fabulous movie roles and your newfound fame?
EB: I find it very easy not to be affected by it. I think if you were attracted to that kind of lifestyle, then it would be hard. But I find that every time I am away, all I want to do is come home again so I can play with my car, go to the footy and hang out with my mates. I don't think those things change because your job is different, it just means you miss it more because you're not around as much.
Have you found the people around you have changed?
EB: Yeah, a little bit. Not friends and family. I haven't changed - but some people's behaviour toward me has changed or their perception of how you might be changes. That frustrates the shit out of me.
How do you deal with that?
EB: Well you don't have to deal with it. They're not a part of your group. People tend to make the assumption that you wont remember who they are - like old schools friends. You know, like you won't remember their name or you now won't want to talk to them. Weird stuff!
SC: Yeah you show biz arsehole (laughing)
So while making the film, was there a lot of adlibbing going on?
SC: Yeah there was a bit. A lot of it was scripted. The garage sale scene was improvised.
DO: And the scene where we find the gold nugget and Eric kisses you, that was improvised.
SC: Yeah I just suggested that he pat me on the arse, but no he wanted to go the whole hog.
EB: And why wouldn't you?! (laughing)
DO: So there were a few chances to improvise, Bill Bennett is famous for his improv, but we did stick close to the script.
EB: The way he [Bill] approaches improvisation is interesting. He will let you improvise, then actually write what you have done and then you go and do that. That way you don't have people talking over the top of each other and doing self-indulgent crap. He lets you go for it, then picks the best bits and then structures new scenes around that which is really interesting.
DO: We all did make some suggestions here and there, but you have to respect that he is the director. He is the law.
So was there ever a worry that the film would be 'too Aussie'?
SC: Well I suppose its hard not to make it too Aussie considering it is set in a country town and you've got 3 characters who work on the roads and would rather drink beer than have to share their emotions too much.
EB: (sounding mildly offended) Too Aussie? I am interested to hear why you think the film is too Aussie?
DO: You've got to keep it at a believable and funny level and not make it too over the top I suppose, which is always a challenge.
Was the end product how you imagined it to be from when you first read the script?
EB: It was actually amazingly almost like how I pictured it my head when I first read the script years ago. I think only in your imagination, can you imagine how he is going to bring together the fable qualities that are in the script. They're not in the written word; you get a general feeling from reading the script that you kind of hear music and hear Max Cullen narrating the script, bringing everything together.
I think Bill has done such a great job because so much of the film is not about what we are doing on Camera, we are just what's occurring on the screen. It's this really huge picture that is occurring around us that he has to constantly be aware of through the score and through the narration. He is giving the nugget its own personality. That's where the magical part of the film comes from.
How did you get the gig, Stephen and Dave?
DO: Eric and his wife had read the script and thought it suited me. It was a big guy, lazy, council worker with a mail-order bride (laughing). Bill's teenage son saw me on the comedy channel and so Bill was like "yeah we've got to get this fat Aussie guy from the comedy channel". So I went to lunch with Bill and I got the part. I didn't have to audition or anything!
SC: I had done a film that Bill had produced years ago and so he kind of just rang me up and gave me the gig.
EB: I'm actually a bit embarrassed cause I actually auditioned 6 times for this part!
[Everyone breaks in to laughter]
How did approach your characters? Was it easy for you to play these roles?
EB: We spent some time in the country to get the feel and sink in to their [the country people] rhythms. Essentially I think the characters were well written and then Bill let us lose as to the dynamic we would have amongst ourselves as well.
So how has your life changed?
DO: My life hasn't changed a bit. I can't think of one way that my life has changed. I have a poster with my face on it. That's about it.
EB: Mate you'll have a new found respect.
SC: You won't be able to eat in all those Footscray cafes in peace anymore.
What was it like to work with Max Cullen?
DO: He is a very interesting man. WE had been filming for a day and at the end of the day, he pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket and he said "Yeah I guess I should turn this off. What do you reckon?" He has had it on for the whole day.
EB: I am a huge fan because he was in Running On Empty which is one of my favourite films. He is a very intelligent guy.
SC: He has an amazing voice. He has an amazing clarity to his voice.
So Eric are you looking forward to filming Troy?
Yes I am.
So what did you all think the moral of the story was?
DO: If you steal a gold nugget, don't bury it in your back yard and then go to a Chinese restaurant for a meal. Because the bad guys will come and steal it. But I don't want to ruin the story or anything...
SC: (said with a hint of sarcasm) Friendship is more important than fortune, and if you have strong friendships, then you've already got a fortune. [All break into laughter]
What is happening next for you?
DO: I have a small role in a movie called "Takeaway". It's a film that I co-wrote. It's about two fish and chip owners who buy a multi-national takeaway fish and chip shop. That is coming out next year.
SC: I am doing a little bit of writing - which equates to - I am unemployed! There are a couple of MTC [Melbourne Theatre Company] productions, which there is a possibility that I may be involved in.
EB: I have Troy.
- Michelle Palmer