Cast: Frances Berry, Ryan Bown, Bryan Brown
Director: Rachel Ward
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis: Charlotte (Greta Scacchi) and Frank (Bryan Brown) can't quite believe they've made it to over thirty years of married life. In their twenties they had dived into an affair that was so lustful and volatile they made every other possibility pale into insignificance. At thirty they married. The qualities that had made them passionate lovers, were the same qualities that made their marriage challenging.
Despite the anxieties, Frank and Charlotte are relentlessly, diligently conscious of the beauty and the grace and the ordinary pleasures of their life in Palm Beach. They have two fantastic children, their son Dan (Charlie Vickers) and daughter Ella (Matilda Brown). They decide to throw a three-day house party to celebrate Frank's birthday – in their fabulous Palm Beach house – and they want their closest friends and family there, the people who have been on life's roller coaster alongside them.
Frank and his closest and oldest friends Leo (Sam Neill) and Billy (Richard E. Grant) all met in their twenties, when they formed a dishevelled, promising, talented and eventually unsuccessful small-time rock group, The Pacific Sideburns. The group's grand plans dissipated through a combination of disorganisation, laziness, dissoluteness and mischance. They followed different paths, travelled, escaped their histories in one way or another, but they held onto a kind of love for one another that was not just about a shared time and place, but a soulful connection.
The Pacific Sideburns lead singer was Roxy, a rock chick if ever there was one. Blessed with a gift of a voice but not blessed in choosing the right bloke. A romance produced Holly (Claire Van Der Boom) and a car accident took Roxy's life from her. But Holly has grown up with three great uncles, a fabulous voice and an invite to the birthday weekend.
It's a weekend of great, generous meals, boating trips, surfing like the old days, party-games, walks and talks. But over the course of the weekend, life's realities begin to hit home, the fault-lines of friendship widen, the cracks deepen and seismic shifts take place.
Billy has never achieved the musical greatness he presumed for himself and now creates jingles for 'Incontinence Pads'. His beautiful actress wife Eva (Heather Mitchell) is being offered grandma roles and could do with some support from Billy.
Leo has had a health scare and Bridget (Jacqueline Mckenzie), Leo's second wife, is feeling his distance and worries that Leo is preparing to leave her and her daughter Caitlin (Frances Berry).
Holly has brought a new beau, Doug (Aaron Jeffery), a sheep farmer – but is he Mr Right?
Over the course of the weekend, secrets begin to emerge and a potentially catastrophic accident propels the friends to confrontation. Anxiety, guilt and loss could be a force for diversion – and as the weekend draws to a close, they hover close to a brutal ending of a thirty-year love affair between them all.
Release Date: August 8th, 2019
Palm Beach had its beginnings with a weeklong Christmas holiday in Wales, four couples and a smattering of existential crises.
Actor and Producer Bryan Brown observed the men on this holiday, despite seemingly having all they could wish for, were all dealing with certain issues that related to their stage in life. Identifying that there was an audience hunger for films that would resonate with the baby boomer generation, the seeds for the concept of Palm Beach were born.
Brown got in touch with friend Producer Deb Balderstone, whom he had produced Dirty Deeds in 2002 with. The very spot that he mentioned the concept to Balderstone, was at lunch in Palm Beach, New South Wales, Australia.
"He'd had this very personal experience and he said 'I just think there could be a movie in that. What do you think?'" explains Balderstone. "It sounded like the beginnings of a great story and it felt like it had an obvious audience that'd be interested in it, and so we decided to explore it."
Brown and his wife, actor, writer and director Rachel Ward attended the play 'Fury' at the Sydney Theatre Company, which was written by Joanna Murray-Smith. With 'Fury' exploring the centrality of family, of secrets discovered about those closest to you and selfreflection imposed by circumstance, Brown suggested to Balderstone that Murraysmith could pen Palm Beach. Already being a fan, Balderstone agreed.
"Deb and I had dinner with Joanna and we pitched the idea and she said, 'I can write that; I'd love to write that. I know the film that you're wanting to make," explains Brown.
Moving from playwright to screenwriter has it's own stylistic challenges but Brown says, "Joanna gave us so much to work with; she gave us a fantastic structure, she gave us great characters, she gave us great scenes."
While moving through drafts of the film, the two producers discussed a director – and for both, it was Rachel Ward who was the person to tackle the project, Brown particularly noting her previous work on Beautiful Kate. Ward would come on to also pen the film alongside Murray-Smith, refining it further and settling on a script that they all agreed upon.
"I love a movie called Little White Lies by French director Guillaume Canet," says Ward. "That was about a group of friends who go on holiday together and all of the relationships one way or another implode, as they often do when you're away with friends and family. I loved the tone, how those gnawing, eternal differences between family and friends sort of never rest; they're always there simmering underneath and it doesn't take much more than getting a few drinks into you or spending a certain amount of time with family and friends before those things start to niggle and erupt.
"Those holidays often never go as planned, and it certainly doesn't go as planned for our characters in Palm Beach either.
" Ward sees Palm Beach as a story that takes the time to discover the minutiae of old friendships; the love, the competition, the jealousy, the history, the interconnectedness, the baiting, the laughs, the complexity, the hopes, the fear.
Importantly for Ward, the film was to be grounded in realism while still embracing not just the drama that could arise from these interconnected lives, but the humour that would as well; all while ensuring it stayed truthful.
"Jo wrote lots of great comedy, lots of great riffs between characters but that also had to be balanced with naturalism," notes Ward. "I'm very keen on truth and I'm reluctant to let things get to a point where you go 'okay that's kind of fun but I don't believe it'
"The humour is mined from the contradictions of character and the fallibility of those that are old enough to behave better."
Importantly, the film was to take on an unashamedly aspirational note, crucial for the audience to experience, to live vicariously for a moment and eventually note that sometimes, the grass is not always greener.
"Palm Beach is a film that exposes how, despite having everything one could wish for; our humanness continues to trip us up" says Ward. "It has lots of fun setting up the idyllic, only to dismantle it, come perilously close to destroying it and, finally, to arrive at a fleeting moment of complete happiness before the tables are inevitably turned again."
As Brown puts is "Paradise doesn't exist, life exists. Doesn't matter where you are."
This called for an idyllic location and Ward, Brown and Balderstone all had a connection to Palm Beach and the northern beaches. Ward and Brown had lived there for 12 years and Balderstone continues to spend a lot of her time up there with her family, having fallen in love with the area.
Brown explains how it was the perfect backdrop for the story "The more developed the screenplay the more it became a Palm Beach story, and it had to be Palm Beach. The more wonderful and exotic it was, then the more we had to have the opposing struggles of these people."
So, the very location that the producers first spoke of the project, Palm Beach, was chosen.
The film shot around various locations in the area such as Pittwater, The Basin, the iconic Boathouse Restaurant, and utilised the stunning views from the Barrenjoey Headland and a beautiful private residence designed by architects Susan and Will Rothwell which served as the home of Frank (Bryan Brown) and Charlotte (Greta Scacchi).
The house itself had to feel homey, and embrace the environment it found itself in. The personal style of the architect Susan Rothwell was earthy, says Production Designer Melinda Doring. "So we painted the walls and put a lot more plants inside, in order to bring the outside in. We want the audience to want to be in this house, be part of this party and also feel at home in this space"
The props and set dressings are an amalgamation of different origins, bought in for the shoot but also personal items. They include items that Ward and Brown acquired on their travels. Frank's office is adorned with artwork by Louis Leimbach who is part of Sydney band Lime Cordiale and many pieces by Brown and Ward's son, Joe Brown. Those are heavily influenced by the artistic style of Mambo, a nod to the Mambo founder and musician Dare Jennings being an influence on Brown'S character Frank.
The food is a huge part of the film, as a ritual that brings our characters together but also stylistically important to compliment the sumptuous surroundings. As Matilda Brown notes "Food was a big thing in our house growing up and a lot of this film has our family – this is a big part of it"
Ward really wanted to delight in the produce that Australia provides, in particular the seafood and fresh vegetables.
The Boathouse Restaurant provided much of the food, both at the main lunch in their restaurant but and also at the picnic scene. There are personal favourites added by Ward, "We have trout from Sean's Panaroma, which was done with salmon eggs and orange, on butternut lettuce. I do it a lot when friends come around and it looks splendid."
When the filmmaking team set about pulling together their crew for the film and a defining feature of the production was the gender equity that came of that process, resulting in over 50% of the crew being female. While Ward notes that this was a firm goal on her part, she concedes it wasn't a hard result to achieve "There's great women out there in heads of department. People would visit set and say 'This is a really unusual looking set' because we were. It is certainly very unusual from the days when I was an actor working in Hollywood where I'd very often be the only woman on set. So I am very passionate about upping the numbers of women working in this industry."
A crucial Head of Department was Dop Bonnie Elliot, whom had worked with Ward briefly on second unit of a TV project.
"I just could not speak more highly of her." Ward says of working with Elliot on Palm Beach. "Bonnie just has the most incredible energy, dynamism and sense of beauty and creativity. I saw her work in 'Seven Types of Ambiguity' and loved her light and shade and loved how she filled the frame."
The praise goes both ways and Elliot especially enjoyed Ward's approach to character and camera "I was really excited when I got the call to do Palm Beach. I've just enjoyed Rachel and mines collaboration so much; she is really fun to work with. She relishes the work – she's very thoughtful about character and how character drives the camera. It's really nice to work with a director who comes from an emotional place in terms of photography because I can really connect to that."
Elliot and Ward wanted to bring what they saw as a European sensibility to the photography.
"When you look at that French cinema, and in particular films by Mia Hansen-Love like Father of My Children and Things to Come with Isabelle Huppert, there's a kind of beauty to things but it's not trying to be too in your face about it," explains Elliot. "There's not defined shafts of light, rather a warmth and ambience. You know it feels very real but also beautiful – I keep saying the word 'relaxed.' I didn't want you to feel too aware of photography but just be there and know these characters.
The film was set in summer, but due to various logistical issues had to be shot in winter. Conceding that this did mean working around a bit of rain at times, overall Elliot was happy with the effect it gave due to the sun being lower in the sky. Ward did say that perhaps it was the biggest challenge of the shoot.
"During the picnic scene, luckily it was sunny but it was absolutely freezing, with a howling wind coming through," said Ward. "Everyone is in cotton shirts and sleeveless dresses and supposed to be having this wonderful balmy summer picnic. Painful for the actors and all of us feeling how hard it is; it's not easy acting when it's freezing cold."
It seems however the weather was a small bother in what was not just a successful shoot, but also a joyous one.
"It was great, great fun shooting it. I do care very much how the film is received and comes out but in the end I didn't forget to enjoy every moment of the shoot because it's hard to get a film up," reflects Ward. "I don't want to waste one moment, not one moment, not enjoying every second of it.
"It's a real privilege to be able to get a group of people together to make art, entertainment and communicate with an audience."
In Palm Beach, we find ourselves at the home of couple, Frank (Bryan Brown) and Charlotte (Greta Scacchi), for Frank's birthday. Their daughter Ella (Matilda Brown) is there, as well as their son Dan (Charlie Vickers). Frank's former band mates arrive, Leo (Sam Neill) and Billy (Richard E. Grant) along with their wives, Bridget (Jacqueline Mckenzie) and Eva (Heather Mitchell) respectively. Bridget and Leo's daughter Caitlin (Frances Berry) is there as well as Holly (Claire Van Der Boom), daughter to Roxy, former band member who passed away in a car accident. Holly brings along her new beau, Doug (Aaron Jeffery).
Attempting to connect the various dots between the cast and filmmakers in real life however is a far more difficult, a complicated Venn diagram of friends, former colleagues and family. This created a collaborative, lively and playful environment on set. Director Rachel Ward guides this ensemble cast of eleven, and Jeffery articulates simply but succinctly "She creates such an incredible sandpit for us to all play in."
"It's very harmonious," says Producer Bryan Brown of the cast working together "The movie is very much about life. As much as it's about struggle, the actors are very alive and they've got to keep that humour and that energy in the scenes where it's demanded, and that seems to be going all right."
Bryan Brown – Frank
Combining where the genesis of the film came from and an extensive acting career, Bryan Brown was of course, always going to be one of the key characters. According to Director Rachel Ward, there were moments where he thought he might play Leo, but she says firmly, "Bryan was always going to play Frank."
Brown based the character off a couple of people he has encountered; one, a friend who started a subsequently very successful business importing coats from Afghanistan in the 1960s and selling them in the UK and another, Dare Jennings the founder of Mambo, initially a t-shirt business that became a street wear empire with a distinctive style.
After the band parted ways, Brown explains the inner turmoil that Frank faces "Frank's been a very successful entrepreneur in a creative area. But one of Frank's big problems is he never felt like he was the creative; he was the organiser, and very successful at doing that, but when the band was together, he wished he might have been one of the creatives. So, that's what he's sort of struggling with."
Though, Brown notes that Frank's previous band mates both don't feel they are necessarily where they thought they would be. Leo is a journalist and Billy, a jingles writer.
"They're both dealing with not having got where they thought where they would be at that age and struggling with it, whereas Frank admires them because they were creatives and yet he's on the other side of the coin." Brown explains. "They're fellows moving into that later part of life who are going "Is this where I really wanted to be? Am I satisfied with this?" And it's a good question."
Sam Neill – Leo
The consensus on casting Sam Neill as Leo is concrete: he didn't have a choice.
"Sam Neill was always going to be in it whether he liked it or not because that's just how it is," deadpans Producer Bryan Brown, while Director Rachel Ward likewise says that Neill's casting was always a definite.
Neill jokingly bites back "It's an all-star cast apart from Bryan."
He continues "Most of these people I've known for many, many years and worked with before; people like Greta. And God, how many times have I worked with Bryan? Most of my career has been in films with Bryan. Why did my agent allow me to do this, to work with Bryan time and again?"
As noted by both, Neill and Brown have worked together many times, and on a more serious note, Brown says of their frequent collaboration "Sam and I have worked together maybe five or six or seven times, I'm not sure. We're very close mates and maybe we feel protected when we're together, I don't know. When you work with someone who you admire and you get along with it's very easy to just be free; it gives you great liberty to explore characters. Sam's a very, very good actor and there's a quality that he brings and I enjoy being around that quality, I suppose.
Leo's back story as articulated by Neill, certainly showcases his sense of humour as he wryly says "I'm playing Leo Schweinhund, an old, old Schleswig-Holstein family who've been dairyfarming in New Zealand for five generations until Leo broke the mould and became a journalist. However, journalism rather passed him by and Leo's got to the time of the life where he's rather reassessing things. Print journalism is not what it was; the great newspapers, the broadsheets are a thing of the past.
"These are among his oldest friends but he has a lot of friends elsewhere but a lot of them have passed now; they're dying off rapidly. Leo spent some time in Canberra as a political correspondent, some time in Washington, some time in London. It was glamorous for a while. Jacqueline McKenzie plays the part of his current wife and she's wonderful.
When Leo met his wife Bridget (Jacqueline Mckenzie), she had a daughter from a previous relationship, Caitlin, played by Frances Berry. Leo brought Caitlin up as his own and they had a wonderful family life but as Mckenzie notes, he has become increasingly distant in recent times "Bridget she feels pretty isolated even though she's under the same roof as he is. He is pretty distant; he's got worries that he's not really prepared to talk about with her. It becomes apparent during this wonderful reunion weekend, that these concerns have to do with his friends and we see the confrontation that this brings about with those friends, and with Bridget and Leos marriage."
Poignantly, when speaking of what the film ultimately tells us, Neill reflects, "What are the important things? There's an old Māori proverb that I quote very often, "What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people." Your friends, your partners, your children, your families. This is what's important. It's not rocket science but really your relationships are the most important thing. What else matters?"
One of those people whom NEILL values is Director Rachel Ward "Rachel's been a friend of mine since the last war and at that time she was an actor and she's morphed into being a really wonderful director. I think Beautiful Kate is one of the best films ever made in Australia. So, it's been a pleasure to work for her both on a friend basis and as a really good director basis."
Richard E. Grant - Billy
Rounding out the previous band members who are at the birthday weekend is Billy, played by Richard E. Grant.
Hailing from the UK, Grant was one of the few non-Australian cast which was purposeful by the filmmaking team, as it was based upon previous European migration to Australia.
"When we were thinking about these people having been teenagers in the '60s, at the time there was a lot of English and Scottish people came to Australia," explains Producer Bryan Brown. "I think about people like Jimmy Barnes and Billy Thorpe, English migrants who went on to have a great part in our lives here. We always thought we'd want to have a character that had come here as a young English migrant and because that was a real part of our growing up; everyone had an English friend or an Italian friend or a Greek friend."
Grant had previously worked with Director Rachel Ward in 1989 when they played husband and wife in How to Get Ahead in Advertising and since remained friends. For Ward, there was no one else who could play the part; "To me Billy always had shades of Richard and I could just see him, hear him, playing that role so it was very hard to move past Richard."
Grant snapped up the chance to work with Ward, this time with her directing "To see the transformation in her while being friends these last three decades has been extraordinary. And I said it to her the other day in front of her family and everybody that she was so insecure when she was an actor and she's the opposite as a director; she knows exactly what she wants but she's very collaborative and open about what people have to offer. And so, all that insecurity has been completely replaced by surety and self-confidence and selfpossession."
Unsurprisingly, Grant was also acquainted with many of the cast "I'd known Bryan Brown and Sam Neill socially for 30 years, so that helps enormously in the kind of shorthand and familiarity that you have considering that you're playing three people that have known each other for 30 years. I had also worked with Greta Scacchi before on two films, The Player and Serpent's Kiss."
For those of the cast he hadn't met before, Grant felt the nature of the project meant an immediate bond was acquired "That inevitable thing happened with an ensemble of actors as happens in an ensemble of people in real-life - you form very quick and fast attachments to people in a very short space of time, which really did help the whole atmosphere and ethos of this film."
The character of Billy had since returned to his native home of England where his life trajectory was not what he had envisioned "He's one of those guys that could have, should have, would have, so, the world and his wife are in the wrong. And he had had a little bit of fame and good fortune way, way, way back and is still living on the wisp of that. He's cynical, bitter, twisted and a bit miserable."
Like some of our other characters, much of Billy's disappointment lies in his envy of his friends. Travelling to Australia on the generosity of Frank (Bryan Brown) fuels his inadequacy.
"He feels patronised and he's having to rely on the kindness of an old friend and he's resentful of that," explains Grant. "He's married to an Australian actress and she's much more successful than he is. She has all the friends, he doesn't. He's been working in advertising and feels that he sold-out; and in many ways he has done."
Greta Scacchi – Charlotte
Greta Scacchi plays Charlotte, Frank's (Bryan Brown) wife and mother to their son Dan (Charlie Vickers) and daughter Ella (Matilda Brown).
Scacchi and Brown were previously meant to do a play together at the Sydney Theatre Company, rehearsing for five weeks after an accident unfortunately meant the play didn't transpire. Brown had really enjoyed that time and Scacchi was the immediate choice for the filmmaking team as Frank's wife.
"Right from the beginning we wanted her because she's beautifully earthed as an actress; she radiates." says Brown. "She's right for this role and to do this film. And you know after it falling apart on the Sydney Theatre Company play I just am so pleased that we can be together and working on this. She's very secure and she keeps everything very real and so it's great to be around that."
Scacchi points to Charlottes warm welcoming of guests as being a binding force for this group of characters "Charlotte's very much the mother-earth figure who creates harmony and comfort for everyone. She's a perfect hostess and this group has had many reunions over the years. I think they've kept together as friends partly because Charlotte accommodates that and they know to expect some very sumptuous hospitality from her."
Scacchi definitely sees Director Rachel Ward in her character, noting Wards' generosity toward visitors "Rachel makes a dinner party seem effortless. She's relaxed, everybody's relaxed, and the food is just scrummy and beautifully presented. You know her tastes are very much in the script and in the setting"
Charlotte was bought into the fold early on, perhaps initially introduced by Leo (Sam Neill). Her and Frank have been together for 28 years and Charlotte has over that time met Eva (Heather Mitchell) and Bridget (Jacqueline Mckenzie). The woman have come together over this time and become friends in their own right.
"Charlotte is very fond of Eva and Bridget because they've been bunched together when the blokes get together and the blokes, with their personalities and their vanities and their egoism, they're not easy; they've each, in their ways, been hard work, and the women have bonded over this time." explains Scacchi. "She loves Bridget, Leo's wife, but she's particularly fond of Eva who's the glamorous actress, very worldly and lives in London with Billy. Eva's juggling her career as an actress and putting up with Billy, which is not an easy life. Charlotte sees that and supports her."
When asked about working with the cast, in nod to the playful nature of this group of actors, Scacchi cheekily says, "Who can I talk about behind their back?"
She continues "Well, I'm familiar with most of them; I've worked with Richard E. Grant, Sam Neill and Bryan before. So thrilled to be working with Heather Mitchell and Jacqui McKenzie because I've admired them from afar and this is the first time I've actually got to hangout with them, and they're amongst my favourite actresses.
"Matilda, I'd already seen some of the films that she makes where she acts two characters and she's so bright; she's a gorgeous, a gorgeous girl. Charlie and Frances who are part of the gang, are perfect in their roles."
When it comes to Scacchi and Ward, this is the second time that they have worked together; the first on a short film with Ward directing which ScacchI found was a very compatible and easy collaboration.
"I just feel an immediate connection with Rachel," explains Scacchi. "We've known each other for a very long time and we've shared our worlds quite a bit in that we were both modelling in Europe when we were in our late teens, so we've known each other since that time.
"It's so refreshing to work with a director who knows exactly what it feels like to be an actor. She's understanding and compassionate and oh, she's got so much patience it's amazing. I mean it's really not like going to work; it's rather fun.
"Rachel's a very good communicator. She says it as it is. You know she's honest but she's never brutal and you know she cares about us; she's kind. And she's very clear about what she wants, which is exactly what you want in a director. If she wants something more she'll succinctly give you that specific direction and she will be very reassuring, very confident when she's got what she wants. You can feel reassured and sleep at night without worrying, you know. She tells you when she's pleased. She'll even send a little text at the end of the day, which is so touching, it's so encouraging to have a director say, "Thank you very much for today. It's exactly what I wanted. You were superb." You know, fantastic. So, I'm sleeping really well here and enjoying the scenery."
Jacqueline McKenzie – Bridget
Jacqueline Mckenzie who plays Bridget, had worked previously with both Producer BryanBrown and Director Rachel Ward, when they all acted together in the Golden Globe nominated mini-series On The Beach in 2000. Mckenzie also starred in an episode of the TV series Two Twisted which Brown and his production company New Town Films produced.
Of MckenziE starring in Palm Beach, Brown exclaimed, "I've always thought she was a fantastic actress, we are very lucky to have her."
The feeling is definitely mutual and reflecting first on the experience shooting On The Beach Mckenzie says "I walked over hot coals for that opportunity. It was extraordinary because Rachel and Bryan, to me, are both such icons of cinema, television in their own rights, and it was only magnified by the experience of working with them. I remember being in America when that series was released and seeing it on television there and I just remember being filled with the most incredible pride of the two of them.
That's only again magnified since those days and they've both been incredible mentors to people in the industry and great producers of work. Here we are, 2018, and I have the opportunity to work with Rachel as a director."
Mckenzie continues "When were on-set and there were all these people buzzing around, and I said to Rachel, "It must be amazing to be standing on-set with 100 or so people around here who wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you getting off your bum and creating this work for them."
Its not just creating work for yourself, Bryan and Rachel created this whole industry around them." Bridget is married to Leo (Sam Neill) and has a daughter Caitlin (Frances Berry). Mckenzie explains Bridget's back-story
"Bridget is a school teacher and she met Leo, one of the members of this band, on a plane flight from a country town where she was stationed, and he was a journalist doing a mining story.
"He swept her off her feet and looked after her and her eight-year-old daughter, and they've been together ever since. As far as this film goes that's a relatively recent time because these guys have been friends since their teens."
Contending with Leo seemingly increasingly distant, the weekend would also have been a big deal for Bridget; "Basically her entire life is her daughter and her husband, Leo, and they live in New Zealand away from this group of old friends and past influences. Getting on a plane and coming over here for this birthday is a big excitement and I think she probably packed and unpacked their suitcases several times over." says Mckenzie
Hinting at the way in which Mckenzie herself actually helped the costume department through her own skills in knitting, she says "Bridget's also pretty crafty and she knits a lot; she knits. She knits presents for people and she knits sweaters for her husband and daughter, and her daughter's actually said, "Please don't knit me any more clothes" because she's older now and they're a little bit daggy."
Heather Mitchell - Eva
Heather Mitchell's character Eva was originally from Australia, eventually moving to London, England where she met her husband Billy (Richard E. Grant). Like all the characters, she too has a detailed back story.
"When she first went to London she actually worked on a film with Charlotte Rampling," explains Mitchell. "Charlotte really took her under her wing and was incredible to her. She's mixed a lot with and made friends with a number of fairly well-known actresses that people would know here in Australia but she also has made quite a few friends outside of the industry and also some musos due to Billy's connections. Billy and Eva's life has become a bit quieter in London and after a very vibrant social life, their lifestyle has changed, in part due to Billy becoming more introverted and isolating himself.
"What's interesting in this is her friendship with Charlotte (Greta Scacchi), as Charlotte has been through some very major and serious health issues and Eva has really wanted to be there for her, so has made numerous trips over to see her. They have a very special bond although they don't get to see each other terribly regularly."
Of Mitchell playing the role of Eva, Brown says, "Every actor and actress operates on such a different level, and Heather, who's done a lot of stage as well has just completely fallen into how she wants to play this part and is delightful to be around."
Mitchell had acted with Director Rachel Ward before and worked with Sam Neill (Leo) a number of times. Exclaiming that the cast and crew are a "dream team", Mitchell also notes the importance of representation, having characters that people will relate to "To be in something which has such a huge component of more mature actors in it is a rarity and that alone is so wonderful because I do believe there are huge audiences who want to see their stories on screen."
Speaking of Ward as a director, Mitchell notes Wards technical expertise, directing an ensemble cast "She is so prepared; her preparation for this film is seamless. Most of the scenes in this film require at least between six and nine performers at a time, so to know exactly whose point of view you're looking at it from, where the important parts are within the scene, getting all that coverage, requires not only intelligence and preparation but a lot of intuition that you can trust on the day."
Echoing Grants sentiment of working with an ensemble cast, Mitchell points to the collaborative and invigorating environment that has occurred on Palm Beach.
We've all laughed a lot together on this and the buoyant atmosphere on the set just lends itself to a lot of hilarity, a lot of stories being told and that sort of feeds into the work" she says. "Because it's a very ensemble piece and so anything that binds us together as a group of people, also helps enormously in creating that atmosphere of companionship and friendship of these characters and that deep, long sense of familiarity between them all."
Matilda Brown - Ella
Matilda Brown plays Ella, a doctor and oldest child of Charlotte (Greta Scacchi) and Frank (BryanBrown).
Matilda describes her character as the rock in this whole drama that is unfolding. Not being a part of the 'gang' but a step removed, does give her character a different perspective.
"Ella's sort of not immediately involved in all of those relationships though she does have strong relationships with most of those characters.
She's separate to all the drama that's unfolding though she's also privy to it," explains Matilda. "I think it's interesting because generationally all this stuff is unfolding on another generation. But that's what's lovely about the film, is that the audience can have a way into the film, separate to what's going on with those central characters." On working with Director Rachel Ward, who is Matilda's mother she says "Working with mum is really nice - it makes me so happy to see her in her element. You know she's never happier than when working. She loves it and it's really nice for me to see her and it's great to be directed by her."
BryanBrown is Matilda's father off screen as well, though this is not the first time they have worked together in this capacity. Despite their familial link, Bryan Brown sees her as an actress first when working together.
"I've worked with Matilda on a couple of series that she's made for the ABC and for Foxtel, and so I've played her father in that," he says. "She's a very clever and talented girl and I find it very enjoyable working with her. I don't notice that she's my daughter; I just feel like I'm with a terrific actress."
Claire van der Boom – Holly Claire Van Der Boom is Holly, daughter to band member Roxy who unfortunately passed in a card accident in the early 90s. This lead to Frank (Bryan Brown), Leo (Sam Neill) and Billy (Richard E. Grant) becoming father figures and essentially family to Holly.
Regardless of having the support of an adopted extended family, Holly, like all our characters, has her own complexities that become apparent over the weekend especially when she arrives with Doug (Aaron Jeffery) in arm.
"Holly is a little complex, distraught at times and a bit damaged," explains Van Der Boom. "She's been a little bit wild in the past. Her reckless days feel like they're maybe over and so she brings a farmer character to this weekend shenanigan, which is a little confusing for everyone – but I think she's trying to make changes in her life. The question is, is she ready to do that?"
Holly has inherited Roxy's talent for music and while Van Der Boom likes to sing, the role did require some significant preparation for her and a chance to explore a hidden desire she had.
"This was a really interesting process for me because I live overseas, so it was a self-tape and I'm not a musician. I like to sing but I'm not very confident with it but it's a secret desire of mine to be a rocker and a singer." explains Van Der Boom. "I had to jump through a few hoops and I really enjoyed it; I was having a great time figuring out how to pull off trying to look like a singer and a rocker. I just had a month of knuckling down, having some lessons and getting some calluses on my fingers. Then on set, I had to figure out the best way to work with the music. It's been a wonderful challenge and a huge joy."
Being one of the few cast that hadn't worked with the filmmakers before, Brown talks of the process of finding Van Der Boom and why he's excited for people to see her performance "We auditioned a number of people and screen-tested, and Claire van der Boom was in Los Angeles and sent a tape through and immediately we liked the warmth that she had to offer. Actually I'm really keen for people to see Claire because people won't know her, and she's got a great voice and it will be terrific to see how her career can kick-on after this; she's quite a talent."
Van Der Boom says that one of the other main reasons she wanted to do the film, was the impressive cast list.
"I've just been a fan of many of them for a long time and the other younger cast that I didn't know, I've just absolutely fallen for." says Van Der Boom. "Working with these kind of legends felt like it might be a little terrifying but it hasn't been at all, it's just more amusing and absolutely joyful." She adds with smile "Like they're a bit naughty."
Van Der Boom is effusive in her praise for Director Rachel Ward, being a huge fan of her work and loving Beautiful Kate. When speaking of working with her, Van Der Boom notes her collaborative nature and her background in acting.
"Rachel just brings so much to the table; she brings such honesty and integrity. She facilitates a very open debate and conversation very quickly," explains Van Der Boom. "Nothing is kind of out of bounds and so working with Rachel from the beginning has been really collaborative. All of the choices about throwing peroxide on my hair or how rocker Holly is going to be, trying to avoid clichés and doing things a little differently has been really exciting.
"As Rachel does have an acting history, her dialogue with actors is just really special and I feel very, very safe with her and trust her. Even when we're not on the same page we find the same language to get on the same page. I think because she's a woman of such integrity it is a really honest, funny, ballsy kind of film that she's bringing to life."
Aaron Jeffery - Doug
Aaron Jeffery is the newcomer to our tight knit group, introduced by Holly (Claire Van Der Boom) when she brings him as her date for the weekend.
"We needed to have someone that Holly was going to fall in love with and we were lucky enough to get Aaron Jeffery to come in and play Doug, the bloke, the sheep farmer from the country." says Producer BryanBrown. "Sam and I worked with Aaron on Old School and he has a very natural lovely way of working with quite a sense of humour behind everything he does, which I enjoy."
After bumping into Jeffery at a wedding, Director Rachel Ward and Brown made a phone call and asked him if he wanted to play the part.
"Doug's a fifth-generation sheep farmer and he's been committed to the family enterprise; he's taken over the reins as his father's passed on." Says Jeffery, speaking of his character. "And it's a big concern; they've got about 15,000 hectares. That's kind of his life. So, he doesn't have a lot of time outside of that for anything other than - nothing really, he's just a workaholic.
"He's met up with this young lady by the name of Holly and they've really had this beautiful relationship. They've known each other for a short time but it's become quite intense quite quickly. He's coming with her to meet her extended family, all the important people in her life, so it's kind of a big weekend for them. In some ways it's a kind of a test."
Jeffery describes getting to work with Director Rachel Ward as a dream come true. "She's incredible. I'm a big fan, she's highly intelligent and a beautiful story-teller with a great intuition around stories."
Frances Berry – Caitlin
Caitlin (Frances Berry) is Bridget (Jacqueline Mckenzie) and Leo's (Sam Neill) daughter. When Leo met Bridget, she already had a young Caitlin and so Leo became her father.
Like all our characters, Caitlin is finding her place in this group dynamic.
"She hasn't seen the rest of the extended family and friends for quite a while, she's excited but she's a little nervous as well because the last time she went she was a little younger than everyone else" notes Berry. "She's the youngest, so I think she has that kind of complex of "Am I going to fit in? Are the older kids going to like me?" But as soon as she arrives everyone is so welcoming. As the film goes on she finds her place and can muck around with everyone as well and finds a bit more confidence I think than she does in her own life."
Notably, an anchor for Caitlin is her friendship with Dan (Charlie Vickers), Frank (BryanBrown) and Charlotte's (Greta Scacchi) son, as explained by BerrY "She's really pulled towards Dan who's played by Charlie Vickers and they have a really sweet friendship. Charlie and I get along really well in real-life so it's been really easy."
Berry had nerves before working with some of the more experienced cast, quickly finding those nerves dissipating and not only embracing the chance to learn but also have some fun
"Coming on-board I was super-excited but also so nervous because we have such huge names in our cast." Berry explains "But from the get-go everyone was so lovely and they're total goofballs especially Sam and Heather and Richard. It's been really fun with lots of laughs. They've also been really great role models to show what it's like to work on a film like this and how the system works. It's been really amazing to hang-out with them and watch how they work. I'm kind of thinking of myself like a sponge and just absorbing everything that they're doing."
She adds "They're just the sweetest, smartest, funniest, least intimidating people I've ever met."
Her first feature film, Berry counts herself lucky to work with Director Rachel Ward along with a positive gender representative crew and an inclusive environment to work in.
"When I found out that Rachel was directing it I was super-excited" says Berry. "Even from the first meeting, I really gauged that she was super-open and really welcoming; I wasn't intimidated at all, which I was expecting to be because she's so fantastic in everything that she's done.
"She's made the set feel like a really open place where everyone has a voice, which I think is really important. Even from the first rehearsal she said, 'If anyone wants to change anything, if anyone wants to make any adjustments, please feel free to speak up.' She also can be really direct and things are going to get done for sure, but she can do it in a way that isn't cruel, which is good. This is my first film; to have a female director, a female DOP and a 50 per cent female to male ratio cast has been an incredible start, as this is my norm now."
Charlie Vickers - Dan
Charlie Vickers plays Dan, Frank (BryanBrown) and Charlotte's (Greta Scacchi) youngest child and brother to Ella (Matilda Brown). The search for the character of Dan was a wide one, as explained by Brown
"We searched through a lot of young fellows and Charlie, a young Australian actor, was living in England doing some television there at the time. But we got in touch with him and we had a Skype talk with him. We just asked him to tell us about his relationship with his father and we basically cast him on that conversation."
The TV series was the Italian-British television drama series Medici and Palm Beach was to be Vickers' first feature film, after a background in theatre.
He reflects on the setting's influence on character being a key defining feature of the difference between theatre and working on a set and in particular, what the location of Palm Beach brings "The nicest thing I guess about doing film compared to doing theatre is you get to be able to live in the environment that you're actually living as a character in, you don't have to try and imagine. If you're on a stage you have to try and imagine you've got an ocean in front of you and really you'd have a theatre full of people staring at you. Whereas here it's so easy to imagine because you're literally put in situations, driving around on boats out in the bay or running up to the lighthouse and it really helps you as an actor, which is why it's nice. And the best part is having days off here and being able to just cruise around and see things, walk, you can go kayaking, all this kind of stuff."
Vickers talks about the stage of life that Dan is in, early 20's and trying to figure out next steps as being a relatable aspect to others in a similar situation. "Dan's had a privileged growing up, what an incredible place to grow up and be able to have this house to live in. He wants to, forge his own path in the world and go and maybe live overseas, he could do anything. He's living in Sydney compared to still living in Palm Beach. Trying to move out of that childhood town, which a lot of kids go through. I mean you know I've gone through it and I'm still going through it. I hope people can identify with that, you know older people that can remember back and younger people that come and watch the film and can see "Oh, I'm going through that" or "I just went through that you know a couple of years ago," which is cool."
The generational differences between Frank and Dan are rearing their head, as Dan tries to figure out where to go next. Frank insists that Dan gets stuck into an internship and dive right in, while Dan, sees how many overwhelming options there are for young people and doesn't want to be stuck in something he doesn't want to do.
"His relationship with Frank at the moment is quite strained. When Frank finished school everything was completely different to the challenges that people coming out of school and university now face." explains Vickers. "They're clashing with each other and Dan's trying to push back. And Frank, because of the stage of life he is in, is not enjoying the fact that Dan's starting to push back at him.
"It's a difficult dynamic in that Ella (Matilda Brown), his older sister is a hero in Frank's eyes because she's gone to medical school and she's going to be a doctor. She's the one that has got it all sorted out, and from Dan's perspective he probably feels like a bit of a dropkick, which is pretty challenging."
When speaking of Director Rachel Ward, again Vickers talks of the differences between theatre and film, and the differences in the power dynamic of actor vs director. "From my limited experience, theatre is more of an actors' medium in that you can go in and the actor really controls what the audience sees whereas with film it's the director or the editor. But Rachel really gives you time and gives you the opportunity to be able to try and get across and tell the story that you want to tell, which is amazing."
Release Date: August 8th, 2019