Scott Hicks Talks The Boys Are Back

The Shine director on returning to Australia and working with Clive Owen

by | November 9, 2009 | Comments


RT: How was it being back shooting a feature film in South Australia?

SH: I really enjoyed it. It was an unexpected pleasure if you like, because the film was originally located in Queensland and migrated to South Australia for financial reasons. So I found myself shooting a film at home again for the first time in about 12 years.

Speaking of home, you’re the father of two sons and the owner of a vineyard. So how much of yourself did you infuse in this production?

Well of course there things that resonated quite strongly for me, just given fatherhood has been a huge part of my own life. I wouldn’t say it’s directly infused, although there are one or two scenes — now I think about it — that definitely came out of my own experience. But it was a story that really touched me. I really felt that the story of a man struggling to become a better father to his two sons in the wake of his wife’s death; it was very touching, but very unsentimental. And felt so real to me: the dialogue, the relationships. Then of course I discovered it was based on a memoir, so of course it was drawn from life. And that became my intention really, to get it to the screen in that same real feeling as much as possible.

So was there a scene in a vineyard or was that your inclusion?

That was my inclusion. I mean in the original script it was in the sugar cane fields of Queensland! It was nice to be able to set the film somewhere in Australia that I felt hadn’t been explored that much or seen on film, which is that vineyard culture.

It appears you’ve gone from a single mother (or Aunt) in No Reservations to a story about a single father. Did your adaptation of Bella Martha inform The Boys Are Back?

Well it’s funny you mention that, because how that came about was that I actually read The Boys Are Backin 2004. I went to Clive with it and I thought he would be fantastic, and he loved it. So I thought, “Here we go. We’re off!” But with one thing and another, Clive was busy then I was busy, so we couldn’t quite get in sync. Then at the end of 2005 we were all poised ready to shoot the film, and Clive said he needed some time off because he’d done a lot of work back-to-back and he wanted to feel fresh for The Boys Are Back and around that time I was sent the script of what became No Reservations.
So I thought, well I’ve got a year that I’d set out to do The Boys Are Back and here’s another film about relationships and people, so I took it on. And of course it had that resonance in it, to do with loss and so on, but it was such a different story that I didn’t feel that it was any kind of an issue.

I hadn’t realised it was so serendipitous!

Yes it was! Then beyond that it took a while again for Clive and I to get in sync, because when I finished No Reservations he was on another movie. Then when he was finished I was doing my Philip Glass film, and on it went until finally we lined up in 2008. At last! But the great thing was he was as determined as I was not to let it go. Because actors — especially someone like Clive — get so many offers to do things, so you just hope their attention doesn’t get distracted by something else. But he really, really wanted to play the part.

On that note, how much of a coup was it to get Clive Owen to star in an Australian film?

It was fantastic! I think with any of these co-production arrangements — which this film was an Australian/English co-production — it’s important that it’s authentic to the actual story and the settings. In this case, because Simon Carr, who wrote the original memoir is an English journalist, who did come out here [Carr actually emigrated to New Zealand], it’s totally authentic casting to have Clive in the part.

So how was it that a Scottish actress [Laura Fraser] ended up playing an Australian?

Isn’t that funny? There it’s a matter of — I looked at a lot of Australian actresses and it was a busy year, a lot of people were working and not available… and in the end I loved that Laura Fraser had a quality in Australia that would be quite unknown. That she wouldn’t carry any baggage with her. So I liked that feeling.
When she came and auditioned for me, she did a flawless Australian accent, which is quite difficult to do. And I didn’t even realise she was Scottish until she finished the read and she suddenly broke out into this broad Scottish accent! Oh my God!

Much as the film is about fatherhood, the film has the prevailing theme of mothers — with Joe coming to terms with his own thoughts on how motherhood is almost a more ‘natural’ state. How did you draw this juxtaposition?

Well that really goes back to Simon Carr’s observations. Yes I think it would be fair to say there is a tendency for society to accept mothers as the natural child raisers. But the fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of single fathers, struggling to raise their kids or maintain contact with their children following marital break up or loss. And it’s an enormous and untold story. So I found that really quite powerful, and I’ve had a lot of reaction from men in that situation to the emotional journey of the story.

It’s also intriguing that The Boys Are Back is being released a week after Michael Winterbottom’s Genova. What do you think it is about these stories of single fathers that’s resonating with audiences?

I guess it’s in the zeitgeist! Isn’t it funny, I only noticed that recently. But sometimes ideas surface in the general consciousness at a time and I think that’s good. It’s obviously time to explore these things and discuss them and bring them out in the film world.

Speaking of the film world, The Boys Are Back has such a wonderful visual sensibility, with focus pulls creating an emotive, subjective frame. How did you and the DP Greig Fraser construct the visual aesthetic?

Well there were a few guiding principles which I really wanted in shooting the film. Because working with a six-year-old child is a challenge. You’re working with someone who doesn’t have technical skills, and nor should they; who has the energies and the distractions of any six-year-old and it was so important that we capture an authentic performance that didn’t feel coached or schooled in the way that a lot of child performances do I think. Now what that meant was we had to be very flexible, very light on our feet. Pretty much the whole film is handheld, because I wanted to be able to follow Nicholas wherever he went.

So that was a kind of loosening up things, which I really enjoyed, but at the same time I’ve got a strong visual sensibility and I love to play with focus and with light and shade and Greig was just a perfect collaborator on that front. He’s highly, highly skilled obviously and my main other instruction to him was that it had to feel unlit. And then within that, there’s a natural beauty that you can capture.

Greig Fraser’s having a cracking year! He’s shot Last Ride and has Bright Star coming up.

Yes, he’s on the rise no doubt!

Well they do say don’t work with children or animals and you had your work cut out for you. The bird life in the film was amazing!

Wasn’t it?! They obviously have inhabited that valley for millennia, and here we come along to make our film. At first I was thinking, “What do we do? Do we have to get a peregrine falcon in here and scare them away?” But in the end, I got together with the sound recordist [Ben Osmo] and said, “Let’s embrace it. Let’s make it part of the texture of this film. Do you think you can work with this and get the dialogue nice an clean, but get the bird life as well?” And he said, “Yeah, give me a go.” Ben Osmo was fantastic.

So the mandatory final question has to be, “What’s next?” Hopefully another Australian film — Adelaide seems to befit you well.

Well that would be great! At the moment I’ve just got a couple of things that I’m looking at, but I don’t know what may gel first. So to be honest I can’t say right now, it’s not clear enough.

Tag Cloud

Pet Sematary National Geographic king arthur news renewed TV shows ABC Signature Drama deadpool The Walking Dead streaming movies singing competition japan Infographic football Biopics foreign Hallmark Christmas movies Winners Emmys crime streaming kong Britbox period drama teaser black comedy casting slashers chucky Martial Arts Disney streaming service aliens Holidays New York Comic Con Ovation Chilling Adventures of Sabrina marvel comics Fox Searchlight prank E3 Cartoon Network sequels werewolf adaptation Mystery LGBTQ X-Men Mary poppins comic Image Comics stand-up comedy Nickelodeon rom-coms cinemax new star wars movies TV One historical drama MCU Black Mirror cancelled television WGN hist Nat Geo Creative Arts Emmys spider-man streamig lord of the rings USA Network 007 Mary Tyler Moore RT History child's play PaleyFest blockbuster comic book movie BET Awards movie Song of Ice and Fire Elton John 24 frames political drama VOD wonder woman Premiere Dates 90s Broadway PBS dreamworks USA Calendar obituary comic book movies emmy awards scorecard heist movie DirecTV The Witch cancelled ABC spider-verse Baby Yoda screen actors guild cults Amazon Prime richard e. Grant Esquire President Comedy Central politics Rocketman Amazon dceu Certified Fresh Holiday Captain marvel NBC Ghostbusters Oscars Television Critics Association justice league aapi halloween tv Universal See It Skip It james bond sitcom Disney Plus rt archives Tomatazos FXX Fall TV South by Southwest Film Festival dark indiana jones latino Super Bowl young adult TV Star Wars Celebration police drama Ellie Kemper Wes Anderson suspense Best Actress australia toy story dc Epix Emmy Nominations The Walt Disney Company vs. archives series Trophy Talk Family romantic comedy international PlayStation documentaries Spike animated TCA cancelled TV series finale video SundanceTV 4/20 Watching Series free movies Superheroes space quibi Pop debate Shondaland harry potter crime thriller disaster ABC Family Tarantino gangster jamie lee curtis cooking medical drama satire talk show 72 Emmy Awards DC streaming service Binge Guide elevated horror Musical cancelled TV shows CBS All Access comics Box Office science fiction LGBT royal family Starz serial killer HBO Max miniseries 94th Oscars Lifetime Christmas movies Lucasfilm HBO Go theme song San Diego Comic-Con Rom-Com canceled TV shows leaderboard revenge IFC Films Apple TV Plus History Animation game show scene in color film series dogs Podcast transformers Shudder Thanksgiving docuseries jurassic park worst movies superman Sundance Travel Channel toronto Avengers Funimation sopranos Year in Review OneApp superhero Turner Classic Movies Disney Channel natural history 79th Golden Globes Awards saw Kids & Family 21st Century Fox Trailer Pacific Islander Musicals FX Red Carpet diversity directors Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Freeform Instagram Live Apple Apple TV+ worst 2021 ITV king kong Country Academy Awards Sci-Fi strong female leads adventure Comic-Con@Home 2021 dragons hispanic heritage month Pride Month Sony Pictures spain franchise Black History Month Best Picture Best Director comic books Winter TV Teen 73rd Emmy Awards universal monsters Alien christmas movies Native all-time GIFs breaking bad CNN Paramount Network obi wan FOX scene in color series Classic Film new zealand Dark Horse Comics A&E Masterpiece Bravo unscripted documentary 2015 HBO laika Anna Paquin 71st Emmy Awards Action ID fast and furious Comedy Hallmark Star Trek target Extras twilight APB cars summer TV 93rd Oscars halloween boxoffice IFC rotten doctor who ESPN 20th Century Fox mockumentary Stephen King American Society of Cinematographers cops golden globes Hulu Pop TV Disney Lifetime posters spanish Awards war Opinion Walt Disney Pictures Endgame concert art house zombie screenings Nominations stop motion marvel cinematic universe VICE independent Cosplay festival DGA MTV Fox News Legendary Interview Comics on TV Netflix biography black SXSW comedies rt labs BAFTA what to watch NBA Paramount Pictures 2018 crossover TCA 2017 YouTube book adaptation basketball south america Comic Book FX on Hulu broadcast nature Crunchyroll joker TruTV social media DC Universe Fantasy godzilla slasher kaiju versus live event olympics Exclusive Video pirates of the caribbean nfl Reality Cannes true crime mcc adenture Amazon Studios zero dark thirty Marvel Star Wars Chernobyl facebook TCM WarnerMedia Mary Poppins Returns summer TV preview MSNBC television dexter Superheroe films best Neflix Tokyo Olympics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards mob feel good mutant festivals hidden camera hispanic Rock Indigenous El Rey TIFF Peacock The Purge Discovery Channel classics critics NYCC tv talk Hollywood Foreign Press Association Heroines reviews robots The Academy Television Academy Mindy Kaling zombies comiccon japanese BBC french asian-american scene in color scary movies technology Music trailers Tags: Comedy YouTube Premium spanish language game of thrones Film sequel VH1 Amazon Prime Video video on demand Adult Swim Trivia high school hollywood name the review OWN IMDb TV anthology crime drama Logo Brie Larson Marvel Studios Mudbound Reality Competition TV renewals SXSW 2022 dramedy 2016 telelvision discovery MGM 45 Film Festival mission: impossible The CW sports witnail thriller kids monster movies scary fresh A24 Spectrum Originals Pirates Crackle blockbusters CMT Grammys golden globe awards sag awards 2019 vampires Pixar travel TLC Character Guide indie Election ViacomCBS boxing die hard movies HFPA Paramount Plus First Look cartoon Paramount blaxploitation Set visit Best and Worst new york TCA Awards Toys 2020 Acorn TV Prime Video critic resources Marvel Television trophy Arrowverse Showtime Focus Features AMC Netflix Christmas movies Christmas Fargo Warner Bros. Food Network batman Sneak Peek summer preview TV movies Sony 1990s Writers Guild of America Vudu Awards Tour Syfy Geeked Week supernatural Countdown DC Comics Photos Quiz Schedule 99% GoT BBC One docudrama Valentine's Day Hear Us Out cats genre Sundance TV Rocky SDCC First Reviews women award winner popular Summer Universal Pictures Horror canceled TBS Disney+ Disney Plus Tumblr biopic Western Polls and Games Women's History Month nbcuniversal binge criterion The Arrangement Marathons TNT action-comedy Tubi GLAAD Spring TV interviews 2017 rotten movies we love ghosts TCA Winter 2020 Lionsgate Best Actor BBC America composers CW Seed book Oscar E! target scene in color ratings RT21 razzies psychological thriller stoner spinoff YouTube Red Video Games rt labs critics edition children's TV legend BET romance based on movie Columbia Pictures green book Sundance Now parents reboot italian a nightmare on elm street spy thriller AMC Plus TV Land remakes Turner know your critic YA venice CBS anime psycho live action