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Margaret Pomeranz: Top 5 films for the marooned

Film critics Margaret Pomeranz and  David Stratton celebrate 25 year’s of onscreen bickering. Picture: Renee Nowytarger 

It’s been a quarter of a century since Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton squabbled their way onto our TV screens. To celebrate, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is presenting Margaret & David: 25 Years Talking Movies, featuring everything from Pomeranz’s fabulous, larger-than-life earrings to Stratton’s ASIO file. But what would the screen queen watch if marooned on a desert island? The credits are rolling…

Nashville (1975)
Director: Robert Altman
My favourite film of all time. I saw it in the mid-’70s when I’d come back from Europe and married a filmmaker [Hans Pomeranz] and I started going to films in a different way. I didn’t go because of the stars. I started being dragged along to see directors’ work. So I developed this passion – not only for Australian cinema, which was going through a new wave, but for cinema as a whole. I’d heard about Nashville on the radio and dashed off to see it. I was blown away by what Altman had done: this big sprawling epic mourning the loss of American innocence – because it was post-Watergate. It was a very cynical, satirical look. But also, he is a man who loves his country and actually hates what’s been happening to it. It’s full of music. The stars wrote their own songs. Keith Carradine won the Oscar for I’m Easy, so it’s funny and poignant, and it has all that overlapping sound that Altman was famous for. People are talking all over the place and it’s chaotic and wonderful.

The Flower Of My Secret (1995)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
It’s one of Almodóvar’s least-seen films and it is absolutely delightful. It’s about a woman who’s a writer of romance novels, and she’s sick of writing them. She wants to write something serious, but her publisher doesn’t want that. Then she gets a chance to write an article (under a pseudonym) that’s a critique of the romance novelist. She wants to tear her apart, but the editor of the paper loves the romance novelist and so he starts writing the novels for her. You know, it’s melodrama! Almodóvar is the ultimate melodrama maker.
I don’t know that this is his best film, but it’s one I absolutely adore and it’s got the most fantastic dance sequence in it. It’s in red, his favourite colour.

The Women (1939)
Director: George Cukor
It’s all women – the actors, the dogs and the horses. And it’s star-studded: Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard. It’s upper-class New York society. It’s about a woman who discovers, through her network at the beauty salon, that her husband is having an affair with the girl who sells perfume at one of the department stores, and she is devastated. The seductress is played by Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer plays the betrayed woman. Rosalind Russell is the catty friend who just wants to stir up trouble. It is delicious – and beautifully done. I love the costumes and it’s got this conceit  – a 10-minute sequence in the film – at a fashion show that’s in colour. The rest of it is in black and white, but this fashion show is in colour and it’s lovely. But this film also has feminist undertones (her real women friends stand up for her and exact revenge) and I think that’s why I like it.

Magnolia (1999)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
This is the film that turned me on to Aimee Mann’s music. But also, I think Paul Thomas Anderson is a real talent and it is so raw, this film. It drags you through this moment in people’s lives in a way that’s so painful and moving. Once again, it’s a really impressive cast, and it’s Tom Cruise, I think, at his very best. He is extraordinary as the guy who’s trying to teach men how to treat women badly. I love daring filmmakers and this is a very daring film.

In The Cut (2003)
Director: Jane Campion
It’s based on Susanna Moore’s book. When I read it I thought it was unfilmable and it got terrible reviews – no-one else liked it the way I did. Meg Ryan was dumped on from a great height, but I’ve been in love with Mark Ruffalo ever since. It’s about a serial killer in New York. This woman [Meg Ryan] saw the murdered woman in a dimly lit room with a man the night she was killed, but she sees only the tattoo on his wrist; and the cop who comes to question her has the same tattoo. It has got a lot of grit. When I came out [of the screening] I was dizzy. The film affected me physically. It was an extraordinary experience.


This article first appeared in Qantas The Australian WayNovember 2011

Killing Time with actor David Wenham

Richard Cawthorne (left) and David Wenham (right) on the set of TV series Killing Time. Picture: Craig Borrow.

DAVID WENHAM – his name alone is enough to conjure up some of the most memorable performances.

He sent chills down our spines as the cold-blooded psychopath Brett Sprague in The Boys, and made millions of women go weak at the knees as the irresistibly hunky Diver Dan in SeaChange. This versatile actor has also left his mark on Hollywood, after playing Faramir in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Dilios, the storyteller, in 300.

The Aussie actor is set to have you glued to your screen yet again in TV1’s stunning new drama series, Killing Time. Wenham portrays Andrew Fraser, the real-life former criminal defence lawyer who made his name representing Melbourne crime figures including Lewis Moran and Dennis Allen.

Ironically, when FOXTEL magazine caught up with Wenham, he had very little time to kill. “Every day is crazy,” he said during the quick chat he managed to squeeze into his hectic filming schedule. “[Working] 12 to 14-hour days isn’t unusual. What is slightly unusual is the fact that on this project I’ve been doing that five days a week for something like 13 weeks. “I don’t think I’ve done a project like this before, where I’m literally in every scene bar about three. It’s a marathon,” Wenham said.

The 10-part drama series has also proved to be an experience where Wenham must run the emotional gauntlet as he takes viewers through the life and times of Andrew Fraser. A man who became rich by helping some of Australia’s shadiest criminals avoid jail time in the high-flying ’80s, Fraser crashed and burned – and wound up in prison himself.

“He’s a man who is extremely intelligent, extremely talented – a formidable lawyer at the top of his field – yet he has a fatal flaw which becomes an addiction to drugs, which causes his downfall,” he said. “I found that interesting, the fact that we follow the journey of a man at the height of his powers, and see how that is taken away from him.”

Prior to succumbing to a $1000-a-day cocaine habit, and ending up in maximum security after being found guilty of drug trafficking, Fraser had a client list that read like a who’s who of Australian crime. He represented everyone from the Pettingill family, who were implicated in the cold-blooded murder of two Victorian police officers; to footballer-turned-drug trafficker Jimmy Krakouer; and even troubled businessman Alan Bond.
“You can’t invent these characters,” Wenham said. “The things they do are seemingly so far fetched and incredible.”

Throughout the series, which is told mostly in flashback as Fraser sits in his prison cell, we meet many of his clients in a production that’s recruited some of our best actors. “We’ve got some wonderful people in there,” he enthused. “We’ve got legends of the Australian screen. People like Colin Friels [who plays Lewis Moran], who’s just wonderful to work with; Diana Glenn, who plays my wife; and then you’ve got Richard Cawthorne, who plays Dennis Allen – an amazing character and Richard has just run with that.”

Wenham’s attraction to the project stemmed from the completely new perspective offered by telling these true-crime stories: not from the cops’ side or the criminals’ side, but from the point of view of a successful defence lawyer. “It’s a totally fresh look on stories and narratives we may be familiar with,” he said. “Fraser sort of straddles both worlds.”

Playing Andrew Fraser also provided a much-needed opportunity for Wenham to take a stroll back to the dark side. “People who aren’t perfect interest me,” he said. “I hadn’t delved into that sort of territory for [a while], and it must have been time to scratch that itch again because when I read the script it was a compelling read. I thought it had the essence of really good drama.”

But perhaps most irresistible, was the chance to drown Diver Dan once and for all. “I think characters like this go some way to debunk that,” Wenham said. “Andrew Fraser is sort of an energetic and charismatic character at times, but he also does some hideous things that I think may appal some people.” “But I like that, because he is a very divisive character,” he said.

This article first appeared in FOXTEL magazine, November 2011.

Small Time Gangster reboots the Aussie TV crime genre

While criminal underworld exposés are the television genre du jour, Movie Extra’s Small Time Gangster is decidedly different. For starters, it’s a black comedy. “The original concept came from my abiding love of old crime movies,” explains co-writer and producer Gareth Calverley. “A few of the filmmakers I like had always made films that focused on the blue-collared guys.”

With this in mind, Calverley and collaborator Joss King invented Tony Piccolo, a Melbourne standover man who hides his real profession from his family by moonlighting as a carpet cleaner. “He’s trying to juggle these two lives and, of course, it all comes crashing down,” says Calverley.

Featuring a top-notch Australian cast including Steve Le Marquand, Gary Sweet, Gia Carides, Sacha Horler and Geoff Morrell, Small Time Gangster is aiming for something much more intriguing than your average straight-up comedy. “We’ve taken a look at the two worlds, the crime world and the suburban world, and heightened the situation by keeping the actors grounded to the core of their characters,” explains director Jeffrey Walker.

He describes the end result as something in the vein of the Coen Brothers. “The series is intelligently written, it’s subtle on the whole, and there’s plenty for audiences to enjoy.”

It’s this meeting of the mundane set against the backdrop of crime that gives the show it’s unique flavour. “Juxtaposing what people do for a living with ‘did you get the milk, by the way?’ is kind of interesting,” says actor Geoff Morrell, who plays Tony’s mentor, Les.

For Aussie film buffs, one of the show’s drawcards will be seeing actor Steve Le Marquand (Two Hands, Last Train To Freo) in a long overdue leading television role as Tony. Plus there’s Gary Sweet as the menacing mob boss Barry, Gia Carides as the streetwise underworld go-between Darlene and Sacha Horler as suburban mum, Cathy.

And for those of you who want to see some action, this eight-part series will not disappoint. “We’re doing scenes with rocket launchers,” enthuses actor Jared Daperis who plays Barry’s wannabe gangster son, Charlie. “We’re used to the true crime genre, but this is just bold and adventurous.”

Q & A with Steve Le Marquand

Your character Tony is leading a double life and there are a lot of balls to juggle… It’s kind of like playing two characters, which is what I love about it. You’ve got the family guy, who’s a loving husband and father, and on the other side of the fence you’ve got this guy working as a standover man for this bunch of hardcore crooks. He’s obviously switched-on to be able to keep those lives separate for so long. It’s not until a series of unfortunate events causes those two worlds to collide that things start to get a bit hairy for him.

Was the whole gangster thing something you got right into? Absolutely. But the far more challenging stuff for me was actually playing the loving husband and father; it’s very rare I get cast as the gentler guy.

Q & A with Sacha Horler

This is a different character for you… Cathy’s a good girl. It’s interesting for me because I don’t usually play ‘lipstick roles’. My husband said, ‘what are you doing? Have you got your no make-up dirty scrag look going on?’ and I told him, ‘no, in this one I get to wear nice dresses and they put lipstick on me’.

And she really thinks she’s married a carpet cleaner? Well, she has married a carpet cleaner. As far as Cathy Piccolo is concerned he’s one of the best in Melbourne. And that’s why it’s such a good script because he’s not a big, fat drug dealer – he’s a small time gangster and that means he’s been able to lie successfully.

This article first appeared in FOXTEL magazine, April 2011

Nigella Lawson gets back in the Kitchen

A pinch of this, a “splosh” of that, and “hey, presto!”, a delectable dish appears from thin air. only Nigella Lawson, the UK’s most influential food writer and self-anointed “domestic goddess”, could possibly whip up something so miraculous with a jar of marmite and a fistful of spaghetti.

of course, her new series Nigella: Kitchen has much more to offer than just minor miracles; it’s a cooking philosophy that she says will help you achieve “maximum flavour for minimum effort”.

As a busy mother of two, Nigella understands it’s all about beating the clock. But she also knows there’s something infinitely satisfying about delivering a no-fuss feast your family will love.

“The joys of food are so great that I really do believe that those who cannot allow themselves to wallow in them have lesser lives,” she recently declared in the Daily Mail. And it’s this joie de vivre that underpins her efforts in this new series. From a no-effort seafood roast, to instant orange and blackberry trifle, or even the rather racy “slut’s spaghetti” – Nigella’s take on the traditional Italian puttanesca (the literal translation is whore’s spaghetti) that substitutes fresh chillies for bottled jalapeños – everything is fast, fabulous and full of flavour. But best of all, there’s no need to feel ashamed of this hassle-free approach.

“I don’t feel guilty that I make my ‘slut’s spaghetti’ more or less by opening a few jars; indeed, I revel in it,” she says.

But Nigella: Kitchen seeks to bring viewers something more than just quick recipes that inspire, it also ushers in a whole new attitude to the place she calls “the heart of the home”. Instead of a domain of drudgery, Nigella illuminates the kitchen for what it truly is, a welcoming place you’ll want spend time in. “The kitchen is my favoured

space,” she says, “my messy haven and ramshackle sanctuary.”

However, it’s not always a quiet room – frequently it’s under siege by ravenous, rumbling tummies. Nigella’s solution? she keeps an arsenal of short cut recipes on hand that will feed the troops at a moment’s notice. There’s crustless pizza and small pasta with salami for the kids, while the grown-ups get to enjoy the delights of do-it-yourself chicken fajitas.

For the budget conscious there are also plenty of surprises in store. Instead of throwing out those old veggies in the crisper, why not transform them into a south Indian vegetable curry feast? Forget about tossing that stale loaf, you can transform it into a to-die-for chocolate chip bread pudding. And have you ever considered buying those cheaper cuts of meat like pork knuckles but didn’t know what to do with them? Nigella knows – braise them in beer and serve them up with apples and potatoes. Yummo!

And if you’ve been craving a vacation but are lacking the funds, why not become a “Kitchen Tourist”? Whether you’re hankering for exotic Asia, mouthwatering Italy or saucy Spain, a holiday for the tastebuds is on its way with Venetian carrot cake smothered with rum mascarpone, cheeky churros with a drool-worthy chocolate dipping sauce, and a lip-smackingly good chicken teriyaki with noodles and sugar snap peas that’s definitely not lost in translation.

Aside from the clever and innovative recipes, the real draw card of this series is the witty, and endearing Nigella, who explains the rewards of the kitchen best in her tasty tome Forever Summer.

“Cooking is not just about applying heat, procedure, method, but about transformation of a more intimate kind; none of us cooks without bringing our own character to bear on the food in front of us.”


This article first appeared in FOXTEL magazine, November 2010

Q&A: Make-up magnate Napoleon Perdis is ready for his close up

Like his famous namesake who took on Europe in the 19th century, make-up mogul Napoleon Perdis is a conqueror in his own right with a worldwide empire which boasts retail stores around the globe and celebrity devotees including everyone from Paula Abdul to Renée Zellweger. Now, in his new reality show, Get Your Face On, he’s taking the next step, putting 12 promising make-up artists through a gruelling series of challenges covering a gamut of styles including bridal, body art, high fashion and even drag, in a bid to find the perfect protégé.

When did you first discover your passion for make-up?

My muse for make-up is my mother. I remember always watching her doing her make-up and getting her face on every day. One day I just said to her, “I want to do your make-up”, and I must have been like 13 or 14, and she let me do it; and I think I made her look like a drag queen (laughs), but she was so proud, she encouraged me. My dad, of course, used to call it “Operation Christmas Tree”!

Where did you get the idea to do your new show Get Your Face On?

I was looking for a protégé, someone who could live up to being creative but could also think. What I wanted to communicate was that make-up is passionate at every level. I believe in [it] not only because I sell it, but because I love it. It’s a form of expression. I never stop working because I don’t look at it like that, it’s my love, it’s my passion.

What are you looking for in a make-up artist?

Someone that shuts up, listens, learns, and has passion. It’s really basic. A make-up artist is part of a team, you are not the leader. In the scheme of things, you are one of many stories that a woman puts together during the day.

What’s the worst mistake a make-up artist can make?

Make-up artists tend to want to try to own the face they’re working on. But it’s not their face, it’s only there for a moment for them to create a story. An architect does one building and it’s there forever, a make-up artist doesn’t, it’s one face and it changes and you move to the next; and you’ve got to be prepared to do that.

What’s it like hosting a television show in Hollywood?

In Hollywood shows like mine are considered small, but by Australian standards it’s gigantic! I have a four-level studio all to myself. I have a personal assistant; I have a dressing room, a make-up room, a chill out room. I have everything, I have my own personal bathroom – it’s very exciting!

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, February 2010

Cheese man Will Studd is a slave to the rind

Whether it’s young and mild or old and mouldy, Will studd, the host of TV show Cheese Slices, is never afraid to give any dairy delight a go. “I think you have to try everything once,” says the British-born Australian-based Master of cheese, who’s spent the last six years on a “global odyssey” tracking down the world’s most unusual varieties for his popular show. “We’ve gone to places that I never would have expected to find really great cheeses.”

In an itinerary which takes in destinations as diverse as Norway, Italy, Denmark, scotland, Wales, France and Germany, Studd uncovers unique cheeses and the fascinating people who dedicate their lives to making them. “It’s such a labour of love, it’s not something you do to make a lot of money,” he says.

Along the way studd has some surprising adventures. In Italy, there’s a traditional truffle hunt in piedmont and a visit to a Dickensian cheese maturing room in sicily; while a jaunt to fantastical Norway reveals both the best and worst cheese of the trip. “Gammelost was one of the most disgusting cheeses I’ve tried in my entire life,” he says of the pungent Norwegian cheese reputed to smell like old socks. however, the sweet, caramel-coloured ghetost was a revelation. “It’s a bit like fudge, but it’s a beautiful sweet goat’s cheese and lovely with coffee.”

Part travelogue and part foodie frolic, Cheese Slices also has another important role to play. “Nobody has ever mapped artisanal cheese,” he says. “At the risk of sounding boring, we are actually recording cheese history.”

This article first appeared in FOXTEL magazine, January 2010

Q&A: Chef Miguel Maestre has gone troppo

We catch up with Boys Weekend chef Miguel Maestre to find out about his hot new show Miguel’s Tropical Kitchen which explores the stunning locations and exotic taste sensations of north Queensland.

This is your first solo hosting gig, are you excited or nervous, or both?

Are you serious?! I get excited just to get up in the morning and make breakfast, I just love cooking! And then I get the chance to host my own show in a place like tropical north Queensland…

What have been some of your favourite spots up north so far?

Some of my favourites were the ones I didn’t expect. I got up at 5:00am one morning to cook breakfast at sunrise at a place called Thala Beach in Port Douglas. We had the whole beach to ourselves and it was absolutely spectacular. We also spent a week filming in an exclusive resort called Elandra in Mission Beach. I had an incredible kitchen by the pool on the cliffs overlooking Dunk Island. I felt more like a rock star than a chef.

Can you tell us some of the delicious recipes you’ll be featuring?

There’s a crayfish risotto with soy sabayon that I cooked on Green Island with one of the biggest crayfish you’ll ever see. I whipped up the lightest yoghurt mousse with chargrilled passionfruit next to the stunning Millaa Millaa waterfalls; there was a bus load of tourist lining up to try that one!

What are some of the more unusual ingredients you’ll be using?

I was blown away by some of the exotic fruit we discovered in tropical north Queensland. There’s one called a black sapote, which tastes just like chocolate pudding. The jackfruit is a huge prickly beast which tastes like a tropical cocktail, and soursop is amazing, like kissing a mermaid from Cuba.



1 massive crayfish 2 eschallots, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1⁄2 stick lemongrass 1⁄2 bunch coriander 100g butter 1 cup arborio rice 200ml fish stock Splash of mirin


Pinch palm sugar 2 egg yolks 1⁄2 cup soy sauce


Portion the crayfish into bite-size pieces with shell on and fry in a very hot pan for two minutes, then set aside. In a medium saucepan sauté the butter, the eschallots, garlic, lemongrass and coriander until soft. Once cooked add the crayfish pieces and sauté all together. Add the rice and slowly add the stock, stirring occasionally until rice is cooked. To finish add a splash of mirin and chopped leaves of coriander.

For the sabayon, cook palm sugar, egg yolks and soy sauce over a bain-marie, stirring with a whisk in a metal bowl until mixture thickens. Then pour over the risotto. And wow!

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, January 2010

Michael Bublé sings the praises of Canada

He’s a multi-platinum, Grammy- Award winning singer who made his fortune by covering jazz standards, but don’t try and put Michael Bublé in a box or he’s sure to bust straight out of it. Case in point is his latest album, Crazy Love, which debuted in the top spot on the US pop charts.

“I’ve fought categorisation like every human being does,” says the 34-year-old Canadian. “But it’s not a very easy thing to do, especially with the media. When they write the article they want to say, ‘Oh it’s Sinatra in sneakers’ or ‘our generation’s guy’ and I get that, but at the same time I can only be me.”

Luckily, it seems that the “me” he’s referring to is a man of diverse talents; and now he’s set to make the most of them by becoming FOXTEL’s ambassador for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. And to say Bublé is pumped about his latest assignment would be putting it mildly. “It’s a great honour, considering I’m a huge fan of Australia,” he says. “I love it very much, and I feel like I’ve been welcomed by the people with open arms, so as a proud Canadian it seems like a genuinely perfect fit for me.”

Bublé’s role as ambassador is set to be a multi-faceted affair. It begins this month with the one-hour special Michael Bublé’s Canada, which sees him acting as a tour guide to our very own Sophie Falkiner, sending her on a whirlwind trip around the country to check out some of his favourite hot spots. While talking to the star, it’s clear he’s as passionate about Canada as he is about his music.

“I’m a proud Vancouverite and a proud Canadian and our country has a lot to offer,” he enthuses. “I think that it’s a great chance for me to show people how diverse it is, and to show people some of the similarities that would make them feel comfortable coming and some of the differences that would make it exciting for them.” During Bublé’s tour, Falkiner takes in everywhere from his hometown Vancouver to Niagara Falls, Whistler, Toronto, Lake Louise and even the French-speaking province of Quebéc in a special that is sure to open Australia’s eyes to all the incredible things Canada has to offer.

“There are so many different beautiful things to see,” he says. “We’re a large country, to get from one side to the other takes a long time and as you pass [through it] you find incredibly different and distinct cultural differences. You can go from watching whales to seeing bears in their natural habitat.”

While Bublé is clearly happy to take us sightseeing, there’s another part to his new role that seems even closer to his heart. A keen ice hockey fan – he even owns his own team, the Vancouver Giants – Bublé is set to jump into the commentators’ box to share his love of the sport at the Winter Games. But don’t expect him to put on his serious hat. “I don’t pretend to be a professional or someone who knows what they’re talking about, I’m just a huge fan of the game, and it’s exciting for me just to let myself go. I get a serious kick out of it!”

When asked what it is about the sport that rings his bell, that excitement comes shining through. “It’s the fastest game on earth. These are men – and women, by the way, play the game as well – travelling 40 and 50km/h at full speed with a heavy disc [puck]. There’s precision passing, there’s beauty, and at the same time it’s an aggressive, tough sport. I believe it’s the most exciting game on the planet.”

But what does he think Australians will make of this unusual game where two teams fly madly across the ice chasing a slippery puck? “Oh, I think the same thing that Canadians make of rugby,” he says, “which is, ‘what a great game. What an exciting, fast, intricate, beautiful game.’”

The fact that the Olympic Winter Games is being held in his hometown also adds an extra thrill, and he’s quick to point out that there’s a lot more than just the ice hockey to grab viewers’ attention. “I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of the snowboarding events, the skiing events, the cross-country, the speed skating – I think everything becomes that much more exciting because there’s such a stake in it, and there’s such national pride.”

Of course, what Bublé fans will be itching to know is if he might actually grace the mic and belt out a few of his trademark tunes during the opening ceremony; but on this topic he’s uncharacteristically tight-lipped. “I hope so,” he says. “That’s all I can say. I would like to very much.”

As the conversation slips back to his music, we speculate about what the future might hold for him, more broadly speaking as an artist, and whether he might find more ways to give that old box the heave-ho once and for all. “I feel very much like the Benjamin Button of music,” he muses. “All the other people start off with punk rock and end up doing standards records. I started with standards records and ended up with pop.”

So, five years from now we might just be listening to a Michael Bublé “thrash metal” album? The quick-witted singer smiles, takes the bait and quips: “Pretty soon as a matter of fact”; and then offers a parting suggestion, “Michael Bublé and Silverchair?”

This article first appeared in FOXTEL magazine, January 2010

Funny business: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better

A valiant effort earned two Aussie writers the chance to make I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better, a cheeky look at the serious side of making comedy.

Back in 2007, writers Sean Condon and Robert Hibbert weren’t flying on much more than a wing and a prayer when they stormed into the screen Producers Association of Australia conference with a clever idea and a five-minute video in their hands. Little did they know that their slap-dash pitch would knock the jaded Comedy Channel executives’ socks off and secure them $25,000 to write a pilot episode.

Two years later, their idea about the goings on behind a TV sketch comedy show has become the real deal, starring actors Colin Lane (of Lano & Woodley fame) and Toby Truslove as thinly-veiled versions of themselves, named Conlon and Hillbert.

“Colin and Toby kind of suck [as us],” says Hibbert with plenty of sarcasm, “but they are bigger names so they got the roles.” “We’ll, we can’t act,” interjects Condon. “It was a bit of a sticking point.”

Their catchy new pilot screens this month, and the duo are keeping fingers and toes firmly crossed this special will springboard into something more than just a one off. “We’re hoping it will become a series,” says Hibbert. “we have a lot more funniness to explore.”

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, December 2009

Italian chef Stefano de Pieri talks cucina rustica

Ready for a mouth-watering meander? Italian chef Stefano de Pieri whisks us down the Murray River to share his fresh and flavoursome food in LifeStyle Food’s Stefano’s Cooking Paradiso – and he spills the beans on the ultimate cheat’s chocolate cake recipe, too.

You’ve been living in Mildura in Victoria for close to 20 years, what do you love about the place?

This place is an inland oasis of great beauty. We have the most extraordinary sunsets, and sunrises that take your breath away.

The region is renowned for its produce, what are some of your favourites?

I’m a big fan of our Murray River salt flakes. They look fantastic and turn eating a simple ripe tomato into a memorable experience. I also enjoy the wide variety of citrus that comes out of our area. I’m fond of blood oranges and mandarins.

What kind of cooking will you be sharing in Stefano’s Cooking Paradiso?

My food’s what I’d call “cucina rustica” [simple, country cooking]. It makes the most of good ingredients and doesn’t play with them too much. Most dishes viewers can do at home, even though I’ll be cooking a lot of them in a very romantic wood-fired oven.

Do you have any simple tips for home cooks?

I find that in general, Australians haven’t quite grasped how wonderful it is to cook with extra virgin olive oil. So, get hold of the best olive oil from your local producer and don’t be shy when pouring it over your food, even after the food has been cooked.

Stefano de Pieri’s Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

This is an amazing cake for cheats. The oil keeps it moist, but instead of real chocolate you use drinking chocolate. Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 20-30 minutes Serves10


7 eggs, separated 1 cup castor (superfine) sugar 125ml extra virgin olive oil 1 cup self-raising flour, sifted 1 3/4 cups drinking chocolate (not cocoa), sifted 125ml (1/2 cup) warm water 1/4 cup sugar when beating egg whites


Preheat the oven to 180o C (350o f) Beat egg yolks with castor sugar until fluffy. If the mixture tends to be thick, add 1 tablespoon of warm water. This will help the mixture turn fluffy again. With the beater on medium speed add the olive oil, bit by bit, like making mayonnaise. Add dry ingredients to the mixture on low speed and beat until all combined. Add the water. Whip the egg whites until thick, add the sugar and beat until it dissolves. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl and gently but swiftly fold in the egg whites. When well combined pour into a greased 23cm cake tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked.

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, October 2009

Kitchen queen Margaret Fulton turns 85

She was the first Aussie food writer who dared us to be different. We catch up with the delightful doyenne of Australian cooking, Margaret Fulton, as The lifeStyle Channel assembles an all-star cast to celebrate her 85th birthday.

What was it like looking back on your life for a show like this? 

When I look back the only thing I remember is that when I started doing food everyone thought I was crazy.

Obviously you didn’t have celebrity superstar chefs back then…

Oh, heavens no! It was a totally different world. It was during the war, so all the girls I knew wanted to get a nice American who would give them silk stockings and get married.

So why do you think you were different to them?

I think I was a sort of a funny person in that I often went against the grain. My mother was very supportive and I just found that it was fascinating doing this, doing food.

What caused Australian food tastes to move on from the traditional meat and three veg?

During the Second World War, women started working in factories. You know, you might be canning peaches and there would be a lovely Italian girl next to you who was also canning peaches [laughs] and the Italians would say, “What are you having for dinner tonight?” And they’d be having exciting things, and the [Australian’s would think], “Oh why can’t I cook that for dinner?”

So Australian women were ready for something new?

Yes! We come from adventurous stock. You see, things like this didn’t happen in America and didn’t happen in England. Communities are still cooking the way they’ve always cooked. They haven’t absorbed other methods of cooking, whereas in Australia we’re a sort of a give-it-a-go country.

What excites you about Australian cooking today?

I thought that Masterchef was marvellous. My cardiac specialist has put in a kitchen and he wanted a steamer and he wanted this and that and I kept thinking, “Why don’t you stick to what you know?” [laughs]. And that’s what pleases me more than what the chefs in different restaurants are doing; the fact that the Australian public are doing this, that professional people in other fields are turning to cooking.

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, October 2009

Q&A: Cook Anna Gare on beating the boys

The Best In Australia is back for another season and cook Anna Gare has only one aim: to outdo the two chefs and be number one.

When did you first start cooking?

I went to a groovy little alternative school and we didn’t have a canteen, and I decided that we needed one – so I made one. And then I was in a rock’n’roll band (The Jam Tarts) at 13 and while we were touring we were always in hotel rooms, and I was always making up recipes.

Did you ever do a cooking course?

I really wanted to do an apprenticeship, but I couldn’t because we were always going on tour. [But] while I was in the band I always worked in restaurants, because I had to subsidise my income.

What’s your cooking philosophy?

I don’t like to mess with food too much I guess. I just love fresh, beautiful, clean food.

What’s on the menu for series three?

There are great themes. Everything from best burger and best bang-for- your buck to best ’70s dish. We also have celebrity judges this time.

Like who?

One of my favourite groups was the sportsmen. We had famous athletes and they’re just so honest, fantastic and funny.

Ben won series one, Darren won The Best In Australia series two, is it your turn to shine?

I’d just like to remind you that it has been very close for me [in the last two series] and I have come second!

Would you call yourself competitive?

I’ve always wanted to beat the boys, A) because I’m a girl, and just because I want to have the pleasure of beating the boys for all the girls out there, and B) because I’m not a chef, and you don’t have to be a chef, it’s just all about making yummy food.

Is there anything you’ve picked up from the guys?

Just not being afraid. Try anything!

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, August 2009

Q&A: Project Runway Australia’s Henry Roth gives the season 2 scoop

Henry Roth (above left) with fellow Project Runway Australia judges

Last time, it was the floaty and feminine frocks of Juli Grbac that charmed host Kristy Hinze and the judges to nab Project Runway Australia’s top spot. Who will be this year’s sartorial star? We get the scoop from Henry Roth, designer and mentor to the 12 wannabes vying for the ultimate prize – a coveted spot at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week.

What can we expect this series?

We’ve got some incredible challenges and guest judges. There is more bitching, more tension, more creativity and there are many more tears!

Tell us about the designers…

They are much more savvy, much more competitive and hard-nosed, because they know what’s at stake. This group unequivocally has a higher skill set than the group before.

What kinds of personalities will we see in the work room?

There are super-sized egos. For some, still waters run deep, for others, a total flamboyance. I’m seeing substance and deep contemplation. I’m seeing dramatic characters, but all in the context of one important thing, which is they’ve got to deliver, and they are delivering!

Any friction during filming you can divulge to us yet?

There has been a bit of ganging up [over one judgement]. The person they thought should have been out really copped it.

Is it hard to stay impartial?

No, it’s not, because every person that is in Project Runway Australia has been squeezed from the very freshest and best talent there is, so I am dealing with some of the top 12 up-and-coming designers in this country, and they deserve my equal respect, attention and passion for their fashion!

Do you ever blow your top?

As fun as I can be, I can be pretty tough as well, and I won’t accept it in my work room. So all I can say is watch out designers!

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, July 2009

Q&A: 4 Ingredients cuisine queen Rachael Bermingham

4 Ingredients hosts Rachael Bermingham (left) and Kim McCosker 

The busy Queensland cuisine queens behind the massively successful 4 Ingredients cookbooks return with a second series on The LifeStyle Channel. We catch up with Rachael Bermingham (left) to learn why 4 Ingredients is all you need.

Why 4 ingredients?

It’s as refined to the bone as we could get without compromising on taste and quality. If we could have written a book called 2 Ingredients we would have.

Who do you think 4 Ingredients appeals to?

Every busy person on the planet! It is for food fanatics who love food and who are inspired by interesting ideas. It shows people how they can quickly whip something up in a fast and fabulous way without breaking the bank.

How do you explain the success of the show?

It’s lots of fun, it’s light-hearted. It makes getting in the kitchen a fun experience rather than a chore.

Why should people watch the show and not just buy the book?

You can walk past the telly and see how to make mushroom risotto and think ‘I’ve got those ingredients in my cupboard I might do that now’. It’s just for that spur of the moment stuff which is fantastic.

What will be different about the second series?

There’s a lot more cooking, there’s a lot more recipes per show which is fantastic. And we’re covering recipes from both our books and our new one which isn’t even released yet.

What are your top 4 ingredients?

Definitely rice, because that will go with any vegetable. I love using sour cream, it’s really versatile. And I like to have some self-raising flour or plain flour. And the fourth ingredient is whatever vegetable you’ve got living in the fridge.

What do you like about the show?

I’m a really visual person. I love the show, because you can see these recipes being put into action. I mean, you hear about how to make a fruit cake with three ingredients, but you can’t believe it could be done until you’ve see it.

Here’s how to make a classic sponge cake, the 4 Ingredients’ way:


4 eggs (room temperature)

3⁄4 cup caster sugar

3⁄4 cup self-raising flour, sifted 5 times

Dash vanilla essence


Preheat oven to 210C. Beat eggs and sugar with an electric beater for 15 minutes, add vanilla just before beating completes.

Gently fold in flour with a spatula until combined.

Line a lamington tin with baking paper and place in oven, bake for approximately 14 minutes.

Remove, cool, cut in half and serve with jam and freshly whipped cream either as a single layer or double. (Hint: During the cooking of a cake, if the top starts to over-brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.)

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, May 2009


Peter Moon: Whatever Happened To That Guy?

The career of Fast Forward funnyman Peter Moon has waxed and waned, but now the Aussie comedian is back in the driver’s seat as the creator and star of his new sitcom, Whatever Happened To That Guy? We catch up with him as he embarks on the greatest role of his career – playing himself!

Back in the early ’90s Peter Moon was on top of the world as one of the stars of Fast Forward, a show that was arguably the most successful Australian sketch comedy series ever. Remember Victor, the “unattractive” Russian newsreader and Abdul, Steve Vizard’s “Fakari” rug-selling sidekick? These were just some of the iconic characters that Moon made his own.

Although a successful long-running radio gig followed after the show wrapped, his fellow Fast Forward alumni were moving on to bigger and better things and he found himself slipping off the radar. The lowest point came when Moon was sacked from his radio show and had to sell his house. “Suddenly I felt like, what’s going on? I was sort of doing really well and now I’m almost persona non grata.”

He says he soon became someone that people half-recognised and, even worse, thoughtlessly insulted. “People would come up and say, ‘I think you’re hilarious, I think you’re as funny as…’ And then they’d name someone who you didn’t think was funny at all.”

Flash forward to the present day and now Moon is having the last laugh with What Happened To That Guy? a sitcom based on his life, but with “all the bad things turned up to 11”. In this hilarious new show viewers will meet a selfish ex-B-lister who refuses to acknowledge that he’s no longer a star.

Inspired by Seinfeld creator Larry David’s hit show Curb Your Enthusiasm, Whatever Happened To That Guy? features a who’s who of Australian comic favourites including Michael Veitch, Red Symons and Russell Gilbert, all playing fictional versions of themselves. And Moon is thrilled he’s no longer the “second banana”. “It was just great for me to be working with people that I really liked on something. It was fantastic. It was better than winning the lottery!”

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, May 2009

Q&A: Katey Sagal on Sons Of Anarchy

She won fans as housewife Peggy Bundy in hit sitcom Married… With Children, now Katey Sagal explores the dark side of motherhood as a motorcycle-club matriarch in the new series Sons Of Anarchy.

Your role as Gemma Teller Morrow in Sons Of Anarchy was written for you by your husband, Kurt Sutter, is that right?

Yes, that’s correct. He said, “I have a part in it that I want you to play”, but he didn’t really tell me what it was. I knew that it took place in the motorcycle world and I thought it was a fantastic part when I read it. I was looking to do something more dramatic and this is definitely more dramatic [laughs].

She’s a real piece of work isn’t she? What did you like about her?

At the end of the day, Gemma would do whatever it takes to protect her family, her son as well as her club – which is part of her extended family. She’s like the queen bee. So I liked that about her. She’s a “scrapper” you know? She’s somebody that has probably had to make her way most of her life just on her wits.

How does being a mother yourself help you relate to her?

I have a very strong maternal instinct. I mean, you wouldn’t want to cross my children. I don’t think I’d put a gun to your head like Gemma might, but, you know, anybody who’s got children can relate to that.

Has it been fun playing her?

Oh yeah, she’s very fun. You know, we all have dark impulses, all human beings do. So it’s fun to explore them in a very upfront-and-centre kind of way.

Were you worried at all about how audiences would respond to her after Peggy Bundy?

I wasn’t worried. I think people know that this is just one character. And I don’t think anybody is going to go, “Oh no, she can’t do that”. I think people are smarter than that.

How do you think Australians will respond to the show?

I think Australians will very much like this show. It has a spirit. What I know of Australians – they’re a spirited bunch. I love Australians; I don’t know why I think it will be a good fit. I just think it will be.

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, April 2009

Q&A: Renee Bargh on her B430 bucket list

Channel [V]’s Renee Bargh (left) with her co-B430 hosts

Before you turn 30 the world is your oyster – but where do you start? Channel [V]’s B430 solves the conundrum, and kicks off by unearthing the world’s coolest must-do music festivals. We catch up with Renee Bargh, one of the show’s team of globe-trotting VJs. to learn more about making the most of life “B4” the thirties hit.

What was the idea behind B430?

Basically, it’s a really fun look at how to travel before you turn 30, and how to visit all the best festivals around the world.

What does this show have to offer the under-30 crowd?

It’s a great show travel-wise, because it is showing kids the best ways to get overseas to these amazing festivals, and how to do it on a budget [or] if you’ve got the money.

Which festival did you check out?

The Sziget festival in Budapest, and it was absolutely incredible. It’s on an island, and it’s one of those crazy European festivals where everything that you ever dreamt of is there.

What crazy stuff did you see?

There was a counselling tent, a fortune-reading tent and a wedding tent – people where getting married there! There was a hire tent where people were hiring a mum for the day or a masseuse or whatever they wanted. There was bungy jumping and a massive flying fox… it was very cool.

What do you think is the best thing about being under 30?

You can just live your life and have fun. After you’re 30 you might not want to camp with half a million people on an island, going to a festival where there are crazy Europeans running around half naked, you know?

What do you think is a must-do for people before they turn 30?

Well, I jumped out of a plane – but I don’t recommend that! Everyone that says they need to go skydiving before they die is really insane. But I think just travel. And definitely go to a music festival in Europe, because there is nothing that compares [to it].

What haven’t you done yet that you want to try before you’re 30?

I would love to go backpacking around Europe. My parents live in Nepal, and I’ve been there a couple of times and I’ve done some trekking, but I want to tackle the Mount Everest base camp before I turn 30.

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, March 2009

Entourage’s Adrian Grenier goes green with Alter Eco

Meet the green “alter eco” of Entourage star Adrian Grenier as he shows us how easy it is to save the planet without skimping on sustainable style!

Adrian Grenier’s fans are used to seeing him as the super-smooth Hollywood actor Vincent Chase living large in LA in the show Entourage, but many may be surprised to discover that in real life Grenier is, well, a bit of a greenie. Brought up by his “flowerchild” mother, Greiner was exposed to alternative lifestyles from an early age, so perhaps it’s no surprise that he feels an earthy connection with the world. “I’ve always had an appreciation for health food and recognising the importance of taking care of one’s own environment,” says Grenier.

Now Grenier has put his money where his mouth is as executive producer and host of The LifeStyle Channel’s exciting new 13- part series, Alter Eco. The title refers to the “side of us that wants to do the right thing, but in a fun, exciting, energetic, creative way,” he says. Part greenie handbook and part sustainability makeover show, Alter Eco promises to give a much-needed image lift to the environmental cause.

Every green guru needs a sidekick and in this case Grenier’s got a whole “green team” to help him save the planet. There’s eco-builder Darren Moore; online activist Boise Thomas; Angela Lindvall, the model with an eye for environmentally kind fashion; and last, but certainly not least, is Rick Byrd, the real estate developer who Grenier describes as “the Fonz of the crew”. Together they give Grenier’s 1920s Spanish home a dazzling eco facelift, offering advice as well as introducing viewers to eco-friendly paint, food, clothes, furnishings and even surfboards.

Always the optimist, Grenier believes the key to saving the world lies in all of us making different choices. “We have to make sure that we invest in the new technologies, in the new innovations, which will actually give us the same luxuries, but just in a more futuristic, high-tech way so that it’s not as wasteful.”

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, March 2009

Fare Play: Charlie Pickering jumps into the Cash Cab driver’s seat

There’s a new cabbie in the driver’s seat of Channel [V]’s Cash Cab. Meet Charlie Pickering, trivia tragic and man of the people

Try telling the new host of Cash Cab, comedian Charlie Pickering, that trivia is… well… trivial, and you might get more trouble than you bargained for. “People like inviting me to pub trivia nights because I know all the music questions,” he says. “But I get so competitive that, about halfway through the night, they really regret bringing me along.”

So it’s just as well he’s the one asking the questions on the show where contestants stand to take home a surprise windfall just by hailing a taxi on the streets of Perth. “It’s a great chance to have random people get in and be totally taken by surprise,” says Pickering of Australia’s first quiz show on wheels. “To someone who’s just got in a cab, it’s a pretty amazing bonus to win a couple of thousand bucks and a Nintendo on the way to wherever they are going.”

Pickering says the toughest part of the gig is the three-strikes rule, where contestants hit the curb if they get three questions wrong. “Oh, it’s heartbreaking. Heartbreaking,” he says. “We had these two 18-year-old girls and they were lovely, but they knew nothing. I kicked them out and felt so bad.”

And he’s keen to draw on his acclaimed stand-up comedy roots, creating a hilarious cabbie character. “He’s got an accent and we don’t know exactly what the accent is. And he likes to ask weird hypothetical questions of the people who get in the cab,” he chuckles.

But for him it’s the characters that he meets that make his new job so amazing. “We had three professional wrestlers as passengers and they were enormous guys – they barely fit in the cab. But they were the nicest, most fun- loving guys; like they’d win 20 bucks and they would lose their minds.”

This article first appeared in OPTUS magazine, December 2008

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson on making music together

When husband-and-wife duo Shane Nicholson and Kasey Chambers sat down last year and began writing songs together, their attitude was “we’ll just see where it takes us,” says Chambers. Both were already accomplished songwriters in their own right, with Chambers, in particular, a huge presence in country music circles, having notched up three consecutive platinum solo albums. They were feeling relaxed, in love and excited about making beautiful music together.

“We didn’t really tell many people that we were making a record and we didn’t have a record label at the time, so we had no pressure from anywhere,” she says. “And living with someone you’re writing with takes the pressure off, because you don’t have to have something finished by the end of that day.”

But there was one big stumbling block in their path – the writing process itself. “I used to think differently about song- writing. For me, it used to be not so much about the craft, as it was a therapy session. If I was feeling down or confused about something, or just had stuff on my mind, I would sit down and write a song instead of talking to someone.”

Luckily, Nicholson came to the rescue with a new approach. “We had to step outside of ourselves and not write from such an internal point of view,” he says. “We had to verbalise everything we were thinking, and it made it easier to come up with characters.”

Chambers was thrilled with the result and relieved to discover that song-writing could be something much lighter than she’d previously experienced. “It was really fun to learn from Shane, (mostly) about the actual craft… I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t quite so depressing!”

Still, working in a domestic setting posed its own logistical challenges. “We were writing around screaming children,” laughs Chambers. “We were like, ‘You’ve got to drop the kids off at school and then we’ll come back and finish the song’.”

Miraculously, in spite of life’s little obstacles, they managed to write, record and release their ‘rootsy’ first album, Rattlin’ Bones, all within the span of one year. It’s an amazing achievement in itself, but what surprised Chambers even more was the public’s response to it. “I can’t believe that this album debuted at number one [on the ARIA charts]. I mean, that’s pretty weird for an album of this style.”

But the couple certainly aren’t complaining. Coming off the back of a nation-wide tour supporting the album, they’re about to share the stage for a special performance of The MAX Sessions, filmed at the Opera House and screening exclusively on MAX in August. “I’ve played The MAX Sessions before, and I just loved it,” smiles Chambers. “It’s still one of the best gigs that I’ve ever done.”

And she’s looking forward to taking to the stage in spite of any nerves that a live television recording of this scale might create. “TV things usually freak me out, but at least if you’ve got a live audience you think about them and you don’t think about the cameras.”

Another big plus for Chambers is the concert-style format of The MAX Sessions. “A lot of times when you do TV you get to play one or two songs and then that’s it, but with The MAX Sessions you get to play a whole set of music.”

Most thrilling of all for Chambers is the achievement of a long cherished goal that the two have had since this album’s inception.“We didn’t know if we were going to get many opportunities on a record quite like this one, but we said, ‘If we get to do one thing, can we please try our hardest to get The MAX Sessions, ’cause it just feels like this record would really suit that style of gig’. So we’re really looking forward to it.”

This article first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, August 2008

Gossip Girls: Judi Dench and the cast of UKTV drama Cranford

“It’s all go at Cranford,” exclaims the kind-hearted spinster Miss Matty Jenkyns (Judi Dench) to the town’s newest addition, the self-described “indiscreet and incautious” Miss Mary Smith (Lisa Dillon).

Ironically, Smith has just arrived from the bustling metropolis of Manchester to the tiny town of Cranford, which provides the backdrop for UKTV’s lavish new 19th-century period drama of the same name. But true to Miss Matty’s word, Cranford is far from the sleepy hollow that one might expect. Rather, it is a happening hive of gossip, speculation and intrigue where anyone’s business is in fact everyone’s and a good rumour travels faster than a rat up a drainpipe.

A comedy of Victorian manners wrapped up in the guise of an engaging social drama, Cranford is based on the plots and characters created by Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. A lesser-known contemporary of Dickens and biographer Charlotte Brontë.

Gaskell had a keen eye for the humour inherent in the social morays of the era. But unlike her literary predecessor Jane Austen, who was widely lauded for her biting social commentary, Gaskell was actually much better acquainted with the realities of life for the lower and middle classes. “She had a broader spectrum of life than Austen, says Eileen Atkins, who lays Miss Matty’s sister and the town’s moral conscience, Deborah Jenkyns. “She did actually work among the poor.”

Judi Dench, a best actress nominee along with Atkins for her work in Cranford at this year’s BAFTAs (she was trumped by Atkins on the night), fondly remembers the works of Gaskell from her childhood. “Recently, a neighbour lent me a copy [of Cranford]. It was just like the little red copy that I read at school with a raised portrait of Mrs Gaskell in the corner,” says Dench. “I remember I used to lick my finger and press it against that raised  oval and have the outline of her on my thumb. I remember that so terribly well, and I’ve loved coming back to the novel again.”

With its quaint customs and old fashioned insights, Simon Woods – who plays the brash new young doctor – believes that many viewers will find themselves tuning in to Cranford to escape the modern world. “If you look at the TV schedules these days, there is always some kind of loud character swearing in the middle of it all. We live in an ‘F-word’ world. Programs like Cranford are different… In all the loudness of modern life, period drama quietly reminds us of our lost values.”

But this five-part adaptation, created by the team who brought you the acclaimed BBC series Pride And Prejudice and Wives And Daughters, is far more than simply a flashback to a more ‘civilised’ past. “Cranford is light and funny and yet packs a real emotional punch,” explains executive producer Kate Harwood. “It is a complex portrait of a real town. On top of that are these delicious characters with this absolutely brilliant cast – it’s a winning combination all round.”

This article first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, November 2008

Q&A: Behind the scenes with Bryan Cranston from cult TV hit Breaking Bad

Walter White is having a midlife crisis that’s like a rash – it’s spreading. Already struggling to make ends meet, when the high school chemistry teacher finds out he has terminal cancer, he does the unthinkable – he teams up with the local drug dealer to start cooking crystal meth.

We catch up with former Malcolm In The Middle star Bryan Cranston to find out what life is like on the dark side as he takes on the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad series one.

What attracted you to this project?

The thing that leaps out at you about Breaking Bad is the script. Surprisingly most scripts that actors get are not well written, so when you do stumble across one that is you go after it like a tiger.

The comedy in this show is very dark. Was it hard to get the balance right?

Comedy is a very subjective thing, and there are some people who will watch the show and not really get that there are moments sprinkled throughout the episodes that really are intended to be lighter or humorous… A lot of times [in real life] you have two people at a cafe and on the street they’ll see someone trip over a sidewalk and fall down. And one person will crack up laughing and the other person will be aghast, ‘Oh that’s horrible!’ They just witnessed the exact same thing, and one person’s laughing and the other’s not. And it just goes to show you how different we are and how differently we’re wired as human beings.

Was it important for the audience to like Walt from the beginning?

Well, I think the whole series hinged on Walt being likeable and if he wasn’t the series is over. And Vince (Gilligan, Breaking Bad’s creator) and I talked about it at length, [and we decided that we had to] make him real and set the circumstances, the conditions of his life so people can relate to them, and if he handles that in an honest way I think people will like him.

It seems like shows where we empathise with the ‘bad’ guys are on the increase. Why do you think this trend towards darker heroes is happening now?

I think what’s finally happened is we have now come to embrace characters as we would embrace our own humanity. It used to be if you’re a good guy, then you’re a good guy all the way and every trait about you is good and that’s too black-and-white. Ultimately I think people realise that’s a fantasy world, and in the real world we have much more of a colour palette to deal with… By having the courage to show that, you get more people relating to what they’re seeing.

Do you think this show proves that anyone will do anything if they are desperate enough?

I do think that there are people who, if pushed in a corner, become extremely dangerous, and they can be the most mild-mannered type of person you’d ever know. I think anyone pushed to their limits could be a dangerous person and that’s what’s fascinating about this story.

Turning a mild-mannered man into someone who makes and sells drugs could be interpreted by some as dangerous territory. How do you respond to the show’s critics?

We were talking about the comedy earlier… if you choose to laugh, fine; if you get angry at us, fine; if you accuse us of promoting crystal meth, that’s your opinion as well. I can dispute that and defend that we’re not doing that, but it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous work in the sense that it’s emotionally dangerous, and danger is always exciting [laughs]. Danger is my middle name.

This article first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, August 2008

Q&A: Wrong & Wronger – comedy kings Merrick & Rosso

Merrick & Rosso return to the place where it all began for them, The Comedy Channel, with The Merrick & Rosso Show.

You did Planet Merrick And Rosso with the Comedy Channel back in 1997. Does your new show feel like a home coming?

M: In some ways it does, because the first television we ever did together was on The Comedy Channel. And I’ve still got a coffee cup that they paid me with for my first week – because they didn’t have money in those days they used to pay you in merchandise.

What have you got planned for the new show?

M: It’s in our nature with the type of work we do to be a little bit cheeky and prankstery, so that will be an element of it. But we’re also looking forward to having a studio with a live audience in it, because obviously we really enjoy an audience.

How is it different, having a live audience?

R: The audience just tend to give you permission to shine.

M: Like that song.

R: Yeah, Permission To Shine. They give you the impetus to take things to different places, and the encouragement to push things further, and we’ve always responded very well to that. But it is truly the first time that you’ll get a sense of the energy of our live show. We haven’t been able to capture that before in a TV show, so hopefully this time we really will.

You’re going to have celebrity guests on the show. Who have you got lined up so far?

R: Well, no one yet. Lots of people have said yes, but until we actually see them in the studio I won’t believe it.

M: Yeah, like George Clooney, he’s going to get back to me apparently.

R: There are a few people we’ve talked to who’ve said they’d like to come on, people like Hugh Jackman and Keith Urban, and we hope that their schedules mean that they can.

So what kind of things are you going to get these guests to do?

R: It depends on who they are, or what they do. If they happen to be really good at riding horses or something we might go horse riding with them.

M: Or not – actually that’s probably more likely if they don’t like going horse riding.

R: Imagine if we had Cameron Diaz in town and we’d go, ‘OK Cameron, we’re going off and you’re going to learn how to shoot a bazooka. And if you manage to blow up that tree 50 metres away, we’ll give a thousand dollars to a small family in Ethiopia… ‘There’s a lot of pressure on her for that, but ultimately a tree dies and a family lives.

You’ve been together for a long time, does it feel a bit like a marriage?

M: Yeah, it does.

R: Yeah, since we stopped having sex it feels exactly like a marriage.

So the honeymoon phase is over?

M&R: Yep.

M: Well, now it’s probably less like a marriage because there’s this extended thing that we call wives.

Do you ever talk about breaking up?

M: We do, but just not with each other.

This interview first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, July 2008



Project Runway Australia host Kristy Hinze settles in for a stitch and bitch

Fabulous frocks are whipped up at a moment’s notice using the sparest of materials, and creative tensions erupt under the tighest of budgets. Welcome to the sartorial splendour of Project Runway, where aspiring designers are “either in or out”, and solid television gold is made.

Now, at last, the popular US program gets its eagerly anticipated Australian twist as Project Runway launches a home-grown version. Based in Australia’s style-central, Melbourne, no one is more excited about the launch of the show than the newly anointed host, Aussie model Kristy Hinze.

“You get hooked on watching it,” says Hinze, who’s a huge fan of the top-rating program hosted by German supermodel Heidi Klum on ARENA TV. “It’s hard to believe that someone can make a dress out of a bunch of leaves and flowers, and get it on to a catwalk and it actually looks fantastic – it’s just amazing!”

Hinze is thrilled that this opportunity has landed in her lap. “It’s such an honour to be able to do this show… I hope people get addicted to it the way I am to the American one,” she says.

Boasting a talented bunch of 12 “cute and quirky” designers and fashionistas with a variety of experience and areas of expertise, they’ll be put through their paces by an esteemed judging panel of industry insiders, including the hot and oh so ‘hip’ Australian darling of design Jayson Brunsdon.

“He’s just an incredible Australian designer who is really forging his way overseas in New York, London and Singapore,” she says. “He is doing extremely well, and he’s one of our biggest talents, so we’re really excited to have him on board.”

Also climbing aboard the Project Runway express is New-York based bridal designer Henry Roth, who has big shoes to fill with the mentor role that’s been performed so memorably by style guru Tim Gunn in the American series. Gunn’s ‘make it work’ motto has become a mantra for the US contestants and fans of the show.

The judging panel will be rounded out by the no-nonsense nous of fashion forecaster Sarah Gale, who’s worked as a buyer for some of Australia’s biggest retail chains. “I think she’s going to bring a really great element of more commercial design – things that will sell – and she really knows what she’s talking about,” says Hinze.

Though Hinze is tight-lipped about the exact design challenges the group will face, she hints that they “will reflect the Australian lifestyle and the Australian people… There’s going to be a lot of stuff that is really going to push them creatively and like the American show, we’re going to give them very little time to do it and very little resources.”

But the prizes on offer are sure to inspire and make any would-be designer drool. “They get a 2008 Fiat 500, a six-page fashion spread in Madison magazine and the opportunity to design and showcase their own collection to the value of $100,000 at the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2009. So they are all pretty excited about that.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be Project Runway without special guests and fashion icons dropping by. “We’re going to keep it as a little bit of a surprise, but we will have some fabulous guests on, ranging from really big designers to celebrities.”

Meanwhile the six guys and girls who will fight it out for couture supremacy are getting used to their new über-cool address. “They are living at a fabulous apartment complex in the new Docklands area [in Melbourne]… They aren’t doing it too hard at the moment,” laughs Hinze.

But once the show gains momentum the claws are sure to come out. “They are all high-fiving each other and are really friendly now, but when it starts getting down to people leaving the show, and they start realising that this is a competition, I think we’ll start to see a lot of their personalities clash. I hope they are getting their sleep before it really kicks in because they are going to need it. They are going to be put through the ringer over the next twelve weeks.”

This article first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, July 2008 

Jimmy Barnes gets Up Close And Personal

Over the years Jimmy Barnes has had more hits than just about any other Aussie artist, and he holds the record for the most number one albums in a row to prove it. This month Barnes features in two great programs, Jimmy Barnes: Up Close And Personal on Ovation and as a co-host on MAX’S pop-culture panel show The Know.

For a man who’s already reached living-legend status he’s incredibly down- to-earth. “I’ve just always connected with people,” says Barnes. “As much as I feel like I can relate to somebody who works in a car factory… I feel like I can relate to the best singers in the world. I don’t think they are any better than me or I’m any worse than them, and it’s the same with people in general.”

Such humble words are surprising considering he’s had a career that many would envy, having started in the ’70s as the frontman for what would become our biggest ever pub band, Cold Chisel, then moving on to massive success as a solo artist.

But things haven’t always been plain sailing for Barnes. The ’90s in particular proved to be a difficult time, beset with financial trouble. But the experience proved to be a wake-up call.

“I got rid of everything and paid off my debts. I sat back and I had nothing, [but] I had my voice and I had my family. And it made me realise that they were the only things that were really important to me.”

More recently he’s turned another corner after undergoing major heart surgery last year. Refusing to lay idle while recovering, he found “a new sense of urgency”, and set to work writing songs. The result is a new album, Out In The Blue, which features songs that he believes are his best ever. “I sat down and I got out the emotions that I wanted to put into an album. So from a songwriting point of view, I think they’re the best songs I’ve ever written.”

If Barnes is feeing inspired, it’s a much purer force that’s driving his creativity these days, after a well-documented battle with drugs and alcohol. “My kids inspire me now. My daughter [E-J] is touring with Neil Finn’s son [Liam]. They’re making really interesting records… it’s sort of a genetic progression. The kids are like upgraded software.”

After over thirty years of singing everything from rock, to blues, and soul, you would think that finding new ground to break would prove challenging, but Barnes is full of ideas. “Well I haven’t really done a country record yet. I think that really great country music is like white people’s soul music… it means a lot to us socially and emotionally. I also want to do an album of traditional Australian songs in the sense of The Wild Colonial Boy and Waltzing Matilda; there are a million songs like that [which] haven’t surfaced. I know there are lots of songs that the Scottish and Irish sailors brought over. It’s a real part of Australian history.”

Then there’s the possibility that he might team up again with mate and musician Neil Finn after their successful collaboration Blue Hotel on his latest album. “Neil wants me to do an album of ‘crooner’ ballads… So who knows that might happen.”

Is there anything he won’t do? “I think it’s pretty safe to say I wont do a jazz record, ’cause I can’t scat.”

As for the perfect duet, considering he’s already sung with such greats as Tina Turner and John Farnham, is there anyone else he’s keen to share the mike with? “Oh, Aretha Franklin, I’d love to do one with Aretha.”

And who knows, considering his boundless energy and seemingly endless enthusiasm, it certainly seems that if you are Jimmy Barnes, anything is possible.

This article first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, May 2008

Tears and tantrums on Australia’s Next Top Model with Jodhi Meares

The claws are out, the stilettos are sharpened and the pouts are primed to perfection as Australia’s Next Top Model returns for series four.

Imagine jetsetting around the world clothed in the finest fashion as you rub shoulders with the A-list – then imagine moving into a house with 12 other girls who want that just as badly as you, and are prepared to fight for it. That’s the high-stakes world of FOX8’s hit reality show Australia’s Next Top Model.

Here the supermodels are separated from the wannabes through a series of gruelling model challenges that serve to show exactly which girl has what it takes to be the next Kate Moss on the cutthroat catwalks of the world. While the weekly winner progresses to the next round and scores fantastic prizes, the loser faces elimination from the house.

In series three, the long and lanky Alice Burdeu amazed the judges as she survived the bitchy catfights and blitzed the challenges to be crowned Australia’s Next Top Model – and now she’s strutting her stuff on the catwalks of New York.

Former model, swimsuit designer and glamour-puss host Jodhi Meares is thrilled by the quality of the talent this time around. “Alice has really raised the bar in terms of the casting when we travel. We’re amazed at the calibre of girls that turn up,” says Jodhi.

But what everyone is really dying to know is the catty credentials of this year’s contestants. “They’re extremely cheeky,” laughs Jodhi. “They’re all gorgeous for different reasons and they’re very different. It’s a really eclectic group.”

As the girls get comfy in their palatial Sydney waterside mansion, their individual personalities start to emerge. “You get the alpha personalities that come out straight away. Where one might have a strength the other might have a weakness and that’s what the challenges are about. You get to see where they excel and where they don’t.”

The pressure-cooker environment pushes the girls to emotional extremes – and the result? “Plenty of fights, plenty of tantrums. They’re sort of an hourly event I think. They’re under quite a bit of pressure and at the end of the day they’re still only kids, they’re babies.”

This season the show’s format gets a revamp with the departure of photographer Jez Smith. Now, judges Alex Perry, Charlotte Dawson and Jodhi Meares will be joined by a different top fashion photographer on the panel each week. Guest judges include Vogue’s Kirstie Clements, make-up king Napoleon Perdis, and a host of celebrity guests including everyone’s favourite fashionable Olympian Ian Thorpe, shoe designer Mary-Kyri and catwalk coach Mink Sadowski. And Jonathan Pease is back as the girls’ trusty mentor.

Not only do the girls get great goodies each week, the winner’s prizes are a paparazzi princess’ dream come true. “They’re wonderful… An eight-page editorial in Vogue, the face of Napoleon Perdis’ brand, and a car – you know these girls are spoilt rotten,” giggles Jodhi.

With such hot talent and fierce competition, Jodhi admits choosing the winner is tough. “I guess the girl who can prove that she can do it all is ultimately the girl who will win.”

This article first appeared in AUSTAR magazine, April 2008



Q&A: Ewen Leslie on Riflemind

Ewen Leslie from the cast of Andrew Upton’s Riflemind talks to Australian Stage’s Helen Barry about every actor’s ultimate dream job – working with director, Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and star Hugo Weaving, in this year’s most anticipated STC production.Actor Ewen Leslie from the cast of Andrew Upton’s Riflemind talks to Australian Stage’s Helen Barry about every actor’s ultimate dream job – working with the director, Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and star Hugo Weaving, in this year’s most anticipated STC production.

So when did you first hear about Riflemind and how did you come to be cast in it?

I heard about a year ago, when the brochure came out and it said that Hugo Weaving was going to be doing a show that Andrew Upton had written and Philip Seymour Hoffman was directing.

I think just about everyone thought – well, no one knew what it was going to be about – and I didn’t even know that there was going to be a role in there, but I think like most actors I thought the goal would be getting an audition for it. To meet him and work with him for ten minutes or whatever.

Then at the end of last year, around December, I found out that they were seeing a group of guys and that I had managed to be part of the group of guys that were going in.

Then I went in, I think in early January and auditioned for him, which was really cool and that was pretty much it. I remember leaving the audition and just going “I didn’t make an idiot out of myself.” But I wasn’t thinking it was great, it wasn’t great, but it was good enough and that was fine.

I was living with a guy at the time who said “well, you’ve already won, you’ve got the audition,” so I figured that was it. I did the audition and I met him. Then I got a call the next day saying that I was on hold for the job and I was in Newtown and I started jumping around in the street!

Then I had to wait two weeks while he made up his mind. Then I got a call saying I got the job at the end of January.

So was it different auditioning for a director who happens to be an Oscar winning actor?

I guess the weirdest thing is a lot of the time when you audition for stuff, it ‘s usually with people who have seen you in stuff before, so I guess the different thing was that he knew nothing, he had no idea if I’d done any film, theatre, where I was from. So I guess we all kind of went in a bit sort of fresh.

It was pretty nerve-wracking, but he makes things very relaxed and even then if I think back, it wasn’t like “nice to meet you, now stand in the middle of the room and do your piece,”  it was very much like sitting down, like this, with scripts in front of us and just going through the scenes. Then he’d say “do it again, but this time do a bit of that.”

But there was certainly no feeling on leaving the room that I had the job. But I guess – he’s a actor and an amazing one, so he understands what it’s like going into an audition and understands how nerve wracking it is – auditions in general, so he was generous and he made it easier.

So lets talk about the rehearsals, what was Hoffman’s approach to working?

We spent the first week just sitting around the table reading through the play. In the mornings we’d come in and everyone could bring in a piece of music. So we’d spend the first twenty minutes listening to music and it didn’t have to be rock ‘n roll, anyone could bring in anything.

So by the end of the first week, we were up on the floor going through it. But it’s been really easy – the way he is – it’s been great.

For the last week of rehearsals we just did non-stop runs, every day, we just kept running it. Then we would work on bits and then even going into the space for tech rehearsals – which can usually be absolute nightmare of a time, because you’re just not prepared and all of a sudden people are going to be there and there’s lights and oh my God what’s going on! – but we did a run before the tech in the space, which was really good, because all of a sudden it was really relaxed. I mean, it was one of the most relaxed tech rehearsals I’ve ever done.

Because usually you stop and start?

Yeah and getting in there and trying to work out the space and he was kind of changing little things as we did it, but I guess what he said before going in was that he doesn’t like to treat tech rehearsals as purely about the technical stuff, he still likes to keep it about the acting and the scenes and the play. So that was really good. It still felt like we were kind of rehearsing even though things were happening around us.

Riflemind deals with fame and the aftermath of fame. Does it have a message do you think?

I think it does, it’s hard to talk about without giving things away that I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to say! Not to you, but just when we did Q & A’s Andrew said (whispers) “don’t mention anything,” and that’s Andrew, because it’s his play.

I think people will be really surprised in a way, because it doesn’t necessarily go down the path that you expect it to. I think a lot of audiences have really wanted it to be a certain thing, that it doesn’t end up becoming. After the first half you think it’s really going to go in a certain direction and then it takes twists and turns that you don’t expect it to.

I guess one thing that it’s essentially about is trying to recapture your youth in a way, and at the end of the day whether that’s something you really want to do and how attractive that would be and can you go back? And if you go back to something, is it going to be the same? There’s no way it’s going to.

But, it’s a tricky one to talk about, because when it begins I think you’ve got expectations of the play. Especially about a band. Because it’s about this idea of this famous band getting back together, it doesn’t necessarily go down the direction that you think it’s going to. I think, if anything, there is really one thing that it’s not about, and that’s music. It’s really not about music at all. You know we did the Q & A for the subscribers and one of them asked if we needed to be down with the music scene and it was like no, not at all. It’s actually got nothing to do with that.

You’re playing Lee a musician, what’s his role in the play?

So it’s about a band. This band was massive – like Nirvana massive and they’d made that sort of dent in the zeitgeist, or whatever, you know, they were huge!

It’s about them reforming and they’re a three piece and part of them getting back together to tour, they decide that maybe it would be a good idea to bring in some fresh blood to bring in a new sound.

So I play a young guitarist from Los Angeles who’s brought in, kind of a Dave Navarro guy, who comes along for this weekend in a kind of an audition sort of sense. I’m there to play with them and by the end of the weekend they’ll work out whether or not they want me in the band.

But a lot of that’s got to do with Hugo’s character John. He’s the lead singer and lead guitarist, so it’s a bit of a sore point bringing me in and it has to be handled carefully. It’s kind of a bit ambiguous going in, how much he knows about me, or whether or not he knows I’m coming along and how he’s going to feel about that.

I think essentially Lee’s a really smart guy and he’s smart enough to know that the best thing he can do is walk into this scenario and keep his mouth shut, pay attention and work out what the histories are, where the tensions are and try not to get involved.

{xtypo_quote_left}…with Philip, it’s always felt like he’s discovering it as much as we are. Do you know what I mean? He’s always been very inquiring and is the first to ask “what do you think about that?” And it’s never a test, it’s like “I want to know what you think because I kind of think this, but – talk to me.”{/xtypo_quote_left}
You mentioned Hugo Weaving. It’s a great cast, what’s it been like working with those guys?


The first week, I was really nervous and I’ve known about this since January, but because Andrew had been doing a lot of re-writes on the script there hadn’t really been much of an opportunity to sit down with it and do the work. I got a call four days before we started rehearsals saying  “your character’s now from LA.” So all of a sudden it was like a complete sort of, you know what I mean?

Because they’re an Australian band and you’re from LA?

Yeah so everyone’s Australian, pretty much, except for me, which has it’s own challenges.

The first week I was really nervous. I was nervous about Philip and I mean it’s Hugo, Jeremy Sims, Susie Porter, Marton Csokas, Susan Prior and Steve Rodgers. There’s a lot of really good people in this play. People that I’ve seen do a lot of stuff and have admired for a long time.

But I think the wonderful thing about Hugo is that he’s so supportive and such a good leader. He’s just a leader and for him to be playing the lead role – which is huge, like he has to carry the play really – and to also be the front man of a band, it makes a lot of sense that he’s doing it.

He’s always been very supportive and in the first week, because it’s Philip, you just want to get up and be amazing immediately and you want him to go “great, that’s why I cast you and it’s going to be awesome,” and that’s never going to be the case.

So there’s been a lot of sort of falling on our arses and I have especially and getting up and attempting an accent and trying things out and having Philip go “no,” but he’s always been really supportive of that.

Hugo’s really into “yeah lets try this, lets try that.” And watching him try things and it not working and him going “oh well” has been a really amazing thing. I mean it’s Hugo Weaving! And all I ever see is the finished product and to watch his process of going through the play and through the role and the mistakes he’s made and things that have worked…no, it’s been amazing, really! To be working with that group of people, with that director is just incredible. If you’d told me that I would be doing that when I was at acting school I just wouldn’t have thought – I mean, with that cast and that director I probably would have thought I’d be on a film making a million dollars (laughs) but it’s really quite a dream come true, in many ways.

What’s it’s like to be back stage on a show like this one? What’s it like before you guys go on? Do you all have different ways of preparing?

Yes definitely. Well, I don’t want to give anything away. Every one’s different! I mean there can be a lot of tension and sometimes I think especially early on like this, I think it’s all a bit sort of unknown. As the run progresses it will get a bit more relaxed and chill out a bit, but I think early on like this it’s kind of a bit – there is a lot of tension and some people handle it differently.

I tend to go into my own space and just pace. All I do is pace up and down, going over things and thinking about things – which is probably the worst thing you can do before going on really!

But there are other people who like their privacy and sit and relax. Then there are other people who just want to get in your face. You know what I mean? People who want to rile everyone up.

It is really weird this early stage, because the pressure and the tension is really high. It’s funny because having a part that’s small, a lot of my moments are very small. I mean even early on there’s this kind of build up and they talk about me and then I come on for like two minutes and then I’m gone. And it’s tricky with those, because in some way I’m sure there are people in the cast who would look at my role and go “oh well he’s got the easy job,” but really it’s quite hard to not have the time on stage to relax and get into something. You’ve only got a really short amount of time to get across what you’ve got to get across and Philip is incredibly detailed you know, he’s incredibly detailed.

In terms of notes?

Yeah and in terms of – he’s obviously a really detailed actor – and in terms of what he wants. He’ll kind of give you something to do, you know “try it like this” and then you kind of work at that until you get it, then he’ll go “o.k. now put this on top of it.” Then you kind of do that and he just keeps slowly layering. Until in the end where you’ve got like ten to fifteen things going on at once which is great.

Sometimes it can get a bit sort of “aww what am I doing,” but he’s really good like that. There’s never been a sense that he’s… you work with directors who walk into the room and they’ve got it all sussed out and they’re going to basically wait till you catch up and guide you through something. Where as with Philip, it’s always been, because it’s a new work (which I think is predominantly what his company does in New York, is creates new works) it’s always felt like he’s discovering it as much as we are. Do you know what I mean? He’s always been very inquiring and is the first to ask “what do you think about that?” And it’s never a test, it’s like “I want to know what you think because I kind of think this, but – talk to me.” And it’s always been great like that you know! But it becomes tricky, it does become tricky.

Because you’ve got so much going on?   

Yeah and I’m sure to the audience they think it’s an incredibly simple moment, where as you’re kind of going through all these, (gestures) you know?

But I think as long as you stick to the thought to thought moments, you can’t really go that wrong. If there’s ever a moment where you’re like “this feels a bit icky,” or it’s wrong, then it’s probably because you’ve missed a couple of steps. And that’s one thing that he’s always been big on and I think that he’s completely spot on.

I guess you can build a performance in that way and it probably makes you less self conscious to have those moments that you’re working towards.

Yeah. Completely, completely. Look, the scary thing always – and it’s never happened on this show – but it’s happened on other shows, is where you don’t actually know what you’re aiming for. Where you don’t really know where you want to be and that’s never been the case with Phil or this show.

There’s been times where you go, alright I’m really going to pull out something new for him today and see what he thinks and you do it and then you run up this flight of stairs and you open the door and he’s kind of there finishing the ciggie going “Well done. Now I need you to..” You know? He’s a pretty smart cookie, for lack of better words.

So Riflemind previewed last week. What’s the audience response been so far?

Really good, you know? I think the tricky thing is this kind of level of naturalism and the way that Phil sets up things and the way he directs is that you really just kind of have to go “I’m in a lounge room with John, (Hugo) and that there’s no one else here. I mean it’s actually just us.”

Philip has always been very heavy on “you guys are going to get laughs and you’re going to have to go through them” – if they miss lines it’s their fault. He’s like “I don’t want anytime at any moment where someone is thinking I’m watching a performance, a play – or we’re going to lose them! You have to keep it real and as real as possible.” That’s kind of a bit of a challenge in itself.

Well, good Luck Ewen! I hope it goes well. I’m sure it will go well.

I think it’s going to be good. I think it’s going to be great! I really do! I mean there’s a lot of times when I’ve gone “how’s this going to go down” and this one, beyond my performance or whatever, I just know it’s going to be really good – but I could be eating my words in a week (laughs) but we’ll see!

Riflemind opens this week at the STC and runs until December 8th – seats are strictly limited. For further information aboutRIFLEMIND click here»

This article first appeared on Australian Stage