Production company: Beyond International Group presents; tail credit copyrights to Beyond Productions Pty Ltd/Australian Film Finance Corporation Ltd.; script developed with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission; made with the participation of Australian Film Finance Corporation Pty. Limited
Budget: n.a, medium Australian level. (The FFC refused to release the budgets of films in which it invested, but as a period film with some travel to remote locations, this wasn’t as low budget as some of the other films in the early FFC slate).
Locations: Tail credit: "Filmed on location in Junee and Condobolin, New South Wales, Australia". The final scene shot in a cemetery was a pick-up done in Sydney a number of weeks after the main unit had wrapped. It looks a little like the Gore Hill cemetery featured in Stone; visually, the grave looks as if Sam has been buried for decades.
Filmed: November-December 1989. A 40 day shoot, plus the later cemetery pick-up, presumably shot in a day.
Australian distributor: Hoyts
Theatrical release: The film was released simultaneously in the key Melbourne and Sydney markets on 18th October 1990. According to EP Al Clark, it had a twenty print initial release, and the world premiere took place on 8th September 1990, at the Jadda centre in Junee (then the name for the old Junee picture palace The Athenium).
Video release: RCA-Columbia-Hoyts
35mm Kodak Eastmancolor - 5247 for exteriors, 5296 for interiors.
Spectral recording Dolby Stereo SR in selected theatres.
Running time: 92 mins (Murray’s Australian Film, Filmnews)
DVD time: 1’29”26
The film did very disappointing business at the domestic box office.
The Film Victoria report on Australian box office listed $87,392 in returns, equivalent to $142,449 in A$ 2009. These figures are suspect, but even allowing for some under-statement of returns, the film did dismal business relative to budget.
The film also didn’t travel well internationally in the theatrical market, though it did have a long secondary life as a result of being the first lead role performance by Russell Crowe in a feature film (his previous outing had been a minor role in the second world war Japanese war crimes trial film Blood Oath).
The film did disappointing business at the 1990 AFI Awards, picking up three nominations and one win:
Winner, Samuelson Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography (Jeff Darling) (Russell Boyd with Blood Oath, Geoff Burton with Flirting and Nino Martinetti with Golden Braid missed out);
Nominated, Spectrum Films Award for Best Editing (Henry Dangar) (Robert Gibson won for Flirting);
Nominated, Hoyts Group Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role (Russell Crowe) (Max von Sydow won for Father).
Featuring Russell Crowe’s first leading role as it does, this film has always been relatively easy to find, on tape, disc and latterly streaming services. The film even achieved the honour of a laser disc release (see this site's 'covers' section for the covers).
While it's been released on DVD in a number of territories, Umbrella put out a handy domestic release.
It didn't have much by way of extras, but it did have a good image for standard def, clean and with bright colours, and consequently this site hasn't bothered to check out other releases.
The key extra was also handy for anyone interested in the film, a commentary track by director George Ogilvie and co-executive producer Al Clark.
The release also contained the film's domestic trailer, which emphasises the film's 24 hour timeline. "There'd be no turning back ... from the crossing ...", as the cars hurtle towards the train line ...
The trailer was in correct format with decent colour, but the sound was scratchy.
The insouciant, suave Clark is never short for a word in the commentary, and director Ogilvie holds his own, though sometimes it’s possible to catch a glimmer of why the film lacks a certain social realism.
According to Ogilvie, in his experience young people in 1965 in NSW country towns weren’t part of a pub culture and instead congregated in milk bars because young people weren’t permitted to go into pubs.
No doubt milk bars played a role in country towns for younger teens, but anyone of the age of the characters in the film were well into pub culture, and not just because Sam's dad runs a pub. It's part of the confusion regarding the age of the characters - Johnny has seemingly left school - he's certainly become a farm labourer - and Sam has left town to go to art school, and did it some time ago.
Still, the commentary track is handy for anyone wanting to learn that the arm grabbing the arm of a nervous young driver doesn’t belong to the boy’s mother, but to the director, long gloved to make it look female to the camera’s eye.
We’re told many other bits of trivia, along with more weighty insights into the ideas in the film, including the use of the trains as metaphor, the use of shadows to evoke the passage of time, and the significance of Robert Mammone’s character returning to a timeless town, disrupting its tranquility.
The pair talk at some length of the work of Jeff Darling, inspired by Rumblefish and wanting to start the picture with desaturated colour, an almost monochrome darkness. The image increases in saturation as the film day progresses, then recedes back, draining the colour as the story goes back into night (Clark speculates Darling would have liked to shoot the film in black and white).
Clark notes the irony of having been born and brought up in Spain, and then spending much of his working life in the UK, coming to Australia and making a film in a country where his birthday, 25th April, happens to be the national ANZAC day holiday - a weird conjunction of the personal and the country.
In turn Ogilvie notes the irony of having grown up in the bush (Goulburn) and wanting to escape and going to London, then returning and ending up making films and television (The Shiralee) set in the bush, joking that he’s never been allowed to make a film set in the city.
As for the film itself, like The Place at the Coast, it’s another of director George Ogilvie’s almost but not quite efforts.
Technical credits are solid, the design is evocative, Darling's lighting and camera work is sumptuous and all the cast work hard, yet there’s a certain ennervated air to the story. It offers a peculiar antipodean cross between melodrama and sentimentality.
Some critics compared it to films like Kazan's 1961 Splendor in the Grass, or Ray's 1955 Rebel without a Cause (the films share chicken car races) and this has a certain logic, but it also has some of the period inertia of Australian features such as Break of Day.
One of the problems arises with the decision to change the ending and turn the film back into a tragedy.
As a result, there are no hints of the impending coming of Vietnam, and the hints that the star-crossed lovers are heading to their doom appear contrived, with lengthening shadows and a beast of a train, as clocks keep ticking down the hours.
The impersonal beast of the train - which Ogilivie and Clark joke in the commentary track is like a John Carpenter beast - is more like the fickle finger of the film-makers than of fate.
Another obvious point of comparison is with 'coming of age' period films such as Duigan's The Year My Voice Broke, a film which shows much more insight about growing up in the bush, and which also features a death by motor car, but in a way that is much more integrated into the story of the three intwined lives ... (though at least The Crossing could claim that it was a better effort than the total misfire of The Delinquents).
The Crossing is fondly remembered by many as Russell Crowe’s first major film - he's clearly a young actor on the move, even if he resorts to clenched jaw method mannerisms in his big moments.
But the film's memories of loves lost in a country town in 1965 now sometimes take on the fantastic remoteness of a Brigadoon. For example, the drama takes place in a world where racism has apparently disappeared. Sam prefers to visit his Aboriginal friends ahead of his family, and Aborigines turn up in the Anzac parade and at the dance with nary a hint of negativity.
This might be convenient for the creative team wanting to focus on the emotional triangle at the heart of the drama, but it is deeply untrue to the reality of Australian country towns in the 1960s. Heavyfoot's spiteful shoving of his drunken dad into the back of a ute gets a little closer to the times.
As for the triangle, the irritation arises from the fix being in from the start.
Why did Sam leave town in so much of a rush that he didn’t bother to tell Meg or ask her to come with him? Didn’t he at least have a chat with her? Would she have turned him down? Would she have been pleased to go along with him? Or do her doubts extend to him as much as to Johnny? Is she really thinking about heading off to the big smoke with Jenny?
Is Johnny just for the physical pleasure?
Just what does Sam see in Meg? Do they have anything in common, apart from Danielle Spencer's undoubted ability to display her waif-like good looks on film?
Fudging all these insights says a lot about the relationships that are supposed to concern us, and a lot about Sam’s maturity and willingness to embark on a serious relationship.
His relationship to art is no more than a newspaper clipping, which is acceptable enough in a romance novel, but a little light-weight in a drama which seems to want to show off grander ambitions.
The end result is that it feels like there's no real need for Sam to die, apart from the creative team’s desire to bung on a dramatic ending, nor for Meg and Johnny to meet up again wordlessly at Sam's grave, with Johnny apparently off to Vietnam and a graveyard angel hovering over Meg.
Like many other visual flourishes in the film, it tries just a little too hard, in much the same way as it works too hard at country town atmosphere - with a tour through all the usual period sights, including, but not limited to, period cars, wheat silos, a two-up school, an Anzac parade with Scottish pipe band, and town dance ...
Meg and Sam and Jenny find the town oppressive, and anyone who left an Australian country town in 1965 will know the feeling, but the film also sometimes feels as oppressive as the town.
Sometimes, it's possible to just get up and go, without all the melodrama and the sentimentality, as Judy did when she left Tamworth for Sydney in the 1970 CFU's trilogy 3 To Go ...
In the DVD commentary, co-executive producer Al Clark notes that the script was in development for a considerable time, with producer Sue Seeary working with writer Ranald Allan for a long time before Clark and director George Ogilvie became involved in the project. (Ogilivie notes that one element in the film came from Allan’s ongoing fascination with Aboriginal mythologies).
Clark was at the time working for Beyond; Ogilvie had come into contact with Allan in a small way when working on a previous film.
George Ogilvie notes that the title The Crossing was intended to connote the crossing from youth into adulthood, and crossing from the town to go somewhere else, to leave, and not just to connote the physical railway crossing at the heart of the climax …
There was a major adjustment to the screenplay made during the shoot, discussed in the DVD commentary.
During the shooting, Ogilvie realised he was filming a tragedy, and so he thought that the tragedy needed to have a closure. As a result, the night of the filming of the climactic driving scene saw Ogilvie talk at length with EP Al Clark about the ending.
Clark: “I think you may even have begun the conversation by saying ‘I have something to tell you’ and I didn’t realise that your next phrase would be ‘I think we should change the ending’” (Ogilvie laughs).
Ogilvie became convinced that one of the three in the trio, because of their passion and “driven-ness” had to die …
Ogilvie says he never regretted the decision “in the sense that such a moment was deserved in the film… that such a moment of closure, such a moment of tragedy was part of the human condition in this town and was inevitable …”
Clark agrees saying that the day had to lead to something of this scale: “When you witness that day, you can’t end it without taking note of all the signals along the way.”
Ogilvie agrees that there were too many signals to ignore.
Ogilvie conceived the final scene. This sees Johnny make a final visit graveside where he mets up with Meg again. Ogilvie calls it “post-script” and Clark jokes that he’s glad that they didn’t add the caption “some time later”…
According to Ogilvie, the scene takes place just before Johnny heads off to Vietnam, though the scene is word-less, and the only clue to Vietnam is the army uniform that Johnny is wearing.
The graveside scene was shot in Sydney some weeks later after the main shoot.
Andrew Urban visited the set to write some production reports about the shoot, and arrived in November, before the decision to change the ending was made.
Consequently Urban’s original report ran this way about the greenlighting of the project:
Beyond's head of film development, Al Clark, ran with it, as they say. Or rather, he walked: he wanted to be sure, and some re-writing was commissioned. Arguably the most critical change that was made concerns the ending: in the final sequence, as the heart stopping car chase nears the railway crossing, two cars and the train are on a collision course at the crossing.
In the original script, the story ended in grand tragedy; now, the ending offers emotional lift.
Urban added a footnote about the terminating of the "emotional uplift":
FOOTNOTE: A few days after Urban visited the set “we went back to the ‘grand tragedy’ ending (in which Robert Mammone’s character dies),” explains Al Clark. “We spent a whole Sunday evening in George’s Junee motel room talking about it - then tempered it with a rather tentative (but at least silent) cemetery ‘closure’ scene shot some weeks later.”
In his subsequent version for Cinema Papers (see below), Urban changed his copy accordingly and didn’t bother with the footnote.
For more on the screenplay, see the Cinema Papers’ interviews and Beyond press kits below.
(b) Writer Ranald Allan:
A short CV for writer Allan - this was his first feature film screenplay produced - could be found here:
Ranald has been working as a writer, script editor and development consultant for film and television since 1981. Prior to that he spent five years working with Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land and NSW.
He has run screenwriting courses for Curtin and Murdoch universities, Screen Tasmania, Film Victoria and Screen Australia. He ran the Script Office for Screen West and has worked as an assessor for Screen Australia, SBS and Screen Tasmania. For six years he assessed all of Film Victoria’s Fiction Script Development projects and has worked as a lecturer for the UK-based Script Factory.
As well as numerous writing credits for television, Ranald’s feature film writing credits include ‘The Crossing’ and ‘Deadly’ which was nominated as Best Original Feature in the AWGIE Awards. Ranald is a published author and has been awarded a Literature Board Fellowship. He is currently working as a development manager at Screen Australia.
For more on Allan, see the Beyond press kit CV below which takes his career up to the time of the film.
The film is noteworthy for being the first feature film produced by Beyond, a company which had risen to fame on the back of a TV science/futurist program, Beyond 2000.
The company would also become involved with the FFC on the funding body’s fully financed, sinking fund feature film projects dubbed “the chook raffle films” (Southern Star was the other locally favoured sales agent).
Beyond showed an almost unerring capacity to pick box office failures, and early in the new millennium, decided to abandon its feature film business, while still owing millions to the FFC. Beyond subsequently did very successfully business with television product, perhaps most notably Mythbusters, and it has a website here.
Director George Ogilvie in the DVD commentary says that the casting was the most exciting aspect of the film, and workshops were used to prepare the young cast for their roles. Ogilvie says that there was a real “frisson through the room” when Russell Crowe did his screen test for his role. He also discussed this elsewhere in a Fairfax story, archived at Pandora here:
Russell Crowe arrived late to the audition, bursting into the room and gasping for air. "Am I too late?" he asked, between big breaths. His dark hair was mussed up and one of his front teeth chipped. His eyes had a hungry look about them. "Russell Crowe," he said, grabbing the director's hand. "I'm sorry – am I too late?"
George Ogilvie stood behind his desk and stared at the future star. "He was desperate, but from the moment he walked in he knew he belonged there," he says. Casting the young Crowe in his first film role, as the rebellious Johnny in Ogilvie's 1990 Australian drama The Crossing, was little more than a formality.
"Oh, I just loved him," he says. "He was a force. He worked hard but he did expect everyone around him to work hard as well, there was no give and take."
He pauses and smiles. "None of the crew liked him, thought he was an arrogant little pisspot."
According to Ogilvie in his DVD commentary, Danielle Spencer was one of the first young actors to be noted in the workshops, which was the mechanism used to audition for cast, and which resulted in the casting of all the young actors selected for the film’s minor roles.
Crowe is now too well known to dwell on here, his wiki listing is here.
Spencer moved away from acting to a more music-driven career, and has a wiki listing here.
The third member of the love triangle, Robert Mammone, didn’t kick on in the manner of Crowe, but did sustain a long career, mainly in television, culminating in a way as a drug baron in the hit TV miniseries Underbelly, and he has a short wiki here.
For more on the cast, see the Beyond press kit below.
NSW country town Junee provided the main locations for the film, which when director George Ogilvie and producer Sue Seeary looked at it at the time, was “set in the past… with not even a traffic sign …no parking meters, nothing …it was like a great railway junction that had been left idle” (Ogilvie).
An alternative location was discovered in location recces, the town of Condobolin, and according to producer Al Clark about two thirds of the film was shot in Junee and one third in Condobolin …
Clark says it was a seamless match, and adds that they’d been shooting for four or five weeks in Junee before moving to Condobolin, and as a result had less to do with the townsfolk there (the filming there concentrated on the car action in the film) …
In the DVD commentary, Al Clark notes that the film was very little seen, though he attributes it to other elements than the film itself. He blames it on an absence of curiosity and the failure to generate a sense of curiosity - “to make it good is one thing, to make it wanted is another.”
Clark says that it had a modest release on about 20 screens in October 1990, but there was an absence of curiosity about the film. If the twenty screens had ignited, it would had a very different release life to the one the film had.
Clark recalls the Sydney launch after the Junee premiere involved Russell, Robert and Danielle, all of whom were musicians or singer/performers, got up on stage in a little theatre in the Rocks and became the band for the evening, providing the party entertainment.
The opening title sequence was shot with an anamorphic lens to give it a surreal quality and it led to some projectionists thinking the film had been shot in CinemaScope, so they’d make a corresponding adjustment to the projector, resulting in the cast’s faces being flattened across a very wide screen, before adjusting it back. The opening scene of the dawn service was the very first one shot (Al Clark, commentary track);
According to Clark, the first sequence in the film that was edited involved the lead up to the Anzac day march and the next seven or eight minutes (starting around the 29 minute mark in the DVD version of the film). The editor was on set, and Clark believes that cutting a long scene that works well gives the creative team a catalyst for the making of the rest of the film;
The story of the film takes place within a 24 hour period, and that’s a feature of its rhythm (Al Clark, commentary track);
These were the first lead roles in a feature film for Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer (Crowe had previously done Blood Oath while waiting for the financing of The Crossing to be completed, but it was a supporting role);
Robert Mammone was an excellent driver - George Ogilvie says he had stunt driver level skills - and when told he had to appear to drive while stationed on a low loader, nearly went berserk. The safety officers relented and allowed him to do much of his driving;
In discussions with production designer Igor Nay, George Ogilvie and he came up with the idea of American painter Edward Hopper as a notional visual frame for the movie. Hopper was a favourite of Ogilvie’s, and he took him as a way of signifying the loneliness of a country town - the isolation of a place and how desperate young people could get living in a place that never changes. Ogivlie notes a shot of Russell Crowe standing alone on a rural bridge, the sky behind him, as showing the Hopper-ish approach;
The Commercial Hotel in Junee started up a restaurant called The Crossing while filming was progressing, and the film had its world premiere at the Jadda Centre on September 8th, 1990 (this was originally known as the Athenium, a genuine picture palace built in 1929 and celebrated at the Spectator here);
Choreographer John “cha cha” O’Connell, who choreographed the film and subsequently did the choreography for Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge, etc, appears briefly as Jen's boyfriend teacher Steve in the milkbar scene, leaning over to get close Jen stadning behind the counter. O’Connell later turns up dancing the climactic evening dance scene, and Al Clark jokes about him being a “sleek lounge lizard”;
The pipe band came from Canberra to participate in the Anzac Day march, and one of the pipers was director Ogilvie’s young nephew Bruce. The whole town of Junee came out for the staging of the march - newspapers reported that some 350 extras were employed;
While the film was notionally set around Anzac Day 1965, director George Ogilvie notes that the cars and the morality of the town had a lot of the 1950s about them in the film;
The turning point scene where Crowe confronts Mammone outside the wheat silos, was considered important, and so director Ogilvie allowed considerable time for filming and did an “inordinate” number of takes to get the best out of the material;
The big race scene involved much driving by the young cast - Clark and Ogilvie joke about the scene being a safety officer’s nightmare. Ogilvie notes in the workshop the actors had to have a driver’s license to be cast in the film;
For the crucial scene where Crowe gets drunk in front of the Anzac statue, he and George Ogilvie got on location before dawn to prepare for the emotional requirements. The scene took all day to do;
Al Clark says that the scene where Mammone and Spencer dance at the climactic evening dance reminds him of the dance scene in Joshua Logan’s Picnic, where Kim Novak and William Holden dance.
The film used period related songs, with the exception of the David Bowie song which runs over the end credits.
According to Al Clark, the creative team didn’t want to build the movie around period songs, but they thought that music could play a role, and the songs were used to accompany a number of montages.
Clark says the creative team imagined that the film was set in Anzac Day 1965, and took songs from that period, which were then re-recorded by contemporary artists “so it didn’t just feel like an action replay.”
Director Ogilvie wanted a pipe band for the Anzac Day March, because of its echoes from his own country town childhood in Goulburn - the Caledonia Pipes and Drums came up from Canberra to play - and he chose the Toselli Serenata for the ballroom dancing sequence as a way of creating an air of wistfulness in the montage that follows (Ogilvie scored a bronze medal for his ballroom dancing in his Goulburn years).
Russell Crowe recorded a version of the protest song Eve of Destruction for possible use in the film, but no place could be found for it (Al Clark, commentary track).
As a piece of music trivia, the band that features at the evening town dance contained two of the Wiggles, Jeff and Anthony, who were in The Cockroaches at the time (the band starts by performing Let’s Dance). (Al Clark, DVD commentary).
The two numbers The Cockroaches perform in the film didn’t help the band’s career - the 45 release of Here Comes that Feeling, with I Wanna Be With You as the B side, did no business (the songs didn’t make the 23 tracks in the Cockroaches' “Best of” CD release).
The Cockroaches have a detailed wiki here.
A soundtrack album and a couple of spin off singles were designed to promote the film, though without any impact on the box office.
The Proclaimers' version of Roger Miller’s King of the Road did however peak at #78 in Australia, according to the song’s wiki here, and it charted in the top ten in the UK and Germany.
The David Bowie song which runs over the end credits was being recorded by him in Sydney at the time the film was being made. EP Al Clark knew Bowie a little because he nearly did the score for 1984, which Clark produced, and he was in Absolute Beginners, which Clark EP’d.
Clark rang Bowie on the off chance he might be able to offer a song, and he was working on a couple, with Betty Wrong the one used in the film.
Lyrics as they are heard in the film:
‘Till the sun blisters and sprays
And every lamb ceases to graze
When the kiss of the comb
Tears my face from the bone
I'll be your light
When the shadows fall down the walls
Then life will be done
And it just won't matter at all...
I was carved from a hand
Nurtured on grime, goodwill and screams
Now your breath fills my step
Now there is you ‘till life is gone
But I'll be your light
When the shadows fall down the walls
Then life will be done
And it just won't matter at all...
I'll roll your ball
Till the stars
can't make me cry
Then life will be done
And it just won't matter at all
Not at all...
When the kiss of the comb
Tears my face …
(Guitar-based solo and fade out)
For more on the film’s music, see this site’s pdf of music credits and for large photos of the LP release see this site's photo gallery.
8. Cinema Papers:
(a) Production Report:
The Crossing brought together Russell Crowe with director George Ogilvie and his co-stars Robert Mammone and Danielle Spencer - Crowe married her in 2003 and the pair later separated - and Andrew L. Urban reported on the making of the film from the set on November 13 & 14, 1989, published on his site in a short form, and at greater length in the March, 1990 issue of Cinema Papers:
The Crossing is a study in how three young people cope with the effects of an unstoppable yearning, a love that divides as well as unites. It is set in the mid 1960s, in a small New South Wales country town, and ends in a heart-stopping car chase near a railway crossing.
Eighteen months ago, Sam (Robert Mammone) had left suddenly for the big city. His girl, Meg (Danielle Spencer), waited a while, broken hearted, but he never wrote, never rang. In that absence, their common childhood friend, Johnny (Russell Crowe), dared to step across the line, and friendship with Meg moved to romance.
But now Sam has come back, his return motivated by his love for the girl he couldn’t get out of his mind. Wrenched by his arrival, Meg finally submits to that sweeping love, but not before the whole town has shuddered in its shadlow.
The Crossing is a universal story, told within the perspective of a single Anzac Day, at a time when the 1960s revolution was but a stir in San Francisco and Carnaby Street, and not even contemplated in Sam’s home town.
After some years of doing the rounds, Ranald Allan's script was picked up by producer Sue Seeary and offered to the Beyond International Group, which had been reading dozens of scripts in search of their first feature film. (Beyond had grown to prominence world wide, first as producers of Beyond 2000, and later of an expanded programme catalogue.)
Beyond’s head of film production and development, Al Clark, chose to go with the project, though some re-writing was commissioned. Clark, as executive producer with Beyond’s managing director Phil Gerlach, spent fifty per cent of his time on location with an enthusiasm only equalled by Gerlach, who is convinced The Crossing deserves to be in competition at Cannes this year. They have reason: in director George Ogilvie, they have a guiding force that actors universally admire.
Ogilvie stays very close to the actors, coaxes and guides them privately, never shouts, never gets angry: his sensitivity builds trust, the trust builds confidence, the confidence generates effort and energy.
In the lead roles, the three young actors have very little track record, no instantly recognizable name, and no formal training from any major acting school. Yet, there is a buzz.
Adelaide-born Robert Mammone had been in Sydney for five years, where his most satisfying work was with Not Another Theatre Company. Says Mammone:
"George gives you everything; that’s the beauty of it. But it’s a bit of a worry sometimes: you want to come up with something yourself, and he says it before you can. He’s steps ahead. He sees it all."
Mammone, with the classic dark looks that could earn him a place in Hollywood’s brat pack, speaks quietly but directly:
"The most important thing George has said is that this character, Sam, comes from the heart. He loves. When most people are confronted by things, they block them; but he absorbs them and loves."
But what about Sam’s leaving the town? Why did he just up and go? Mammone replies:
"We never actually settled on why he originally left. If we had, it would have taken away from it. So, there were different possibilities... Often in life you find yourself doing things without knowing why. He just had to go. His perception of what he wanted from life was so different to everyone else’s, he would have hated everybody if he stayed."
Playing Johnny, the childhood friend, Russell Crowe had just come from a smaller role in Blood Oath. He was anxious to work with Ogilvie. Asked what it’s like, now that he is, he grins and breaks into the verse of an old pop tune: “Heaven ... I ’m in heaven ...” (from “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”). The answer is indicative of Crowe’s other great love, music: he began professional life as a musician and songwriter: “I used songwriting to help prepare ideas about the character, to help set it down.” Naturally mischievous and very alert, Crowe hangs on every word Ogilvie tells him:
"He said something very interesting to me at the beginning. He wanted us all to read some poetry because it distils things. That’s what he wanted from us as performers. And you get essence through suffering. It just hit me when he said it."
Danielle Spencer, who plays Meg, is equally in awe of Ogilvie’s abilities:
"He’s a genius ... He has the knack of pushing you to actually feel things, so, when you’re on camera, he talks about seeing it in your eyes. He actually brings the emotions out of you. It makes it easier to get you where you’re supposed to be."
Spencer, who trained as a dancer, is excited by the medium, having experienced some television, (“where you don’t get a chance to actually feel things”) and wants to continue:
"I’m probably not the right ‘type’ for this role; I’m really a city girl, and very much of the ’80s. So yes, I have to act. I’m not as innocent as Meg: can’t be, in this day and age ... And I’ve travelled a bit with my parents when I was younger, so I guess I’m more worldly. Meg is from a decent family, well brought up, with strict morals, yet very natural and down to earth. She is strong willed, with a foul temper if pushed. She is independent, and doesn’t need a peer group. She was a little shocked at Johnny’s first approach, because they had been close friends. But it grew slowly and naturally - he’s a really lovely person."
The film was shot mostly in Junee and environs last November-December. The townspeople were most helpful and generous: the money spent locally was very welcome, and there was a genuine interest in the process. Nobody complained, even when the town was effectively shut down for the Anzac Day march, with 350 extras in 33 degree heat standing around until take 6.
Of particular interest to the people of Junee was the way the crew manipulated time - both the micro-time of Anzac Day, and macro time of the era. Production designer Igor Nay, and costume designer Katie Pye, recreated a subtle blend of 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s, which is often seamless with the town’s reality. Says Nay: We are saying the film’s set in the mid 1960s, but it’s an Australian country town, and a lot of the fashions and styles are still of the ’50s. Some of the cars are even from the ’40s. They haven’t rushed out to buy the latest models; country people tend to hang on to their cars a bit longer.
But there is another reason: “It’s a style thing; there’s more of an austerity about the earlier eras”, says Nay. American painter Edward Hopper was a reference point, his expressionist style echoed in the uncluttered approach:
"I wanted to give the town an attitude, which gave the characters strength. So the design’s strong but simple. I basically covered up all the advertising hoardings, and made it plain and unspecific in place."
Street signs were cut down, and the local hotels used variously for interiors and exteriors. The Hollywood Cafe was refurbished, with black-and-white Hollywood pin-ups on the wall above the tables, and an aged look of the 1950s drifting into the ’60s.
Capturing it all on film (Kodak 5247 for exteriors, 5296 for interiors) was Jeff Darling, a laconic, inventive and respected professional who shot Ogilvie’s The Place at the Coast and Yahoo Serious’ Young Einstein. He is using black and white and colour prints mixed in varying percentages, echo ing the time span of the film: “As it all takes place in 24 hours, we begin before dawn when it’s all dark ... black ... and of course it ends at night.”
Controlling the colour saturation will create a subtle visual effect. A similar process was used in Sophie’s Choice, for the Auschwitz sequences, but for different reasons and with different results.
The various elements are intended to come together, along with a good deal of music (directed by Martin Armiger), as an intense and emotional film, both satisfying and achingly real.
(b) Interview with director George Ogilvie:
Andrew Urban also interviewed director Ogilvie, published in the same edition as his production report, Cinema Papers, March 1990, no. 78.
It began with a short introduction:
George Ogilvie, one of Australia’s most regarded theatre directors, has made a highly successful transition to film , first on the television mini-series The Dismissal, then as co-director on Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and, perhaps most notably, as director of The Shiralee. The features, Short Changed and The Place at the Coast, followed and Ogilvie is now in post-production on The Crossing.
Urban: Can you remember the first time that a film made an impact on you?
Ogilvie: It was a horror film, The Spiral Staircase [Robert Siodmak, 1946], with Dorothy McGuire as the innocent girl and George Brent as the murderer. The moment you asked that question, I had an immediate recall of the girl’s rattling sticks along a pavement to make a noise because she was so scared. I will never forget it as long as I live.
Urban: How old were you?
Ogilvie: Seven or eight. I remember because I had nightmares for a long time afterwards. I also never went to the cinema again without knowing that just being there could affect my life. It is a very powerful memory. When I first went to London, where the film is set, it was a very bad winter. There was a lot of mist and fog around and as I walked past some English railings I vividly recalled that scene. That moment still affects me very much today. If I am alone at night, in a misty street, the mood and the image return to me.
Urban: What was the next thing that affected you about the performing arts?
Ogilvie: The “professional first” was as a performer. When I was a small boy, I was at a school where the teachers were very drama and music conscious. I learnt the piano and was a boy soprano. Then I was discovered by the local repertory society and I began to play juvenile roles in their productions. From then on there was no question: I was going to be an actor. And I was for some ten years before I began directing.
Urban: Was this in London?
Ogilvie: Yes. At that time, there was little theatre happening in Australia. There was no Melbourne Theatre Company or Sydney Theatre Company. One had to go to England to leant. When I did return to Australia in 1955, I became a member of the first Elizabethan Theatre Trust Drama Company soon after that.
Urban: From acting, you progressed very successfully to stage directing. What triggered the move?
Ogilvie: While I was working in Melbourne as an actor, Wal Cherry, a director who is now dead, asked me whether I wanted to direct a play. I said no and that I was perfectly happy as an actor. But he persisted, so I chose the most difficult play I could think of to show him that I was no good at it; it happened to be Lorca’s Blood Wedding.
That experience absolutely capsized me, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it, because I wrote the music, got the thing going and even choreographed the dances. I suppose to some degree my musical education helped, plus I had always been interested in dancing ... though never as a professional dancer, mind you. All this I think had something to do with my parents being very broad Scots people from the north of Scotland. I had a very Scottish background: my brothers played the pipes, and three times a week at least the house would be filled with 40 people singing and dancing. That had a big effect, as you can imagine.
Urban: You then moved from stage to film.
Ogilvie: I had always been a tremendous movie fan and, in fact, I preferred going to the cinema than the theatre. I have always found going to see plays I hadn’t produced or directed a very painful experience. I am much more nervous than the actors, always terrified the thing is going to fall apart. But film I love: just to be able to go into a darkened cinema and fantasize.
Urban: It was George Miller who then approached you to workshop the actors on The Dismissal. He also asked you to direct an episode, which must have been quite different experience to working in theatre.
Ogilvie: Actually, it took me quite a while to give in to George’s constant request for me to direct an episode. As I’ve said, I love movies, but I had never thought about how they were made. So I asked George, “Can you possibly be on the set with me and tell me where I go wrong?”, to which he very generously said he would. To have such a generous mentor is amazing; he was constantly willing to show, to teach, to provide. I knew also I was working with a fine group of directors and technicians who, if I had a question, would answer it; I had a director of photography in Dean Semler of whom I could ask, “What do I do here?” So, life was filled with questions and answers as I went along - it had to be, considering my first day as a director was with the entire Australian Senate!
Urban: Did you find a repeat of that scenario when Miller then suggested you to work on the feature, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?
Ogivlie: George said to me, ‘You will co-direct this film with me.” I said, “No.” But he finally convinced me.
Urban: Did Miller say what he sought from you?
Ogilvie: That’s an interesting question; but I don’t think I have an answer to it. It never came to that, to summaries and conclusions.
Urban: Presumably one aspect was your experience with and understanding of actors. Can you explain your approach in drawing performances from actors?
Ogilvie: It seems to me that the essential quality required by an actor is the ability to be spontaneous. It is a very difficult skill in terms of art. We are all spontaneous as we go moment to moment in life, but when you are on a set, and you’ve had to wait 12 hours to be spontaneous about a scene that you’ve gone over and over again in rehearsal, it is a very difficult thing to achieve. It seems to me that everything I do in terms of workshopping is based on how to become empty and, therefore, ready to be filled up - the preparation in other words. I can’t teach actors to act; that’s impossible. I can only help them to prepare to be what they have to be.
Urban: Is there a technique an actor can learn to use on an on-going basis?
Ogilvie: Yes, indeed. It is a form of meditation. That is a very broad word, but I think it’s the right one. In other words, it is preparation which involves trust, where by you drive away all fear. After all, it is fear which produces those tensions. I recall a workshop I did with some directors a few years ago and one of my first questions was, “Who is scared of actors?” There was a forest of arms. That showed a problem in the area of communication between an actor and director; and if there’s no trust, there will always be a barrier.
Urban: You are now directing a film which is totally different from your television work. How would you summarize the story?
Ogilvie: It is a story about loving, where the loving is an essential need rather than a game being played; where, in order to go on living, loving is needed. The author [Ranald Allan] has put the loving into young people, 19 year olds, and he takes that sense of loving very seriously. The author says that it’s possible for three 19 year olds to love and to know that loving can then end in total disaster, unless it’s fulfilled. It’s not something that can be passed over or got used to; adolescent love is a traumatic experience which can last a lifetime. So, in that respect, it is a serious film.
Urban: To what extent is passion and that energy specific to Australian kids, or is it a universal theme?
Ogilvie: I think you have already answered it: it is much closer to a universal idea. But all the actors are Australian and the sentiments and attitudes are Australian. At the same time, it is a very ‘vocal’ film and not many Australians talk. They generally keep their problems to themselves. In Paris, you see all of life being discussed in the local cafes, but not here. It is a bit of a British overhang, I suspect.
Urban: The film is set in the 1960s: is there a specific reason for that?
Ogilvie: Simply to be able to concentrate on what we are doing and not be interfered with by influences from outside, such as television. The town has a certain isolation and when Sam [Robert Mammone] comes back after 18 months away, he finds things have not changed.
Urban: Do you think it will be an important film in that it gives a deeper view of the human condition?
Ogilvie: Yes. I must answer this very simply, because it is very simple. I find the relationship that the young people have with their parents in this film is very true, and, when you are dealing with four families, you have quite a span of attitudes and reactions. People on the whole are terrified of change, because it’s mysterious, unnerving, unsettling it’s better not to have it. Therefore, what the author is saying is that where love is needed to that degree, it can, if society presses a point, become compromised and end in tragedy. It’s a highly emotional film.
Urban: Is that what attracted you to it?
Ogilvie: Yes, and because it has to do with families. I am unmarried myself, but I have brothers and sisters who are all married. I have come from a large and warm family, one that supported me in everything I did. Therefore, the idea of family has always been very important to me.
Urban: Do you miss having a family?
Ogilvie: Not in the slightest, because my brother’s family is my family. I feel sometimes a little like J. D. Salinger, who said that he couldn’t give up the window seat. It’s that. My life has been with actors from the word go and I have never wanted another life.
Urban: Do you think that the film will have an impact on, or offer something to, those parents and adolescents who are at that moment in their lives?
Ogilvie: I hope so. But I don’t think about such things; I’m just making a film. But it’s a film I believe in. It does suggest to parents that if a child is in love, then that child should be taken very seriously.
Urban: How do you turn these emotional subjects into images?
Ogilvie: The film is filled with crises, not unlike in Chekhov. It spans just one day, but every moment of that day is a critical moment in the life of somebody in that town. Being Anzac Day, it is highly explosive. Everything is filled with memories and the thoughts of those who have passed away. It’s also filled with the thoughts of young people looking towards the future and wondering if their future is what they see in their parents.
Urban: Was that the reason for setting it on Anzac Day?
Ogilvie: Oh, very much so. The whole idea of ritual is a wonderfully filmic thing. The author loves ritual, and so do I. The dawn service is a serious point in the day. I know what it means. Every time I have gone to such a service on Anzac Day - my father used to dragged me there when I was young - I was overwhelmed by the emotion. When you look at it, it is one of the few rituals this country has left.
Urban: Is there anything special that you do in terms of the way the film looks or in the way you are shooting it?
Ogilvie: I’m not doing anything with the camera. Jeff Darling is doing that. As much as Jeff and I planned the film together, I couldn’t do it any other way. I truly believe that a film belongs to the director and the director of photography. Jeff’s equal understanding of the film produces what we do.
So, we have a film which is filled with studies of people and faces: faces seeking, faces needing, faces wondering. It’s a film filled with these questions.
Urban: It seems destined to be what people sometimes glibly describe as an actors’ film.
Ogilvie: Ah yes, it’s certainly that.
Urban: You have chosen three as-yet-unknown leads. Has working with them been a challenge?
Ogilvie: Yes, for all of us. I love working with the three young people, but I also love working with the actors who play their parents. They too are fine actors, who, in five words, can do what I want.
Urban: You have two streams of actors: the experienced and the novice?
Ogilvie: That’s right, and to have them both is wonderful because one supports the other. It’s great to see the young people working with the parents and to see them get so much from the experienced actors, to see Johnny [Russell Crowe] work in the scene with his mother [Daphne Gray] and to see in his face that sense of adoration for what that actress, is doing. That’s great.
Urban: What qualities were you looking for amongst the hundreds of young actors that you saw?
Ogilvie: Well, taking Meg [Danielle Spencer] to begin with: I was looking for someone who was a secret person, who was difficult to read, difficult to know what she thought or felt. There had to be a sort of depth within her, like a deep running feeling. She is a girl who on the surface seems fine, no problems at all, but with a disturbance below. She has been living with this fantastic need for a particular love that she has. She needed to be able to hide that.
Urban: Did you focus on a particular person or actress that you knew as a model?
Ogilvie: No, I must admit I didn’t. The two boys are totally different, one from the other. In a sense, I suppose I investigated my own life and wondered what part of me was Johnny and what part was Sam [Robert Mammone]. Johnny has a physical approach to life, although that is a fairly mundane way to say it. He has an explosive thing in him, that at times has to be released physically. At the same time, he had to be played by somebody with a very gentle nature. There is that duality. As for the other boy, Sam, the best word I have is “quiet”. He has a stillness inside and is somebody who has a long way to go, and knows where that is. But he is also somebody who loved this girl and discovered, to his surprise, that he could love no one else.
Urban: Is there an emotional direction in which you to move the audience?
Ogilvie: Absolutely. That obviously comes from my theatre background as well: you don’t direct a play without thinking about that part of it. A film has to be a personal experience, even more than theatre, where you can put on the mask a little. In film, that’s very difficult. I think the director’s attitude comes through all the time in film. That is why, I suppose, Renoir would have to be my most beloved filmmaker. I love what he does, because I love the man that comes through. That I find very strong: his humanity, his love of and joy in people; the fact that there is never a villain in any film he made.
Urban: Does the idea of directing a film which you regard as important create any special needs? Is there special disciplines that you feel you have to impose on yourself?
Ogilvie: That is a very good question. Once again, it is like meditation. Having decided it’s an important film, you throw that away. If I keep thinking of that while I was making it, the experience would be deadly. You have to throw all that importance away and just enjoy each day as it comes.
Urban: And, of course, there is the craft side, the day-to-day work. You seem a very controlled person in the sense that you know what you want.
Ogilvie: Oh, it’s all worked out, yes, but it’s worked out so that when I walk on to the set I can change the whole thing. I believe in spontaneity, but that only comes about with great preparation - the same for actors. Do your homework, do it really well, and then throw it away. You will find that which works.
Urban: Do you always think that the film you are doing now is the most important one for you?
Ogilvie: Oh, yes. It really is like getting on a ship and there’s no land in sight until you finish the bloody thing. Nothing else exists. I mean, I get a phone call from Sydney and it wrenches me. I can’t lift my head until we finish shooting. So you say to people, “Don’t ring me.”
Urban: Does this sort of interview intrude?
Urban: So, you are really immersed in the story and the emotions.
Ogilvie: I have to be. I was up early this morning, on my day off, going through what was shot and changing this and that. It never stops; it can’t stop. I go through as much as the actors go through; you have to. You go through such turbulent times when you question yourself and your own experience when you are an adolescent. You have that constantly on hand. When they cry, I have to cry as well; if I don’t, then I ’m not involved in the right way. I would be just looking for an effect. I have to trust my actors to know that if they have the right feeling then the effect will be there.
Urban: It is a 40-day shoot. Do you find that draining?
Ogilvie: It’s really exhausting and you need a good sleep. Every day is exhausting. I believe that there is enough energy in a human being to allow that to happen as long as in the evening you can release it and let it go. But I don’t mean by that that I need distraction. That’s not necessary, but meditation is. It is something I believe in and do a lot.
Urban: Love stories have been told on screen a million times, yet they always fascinate. Why do you think that is?
Ogilvie: We truly believe that as human beings love is the ‘strongest’ - and also the most ennobling, if you like - a thing that can happen in life. To reach the height of that sense of love is a fantastic achievement. Those who appreciate it are very close to the mythology of Tristan and Isolde and others; that’s where it stems from.
Urban: Is that because when we are occasionally fortunate enough to enjoy love, we do understand its powers?
Ogilvie: We achieve a sense of knowledge.
Urban: Have you experienced this sort of passionate love?
Urban: And do you recall it with pain or with pleasure?
Ogilvie: Both. It’s an almost insane time in life, where nothing else exists and you ricochet around hitting your head against walls; you’re not quite sure what direction you are going. It’s very painful at the time but, in retrospect, it’s a very wonderful thing. You realize that you have experienced some tidal wave of feeling, and you are very grateful for having had that experience.
Urban: How much of the craft intrudes into the art?
Ogilvie: I don’t know, really I don’t. Every day of this film is the most extraordinary mixture of that.
Urban: So you can just concentrate on what you do best?
Ogilvie: Exactly. I don’t subscribe to the auteur theory because I truly believe that a film cannot possibly be the work of one man. That’s pretentious nonsense.
Urban: How important do you think film is socially in Australia?
Ogilvie: Fantastically, unbelievably important. That’s why I’m keeping on with it. It’s the very devil to do, but somehow or other …
Mind you, I believe in both film and theatre; I can’t separate them. Take the play I have just done, Shirley Valentine, with Julie Hamilton. It has been touring over Australia for the past 12 months, and Julie has received incredible mail from people everywhere. Some have been to see it five times and written to her, ‘This has changed my life.” So, if you really believe in the work you are doing, and the work is great enough, then it will change people’s lives. And that’s the most extraordinary - the ultimate - experience.
Urban: Do you strive for that in this film?
Ogilvie: No, I can’t. I can only make the film. I have absolutely no idea what the result is. If I thought about that, I would run away. I ’m just making a movie, working day by day. We have Scene 37 to do tomorrow, and so on. That’s all you can do; you have to throw away everything else. Obviously, you have time to think and consider and look: that’s when it becomes technical. You have to distance yourself and ask, “My God, what did I do with the film today? Is there anything there that has connection with what I did yesterday and will do tomorrow?” That is a very draining thing that happens at the end of each day. It’s very important to say to Henry Dangar [editor], “What you saw today, is it still to do with the film? Does it seem connected?” Then it becomes a wonderful technical exercise and you can let your emotions drain away: that’s when you separate yourself from the work.
The interview appended this short CV for Ogilvie to that point in his career:
1953 Went to England and began acting in repertory theatre
1955 Returned to Australia; joined Elizabethan Theatre Trust Company (under Hugh Hunt)
1957 Joined Union Theatre Repertory (under Wal Cherry)
1958 Began directing at UTR
1960 Left for Europe. Studied mime in Paris with Jacques le Coq
1960-62 Formed “Les Comediens-Mimes de Paris” with others; made series of television programmes in Switzerland; invited to make programme for BBC
1963 Created with Julie Chagrin mime programme for Edinburgh Festival; later had five-month run in London West End
1963-65 Taught at Central School of Drama, London
1965 Returned to Australia and became associate director of the newly formed Melbourne Theatre Company (under director John Sumner)
1965-71 Produced 23 plays at MTC, winning three Melbourne Critics’ Awards for Best Director of the Year
1972 Appointed artistic director of the newly-constituted South Australian Theatre Company
1976 Left SATC to work as freelance director.
Credits include: II Seraglio, Falstaff, Lucrezia Borgia, Don Giovanni (Australian Opera), the latter two with Joan Sutherland; The Cakeman (Bondi Pavillion); Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi (MTC); Widowers’ Houses (Old Tote); The Kingfisher (Mal colm Cooke Productions)
1979 Coppelia (Australian Ballet), with Peggy van Praagh; No Names ... No Pack Drill (Sydney Theatre Company)
1981 Otello (AO), with Sutherland; The Hunchback of Notre Dame (AB)
1982 You Can’t Take it with You (STC); revived Lucrezia Borgia and Falstaff (AO); Death of a Salesman (Nimrod)
1983 Re-directed Don Giovanni (AO)
1984 Re-directed Coppelia (AB);
1987 Pericles (STC); revived Don Giovanni (AO)
1988 Shirley Valentine (STC and touring)
Film and Television
1982 The Dismissal (mini-series) - director episode 3
1984 Bodyline (mini-series) - director episodes 3, 5, 6
1985 Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (feature) - co-director with George Miller
1986 Short Changed (feature) - director
1986 The Place at the Coast (feature) - director
1987 The Shiralee (mini-series) - director
1987 Touch the Sun (series) - director “Princess Kate” episode
1988 Willesee’s Australians (series) - director “Soldier Settlers” episode
1990 The Crossing (feature) - director
9. Synopsis with cast details and spoilers:
1965, a small country town.
On a hilltop, an Anzac Day dawn service is in progress.
Johnny (Russell Crowe) and Meg (Danielle Spencer) wake to the sounds of the Last Post. Mum’s going to kill him and ‘lest we forget,’ jokes Johnny before they make passionate love.
Meg’s dad Nev (Patrick Ward) offers to give Johnny’s mum Jean (Daphne Grey) a lift home from the service, and catches the pair in the act.
He stalks away.
Cut to a railway crossing in action, and then to Johnny with gun walking alongside a river with Aboriginal friend Billy (John Blair), as they joke about Johnny getting married to Meg.
But Meg is looking at a coin dangling from a necklace, exactly the same kind of necklace that is dangling from the rear view mirror of Sam’s (Robert Mammone) car as he drives back into town, past the town street person Mad Hilda (Cathren Michalak), pushing her battered pram along …
Shorty (Rodney Bell) is hosing down the pavement as Sam drives past, on his way to see his friends, old friend and car wrecker Clag (Warren Coleman), his partner Frances (Maroochy Barambah) and old Spider (Steve Dodd).
Sam’s old mates Johnny and Billy (John Blair) turn up in Johnny’s Holden ute and do a complicated arm greeting and wrestle, then as they eat on the verandah and Billy talks of their ‘roo shoot, Johnny notices the bracelet now dangling from Sam’s wrist.
Later, driving back, Johnny is agitated, and when Sam challenges him to a race, Johnny turns down a side road, away from his friend - but not before scaring the life out of learner Norton (Marc Gray), out for a spin and a driving lesson with his hectoring mother, and forced, eyes closed, to drive between the speeding cars.
Town, and a big NSW rail diesel engine 4819 reverses into the sheds …
Cut to Johnny’s home where a sobbing Jean is looking at a photo of her dead husband and getting stuck into the spirits. When Johnny arrives, Jean tells him he should have been at the dawn service and showed some respect for his father.
His mum starts talking about his dad coming back from Borneo and showing off his medal and so on, “bloody larrikin”, as Johnny snatches away her bottle, saying it was the grog that bloody killed him.
But his mum insists it was losing the farm that broke him, and besides what else has she got? Johnny says she’s got him and he’s not going anywhere … but she reminds him his brothers never come near her. He’ll get married to Meg and she won’t want to come there …
Johnny says Meg hasn’t agreed yet, but Jean says she’ll come round.
Cut to Meg’s dad taking his greyhounds for a walk, while inside her mum Peg (May Lloyd) gets a bright red dress ready for Meg’s younger sister Kathleen (Megan Connolly) to go ballroom dancing.
Peg asks Meg how long it’s been going on and Meg confesses it was her first time, but she’s ‘alright’. Her mum notes that Meg came along a bit early, and in her day they didn’t do it unless they knew they were getting married. Still Johnny’s nice enough and she could do worse than him.
In the town’s main street, Meg’s friend Jenny (Emily Lumbers) pauses just long enough to insult Shorty, who is helping Sam’s father Sid (George Whaley) carry freshly baked bread across to his pub.
Sam arrives and there’s immediate tension between him and his dad …
His publican dad offers his son a beer, saying he probably saw that Clag Duncan before he saw his own family. Typical!
His father tells him his mum was worried sick, and wonders why Sam never let her know how he was, too busy probably, and Sam deflects by asking about Pop.
He’s not the best, his dad grumpily replies, probably won’t be with them much longer, but nothing will stop him marching.
Sid: What have you been up to anyway?
Sam: Not much.
Sid (chuckling): Christ, you could do that here.
Sam: I know … that’s all you can do …
Sid (very terse): Some of us manage to keep busy …
Sam puts down his beer, as we cut to Sam’s mother Marion (Jacqy Phillips) pulling an old newspaper clipping out of a drawer, headed “Talented First Time Entrant Wins Art Prize.”
Sam modestly says it wasn’t much, but Marion said it was how she knew he was alright and things were happening for him.
Sam tells her he’s spray painting at the weekend, and he got into art school - but he didn’t tell his father that news.
Marion urges him to try, but Sam asks what for, so he can have a good laugh. He tells her to tell his dad, and then we cut to him alone, on a bed in one of the pub's guest rooms, looking at a photo of him and Meg.
Cut to Meg posed next to an old rainwater tank in the bush, as her dad shouts out to her that they’re going. Peg tells Kathleen to get in the back of the traytop, despite her protests about getting filthy and it being her day, not Meg’s …
Inside, her dad starts in on Meg saying he’s not having any daughter of his get up to that sort of thing without getting married.
Peg tries to intervene, but Dad’s going to have a word to Johnny too: “if he’s gunna eat the fruit, he’d better bloody well water the tree.”
Meg snaps that Johnny’s already asked her to marry him and Dad says it’s alright, they’d better order a keg, but Meg says she hasn’t decided yet, she’s still at school.
Waste of time, scoffs Dad. If she’s old enough to be playing around, she shouldn’t be at school anyway. She can get married. Meg snaps for him to get off her back, but he snaps back that it’s her being on her back that’s the trouble - what if she gets pregnant? “Who’s going to look after you and your bastard?”
Peg tells him not to talk like that, and Meg snaps that he should talk, from what mum tells her, he knows all about bastards…
“Yeah, well we got married, didn’t we? And so will you! That’s me last word …”
Cut to Sam on the pub verandah, the big clock showing its five past ten.
Down below in the streets, cars turn up and raucous teenagers stage an impromptu “bullshit” Colonel Bogey march - Shorty, Norton, Stretch (Myles Collins) and Heavyfoot (Ben Oxenbould).
Heavyfoot tells Sam there’s going to be a drag race later and invites him to join in.
In the milkbar, Jen’s behind the counter serving as Norton arrives and so does suave Steve (John O’Connell) to whisper sweet nothings in Jen’s ear, causing other teens to josh her.
The town begins to assemble for the march - Mad Hilda is looking at roses - as an agitated Meg remains angry with her dad, and says he treats his dogs better than her mother.
Dad Nev is off with Johnny offering him some work on the farm - “not this morning’s sort of work either!”
Jean arrives to drag him away for the march, saying he doesn’t have to worry about Johnny, who’s as keen as mustard to make a go of it.
The pipe band kicks into action at 10.20, with Pop (Les Foxcroft) in the lead, as the Anzac march makes its way along the street (Jean, Sid and Clag are also in the march and cheered on by Aborigines atop a car).
From his balcony, Sam watches the march, then spots Meg. He heads down to intercept her, but Meg is shocked and startled to see him - “what have you come back for?” “You,” he says,and with a “no”, she rushes across the street into the arms of Johnny. A forlorn Sam stands in the middle of the street, bumped by the passing marchers.
At the service, Pop reads out the “they shall not grow old” lines, and during the two minutes silence, Sam approaches to see Meg standing head bowed with Johnny. He looks at her yearningly, and she gazes at him, and Johnny notices …
“Lest we forget”, says Pop to end the silence, and then Sam is saying hello to Pop, as Sid and Nev turn up …
Nev jokes about his son being a city boy painter, so his mother tells him, and Sid jokes that Wilson’s shed needs painting.
Sid and Sam step aside for a word as Jean confesses to being weepy to Johnny and Meg. Jean starts talking about holding the reception in the shearing shed, but Johnny cuts her off. Things are a little tense, and Johnny asks if she’s still going to the dance, offering to pick her up. Meg says she’ll go with Jen, but when he says he loves her, she races back to give her a hug.
Meanwhile, as Sid and Sam argue, Shorty is on a public phone, putting a request into a radio station Saturday request …(Anzac day in 1965 fell on a Sunday) …
Sam storms off, while in her car, Jen bemoans the way they’re already organising the wedding as typical.
“God I hate this town! They poke their noses into everyone’s business …can’t even have a private life”, then admitting that the headmaster has found out about her and Steve …saying it was “the most disgusting thing he’d ever witnessed.”
Meg makes her laugh by pretending to agree with the headmaster. Jen says Steve’s being transferred back to the city, and she might go with him. There’s nothing keeping her there, she doesn’t want to end up like her mum and act being a doctor’s daughter and a lady. No way, and then as she brings the car to a halt...
“Meg, we could go together, you know.”
Meg: “What about Johnny?”
Jen: “Johnny? He’s never gunna leave here! He’s gunna die here!”
A terse Meg gets out …
Jen: “Anyway, it’s not Johnny is it?”
Meg walks off, as Jen calls after her that she meant what she said about leaving. They can go any time … “just remember that.”
Cut to Kathleen doing formal ballroom dancing with Norton, as Peg watches with pride.
Meg arrives to look, and the classical music accompanies a montage of shots of Johnny at lunch with Jean, and Sam looking soulful as he eats with his parents and Pop …
Meg is on her bed looking tortured, as the pub’s big clock says it’s 1.10 pm.
Shadows creep over the verandah wall, as Sam arrives at the pub and Stretch is playing pool with Shorty …
Pop’s at the bar reminiscing about going over the top, while Johnny is listening to music as he sits on an outdoor sofa at Clag’s place.
Billy and Clag arrive and send up Johnny about waiting for Meg. Clag picks up Billy and pretends to make off and make out with him, and then to climax, and Johnny says they’re mad bastards.
Johnny reckons Sam has moved in on Meg, unfairly:
“He’s the one who left.”
Sam gives his car a tune, as Shorty’s request hits the airwaves. “My boyfriend’s back”, with love from Sam to Meg. An angry Johnny hops in his car and roars off, and Sam comes up to Shorty and says he looks at him and remembers why he left.
“Smartarse,” Shorty shouts after him. “Can’t ya take a joke anymore?”
As the pop song plays, an agitated Sam drives out past some wheat silos, and is intercepted by Johnny, with Billy, in his ute.
Johnny confronts Sam, calling him a fast mover, even had to make a public show of it.
Sam denies putting in the request but Johnny says he’s got no bloody right to her after what he did. He’s asked her to marry him.
Sam: “What’d she say?”
Johnny: “It’s none of your fucking business what she said. You’ve got no right to her. No bloody right! I know Meg, I know what she wants, I know what she needs, more than you ever did.”
Sam: “No, you don’t.”
Johnny: “You’re so full of shit! Just like your fucking car.”
Johnny kicks Sam’s flash painted car, saying if he’s still got the guts to race, they leave at three.
Johnny roars off, leaving Billy behind.
In town Mad Hilda’s still walking the streets as Birdie (Paul Robertson) and other teens mock her, demanding the old bag speak Australian so they know what she’s saying …
Meanwhile Jen storms out of the milkbar, tosses away her apron and tells her boss to make his own greasy hamburgers.
The teens begin to drive their assorted cars out of the main street. The drag race is on …
Cut to the silos and the railway crossing. The teens are waiting for the train to come to start the race.
Johnny and Sam are there, but not talking …
The 4819 lumbers past, engines rev, the crossing’s boomgate goes up and the race is on …
Johnny and Sam race hard and get out in front, and at the climax, they race towards a truck crossing on a one lane bridge.
They manage to swerve to either side of the bridge and pull up at the last minute.
Johnny glares at Sam, who asks him who won: “I’m going to see her.”
He drives away and so does an angry Johnny.
Cut to Meg mucking out a shed, as Sam pulls up.
Meg gets busy stacking bags of wheat, but accidentally spills a bag, her laugh breaking the tension.
Sam looks at her soulfully.
Meg: “Why did ya leave?”
Sam: “I couldn’t stay. It felt like drowning. Dad and me … this town … leaving just became so important …”
Meg (looking hurt): “More important than us?”
Sam: “Yes …”
Meg: “So, why have you come back?”
Sam: “It was great at first, exciting, everything was new, and I felt so free… but you weren’t there, and without you, it’s all nothing …”
Meg (walking out of the shed): “I’m with Johnny now …”
Sam: “Do you love him?”
Meg: “Yes, I do …(then sitting down) … I was a bit of a mess when you left …I would’ve come with you Sam …”
Nev arrives and watches as Sam grabs hold of Meg and pleads with her and asks her to come back with him, but she says it’s not just Johnny, it’s her family, the farm, everything. “It’s no good Sam”.
She walks away as he calls after her and an angry Nev wants to know what he’s doing and what game she’s playing. She shouts at him to leave her alone, he shouts after her that she’s got a responsibility, not just to Johnny but to them.
Nev drives off, and we arem at the railway yards, as pigeons flap, and then cut to Johnny, alone on a rural bridge … and then taking pot shots at wrecked cars with his rifle …
Then Johnny is with Old Spider, who tells him the story of the sad Brolga …”he looked everywhere for beautiful rainbow …day after day, lookin’ …but he can’t find it … then one day, the grey Brolga look up in the sky and see the rainbow …the rainbow he loves … so he flaps his wings and fly high up in the sky towards the rainbow … the Brolga, he never come back …”
Johnny gives a look, and then is in the pub talking to the old diggers, looking for his mum.
He finds her playing the one-armed bandit … his mum hugs him, saying he’s there to bring her luck. She pulls the handle and scores.
She gives him some cash as he leaves … and Johnny ends up playing in a two up school playing against Nev, twenty the head … but Johnny loses, as the coins come up tails …
Nev asks Johnny what’s the story, as Shorty and the other teens josh Johnny about seeing Sam out at Meg’s place.
Nev tells Johnny to sort it out and be quick about it too …”Look if you want something bad enough mate, you’ve got to fight for it. Or are you just gunna let people walk all over ya?”
Johnny storms off, as we cut to Meg and Kathleen loading up a bag.
Kathleen jokes that Meg’s popular today, as Johnny drives up.
Johnny asks Meg if she’s had her talk - well, did ya sort it out, he snaps at her - but when she doesn’t answer, he says it’s giving him the shits, Sam’s not gunna stay there and marry her.
Meg: “Oh who says I wanna get married!!”
Johnny: “Well what do ya want? … He hates it here, it’s why he left in the first place …”
Meg: “Maybe I don’t want stay here either …”
Johnny: “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Meg: “Everyone is telling me what to do.”
Johnny (befuddled): “Well … shit! Well make up your mind (grabbing hold of her)”
Meg: “Maybe I have. I’ll go to the city.”
Johnny: “With Sam?”
Meg: “I didn’t say that!”
Johnny (angry): “Bullshit. It’s always fuckin’ Sam!”
(He turns, walks away and roars off in the ute, as a pop song “well no one told me about her, what could I do” plays and the big pub clock shows ten to four).
Sam is in his pub room, while Peg and Meg are folding the washing together, and Peg’s explaining that after 17 years of marriage, you can’t think of anyone else.
Meg: “How do you know you made the right decision?”
Peg: “You don’t! I can’t pretend it’s been easy, but he’s a good man, your father …he was so proud when I told him you were on the way …my parents washed their hands of me when they found out, didn’t even come to the wedding …he stood by me all the way …if you marry a man as good as your father, you’ll be doing alright …”
Cut to Sam packing to leave as his mum Marion gives him some sandwiches to keep him going and asks him to promise to stop somewhere for the night.
She asks if he has to go, but he says it just gets worse the longer he stays. She says it’s probably for the best. “You’ll get over it, Meg seems to have managed it…. good luck with your studies”
They hug and Sam promises to keep in touch this time, and Marion explains his father is the way he is because Sam’s all he’s got.
Cut to Meg waiting for the phone to ring, as Sam turns up at the pub to say farewell to his dad.
His dad says it’s big of him, and don’t let him hold him up. Sam says he can’t live there, not anymore, but Sid insists they all belong there …he just doesn’t understand.
Sam says he just have to go …and Sid says he’d better go and sort himself out …he always did what he wanted to do. Yeah I guess I have, Sam says, with an “I’m sorry dad” as he leaves.
Cut to Meg on her bed, lost and alone, as Sam emerges from the pub and gets in his car.
Across the road Shorty is dragging his drunk dad, and angrily tossing the comatose man into the back of his ute. Sid emerges from the pub and gives Sam some cash saying he might need it, and Sam drives off.
Meg dials a number - she reaches Marion at the pub, who tells her Sam’s just left. Marion offers to run after him, but Meg says she just wanted to say goodbye.
Cut to Sam saying farewell to Clag, Billy, old Spider and Frances, while Meg sits in the afternoon light and ponders.
Sam drives away …
As a pop song “For Your Love” plays, we see a drunk Johnny turn up at the war memorial statue on the hill, and pretend to play some rugby league with his dad.
Meg is getting ready for the night’s dance, helped by Jen …
Marion’s echoing lines come back to haunt Sam as he drives, followed by other echoing lines from other characters. Sam swerves the car to a halt, turns around and drives back into town, as the lumbering 4819 begins to move out of the rail yards like a beast from its lair …
A drunk Nev lights a fag for Jean as out on the hill the drunk Johnny tosses a wreath to his statue “dad”, then catches it, saying he’s going to score. He tosses the wreath away after scoring.
The town dance.
Clag is rock ’n rolling with Frances, as Jen and Meg arrive in the dusk light.
Meg stops … Sam is waiting for her. Jen says she’ll see her inside. Meg says she doesn’t have to go, Jen retorts that she doesn’t have to stay …
Sam says last time he didn’t say goodbye, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.
Night, and the lights of the 4819 glow as it moves along the tracks, and Johnny drunkenly hurls a bottle into the air, and drives away from the memorial.
Inside, at the dance, as smooth teacher Steve cavorts with Jen, Sam and Meg begin a tender dance, hands entwined, and gently, softly kissing as the band plays “here comes that lonely feeling again” …
The drunken Johnny turns up to see the young lovers whirling together, rediscovering their love …
Meg is distraught, and the teary Johnny glowers at her.
A hurt Johnny lashes out at Shorty when he says “hey mate”, flattening him with a right hook, then races away to his ute.
Meg follows, telling him to wait, and as Sam watches, she opens the door and clambers into Johnny’s ute.
Johnny drives off into the darkness and Sam races to his car to follow.
A teary, drunk Johnny drives crazily, and Meg begs him to slow down, he’s drunk. She’s scared.
But Johnny keeps driving in a frenzy, as Sam follows.
Meg screams for Johnny to slow down, he’ll kill them, as Johnny wonders why Sam had to come back.
Meg's hysterical, Johnny crazy, as Sam notices the 4819 heading towards the crossing.
Sam toots to Johnny and Meg shrieks to stop, but Johnny charges on towards the crossing and the train.
Sam pulls alongside and nudges Johnny’s ute off the road into a watery ditch … but he can’t stop himself and his car is collected by the train …
Johnny goes up to Sam, flung from his overturned car and lying on the road, and holds his head in his lap. Sam’s dead.
Meg slumps to her knees and shrieks into the night air with pain …
Cut to much later.
Meg with flowers walks amongst the headstones…
Johnny is in the cemetery in army clobber…
He walks up to a grave and rights a jug of flowers on a grave.
Meg sees him. Johnny looks across and sees Meg, and stands.
Nothing is said, as Meg moves out of shot in his direction, leaving a large angel hovering above a tombstone in frame …
Image cuts to black, a David Bowie song begins and end credits roll ...
10. Beyond Press Kit:
At one time Beyond carried press kits for its feature film catalogue online, but these were lost when the company stopped acting as a sales agent.
The kit for The Crossing provided a number of insights into the film and into the careers of the key players at the point in time when the film was released:
When producer Sue Seeary decided to make The Crossing she knew that because the cast would be young and inexperienced, the director's input would be crucial and that it would take "extreme care and talent to realise the project to its full potential".
The Crossing needed a special director, one who could give it the pace and energy it needed," Seeary says. In the meantime she worked with screenwriter Ranald Allan, making substantial changes to his script.
When George Ogilvie agreed to direct the film the script underwent further streamlining. Meanwhile, Seeary got the backing of the Beyond International Group for the film and through them, funding from the Australian Film Finance Corporation.
"I was careful not to film too soon, but to let it take time to develop. We all worked as a cohesive team, with more than the usual input from the writer. Fortunately, this was one of those productions on which all of the key people clicked. We all had the same vision of The Crossing from the start."
The next step was location hunting. Seeary and Ogilvie set off from Sydney into the New South Wales countryside, driving eight hours a day, zigzagging their way across a diverse range of landscapes, following the railway lines and rivers. They were looking for a township of 3000 - 4000 people.
Four days later they knew Junee, 500 kms south west of Sydney, was the best choice for the town scenes. Seeary explains: "Junee won because of the layout of the town, its architecture and general ambience. We knew we could visually enhance the basic look of the town. Also, it was important that the main highway didn't run through the town we chose or that the streets were not too wide, so we could capture the roadside buildings in the Anzac Day march scene. Junee was perfect in this respect."
The mid-point between Melbourne and Sydney, Junee has been a railway town for more than 100 years. Much repair work on interstate freight trains is done there.
North west of Junee is the small grazing and crop district of Condobolin (pop 3600). The geographic centre of the state of New South Wales, its topography is flat and open. "We chose the area on the outskirts of Condobolin for some specific scenes, notably the car chases, the train stunt and Meg's farm, because it has a broad, endless horizon, so it gives an impression of vastness and nothingness."
With locations decided, Seeary then cast "a very broad net" for the right actors. "Due to the ensemble nature of the young cast, we chose to workshop dozens of actors and to select from that group," she says. "It's a style George Ogilvie enjoys working in because of his strong theatre background. Since the young actors had no major credits, or even showreels, this was an efficient way to see them all together. It also enabled us to see how they looked in combination."
As for the subject matter, Seeary says she was able to identify strongly with the leading characters, Meg and Sam. "The passion and intense emotions were really exciting to me. I wanted to explore the first love experience on screen as this is often shrugged off by people as insignificant, 'puppy' love. But it's a very powerful and beautiful experience. Some films have taken a sentimental approach to this issue, but what I liked about The Crossing is that it exposes the raw emotion involved in young love."
A lot of effort went into recreating the era - the mid 1960s - and the cars contributed in no small way to the authenticity in this area. The cars became "the bane of my life" jokes Seeary, who with the help of production designer, Igor Nay, a specially hired "car wrangler" and various local car clubs, scoured Australia from north to south to obtain the required vehicles. Once procured, a number of the vehicles had to be fixed mechanically and aesthetically.
"Cars are a very big part of a young man's life," Seeary explains. "This is even more pronounced in the isolated countryside where cars are the only available form of personal mobility."
The action component of the film was carefully mapped out - "like a military operation" - by the director, cinematographer and stunt co-ordinator.
Seeary notes: "Some of the shots were extremely risky. From a cost and logistics point of view, they were a dangerous proposition. And because the stunts happen so fast, you need a lot of cameras to cover them. You only get one chance."
There was also a great deal of careful deliberation over the appropriate music. "The Crossing has many opportunities for great music and we knew that, chosen correctly, the music would give a special added dimension to the film. With Martin Armiger, we selected a number of early- to-mid 60s songs which suit the film, giving tone to the storyline, without necessarily commenting on the image."
In Junee, filming went smoothly, with fine weather and exceptional co- operation from the town authorities and citizens. In Condobolin, the production team sweltered in temperatures of up to 44 degrees C, but otherwise shooting was fortunately without incident.
George Ogilvie director
By coincidence, George Ogilvie had read and very much liked Ranald Allan's script of The Crossing some years before Sue Seeary optioned it.
At that time, another independent producer was considering producing it. His plans did not include Ogilvie as director, so being a philosophical man, Ogilvie got on with his own prolific and acclaimed career in directing Australian theatre and films.
It was a serendipity then that the Beyond International Group should ask him to direct The Crossing several years later.
Ogilvie is one of Australia's leading directors. He returned from Europe in 1965 to become associate director of the newly-founded Melbourne Theatre Company. From 1972-76, he was artistic director of the South Australian Theatre Company. Subsequently, as a freelance director, Ogilvie has directed theatre, opera and ballet to general acclaim.
In 1982, he directed an episode of Kennedy Miller's mini-series The Dismissal. In 1983 he directed episodes of the same company's Bodyline mini-series, and in 1985 he co-directed Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome. He was nominated in 1986 for the Australian Film Institute's Best Director award for Short Changed. He directed another feature film The Place At The Coast in 1986 and then the mini-series The Shiralee, the highest rated mini- series on Australian television in 1988.
Ogilvie says of The Crossing: "It is a poem in image and sound and not much dialogue ... to me, this film is pure cinema ... and behind it is a ritual of life and death, a surreal quality."
One of the challenges for him as a director is that unlike most films which tell a story through one person's point of view, The Crossing has three points of view - those of the three principal characters.
"They're all equally important, so we had to carefully and gently draw the audience through their three lives and families, sustaining the momentum, but still retaining balance," Ogilvie says.
In casting, Ogilvie, whose work with actors is legendary, says: "I needed not only the right people for the roles, but people who could support each other throughout the shoot." His choices were vindicated by the performances delivered by Crowe, Mammone and Spencer and by their obvious fondness and camaraderie during production.
With his strong theatre background, Ogilvie finds workshopping with actors the best method for casting. "If you spend 15 minutes with someone you can get only a superficial idea of what they can do. So a whole day of workshopping relaxes them, and finally you see what they can do."
A former actor himself, Ogilvie is particularly sensitive to actors' needs; "It seems to me the essential quality that an actor requires is the ability to be spontaneous. It's a very difficult ability in terms of art. When you are on a set and you have to wait 12 hours to be spontaneous about a scene that you've gone over and over and rehearsed, then it's a very difficult thing to do. Very difficult."
Working with young actors, the main problem which presented itself was not directing them in how to act or interpret character, he says but in helping them to understand what he calls "the nature of filmmaking." "For example, Robert Mammone (Sam), who has done a lot of drag car racing, was raring to go when we filmed him on the open road. He delivers beautifully in characterisation and in the style of his driving. Even the stuntmen were impressed. Then we had to encourage him to transport his acting into a situation of typical film illusion. His car was being towed on a low trailer surrounded by cameras and lights and he had to merely pretend to be driving, yet still look intensely concentrated."
Because of the 24-hour time span of the film, the actors had "an intense seven weeks," says Ogilvie. "It was fairly high-powered for all of them as the story hurls itself towards the final tragedy. Every moment was vital, critical and intense."
"I think this film is about how many people forget that love is the only important thing. Without it life becomes a compromise. To me the period is the least important thing, except in so much as it meant we could reveal the story without the influences of the modern world. So you get a certain innocence and love exposed. Today, people manage to hide their need for love very well."
Sue Seeary Producer
When Sue Seeary first read The Crossing, she knew she wanted to make the film because "it was the first script in a long time that moved me."
She also knew that since the casting would involve young and relatively inexperienced actors, it would take "extreme care and an exceptionally talented production team" to realise her ambition to make the film. Oh, and major finance, too.
At 27, Seeary had several factors strongly in her favour - her clear vision of how the film could be, her commitment to the project, calm determination to make it happen and a decade's worth of broad-based experience and valuable contacts in the film, television and recording industries.
Seeary has an extensive background knowledge in the legal and business sectors of the entertainment industry having managed a management consulting firm, both of which specialised in the entertainment industry.
"Then I decided to freelance and found myself getting involved in a variety of documentary films. I became fascinated with filmmaking" she says.
Through freelancing, she developed multi-faceted skills and a unique understanding of the various aspects associated with filmmaking. She has attended the major television, film and music markets and festivals around the world.
Her credits as production manager, and other related productions positions, include the feature films Afraid To Dance, Backlash and Dear Cardholder, the highly successful television series Beyond 2000 and a documentary series for the production company Garner MacLennan.
In 1987, after reading the first draft of The Crossing, Seeary took out an option on the property and set about getting the finance to make it. She took it to the Beyond International Group, which decided to back it in their feature filmmaking debut.
Then she and Beyond production chief Al Clark approached leading director George Ogilvie (who had just completed working with Bryan Brown on the The Shiralee, which became the highest rated mini-series on Australian television in 1988). Ogilvie, as fate would have it, had read the script some years before and liked it.
With these key elements in place, Seeary was ready to proceed with casting, hiring of key crew members, location scouting and the myriad details that constitute the art of filmmaking.
Al Clark Executive Producer
As head of film production and development with the Beyond International Group, Al Clark reads hundreds of scripts each year.
Asked why The Crossing impressed him sufficiently to support its progress through several drafts and into production as BIG's first feature film, he replies: "Its strength and simplicity, It is not reliant on embroidery in the form of stars or obvious hooks. There is something elemental about it that can be understood by anyone anywhere. Although its setting has some impact on the kind of movie it is, it could be set in a rural town anywhere. And what's at stake emotionally in the story is what goes on every day, everywhere.
Clark makes the point that film is "a combustible medium where the desire to make a movie is so strong that people often do so prematurely." This tendency, he says, had been exaggerated in the Australian industry in recent years by the 10BA tax legislation which promoted the dominance of financiers and brokers rather than that of creative producers, directors and writers.
"I was determined that The Crossing should not be one of those underprepared films," he adds. "The film was only worth making when the right team of people came together. The first turning point for us was when George (Ogilvie) said he'd direct it."
The Crossing was a harmonious production from the outset, according to Clark. "In its making there has been a lot of quiet electricity, and a lot of understanding and accord among the key creative team".
There was also a good dose of serendipity. When filming had to be delayed for a few months because Ogilvie , whom Clark describes as "the most responsible director I've ever known", had to fulfil unexpected personal commitments, some distinctly positive benefits occurred as a result of the postponement. They avoided the flooding which took place in and around the proposed country locations: there was extra time to integrate the locations more comfortably into the script: and the newly-hired director of photography (Jeff Darling) and production designer (Igor Nay) had time to contribute some valuable ideas about the way the film was to be shot.
After The Crossing received funding from the Australian Film Finance Corporation, BIG decided not to presell the film abroad because, as Clark says: "We knew that its value was going to be much greater as a finished picture. Also, a cast of unknowns is not a good departure point towards a important for an Australian distributor to help make the film known and to build a sense of anticipation about it."
Clark strongly believes that there "is no need to have a gulf between the artistic and the commercial," and that The Crossing, while set in Australia, "has a universal perspective, and an international attitude."
He began his career in 1971 as a journalist in London. He joined the Virgin Group in 1974, and during his 13-year association with the company, held positions as director of publicity, creative director, head of film production and director of film acquisition. His British film credits as co-producer are Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aria and as executive producer Secret Places, Absolute Beginners, Captive and Gothic.
Philip Gerlach Executive Producer
In his roles as executive producer and principal of the Beyond International Group, Philip Gerlach has controlled the production of hundreds of hours of entertainment product including feature films, television series, children's programs, dramas, mini-series, telemovies and television specials.
He says he agreed to back The Crossing as his company's first feature film because, like producer Sue Seeary, he has "a passion for this style of teenage film". A great fan of such successful films in this genre as The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, Gerlach thought on first reading of The Crossing that "it stood up as a story applicable to any country".
"The classic story of someone leaving a small town to move to a big city and then returning to find their hometown has grown even smaller than when they left is a universally common experience," says Gerlach.
"The principal characters in The Crossing are all aged between 18 and 21, the period when people go through the most rapid transition in their lives. This opens up many dramatic possibilities."
Since the film would not have a cast of stars, it needed strong action, good structure and it lent itself to the inclusion of an innovative soundtrack. The soundtrack aspect particularly appealed to Gerlach because of his strong background in the Australian music industry.
"The Crossing was a film we could make with no apologies and no compromises," says Gerlach. He explains: "We could afford to fund and control its worldwide distribution rights. We didn't have to sell our souls to make it and this fitted in well with the Beyond Group's corporate policy. It was adequately budgeted: we didn't have to cut corners anywhere, so we really feel we've given the film its best shot"
Gerlach also thought The Crossing would work in every market in the world because of its straight forward subject matter - "love, passion and youth."
Ranald Allan Screenwriter
The Crossing was the first screenplay Ranald Allan ever wrote and its slow gestation from original concept into final draft and filming symbolically reassured him that "things do have their own perfect timing".
Allan was living with tribal aborigines in Arnhem Land (in the Northern Territory of Australia) when he wrote The Crossing, having borrowed a screenplay from a friend to learn the writing format.
"The Crossing deals to a large extent with my youth and with growing up in a country town," he admits. "Ironically, the film was finally shot not very far away from Parkes (in central New South Wales) where I spent my adolescence. The film also dealt with unresolved things in my life to do with love triangles and first love."
Setting the story within a 24-hour time-span evolved from his growing knowledge of aboriginal lore and the importance and significance it places, in spiritual terms, on the different times of the day. "The most extreme and emotionally vulnerable times, according to the aborigines, are dawn and sunset," Allan says. Hence, the story opens before dawn and reaches its climax soon after sunset.
Allan had met director George Ogilvie once before while working as a script editor on the feature Short Changed and had noted then "an electricity, an exceptional exchange of energy." Allan says both he and Ogilvie have a strong sense of ritual and this is brought out in The Crossing.
"Anzac Day within the Australian culture is one of the few ritual days we have not misappropriated or commercialised. The key thing is it's a memory of death and sacrifice." The notion of sacrifice is echoed in the final drag scene between Sam and Johnny at the level crossing. Allan explains: "In the boredom of the country, young men frequently had drag races and some got killed - sacrificed, cut down in the prime of life - spectacularly, especially at level crossings. So there was a link between the Anzac Day march and the final drag race."
For a writer, the wonderful thing about growing up in a country town, according to Allan, is "the opportunity to see the world in microcosm. If you live in a certain suburb in a city, people are generally from the same background, lifestyle and socio-economic group. But in the country, you meet everyone from hillbillies to the landed gentry and you see a rawness of life that a lot of city people are protected from."
Working on the script through rehearsals and pre-production was "a very dynamic process", says Allan who greatly enjoys the collaborative nature of filmmaking. "For me a script is a starting point. The Crossing underwent enormous development during rehearsal. When I work with George, solutions come to me easily. It was really exciting, too, to be able to trust such a talented team, to see them not only understand what I was trying to say, but also to add to it and extend it."
Allan showed writing talent while still a young schoolboy, but teachers constantly expressed their frustration that he wasn't realising his potential. He says he was too busy being a rebel. While at university, he won first and second prizes in a writing competition and these were later published in a literary journal which made him realise he could be a writer if he tried. But he was too busy skipping classes, avoiding study and going to movies - 240 of them in one year. He did not aspire to be a screenwriter then. But, after many different travels and experiences, Allan began to write seriously. In 1989 his autobiographical account, Tennis With Jack At Warren's was published by Allen and Unwin.
Jeff Darling Director of Photography
In The Crossing Jeff Darling saw a chance to make "something timeless and highly atmospheric".
Darling, whose career in recent years has deliberately straddled commercial and dramatic cinematography, says that scripts can be interpreted in many different ways, but for him, time was the most influential factor in his photographic approach to The Crossing.
The film's 24-hour span prompted Darling to emphasize the theme of time through repeated observational images, with "light, shade and colour progressing through the hours and emotional upheavals of the day".
"Showing time passing heightens suspense and gives a hint to the audience that something else is about to happen," Jeff says, adding: "I wanted my style to be controlled, so there were times when it wasn't intrusive and times when it was deliberately so. The most voyeuristic moments are to do with the 'breathing spaces'. These give the audience a chance to absorb what's taken place, to 'breathe' and put the rapid emotive story into the perspective of its timelessness."
Darling says he loathes the direction in which modern filmmaking generally is headed. "Everything is so clean and crisp and perfect. I wanted to give this film an edge. When I saw the landscape and how blue the skies are, I saw that the colour was potent enough to overwhelm the narrative. Therefore, I wanted to have something that suppressed colour, something done subtly, so that people would have the chance to observe the narrative more."
Darling used angles that avoided clutter as he felt many of the locations were already rather cluttered. This pursuit of simplicity was also in aid of avoiding distractions from the central narrative.
"I'm not a technical person, not into hair splitting," he says. "I look at each scene to see emotionally what it's trying to express and evolve my approach from there. I do devise a shot list, but while filming I like to keep spontaneity within that approach."
Igor Nay Production Designer
When Igor Nay read The Crossing, three things struck him immediately - its simplicity, the intensity of the characters' emotions and the notion of the country town as an additional, important character in the story.
These ideas strongly affected his approach to the production design. He'd already been on two location surveys to Junee prior to production, one with director George Ogilvie and once with cinematographer Jeff Darling. The three had discussed in detail the type of look and feel they wanted to achieve.
"Those surveys gave us time to just walk around and absorb the atmosphere of the place," says Nay who has worked on some of Australia's most critically acclaimed film and television productions of the past decade.
The character of the town as portrayed in The Crossing is, in Nay's words "conservative, slightly melancholy, sometimes depressed".
Most of the film was shot on locations rather than on sets, but Nay says: "I approach a location as a set and usually alter it in some way. In Junee, we tried to make the town look as simple as possible because we did not want anything to distract from the emotional drama on the screen."
Using as a reference for colour and mood the work of Edward Hopper, an American artist who painted a lot of small towns, Nay set about transforming the main streets of Junee into his vision of a town in the mid 60s. He covered up all of the neon lights and modern advertising on facades -"it was visual pollution, for our purposes"; he put plain brown boards over the commercial awnings, built a false front (which looked like an extension of the pub) for the video shop and where possible painted rusty, oxide colours, occasionally accented with splashes of brighter hues.
Supported by an enthusiastic and inventive art department team, Nay decided to paint one of the local hotels, a milk bar, and an old cinema building which was used as the set for the dance hall scenes. Selective use of colour and tone in the main characters' homes also reflected mood and character: Johnny's - very dark; Sam's - mid tones and Meg's - light. In fact Nay designed the whole of Meg's kitchen around the red dress Katherine wears in the scene where she stands on the kitchen table. For Meg's house, the team found an empty farmhouse and gave it "a slightly romantic feel, all new floor coverings and furnishings because Meg"s mother is a neat housekeeper".
At the town's Memorial Hill, they built a "strong and alive" (Second World) War memorial, a copy of one in a Sydney suburb. Props were obtained locally and from Sydney and included, in addition to furniture, 1950s jukeboxes and pinball machines.
Then there were the cars, which were stylistically critical to the film. Nay looked all over Australia for the cars, some of which required doubles for stunts.
The cars make a strong statement in The Crossing, but it was inappropriate to hot them up, according to Nay, who researched the era. He explains: "You have to remember these are the kids' first cars. They're farming or working class kids, not wealthy, and their first cars would have been at least 10 years old. Many people have an image of the mid 60s as seen in American films - mini-skirts, long hair, cars with fins ... but in Australia at that time, especially in the country, things were different. It was still a conservative, austere time. People drove utilitarian cars - that's a country attitude at any time. The only exception to this was Sam, who's been to the city."
Katie Pye Costume Designer
Through most of the 80s, Katie Pye's highly individual fantasy garments and shockingly arty clothes, earned her the title of the 'enfant terrible' of the Australian fashion scene.
A few years ago her style mellowed, yet Pye retained her fine reputation as one of the country's top designers, with two national fashion industry awards to her credit.
Finally, looking for new challenges and a different direction, she closed her Sydney business and went to India where she spent three months is an ashram. On her return to Australia, (director) George Ogilvie, an old friend, asked her if she'd like to design the clothes for The Crossing.
"It's very different from designing a range," Pye says. "I'm used to designing with no parameters. In a film, there are clear parameters within which to design. It was an indulgence for me and since film is so collaborative, an exercise in giving up total control."
Pye spent a lot of time with Ogilvie and production designer Igor Nay, talking about the characters in depth, building up a full picture of their backgrounds and aspirations.
Ogilvie, says Pye, felt the script needed a stylised approach to costume design and should have a strong sense of self. Between their initial meetings and commencement of production, Pye had six months "in which to digest all the ideas and research and script subtleties and allow the strongest images of that era to surface."
She admits: "The hardest thing for me was not to overdesign. I didn't want the clothes to distract from the performance and passion of the story."
So she introduced some simple subliminal devices: "I decided to exclude jewellery or hats (with a couple of exceptions to make certain scenes authentic); to use plain blocks of colour and to have just the line of the period, rather than fussy attention to detail. I didn't want it to look like a time capsule."
Pye took into consideration not only era, but context - ie the country, its landscapes and architecture, people's conservatism .... She combed through her father's large collection of old magazines and scrutinised photo albums of the times.
"Because of the vast age range in the cast, I varied things. The older people were stuck in a style from a previous era and the young characters wouldn't have had the money to buy the kind of fancy clothes depicted in American films of this era."
She also took pains to consult the actors on their preferences. "It was important for them to feel comfortable in their clothes, to be able to freely express their feelings," she explains.
Henry Dangar Editor
One of the greatest editing challenges for Henry Dangar was finding a balance between the emotional "light and shade" in The Crossing.
"The intense emotions needed to be offset by moments of relief and laughter, so that the audience gets some breathing space - and that was tricky to achieve," Dangar explains.
Dangar, who grew up in an Australian country town and went to live in Sydney as soon as he finished school, says he was particularly sensitive to the oppressive attitudes of the country people conveyed in The Crossing.
"People in small country towns like the one Meg and Sam come from expect everyone to conform," Dangar says. "It may not be stated, but its strongly implied in The Crossing. I recognised that state of mind and the loneliness which comes from it, as it popped up so often in the story."
Dangar also noted that the film worked best emotionally when this feeling was conveyed. "Whenever the pressure of the town on the young kids was released, the film took a dip dramatically. Fortunately, because the performances of the cast were so good, we were able to keep up the pressure."
Throughout the production, Dangar felt the film grew enormously. "The producers had the vision and confidence to allow that to happen. The performances, especially, grew and as a result, the narrative was changed. Then, during editing, it became apparent that a couple of scenes needed to be reshot, not because the were poorly done, but because the strength of the performances made it evident that in two specific instances a different mood was required."
Working with George Ogilvie was a delight for Dangar who, for the first time in this feature film career, was asked for his insights and ideas on the film long before shooting began.
"George creates an atmosphere where you feel as if you're a contributor rather than someone who's being directed. He and Jeff Darling and I had a number of discussions before production began."
Some directors leave editors alone to get on with the job, others "analyse, sparking ideas in me by forcing me to dig deeper and to be more questioning, which is wonderful."
Martin Armiger Music Producer/Composer
If there is a key theme in the music which Martin Armiger selected, produced and wrote for The Crossing, it is "passion".
"To me, The Crossing is primarily about teenage passion and it takes those emotions very seriously. No one working on this film is patronising of young love and the music reflects this."
Armiger is the most successful producer of soundtrack albums in Australia, having won the ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) awards as Best Producer for the ABC series Sweet and Sour and best soundtrack album for You've Always Got The Blues. He shared with Bill Motzing the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Original Music for the feature Young Einstein.
Armiger readily sets the musical context for the mid 60s, the approximate era portrayed in The Crossing. "It was an explosive time in pop music. The increasing influence of black music styles on English pop groups combined with a burst of experimentation in both sounds and lyrics. It gave the Top 40 a new and lasting character.
"In Australia the local music scene took off, with a whole series of artists - like Normie Rowe, Ray Brown and The Offbeats and The Easybeats - were beginning to find an original and distinctive voice."
Armiger says that music was always intended to play a big part in The Crossing, reflecting emotions; and although "we started out thinking we'd need a lot of songs, the way the movie turned out, we felt we didn't need as many. So there's more underscore than we originally expected."
Because he and music co-ordinator Martin Fabinyi (founder of Regular Records) spent so much time in consultation about the music with the key creative team on the film, Armiger says that by the time he saw some of the scenes cut together, they knew exactly which music they wanted.
Armiger's approach to the music of the era is one of "love and reverence and
productions. Using certain techniques, working with sounds or rhythms, we wanted to twist them into real 90s songs."
He adds: "We tried to find songs which would stand reinterpretation by modern artists and which hadn't already been used in other films. We decided to reinterpret the songs to be different and to connect the trials of the screen characters with what kids are going through today."
Russell Crowe plays Johnny
Russell Crowe couldn't wait to play Johnny because not only would it afford him the chance to work with (director) George Ogilvie but also, as he puts it: "I have this basic Australian attitude about favouring the underdog. I even barrack against my own football team when they're winning."
To Russell, Johnny's personal journey seemed particularly intense and dramatic. Asked to describe some of his perceptions about his screen character, Russell, 25, says "Johnny's simplicity is part of his complexity and he has an inability to communicate his feelings to her, which is so Australian. He's a product of his environment and he wants to progress within it, to marry Meg and have a family, with all the stability that represents. He's tied to the town through his mother and his dead father."
One of the great things Ogilvie brought out, says Russell, was the influence of the parents on the three lead characters. "All the parents had to do was treat the young lovers with the respect they demand for their own. Love among teenagers is often disregarded as unimportant, but it may be the most important in your life. Everything at that age is so heightened."
Russell does not identify personally with Johnny at all. Johnny, he explains, is totally at home in the country - hunting, being practical, "a down-to-earth, primal and atavistic man". Russell, on the other hand, is "not practical, can't fix cars and abhors the idea of hunting." But he barracks for Johnny as a sensitive, reticent man, "not just an aggressive country bumpkin" and he sees his main dramatic challenge is making the audience like and care about Johnny and admits that he (Russell) would "fall in love with Meg, too."
As part of his preparation for the role, Russell spent time on a western New South Wales farm, shearing and playing two-up (a favourite form of observation." he says. "I don't have a technical approach to acting. I was hopeless at maths. Acting for me is an instinctive ability and the more I do the more I can see what it is possible to learn and do in the future".
It is hardly surprising that Russell became an actor. His parents were location caterers. He appeared in Spyforce, a television series, at six and spent school holidays around film and television sets.
"I harboured a great desire to be Elvis Presley and still faintly do, "he jokes. After leaving school, he played with various rock bands for six years before landing the role of Eddie/Dr Scott in The Rocky Horror Show which toured New Zealand in 1986 and Australia in 1987/88.
Music has been an important part of his life "since I was a kid" and he used it as a device to help him get inside the part of Johnny, writing and recording six songs related to The Crossing.
His relationship with Danielle Spencer (Meg) and Robert Mammone (Sam) he describes as a "meshing of minds, a great mental kinship". And he acknowledges the tremendous input of George Ogilvie, whose directorial judgement he trusts implicitly.
Russell's other film appearances include Blood Oath (with Bryan Brown) and Spotswood (with Anthony Hopkins). His theatre credits include Blood Brothers, Bad Boy Johnny and Simpson J 202.
Danielle Spencer plays Meg
Danielle Spencer won the role of Meg ahead of hundreds of other young hopefuls who went through the director's extensive screening process and then spent the next five months "thinking constantly about the film and my character".
"It all went into my unconscious so that by the time we started filming, with George's (Ogilvie) help, I felt very relaxed about it," Danielle says, adding: "I felt a very big responsibility, not only because this is my first big part in a film, but also because a great deal of The Crossing rests on the cast. I hope the audience will be engaged emotionally by it."
Danielle, 20, who has trained extensively in drama, singing, classical and jazz ballet and modern dance, claims that it was obvious she'd become a performer when she was little. Her mother was an entertainer before she married Danielle's father, Don. And he was an entertainer who had a single in Australia's Top 10 during the 60s, toured with the Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry and in recent years has written children's albums.
"Because of dad I feel very balanced about the entertainment industry," Danielle says. "He neither encouraged nor discouraged me from going into showbusiness. Acting was always on my mind, but getting an education was a priority."
In high school, Danielle studied dance and drama for her higher School Certificate, but she cold see that "dance had its limitations". She applied to NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art, but at 17 was too young to be accepted. Instead she won a small role in the 1987 Sydney stage musical Rasputin and began "learning on the job".
Working on The Crossing, Danielle says she learned a lot from George Ogilvie and the older actors. From her imagination she constructed a profile on Meg whom she describes as "an innocent leading a very simple life, a real farm girl. Emotionally she's more complicated; decisions, especially when it comes to Johnny and Sam, are not cut and dried for her."
For Danielle, it was important to maintain an emotional ambivalence about the two young men throughout the film. "Johnny's loveable and Sam's exciting, so it's a difficult choice for Meg," she says. "Sam represents financial and emotional insecurity. He's already taken off once and left her. Johnny would be an easier decision because Meg loves the town, the people, her family . Johnny represents security, but there is a magnetism, a chemistry between Meg and Sam ...."
One of the most difficult aspects of the role was sustaining the intensity of emotion throughout the shoot, especially when key scenes were shot out of sequence.
This, however, Danielle achieved with ease, according to the makeup technicians who recall that she cried so much on the day of the Anzac march scene that they had to apply cucumber slabs to reduce the puffiness of her eyelids.
In the future Danielle would like to do a diverse range of roles, but admits that until she grows and looks older she is destined to be cast in the "young lass" parts.
Her film credits include Crack In The Curtain and the lead role in What The Moon Saw; television credits include the series Mission Impossible, Dolphin Cove, Rafferty's Rules and The Flying Doctors.
Robert Mammone plays Sam
Robert Mammone was holidaying in his home city, Adelaide, when his agent rang asking him to audition for The Crossing. "When I heard George Ogilvie's name, I told my agent I'd return to Sydney immediately," he muses reflectively.
He did one workshop where he observed he was, at 24 one of the oldest actors there - "and that made me nervous". George helped to get him "loose enough to perform", then he was called back to screen test with Russell Crowe (who'd already been cast as Johnny), along with "a roomful of potential Sams". More nerves.
When he learned he'd won the lead role of Sam, Robert cautiously didn't allow himself to celebrate until his contract was signed. Then he permitted himself to become ecstatic.
He went out and bought tapes of music from the early and mid 60s and for the next few months as he prepared for the role, he listened to those instead of the radio. A friend gave him some books about that era and by the time shooting began, Robert felt he knew Sam very well.
"I really felt for Sam,' he says. "I live in Sydney now, but I went back to Adelaide recently and met up with a lot of my schoolfriends, none of whom are in the entertainment industry. There was a funny vibe between us. I've moved on and I'm no longer one of them. There's a lot of support from them but there's a sense of distance because my life has taken such a different direction to theirs."
When Robert first attempted acting after leaving high school his father was concerned. "He wanted me to get a trade behind me first. But I've always done what I wanted. So I identify and connect with Sam in this regard".
Robert knew he "just felt good" when he was performing, even at school so when he graduated, he "floated" in that direction. A great believer in fate, Robert recalls that a friend introduced him to a casting agent at 15 and the woman, who happened to be the leading agent in Adelaide, put him on her books immediately.
"I'm an instinctive actor," he notes. "I haven't had any formal training. I don't intellectualise, I just do it".
Of Sam, Robert says: "I like his individualism. That's his strength. To actually get up and leave town and then to come back knowing there would be drama and ramifications, that took guts."
Describing Sam and Meg's mutual attraction, Robert says: Meg is really a part of the land and Sam saw in her an energy, a zest for life, a certain vitality, which he also has. The bond between them was very powerful; often they'd communicate without saying a word."
During filming on location, Robert attended three or four sessions of the daily rushes and then felt "scared to death, so I didn't go back".
"George said we could go if we wanted, but it was probably better if we didn't. He was right and I trust him. He certainly knows what he wants in our performances."
Robert valued the interaction between himself and his co-actors Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer. "We talked to each other throughout the shoot, questioning certain aspects of our characters and how they affect one another."
Asked what he'd learned from his experience on The Crossing, Robert says promptly: "Patience".
His film credits include Damsels Be Damned and Luigi's Ladies, television credits include the series Rafferty's Rules, Willing and Abel and All The Way.
Other Cast Biographies
Daphne Gray plays Jean (Johnny’s mother) (sic, Grey in the film's credits)
Portraying the grief of a woman like Jean, Johnny's mother, was not difficult for Daphne Gray. She simply remembered her late husband for whom she still grieves and "crying came naturally". Jean, Gray says, is a "tragic woman, immutably stuck in the past". Gray sees the roles of the three protagonists' parents as peripheral to the central love triangle, but important in terms of the emotional background they provide and the professional experience the actors bring. She enjoys filming enormously and especially enjoys the challenge of strong character roles like Jean. Her film and television credits include Short Changed, Melba and The Shiralee.
George Whaley plays Sid (Sam’s father)
Whaley has had a long, distinguished career as a stage and screen actor/director as well as teaching young drama students. He says of his role as Sid: "We oldies give context to the youngsters and their situation. We shed some light on where they come from". Whaley describes Sid as "a very stitched up man who's aimed to achieve respectability and a certain standard". In recent roles, Whaley quips he has "cornered the market on Catholic priests and unsympathetic, hard-nosed fathers". Whaley has been general manager of the Canberra Theatre Centre, a director of the Australian Playwrights Conference (1981), head of the acting course and the National Institute of Dramatic Art and a resident director of the Old Tote Theatre Company. Recent acting credits include Speed the Plow and The Doll's House.
Jacquy Phillips plays Marion (Sam’s mother) (sic, Jacqy Phillips in the film's credits)
Marion is a woman who director George Ogilvie describes as having "compromised enormously in life. She has forgotten how important being loved is and has become resigned to accepting the unsatisfactory state of her life". Phillips graduated from Flinders University Drama Centre in 1977 and since then has successfully played a broad range of classical and contemporary stage roles. Her work through the 1980s was prolific and generally acclaimed. Among the plays in which she appeared for the South Australian Theatre Company are Dreams In An Empty City, Vocations and Twelfth Night. In addition to her stage work, she has also been a member of the rock band Red Smarties, a member of the Women Directors Workshop at Sydney's Nimrod Theatre and she won a State Busking Championship.
Patrick Ward plays Nev (Meg’s father)
Ward has been cast so often as "the aggressive type with an underlying menace" that he worries about typecasting. But when he talked to director George Ogilvie in more depth about Nev and his motives, he found an added dimension to this screen role. Ward says of New: "He has a raw, manipulative side. He worries about Meg making the wrong decision - marrying Sam. It will mean she will leave town. Whereas if she marries Johnny, Johnny can help Nev work the farm. He's very self-interested and keen to maintain the status quo". Among Ward's extensive television credits are The Bodysurfers, Fields Of Fire III, Anzacs and Rafferty's Rules.
May Lloyd plays Peg (Meg’s Mother)
May Lloyd has a somewhat exotic professional background. A New Zealander, she was a founder member of Stiff Bix Cabaret, a fringe satirical troupe consisting of a core of five actors, a male dancer and all woman band, The Wide Mouth Frogs. Lloyd worked as a writer, designer, actor and singer with the group. They performed a three-month season at Wellington's Rock Theatre. Later, they reformed as Chameleon Circus with the addition of puppets, clown and a fire-eating act. They toured extensively throughout New Zealand. Lloyd is also co-founder and lead vocalist with the Hot City Cats, a seven-piece twenties and thirties hot jazz band.
Emily Lumbers plays Jenny (Meg’s Friend)
Lumbers has been singing and acting since childhood. Lead roles in school plays were followed by a course at NIDA from which she graduated in 1988. Her credits include The Saint In Australia, Depth Of Feeling, A Country Practice and numerous NIDA stage productions.
Rodney Bell plays Shorty
Bell has been acting, singing and dancing professionally since he was four. At eight he appeared in the stage musical Pippin; in his early teens he won roles in various TV series. He graduated from NIDA in 1988. His credits include The Young Doctors, The Restless Years and Shout - The Johnny O'Keefe Story. (Sadly Bell died of cancer at the age of 39 in 2005, having made a name for himself in the TV series version of The Man from Snowy River).
John Blair plays Billy (Johnny’s Friend)
Blair has begun to establish a reputation as a talented young stage actor.