The UK VHS release went with “In the world of Rock n’ Roll … A father becomes history … His son becomes a legend” on the front and back of the slick, along with a short synopsis:

An explosive Rock ’n Roll film which contrasts the aspirations of a legendary ’60’s rock performer with his son’s up and coming success.

Once a successful and famous singer, Johnny Dysart (John Waters), now married with a son Paul (Guy Pearce), still holds desperately onto a dream. With the right song he strongly believes he can recapture his past music successes.

‘Heaven Tonight’ leads to a mind-blowing ending as Johnny’s dreams are shattered forever … but out of the ashes a new dream is born.

The US VHS release went with “Rock and roll can never die" on front and back covers, along with a short synopsis:

Father and son struggle to keep their dream alive … rock-and-roll. The story of a rock-and-roll family and a growing father-son dispute in the fast-lane back-drop of today’s music revolution. Fantasies become reality as son Paul’s rock-and-roll career blasts off … Music was all it took to keep the dream alive.

The Australian Boulevard VHS release led with the cast and their roles on the rear of the slick:

For a more detailed synopsis, with cast names and spoilers, see the bottom of this site’s ‘about the movie' section.


Production Details

Production company: Boulevard Films Presents; tail credit copyrights to Boulevard Films Pty Ltd.; financial advisors Pacvest Securities Ltd; CIBC Australia, D & D Tolhurst Ltd.

Budget: Greg Kerr in his March 1991 Cinema Papers’ review of the film puts the budget below $2 million (Boulevard Films didn't release details of production budgets). In any case, it’s clear that the film was low-budget and likely was well below $2 million, especially if the production budget is considered, rather than the amount spent on financing charges, and overheads and suchlike 10BA matters. Some producers in that era routinely returned some of the finance raised in a round-robin designed to ensure investors received enough returns to make their tax break work.

Locations: Melbourne - Footscray is amongst the suburbs on view. Chinatown can also be seen, and Melbourne CBD laneways provide the setting for the climax.

Filmed: Cinema Papers, May 1989 lists principal photography as beginning October 1988; the film is listed as being in production in the January 1989 Cinema Papers’ production survey.

Australian distributor: Boulevard Films/Hoyts

Theatrical release: the film was given a brief theatrical release in Melbourne at Hoyts mid-city and Hoyts Highpoint and Forest Hill, beginning 22nd November 1990. It also played briefly in Sydney.

Video release: Boulevard Films via Warner Home Video

Rating: M

35mm  colour       Kodak shooting stock

Arriflex cameras from Samuelsons

Dolby stereo in selected theatres

Running time: 95 mins (Murray’s Australian Film;  Cinema Papers - Adrian Rawlins’ review; Stratton’s The Avocado Plantation); 97 minutes (Cinema Papers' Greg Kerr review)

VHS time: 1’37”03

Box office:

The film did dismal domestic business, receiving a token release in home town Melbourne and few other bookings. As a result, it isn’t even listed in the relatively comprehensive Film Victoria report on Australian box office business.

In his March 1991 Cinema Papers’ review, Greg Kerr offered excuses for the film’s failure:

Heaven Tonight had an inglorious season of two weeks in Melbourne and Sydney last November. It was withdrawn after failing to withstand the avalanche of big-budget American films released to cash in on pre-Christmas film audiences. Boulevard Films was disappointed with both the timing of the film’s release, as well as its poor to lukewarm reception by most reviewers.

Kerr ended his review with some hopes for the film in the international marketplace:

While Heaven Tonight has not lived up to the expectations of its creators locally, Boulevard Films is optimistic about its forthcoming release in the U.S. and Europe (and possibly Russia) where perhaps audiences and critics have a more embracing attitude towards Australian films. It is due for release on video locally around April.

The film didn’t do any theatrical business overseas, but it did at least pick up sales in the tape market in key territories such as the UK and the USA. It might have been simply a matter of the film not working with audiences, and therefore not being able to generate word of mouth.

Not long after the film’s domestic release, Boulevard Films would implode under the pressure of its 10BA schemes and failure of its products in the market place, with a number of films not completed or released.


Opinion

Awards

Boulevard Films enjoyed a couple of significant AFI wins in the 1988 awards for Boulevard of Broken Dreams  - both John Waters and Kim Gyngell were rewarded with wins in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, and the film scored 7 nominations in all.

In contrast, Heaven Tonight managed just one nomination in the 1989 AFI awards:

Nominated, Hoyts Entertainment Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Kim Gyngell) (Chris Haywood won for Emerald City)

Availability

The film could be found on DVD in the international market place, though there is little to suggest that these copies were taken from a good source - in the United States, the film has been treated as public domain.

In Australia, copies of the film circulate amongst collectors derived from the domestic VHS release, quality contingent on source material used.

As for the film, it is possibly not as lachrymose and sentimentally self-indulgent as Boulevard's first feature, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but it's not for want of trying.

The film fails to explore the possibilities inherent in the conflict between one hit wonder dad (John Waters) and musically upwardly mobile son (Guy Pearce), preferring to use the last third of the movie for some melodrama which sees Kim Gyngell's character do a childish stick-up with a toy gun and then get shot by the cops, with John Waters hanging around to watch the self-immolation.

Nor is it clear why Rebecca Gilling's supportive wife hangs around while Waters does a Citizen Kane on his study, and then gives her a thump - a reminder that domestic violence was a different country on screen in the 1980s.

For music buffs, there's also the issue of the music. There's absolutely no feeling that the 1960s title song might have been top of the charts in Australia or the UK - it's enfeebled folk pop at its dullest, and without a strong melody - while its re-make into a 1980s synth song is equally problematic.

That said, the film does boast Guy Pearce escaping from Neighbours to do his first big screen role, and managing the limited material well (better than his guitar work). Boulevard backed Pearce in four roles, and Peace seized the moment.

John Waters is also solid, and it's not his fault that his character is a self-indulgent man going through a mid-life crisis. 

Both Pearce and Waters had an interest in music (Waters would later make John Lennon a career staple), and they both do their best to pitch the music. It might have been more interesting to explore this aspect, and the father-son relationship in more detail. (There doesn't seem any reason why the father wouldn't have given his son his entire catalogue for a make-over, and turned himself into his manager, apart from egotistical delusion on the part of the father).

Rebecca Gilling doesn't overdo the wife, and Sean Scully turns into a tidy cameo as a record company executive who scarpered from the band to sit behind a desk.

Kim Gyngell is also good as the sidekick - again it's not his fault that he's landed with the standard muso junkie on the skids routine, and he does his best with it.

As with most of Howson's Boulevard films, the sense of place - Melbourne - is strong, and so it's a pity that the film's possibilities are limited by Howson's sentimental taste for tears and Pino Amenta's inclination to florid excess when directing the action.


1. Source:

Writer and producer Frank Howson was interviewed by David Stratton in episode 36 of the 1990 series of the SBS Movie Show, aired 25th November 1990, and available here until 2030.

Howson explained his inspiration for the show while Guy Pearce discussed his character:

Frank Howson: “I’ve certainly lived through certain aspects of that story and I’ve seen, I think virtually everything that takes place in that film first-hard, or I’ve certainly known of somebody that’s been through that … I think there’s been a lot of films about the rock ’n roll industry and they seem to focus on the fantasy story about ‘you get to the top and it’s fantastic’, and that’s it …I wanted to sort of do a film that actually showed what happened after the play-off … and um the fact that it’s an amazing industry in that you can actually improve with age, but nobody’s listening anymore …and um that really … it really confuses a lot of people, and er a lot of them never get over it …because they can’t understand the injustice of actually getting better, and not even being able to get the foot in the door anymore, and I think that’s … well to me I think it’s the basis of great tragedy …”

Guy Pearce: “He’s an unfortunate character because … because of the background of his father being in the rock ’n roll industry and having done so well, and now not doing well at all. He’s in this awful situation of not knowing really how to approach his father about the subject of rock ’n roll… Paul, you know, is a very keen musician …lead singer of a rock band …and obviously doing well …at local gigs and stuff like that …so he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he treats the whole rock industry like a business, and he’s obviously seen what’s happened to his father, so he’s going to be a lot more cautious about how he goes about it …

With a show like ‘Neighbours’ you spend so much time every week just churning out scene after scene after scene and when I moved into film, when I did ‘Heaven Tonight’, um … the pace was a lot slower …a lot more gradual, and you had more time to work on the script, I mean we basically sort of sat down for almost two weeks just going over each scene and working out  what it was all about, whereas with ‘Neighbours’ you get scripts, you’ve got scripts coming out of your ears, and at the same time you’re filming on location, you’re filming in studio, so it’s non-stop. I mean, if you can survive that, you can survive anything …so the transition was actually a luxury…”

Frank Howson: “I just thought that it would be a very interesting combination to have John Waters and Sean Scully together. I think that the scene they do together is fantastic … and um it’s like watching two prize-fighters, you know, shaping up to each other, and I think it brings out the best in the two of them.” 

For more about Boulevard Films and Heaven Tonight, see the Cinema Papers’ interview below.

2. Cast:

The film was the big screen debut for Guy Pearce, who had attracted attention and a following with a continuing role in the TV soap Neighbours.

Pearce appeared in four Boulevard films, including Friday on My Mind, Hunting and Flynn (as the young Erroll Flynn), before making his name with The Adventures of Priscilla and eventually moving in 1997 to LA for L.A. Confidential. Pearce has a wiki here

John Waters also did a number of Boulevard Films, including the first one released, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. He has a wiki here

Kym Gyngell also did Boulevard of Broken Dreams, as well as the second Boulevard  film released, What the Moon Saw, and confused databases by travelling first as Kim (credited that way in Heaven Tonight) and later as Kym. He has a wiki here

Rebecca Gilling has a short wiki here, and Sean Scully’s wiki is here

3. Date:

The film was completed in 1989, but had to wait until 1990 for a brief domestic release. In the usual way, Murray’s 1995 survey Australian Film dates the film to 1990, but David Stratton in The Avocado Plantation correctly dates it to 1989, the year in the tail credits copyright notice.

This was one of Boulevard’s 10BA financed productions before the company collapsed, and it should be seen in that late 1980s context. (Some Boulevard films were either never completed or never released, making Murray’s dating strategy even more moot).

4. Trivia:

The film’s wiki, here,  draws attention to the way that the film was celebrated by Tony Martin and Lachy Hulme on MMM radio back in May 2006. 

Remarkably at time of writing this was still available for listening and downloading as an MP3 here

The sequence, which involves Hulme claiming that he only collected film scores - or music that would be good for use in film scores - turned to Heaven Tonight, with jokes about Guy Pearce being a “keyboard axe” and the name of his band being “Video Rodney” kitted out with “new wave hexagonal drums, tumm tumm tumm” and the film including shots of radio programmers putting on cassettes and bopping along, going ‘yeah’ and having their world rocked by “Video Rodney”.

Martin: “...Record company guys going we’ve got to sign ‘Video Rodney’. Would there ever be a band called ‘Video Rodney’, let alone the hottest band in Australia? That is the movie score! Have you got that on your shelf?” 

Hulme confesses he doesn’t, but now that it’s been mentioned “I’m gunna be rushing right out to get that in the one dollar bin.” (The program didn't even have anything from the film’s score to play, and so moved on to jokes about other shows).

The music provides other distractions.

The one hit wonder single supposedly came from 1968 (according to the dates on the LP and CD releases of the film’s soundtrack), yet in the film it is shown as being number one in Australia, with Normie Rowe’s Ooh La La at number two.

But Rowe’s song (wiki Rowe here) went to number one in December 1966. 

Heaven Tonight is also shown as Number One in the UK, with The Seekers' version of Morningtown Ride (the song has a wiki here) in position two.

This song was originally recorded by The Seekers in 1964, and when re-recorded and released, it became the number two song in the UK in late December 1966.

It would seem that the art department simply whited out the real number one for the Australian chart, Herman’s Hermits' No Milk Today, and the real number one for the UK chart, Tom Jones’ Green Green Grass of Home, and typed in Heaven Tonight.

There’s also a good guessing game to be had spotting the 1960s figures which turn up in the opening newsreel montage that accompanies The Chosen Ones' song, including Vietnam war footage, Martin Luther King, the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Australian boxer Lionel Rose.

5. Music:  

Heaven Tonight, the fictional number one song sung over the opening montage by John Waters' The Chosen Ones, in a kind of soft pop folk instrumental style like the Byrds or Graham Nash, is repeated at the end of the film by Guy Pearce’s band, Video Rodney, this time done in the kind of Countdown synth disco sound fashionable in the 1980s.

Lyrics for the song (with some minor alternations for the end version noted): 

Where have you been all my life?

Am I what you’ve been looking for?

What are you waiting for?

Touch me and I am yours

I’ve held my breath long enough

Where have you been all my life?

My heart has been pounding all night

I live in front of you (end version: I’m billed in front of you)

Now do our dreams come true

I really think that they will

The shot in the night, the star in the sky

Draws us together (‘together’ is drawn out)

How does it feel

It feels like Heaven Tonight ...

Love is so free

Oh heaven tonight

Victory won 

Stealing the prize

Playing to win

We got stars in our eyes (‘eyes’ is very drawn out)

(musical interlude, 60s guitar sound in head credits version)

We’ve been alone all our lives

Hiding the way that we feel

Whether I live or die 

Nothing can make me cry

The time is right, and so am I …

Tomorrow begins with tonight

Yesterday’s fading from sight

The future is ours to take

Give this world a shake

Take this song, then hold on tight

The shot in the night, the star in the sky (end version: a star in the sky)

Draws us together (‘together’ is drawn out)

(end version extended guitar solo here)

How does it feel

It feels like Heaven Tonight ...

Love is so free

Oh heaven tonight

Victory won

Stealing the prize

Playing to win

We had stars in our eyes (‘we’ve got’ in end version)

How does it feel

To feel like heaven tonight?

Love is so free

Oh heaven tonight

Victory won

Stealing the prize (end version: we’re stealing the prize)

Playing to win

We’ve got stars in our eyes (end version ends here, with crowd applauding, cheering and getting to feet)

How does it feel

It feels like heaven tonight...

Love is so free

Ooh heaven tonight

Victory won

Stealing the prize

Playing to win

We’ve got stars in our eyes (‘eyes’ is very drawn out)

A Warren Zevon song, Johnny Strikes Up The Band, runs over the tail credits. Lyrics as head in the film:

Dry your eyes my little friend

Let me take you by the hand

Freddie get ready, Rock steady

When Johnny strikes up the band

They'll be rocking in the projects

Walking down along the strand

Freddie get ready, Rock steady

When Johnny strikes up the band

Johnny strikes up the band

When Johnny strikes up the

When Johnny strikes up the

When Johnny strikes up the band

And Johnny is my main man

He's the keeper of the keys

He'll put your mind at ease

He's guaranteed to please

Back by popular demand

Dry your eyes my little friend

Let me take you by the hand

Freddie get ready, Rock steady

When Johnny strikes up the band

They'll be rocking in the projects

Walking down along the strand

Freddie get ready, Rock steady

When Johnny strikes up the band

Johnny strikes up the band

When Johnny strikes up the

When Johnny strikes up the

When Johnny strikes up the band

(guitar solo)

And Johnny is my main man

He's the keeper of the keys

He'll put your mind at ease

He's guaranteed to please

Back by popular demand

Look around my little friend

Jubilation in the land

Freddie get ready, Rock steady

When Johnny strikes up the band

Johnny strikes up the band

When Johnny strikes up the

When Johnny strikes up the

When Johnny strikes up the band

Yeaaah

Johnny strikes up the band

Johnny strikes up the band

When Johnny strikes up the band

Johnny strikes up the band

Johnny strikes up the band

Yeah 

(guitar solo, and then slow fade as credits end)

For more on the film’s music - it was released on CD and LP, with a couple of 45 spin-offs, though apparently none of the releases did business - see this site’s pdf of music credits.

6. Cinema Papers’ interview and profile:

Paul Kalina did a profile of Boulevard Films and interviewed writer/producer Frank Howson for the November 1989 edition of Cinema Papers.

Industry insiders were already aware that by this time Boulevard was in serious trouble, and in the early 1990s, the company would see it and a significant number of subsidiary companies collapse, resulting in criminal charges being levelled against the principals and much litigation.

None of this is mentioned in the Cinema Papers’ piece.

Kalina much later in September 2005 did a profile for The Age here which caught up on these events: 

...To say that Howson (the television-radio gadfly John Michael Howson is his cousin) has been tested over the past decade is a cruel understatement.

In the middle of 1997 he left Australia after the collapse of his film production company Boulevard Films. A decade earlier, when investment tax schemes were at their peak, Boulevard raised $24.5 million that went into a large slate of films, including Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Hunting, Heaven Tonight and Flynn.

Many of the films were modest financial, if not critical, successes. Flynn, which was controversially re-shot with new actors during its protracted production, became a success-de-scandal. Financial problems were brewing behind the scenes at Boulevard.

By the time the money ran out - exactly where it went isn't clear, according to Howson - he copped a suspended sentence and fine for "imposing on the Commonwealth". Meanwhile, his marriage had ended. And, he lost his voice - a possible consequence of the breakdown he suffered - before a doctor at the University of California Los Angeles diagnosed the mystery complaint as spasmodic dysphonia.

With the help of Botox injections that kill the nerve endings to the vocal chords and relax the throat, the former child-star (Magical Frank was once his nickname), singer, actor, film director and writer can talk again, albeit in a toneless, stuttering staccato.

Far from being resentful or vindictive over his fall from grace, the experience "made me a better person, a far better director", he insists...

For more, follow the link to the original story.

The Cinema Papers' profile, November 1989:

Since the release of Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Pino Amenta) in 1988, Frank Howson’s production company, Boulevard Films, has completed a record number of five films in the past 12 months, making it Australia’s most prolific producer of feature films. Three films are scheduled for production in 1990, and more further down the track. To finance this ambitious slate, the company has raised $38.45 million during the past three years:

What is more, Boulevard Films has continued to make films at a time when few others could. Peter Boyle, who serves as chief executive officer and has execu­tive produced the films, admits that it is tough out there: “The whole ball game has changed. It changes every time the tax laws change.” To finance this ambitious slate, tax laws change.” He hopes that the government will leave the tax concessions as they are so that once again producers have the the company has raised opportunity to stabilize the investment base, but cautions that there is not much life for 10BA under 100 percent. He also believes the job of attracting investment has been made a lot more difficult by Hemdale in the U.S. not meeting several distribution guarantees on the local films. 

Despite the hard times of late, Boulevard Films’ present fortune is very much a legacy of days gone by. The financing of the first five films, which only completed production when Flynn (Brian Kavanaugh) wrapped in October, was underwritten before September 1985 at the old 133/33 10BA tax rate. The package totalling $16.75 million was backed by 55 per cent pre-sales via Boulevard’s distribution arm, Brave Entertainment.

Indeed, Howson and Boyle are keen to dispel the notion that the company’s rise had been meteoric. Howson admits that there was initially resentment from some people in the industry when it appeared that the company had suddenly sprouted from nowhere with its hefty production schedule. In fact, the company was formed in 1981, seven years before production of its first film, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Most of that time, according to Boyle, was spent in the backroom “developing scripts, ideas and contacts, speaking to people, producers, film bodies, bankers accountants and lawyers”.

Much of the time was also taken up by a project that didn’t take off, and another that, to the regret of some, did. The one that didn’t transpire was the still-unproduced “Something Great”, a project based on the life of folk hero Les Darcy. The Michael Edgley Organisation was interested at one stage, but the problem of control was a stumbling block, claims Howson. The $6 million project suffered another setback with the fall-out between Antony I. Ginnane’s International Film Management and Hemdale, which had provided a significant pre-sale.

The other project was Backstage (Johnathan Hardy, 1988), which was finally produced by the Burrowes Dixon Group. The project went to that production company, says Howson, under the condition that it act as executive producer only, and have no creative input: “I knew very clearly what audience it should be made for. But all of a sudden I found myself dealing with production by committee. To even make the smallest decision required everyone sitting around the table. Howson eventually walked away, leaving to conjecture what might have become of this controversial film, which has come to epitomize the 10BA era.

The eventual emergence of productions from Boulevard Films was certainly timely, no  only for the company but for the industry. Howson admits that “had we not made Boulevard of Broken Dreams, we would have been left with an incredible debt”. For the industry, feature film production in Melbourne would have ground to a virtual stand-still had it not been for the five Melbourne-based projects. 

Although Boulevard of Broken Dreams won two AFI Awards from seven nominations, it was less than a success with the critics, leading to letters being sent from the production company to a few reviewers. Howson insists that it was a box-office success, reflecting nonetheless that its local release should have been better staged. To capitalize on the AFI Awards, the film’s distributor, Hoyts, rush released it before the soundtrack album and marketing campaign Boulevard had envisaged were ready. 

However, what sounds like a soft-sell gives way to a more earnest explanation by Howson: 

“It was the first film we’d done, and it was made with a lot of commercial requirements because we weren’t in the position to just make a film and hope for the best. We set out to make a film that would do well here and internationally.”

One of those commercial requirements was the film’s somewhat bathetic ending, in which the dying Tom Garfield (John Waters) is intercepted at the airport by his tear-stricken and conciliatory wife and child. Originally, Tom was to have hopped on the plane without anyone knowing that he returned to L.A. to die. This dark ending would have pleased the critics, Howson predicts, but audiences would have felt cheated. 

Howson claims that the range and variety of Boulevard’s films reflects his eclectic tastes. Boyle believes it is a trap to produce films that look and feel the same. He feels it is important that distributors see a spread of styles, further enabling the company to move into various areas of the market place. Nonetheless, similarities exist between the way the films are made. They are all produced and written (or co-written) by Howson, who also directed Hunting. Three of the six films made to date were directed by Pino Amenta. Many of the same actors re-appear: Kim Gyngell and Guy Pearce having appeared in three, John Waters in two. The aim, say Howson and Boyle, is to nurture new talent and develop a stable of actors and crew members. The films tend to be made on short shooting schedules, often shot back-to-back. Budget-wise, Boyle likes to keep them below $3 million, “anything above that really needs support from a U.S. dis­tributor, an American or British actor.” 

In terms of subject matter, the films tend toward domestic dramas rather than lurid excavations of the entertainment world a la Bob Fosse. (Flynn, assures Howson, will tactfully avoid some of Flynn’s infamous party tricks.) The films’ casting is likewise calcu­lated to ensure widest possible audience appeal. Guy Pearce made his feature film debut in Heaven Tonight (Pino Amenta), staying on board for Hunting and the lead role in Flynn. Like Kim Gyngell, he is best known to audiences for his roles in television. In the case of Pearce, however, his popular reputation and following is somewhat higher calibre, having been forged in the high-rating and, signifi­cantly, internationally-known Neighbours. 

Concomitant with these ploys is the priority given to the films’ soundtracks. Boulevard intends to produce and market soundtrack albums for all the films. Boulevard of Broken Dreams was comple­mented by a soundtrack album featuring original recordings by wellknown international artists. Five singles with corresponding film clips (shot by Howson) have been lifted from Heaven Tonight. CBS Records will distribute the records, which will, predictably, see yet another Neighbours star embark on a music career. 

This particular strategy goes much further than simply using the marketing muscle of an international record company, significant though this is, to capitalize on what is effectively free advertising for the movie in another medium. It is more like a linchpin of the company, and an integral ingredient in the way projects are con­ceived. Howson says: 

“From day one when perceive what style of film it will be, we almost decide how we’d like the poster shot. It may sound funny but it’s thought out that carefully. We also incorporate the various songs we’d like to use in our scripts, so that we have a visual image of how the whole thing will end up in terms of the music component. We carefully plan the type and style of the songs we want. We’ve even contracted people to write particular styles of songs that fit into various moods of the film if we haven’t got anything in our publish­ ing catalogue or access to something.”

Boyle goes so far as to state that the company’s music interests are a key to its survival: 

“What people are realizing is that it’s very hard to make money in the Australian entertainment business out of one area, be it music publishing, records, movies or theatre ... We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to spend money from our music activities to develop our film activities, and that’s something that perhaps other producers haven’t had.”

In spite of the present economic climate, Boyle has managed to raise $12.5 million this year at the reduced 100 percent tax concession. He is understandably confident about Boulevard Films’ ability to reach investors: “Our products are attractive because they’re commercial. They stand a chance of breaking out and we’re very realistic in terms of our budgets”. Another secret of his success, he believes, is the company’s long-term view: “You really have to go to those people with a long-term view, rather than ‘Here’s a film; I need this much money; it’s going to be a hit.’” On the production slate for 1990 are three projects: Highway Hero; The Envoy, a thriller concerning CIA involvement in Australia; and Friday On My Mind, a contemporary youth-oriented film about street kids. Howson stresses once again that these films will be very different from each other. 

Frank Howson:

To his regret,  the title “Magical Frank” still comes back to haunt Frank Howson. The moniker harks back to Howson’s younger days when as a child actor he appeared on a New Faces-type program. He played a tap-dancing magician whose tricks went hopelessly wrong. Instead of flying away, the doves dropped dead, and so on. The routine turned into a cult attraction and spawned live appearances, a hit record and a theatrical musical. 

Since then, Howson has written four musicals for children, one of which has been filmed as What the Moon Saw, penned songs that have been recorded far and wide, and, through his company Boule­vard Music, published songs that have been recorded by such groups as Little River Band and Pseudo Echo. 

“Moving into film was a natural progression”, says Howson. “It brings all that experience under one umbrella.” Howson in fact wears many hats, writing both the scripts and songs of his films, as well as producing them and, on Hunting, directing.

Paul Kalina: What is the philosophy behind the films the company produces? You have made films in various genres.

Frank Howson: I have never understood anyone who locked into one type of film. I have quite eclectic tastes; they run across the board. I think you select a film like music: to suit different moods. Sometimes you want to be intellectually stimulated, other times you want some light diversion. 

The only time I get angry is when I see a film of a particular genre and it is badly done, shoddily produced or at the end of the film you don’t care one way or another about the characters. It ends and you think, ‘Fine. I spent 96 minutes in the presence of these people and I don’t give a fuck about any of them.

I got a lot of negative thoughts from some about the Les Darcy project. Michael Edgley and others wanted to change the sad ending. It has always seemed strange to me the thinking that you have to leave the audience on a high. It doesn’t matter at the end of a movie if the audience is moved to tears or laughter; the important thing is that they are moved. If an audience cares enough about a character to cry, then the film has obviously worked. 

Most of the characters in the films I have done so far are very flawed people. Tom Garfield in Boulevard of Broken Dreams has been very selfish and is struggling for some kind of redemption. The same with the character in Beyond My Reach, who some will probably find unlikable. But, if they are honest with themselves, they will realize he represents aspects of our own natures. He is multi-layered, enigmatic and, hopefully as a result, real. 

The important thing for me is that at the end of a screenplay you feel that you’ve been on an emotional journey, that you have started at one point and either descended to something or risen above it. At the end of a film, even if it’s avery subtle message, there must be some sort of enlightenment about the human condition. 

Kalina: Are there any particular types of films you would not be inter­ested in producing? 

Howson: I never thought I would do an action film, but then next year we are doing a film called Highway Hero, which is an ironic title. It is an action film, but hopefully it’s one that has some intellectual meat beneath the surface. 

A film that influenced me very much when writing it was Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, which is a film about violence, and about what somebody can become when he is under threat from other people. That theme has been explored in films like Death Wish. It is a good theme that has usually been sold down the line. 

Kalina: All the films you have made so far are set in the entertainment world. 

Howson: F. Scott Fitzgerald was once told by his editor to write about what he knew. Heaven Tonight is a film I can go on record as saying every incident is true: either I have lived it, or I know somebody who has. There is no fabrication, except in the names, which have been changed to protect the guilty. 

Kalina: What particular aspect of the industry do you want to show? 

Howson: Each film explores a different aspect. Boulevard is about some­body who has achieved what most people dream about, but is still not happy. What the Moon Saw is the total opposite: it’s about a little boy at the very beginning of his life who sees the enchantment and seductive wonderment of theatre. In many ways, the boy could be Tom Garfield as a child.

People have said that it is anti-Hollywood, but I don’t think it is. Anybody who goes to Hollywood and self-destructs carries that darkness within himself. Having done a lot of reading about Fitzgerald, Faulkner and others who went to Hollywood and were supposedly destroyed by it, I think those people would have self-destructed wherever they went. Hollywood gave them the opportunity to bring about the inevitable. 

Kalina: Can the same be said of Errol Flynn? 

Howson: Most certainly. But I think there are other reasons why he went down that path. He was an adventurer and for the first time in his life he had to turn up on time every day and do so many films every year. That ate away at him because he was devoid of any discipline. He stagnated, got bored and that amazing light force within himself burnt out. Our movie, though, doesn’t deal with the dark side, but instead explores the early years, the promise ... 

Kalina: How far will you continue with the entertainment-industry theme? 

Howson: The three films planned for next year don’t have any aspect of the business in them. And in Hunting, even though the main character is a media mogul, it doesn’t really focus on his business; it is more to do with the personal lives of the characters. 

Kalina: Are you interested in producing projects for others, or only ones you initiate yourself? 

Howson: We had developed a lot of projects and ideas during our eight years, and when the time came they were the first cabs off the rank. I am now starting to actively seek out other writers and screenplays, because I think it would be interesting to every year do one of my own projects and one or two from outside. In fact, we have even looked at executive producing projects for other producers that are, I suppose, in the same position as we were in with “Something Great”: that is, a terrific project, but maybe they just haven’t the experience to get into “go mode”, as they say in L.A. 

Kalina: In several of your films you have written in parts for Americans. Is it necessary to do this for marketing purposes? It certainly doesn’t hurt, and I’d be lying to say otherwise. Do your investors also require name casting?

Howson: Not at all. As for John Savage in Hunting, I tried to cast his part in Australia and it was a part that could have been an Australian. But a requirement of that film’s financing was casting somebody known to an international distributor. 

Unfortunately, because of the spiralling costs of budgets and pro­ductions, and because the industry is in a financial depression, it is harder and harder to get movies up and funning. If a requirement of a pre-sale is having a known name, then you have to seriously consider it. But if you are going, to bring in an import, then, for godsake, make sure you get a good one. That’s my attitude. 

Some of the films we will do next year have that requirement. Others have smaller budgets and we may be able to tap dance around it. When we start talking of budgets of $3-5 million and higher, I don’t think it is an unfair requirement that you cast somebody an international audience has heard of. But I would resent it if somebody stood over me, like in the old Hollywood system, and demanded that I cast somebody who was inappropriate for a role. Fortunately I don’t have those restrictions. 

Kalina: Does your role as producer influence what goes into the screen­ plays you write, and vice versa? 

Howson: Initially a writer sits down and writes the screenplay. At a later date, when the screenplay has been through several drafts, the producer takes over and starts thinking of casting, international appeal, pre-sales and distribution requirements. Woody Allen once said that he loves writing a script because it is his masterpiece. Everyday thereafter, a new truck load of compromises will arrive outside the door. 

The interesting thing about producing is you have to balance and juggle these things to maintain the original integrity of the project. Sometimes it is a fine line to walk. 

Kalina: So while you are writing a screenplay, you will also be thinking o f things that a producer will need to consider further down the track? 

Howson: A certain location maybe expensive; the screenplay may be timed at 130 minutes, in which case why shoot 130 minutes when you know that only 96 or 100 minutes will end up on the screen? These sort of things come into question. At the same time, you have to juggle what the original message and intention of the film was. 

Kalina: On some of Boulevard’s films, you have written the screenplay, produced, written the music and lyrics, even directed. Is involvement in so many areas a good thing? 

Howson: Most of the people who work with me, like Kim Gyngell and  John Waters, think I am very open to suggestions and ideas. The thing they love most is the rehearsal period, because it is a matter of sitting around a table and having a think-tank, bouncing ideas off one another, talking about the characters, trying to get to the heart of what we want portrayed on the screen. It is not as if I do any of those things in isolation. Obviously I have the final say, but only a madman would turn his back on a good idea. 

Kalina: How do you tend to allocate money within the budget of your films? 

Howson: One thing I have always spent probably more money on than most other Australian producers is the soundtrack. With Boulevard of Broken Dreams, we recorded a great deal of those songs in L.A. with people like Richie Havens, Dan Hill and Marc Jordan. On most Australian productions, the soundtrack tends to be done last and usually at a stage when they have almost run out o f money. It suffers as a result. To me, the soundtrack is one of the most important things for the emotional balance of a film.

7. Synopsis with cast details and spoilers:

The film begins with a montage of 1960s newsreel footage of major events, such as the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King and the assassination of Robert Kennedy, as a song, Heaven Tonight, sung by the band The Chosen Ones, plays …

Footage shows Johnny Dysart (John Waters) and Baz Schultz (Kim, aka Kym, Gyngell) performing, and newspaper headlines record the rise of the band to the top - the song Heaven Tonight charts number one in Australia and the UK - and Johnny getting married to his wife Annie (Rebecca Gilling), followed by Baz being arrested and jailed for drugs, a US tour cancelled, band manager Tim Robbins (Sean Scully) quitting, and Johnny deciding to go out on his own …

Head credits sequence over, we’re with an exercising Johnny in the late 1980s in Melbourne, The Easybeats on the radio, and his wife Annie in the kitchen, as Johnny sweats over the toast.

Johnny is off to a gig, but Annie has to do Toshio’s books. Johnny is irritated that his son Paul is still in bed, having been out until three in the morning on a gig. A band? he scoffs. “You mean that bunch of mates he mucks around with?”

Annie tells him not to be cruel, as Johnny complains Paul didn’t tell him about the gig, and Annie suggests that he possibly thought Johnny would be too busy to be interested.

“Why wouldn’t I be interested? I mean, it’s my business, the old man’s trade, it’s what I do for Chrissakes …”

“Yeah well, he’s pretty determined to make it on his own …he’s your son, isn’t he?”

Johnny says he’s got a good feeling: “Things are gunna happen…before Christmas”

As soon as they sign a record deal, they’re going to get an advance and they can take a holiday to the south Pacific with Paul. When Annie asks him how sure he is about the deal, Johnny says it’s “that close, I can smell it…”

Cut to Bullet Records company executive Tim Robbins (Sean Scully also aged to the 1980s) listening to tapes, as his secretary (Sarah de Teliga) comes in with some demos …

Tim tells her the his failure rate’s down to a hundred per cent …as we see a Johnny Dysart band tape in the stack of tapes. The secretary says she thought Johnny gave up years ago, but Tim says he doesn’t know how.

Cut to Annie coming in from the mailbox with a letter from Bullet Records, but when she and Johnny read it, it’s just Tim wishing them a Merry Christmas and urging Johnny not to be a stranger and to drop by some time. No mention of the tape, Johnny notes, as he heads off to the gig.

Cut to Johnny’s band setting up in the pub, with a roadie Danny (Gary Adams) being told by Johnny to get on to the carrot juice to cut his gut. Danny wonders if the juice would also get rid of his wife.

The band have bad news - the drummer has left for a job on Ted Murphy’s band - but band manager Stevo (Matthew Quartermaine) arrives with news of a replacement, noting that it’s for the best - drummer Mitch’s timing was as sloppy as a fifty year old tart.

Johnny: “So much for loyalty eh?”

Stevo: “Wrong business for that. Hey, look, in six months he’ll be begging us to take him back. Murphy’s flavour of the month, you’re a legend.”

But Johnny is depressed, and after the gig he’s walking in Melbourne’s Chinatown on the way to Toshio’s Japanese restaurant. 

Over a meal, Annie notes it’s the third drummer in two years, and that Stevo’s got an IQ of two above plant life.

Johnny defends Stevo - he’s got a nibble at CBS (the same nibble he got at EMI and Polygram? Annie wonders), as Johnny says Stevo put two hundred bucks of his own money into the demo tape. He believes in Johnny and the band.

Johnny: “What did I say? I’m not going to be doing this when I’m 45. Nothing happens after, that I hang up my guitar, no questions asked. Mmm?”

Annie: “Last time it was 40, and the time before that it was 35 …”

Johnny: “So it’s taking a little longer than I expected. The biz is crazy. I’m a better writer than I ever was … better player … just a matter of waiting until these bastards cotton on to it, that’s all …”

Restaurant owner Toshio (Takahito Masuda) arrives and the conversation turns to talk of Annie’s new business venture, which catches Johnny out.

Realising he’s made a mistake, Toshio says he'll head off to listen to Madam Butterfly a few times.

Annie explains to Johnny that Toshio has to go back to Tokyo, and pitches to Johnny the notion of her running the restaurant, and him doing the marketing - they can buy in by taking a mortgage out on the house.

Johnny says he’s already got a career and he’s not going to risk the house. But what if the deal doesn’t come? Annie asks.

Cut to Paul Dysart (Guy Pearce) rehearsing in a studio with his band Video Rodney - the band like something his dad wrote …

Cut to Paul at home, calculating on the computer his band’s income and expenses.

Johnny walks in, and the pair attempt a father-son chat, as Paul explains he’s running his band like a real business.

Johnny wonders why he didn’t talk to him about band stuff, he could have helped, given advice, and he wouldn’t have charged a consultation fee.

Paul reveals he’s got a manager who’s charging eight hundred. Johnny admits the manager's good, then says he’s got to go to work …

Cut to Johnny and his band performing in a deserted pub, watched by Stevo and Annie.

A heckler man at the bar (Nield Schneider) shouts out, asking when they’re going to do Heaven Tonight, it’s the only reason they came here, but Johnny says it’s ancient history. “Yeah, a bit like you eh,” jokes the man.

A band member tells Johnny to just do the song.

Later an angry Johnny arrives home - he should have punched the prick’s head in - to see Paul watching pop clips on the telly. “What’s all this shit?” Johnny asks.

“Don’t ask,” Annie warns Paul.

In his study, Johnny is composing on the guitar, stopping Annie from sleeping.

Annie comes in and snuggles close to Johnny, who keeps working on the tune.

Day, and Johnny’s emerging from Troy Music in Footscray.

He’s spotted by Tim Robbins.

They chat, with Tim saying he really needs to hear his tape again, away from the office.

Tim mentions Paul, saying they never know, there might be another Dysart with a hit record. Johnny walks off, with Tim shouting after him that he promises to call about the tape.

That night over dinner, Johnny mentions Tim, and questions Paul about his line-up, which includes computers.

Johnny snipes that they’re just going to go clicketty-clack like all the other morons.

Awkward. Later Annie joins Johnny on the verandah to say there’s nothing wrong with Paul’s music.

Johnny agrees, but vents that it’s just got no heart, it’s a mechanical load of crap.

Annie notes Paul is 18, Johnny’s 40, and Johnny snaps that he knows how old he is. He’s just trying to get used to the idea, that’s all. He might paint the verandah, but Annie laughs that he’s been saying that for 20 years. They hug.

Cut to Paul working on his music, and Johnny awkwardly arriving to ask if he’s alright and to wish him goodnight.

Morning, and the phone is ringing.

It’s Baz Schultz (Kim, aka Kym Gyngell) back from London and wanting to look up Johnny boy.

Annie lies that Johnny is in Sydney looking up record companies, and returns to bed for a hug with Johnny, saying it was a wrong number.

Cut to a newsagents, and Baz in the street calling out to “put your hands and cans together for Johnny the wang bard Dysart.”

Johnny's startled, and the pair hug in the street, and then walk along a railway line, a stormy-sky Melbourne CBD in the background, as they catch up and Baz outlines his career misfortunes.

Johnny asks if he’s still doing drugs, and Baz says he wondered how long it would take him to ask, and it took 24 minutes and 23 seconds.

“No!”, he says, then asks Johnny how was Sydney…

Tension when Annie sees Baz in the kitchen, but politeness makes her invite him to stay for dinner.

Over dinner, Johnny condescendingly talks about young Paul and his band and not knowing what he’s in for …

Baz asks about the band’s name, Video Rodney, joking that the lead singer should be called Rodney, but Paul says they were just being clever.

Johnny returns with a bottle of wine to talk about the days when bands had names that people could understand.

Annie mentions Procul Harum and Baz tries to remember the Bonzo Doggie

Johnny asks Baz about an old song he liked, but Baz reveals he sold it for two hundred bucks… “two hundred bucks in the hand’s worth more than an office load of bullshit.”

Johnny says it was one of his best songs, but Baz says it’s only a song and there’s plenty more where that came from …

Paul says he’s got to go get ready for the gig. Baz can’t resist another dig at Video Rodney.

Johnny goes to get something, and while he’s out Baz notes Annie doesn’t like him being back.

Annie: “It’s just bad timing Baz.”

Baz: “Hmm, ain’t it always.”

Annie says John’s been doing it pretty tough lately and knows he’s only got one more chance.

Baz: “And you’re scared I’m gunna screw it up for him? … Jesus Annie, it wasn’t just me …I mean, it was 18 years ago …people change … Johnny’ll get there… so will I.”

Annie: “Baz I know you love him just as much as I do… I just want you to give him some space, that’s all. Okay?”

Annie says he’s down to CBS or Tim Robbins. Baz snorts: “Tim Robbins?! My God, and you’re worried about me screwing him up …I mean, if that guy had’ve stuck with us in the first place …”

Johnny arrives with a super 8mm projector and a roll of film, announcing it's Movietone News time.

They settle down to watch home movies of him and Baz rehearsing and footage of Johnny with Paul at 18 months (James Boros).

As the footage unfurls, Paul arrives back to see his parents nostalgically watching …

Paul smiles, but doesn’t intrude … as Johnny recalls it was when they were writing Heaven Tonight … they wrote it for Paul.

In bed, Johnny is sad that now he can’t even talk to Paul, as he talks up the idea of a holiday if CBS comes through in time. But he can’t call CBS, he’d sound desperate and they’d screw him to the wall. He dreams of CBS and Tim Robbins competing …

Annie asks what they’re going to do about Baz, she doesn’t want him coming in and wrecking things. Johnny says Baz is his responsibility, but she says he’s not like Johnny, he can’t get off it.

Johnny says she knows what they’ve been through together, he’s more than a friend, he can’t cut him off now, he needs Johnny …

Morning at the kitchen table, and Johnny is composing on the guitar. He sees a ticket to Video Rodney on the fridge door.

Cut to Paul performing a song with his band in a club.

Johnny arrives, checks out the scene - it’s crowded with young people grooving to the sounds - but walks away …

Daytime and Baz and Johnny in the street, as Baz asks if he’s crowding Johnny by being around. Johnny says he’s pleased to see him.

The pair turn up at an old, abandoned and closed venue where they used to play.

Inside there are flashbacks to their performing days, the guitar echoing in the deserted room as Baz shouts out a sound check.

On a good night, they were the best fucking rock ’n roll band in the world, shouts Johnny.

On a bad night? asks Baz. What bad night?, says a defiant Johnny, as he goes up to an old psychedelic poster for The Lost Souls. The Arseholes, jokes Baz, as they recall the band once supported them, with a bass player, Chook Fowler, a ratshit player who played like a Wettex.

A caretaker (Edward Hepple) arrives to tell them to piss off, and Baz mocks him by repeating his lines and pretending to speak into his hearing aid.

The caretaker tells them an advertising agency has taken over the place and in a month or two they won’t recognise it. A shame really.

Outside Baz says he’s got to see a man about a job, but when Johnny comes with him, they end up in a billiard room playing pool.

Johnny confesses he’s been hanging out for the record deal, the last few years haven’t been a picnic, but Baz is really there so he can score a hit from a dealer.

Cut to Johnny in a gig at the pub with his band, as Annie and Baz watch.

The crowd’s enthusiastic, and Baz meets the hapless Stevo, who spills his beers at the sight of Baz the legend.

Hope he’s better at balancing the books, Baz jokes, as Stevo urges the pair to get together for a reunion tour.

Baz is reluctant, and heads into a shaggy dog story about being offered a gig with the Rolling Stones, saying Mick wanted him to replace Keith because they wanted a sex symbol. Baz told him to stick it, he’s not a sex symbol, he’s a serious musician.

Johnny sends Stevo to get new beers as Baz splits, joking to the band that they play like a bag of shit.

Baz hits up Johnny for fifty bucks (Stevo had just paid Johnny), as Annie watches anxiously.

Later at home, Johnny is on the phone, calling CBS.

The word is bad.

A forlorn Johnny watches as Paul returns from a gig.

Johnny walks away, and Paul follows him into his study, joking that the valve amp Johnny is working on is a bit of a relic. A bitter Johnny says it has a warmer sound, then turns on him.

Johnny: “I believe you’re interested in a career in music, that it?”

Paul: “Yeah, yeah, that’s it.”

Johnny: “Reckon you can handle it?”

Paul: “Think so.”

Johnny: “You think?! You think?!! I’m here to tell you, I know, and the going up is … great …it’s wonderful, but the coming down really sucks.”

Paul: “Well everyone has to come down.”

Johnny: “You think you’re gunna have a say in that? Oh hoh hoh …think again.”

Paul: “Dad, look I’m really sorry about what happened to you …Baz and Tim Robbins and stuff …I realise it wasn’t fair you know but I mean that…”

Johnny: “Fair!! Fair! (bitter laugh) Mate, fair has got nothing to do with it!! Not in this business. So you want to do music? What does music really mean to you? I mean, what do you care about? What are you interested in? The human condition? Are you interested in life or are you just interested in whether or not it’s got a 128 beats per fucking minute … so that it can dance with the disco ...”

Paul: “Dad! Dad! Listen! It’s the same music …it’s … look, listen to this ...”

Paul heads over to a synth keyboard in his bedroom and begins to play Johnny’s song Minutes after Midnight, singing the lyrics in 1980s style …

Johnny listens, and begins to mime the lines about it being minutes after midnight when things go wrong …

Paul says it’s a great song, it could be a hit record, but a snarky Johnny asks him what he’d know about hit records …

Paul: “Dad, if you just updated your sound.”

Johnny: “Oh, so we know everything now, do we?”

Paul: “Look, I’m not trying to insult you, I’m just trying to help.”

Johnny: “I don’t need your help, I don’t need anybody’s help.”

Paul: “You have to move with the times.”

Johnny: “You mean have the right hair cut huh?”

Paul: “I suppose talent’s got nothing to do with it then, hey?”

Johnny (leaving the bedroom): “That’s what I’m beginning to realise.”

Paul (after him): “It might do you some good to know that …”

Johnny (cutting him off): “It might do you some good to realise that you can learn something from the past.”

Paul: “Jesus, I can’t believe you, you know …you’re like every generation before you, you get to a certain age, and you stop listening.”

Johnny: “No! Not if it’s good, I don’t.”

Paul: “Bullshit. You don’t know what’s good!!”

Johnny: “Oh great, at last, I get some passion out of you, some feeling …I’m starting to think you’re like your fucking computers, you don’t care about anything, do you?”

Paul (shouting): “I care about you, you bastard!! (breathing deeply) Hasn’t got me anywhere though, has it?”

Paul turns and walks away, Johnny is sombre.

Cut to Johnny gazing into a travel agency window, then trying to get a job as a storeman with Norm Jenkins (Reg Evans), who thinks his face is very familiar.

Norm keeps trying to place Johnny, and Johnny realises it’s all futile and leaves.

Cut to Tim Robbins’ office with his young office receptionist Donna Brice (Lisa Colonna). He gives her a tape and asks her to make an appointment, insisting she speak to the guy personally.

Donna calls and gets Annie, asking to speak to Mr Dysart.

Annie assumes she wants Johnny, who has just walked in.

Donna makes an appointment for 2 pm and tells Johnny she loves his songs.

Johnny is delighted and he and Annie hug and kiss.

Next day at Bullet Records Johnny turns up to see Donna in reception and is greeted by Stewie Murchison (Bryan Dawe), pleased they might be working together again.

Johnny walks in and is greeted by a startled Tim.

Johnny sits down, and Tim says he thinks there’s been a mistake. He liked Johnny’s tape but it’s not what they’re after. They’re looking for something more modern, electronic and commercial.

Johnny asks if it’s some kind of a joke, and Tim wishes it was, offering him a beer. Johnny thinks Tim’s indulging in some piss-weak negotiating game so he can indulge in his favourite sport.

Johnny says he just wants a small advance, he promised Annie a holiday. Forget about a percentage on the first single, he’ll take a flat fee.

Johnny offers further concessions, but Tim says he can’t take the risk.

Johnny’s indignant he got him in to hear that. He must be enjoying it.

“Let’s make Johnny squirm in front of Tim God almighty fucking Robbins. You haven’t changed mate!! Oh I love the office, love the flash car, but you’re still the same third rate little prick who sold us out …”

Tim: “Fine, great, I’m a piece of shit. The slime of the earth, now let’s get it all out in the open. 18 years of bad blood. I’m sorry your career’s down the toilet mate …but you’d better start looking closer to home if you want to find a scapegoat…. Johnny, I don’t like to see you like this, nobody does …you were too important an artist ...”

Johnny: “So what do you suggest I do, huh? Crawl away and die? I’m sorry if I’m an embarrassment to the industry but I didn’t have the good fortune to expire in a plane crash when I was 21 or OD like the rest of them … (shouting) … I’m still here!!”

Johnny offers to bury the past, he needs a deal, he hasn’t got too many shots left in him, the songs are good. He asks for a singles deal, or does Tim want him to go down on him, but Tim wants him to listen …

It wasn’t him he wanted to see … 

How many Johnny Dysarts are there at his place?, Johnny asks, and that’s when Johnny realises that Tim wanted to talk to Paul …

I like his music, says Tim, as a teary Johnny walks out, and Tim walks down to call Donna a fuckwit.

Johnny is at a bar hitting the hard stuff, as we hear Paul singing a song about cracking china in the studio …

And some go on trying,and some go on crying, sings Paul, but when the shadows fall, it’s all sleeping and dying, as we see a smacked out of his mind Baz with precarious ash on his cigarette, and Tim looking sombre…

The lonely cry every night, sings Paul … as Johnny arrives home, and Annie realises it’s a disaster.

Johnny heads into his study, and as Paul's song ends, Johnny does a Citizen Kane, smashing everything, his guitar, his gold record, his tape recorder, as Annie begs for him to let her in.

A sobbing Johnny eventually opens the door, to tell her that he’s finished.

He explains Tim wanted to see Paul, not him, Tim's secretary fucked it up.

Johnny expects her to be happy - she wanted him out of it - but Annie says she didn’t want it to come to this.

She asks why he’s taking it out on her, and he says it’s because he’s got no one else.

She says there’s more to life than music, he’s an intelligent man, there are any number of other things he could do.

Yeah, what, like Prime Minister, brain surgeon, retorts Johnny, telling her how he couldn’t even apply for a job as storeman.

She suggests a job like Tim Robbins, but Johnny angrily says he hasn’t got that bullshit in him …maybe she should have married Tim Robbins.

Annie (teary): “I don’t love Tim Robbins, I love you, you fool.”

Johnny: “Annie, I’m not a star anymore.”

Annie (reaching out to caress his cheek): “John, you haven’t been a star for 18 years, and I still …”

At that moment, Johnny slaps her across the face, sending her reeling to the floor.

Realising what he’s done, he moves across to hug her, but she begs him to leave her alone …

Johnny leaves, with Annie left sobbing on the wrecked floor.

Johnny walks out into the street, as Paul arrives in a Kombi with his keyboard and with a puzzled glance, and notes Johnny walking off …

Johnny is looking out across rail lines at the setting sun …

Annie and Paul are talking about the Tim Robbins thing, and Annie’s berating Paul for not telling Johnny that Tim was interested … but Paul says if he had, he’d have started world war three.

Annie says he has no idea of the humiliation his father has suffered.

Cut to a stoned Baz asleep in front of the telly, as the sound of a drunk Johnny knocking on the door can be heard.

Baz lets him in, and they argue about where to sleep. Baz suggests a cup of coffee, and when he opens the fridge, Johnny notices he keeps a toy gun in the fridge along with a can of VB, a head of broccoli, and a carton of eggs.

Baz jokes he’s a hypochondriac, Johnny calls him a crazy bastard.

The stoned Baz drops the milk bottle and cuts himself, and Johnny says they’ll have to put something on it. Johnny the wang bastard to the rescue, says the stoned Baz, as Johnny tells him he’s killing himself, and Baz admits it.

As he’s being bandaged, Baz is explaining why he never got married.

Johnny puts him in to bed, as Baz jokes he found the meaning of life on a toilet wall in the old Paris theatre in Sydney:

Baz: “The meaning of life …(he smashes away the bed light) … nothing …(snorting hmmmph) … the meaning of life …” (a stoned smile and then he lapses into sleep as a train rolls by outside).

Johnny watches a banged up boxer on the television, Carl Bracken (Robert Morgan), explaining he was 40 and he knew it was the end. When an interviewer asks him about what it’s like to know his skills have gone, the boxer says he couldn’t have been beaten his opponent if he wasn’t 40 years old …”but I was 40 years old …”

As the boxer is asked about his plans, there’s a knock at the door. Johnny realises it’s the cops.

Johnny asks if he has things there, and Baz says he has.

Johnny drags him to the window, two stories up.

They both jump into the tree, and make it to the ground, then race away from the cops through Melbourne’s streets …

The two detectives (Bruce Venacles, Tim Sullivan) turn up at Annie’s place looking for Barry Schultz.

They want to talk to him about two armed robberies, one on a country TAB and one on a 7-Eleven store. It’d be a mistake for her husband to involve himself in harbouring one of their suspects.

Detective One (Venables) asks if she knows if Schultz is using heroin, but Anne stiffly denies knowing and they leave ... as we cut to Johnny and Baz at a hot dog stall, with Johnny ordering from the hot dog man (Nic Lathouris), who wants Johnny to make up his mind about the mustard, so he can get home for Christmas.

Baz wanders into the nearby servo, as back home Paul sets off to look for Johnny and Baz.

Johnny walks into the servo, just as Baz holds up the attendant with his toy pistol.

Once again the pair have to go on the run through Melbourne’s night-lit streets.

A cop car siren sounds, as a bystander (David Glazebook) backs off when he realises Baz has got a gun. The man shouts to the pursuing cops about the gun.

Baz and Johnny end up exhausted in a Melbourne laneway …as Johnny asks "why?", and Baz says “why not?”

Johnny slams him against the wall wondering what he’s doing with him there, as he’s dragging him down again.

“When was the last time you felt excitement like that, hey?” Baz gasps, and Johnny replies “Mate, you are in deep shit.”

Baz echoes the line with a laugh - he is in deep shit.

Baz: “Ohh, why don’t you let go mate? Huh? (gasping) Look, for 18 months, we had what every other bastard only dreams about having. We were there …(as The Pretenders, performing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, swell under Baz’s lines) …we got to the top… but it’s over …and you’re not going to get there again …so let it go and give some other poor bastard a go at it …”

The Christmas carol plays …  as the stoned Baz says, “huh, merry Christmas mate.”

Two cop cars arrive with a scream of sirens, with the detectives pulling their guns on Baz. Detective One (Venables) urges Baz to drop the gun, but as the carol plays, Baz gives Johnny a fatalistic look and a smile and turns to point the gun at the cops…

They blow him away, and he collapses to the street, as Johnny leans over …

Baz murmurs “Johnny the lion”, then his head rolls to the side and he dies.

The cops gather around as they realise Baz had a fucking toy gun, and Johnny sobs, and the camera cranes up over to look down on the scene …as the song finishes, urging everyone to have a merry little Christmas now …

Cut to the super 8mm footage, scratched and worn, of Johnny and Baz back in the 1960s…

Johnny is watching in the dark, tears falling … as we hear a priest (Syd Conabere) performing the last rites.

At the cemetery, the priest calls Baz an original who refused to bend to convention, of what had been before …

As the coffin descends into the grave, the mourners walk away …

Tim catches up with Johnny, saying he didn’t know Baz was so bad. He’s heard Johnny’s looking for a job, and he could use a good assistant A & R director.

Johnny appreciates the offer, but says they’re setting up their own business, a Japanese restaurant.

Tim says he knows he won’t believe this, but he wishes them all the best with it, and if he ever changes his mind…

Johnny doesn’t think so …but thanks Tim anyway.

Cut a large gathering, the launch of Video Rodney

The M.C. at the nightclub (Brad Robinson) tells the ladies and gentlemen of the gathered press that they’re there to launch a band he thinks could go all the way to the top.

Paul and his band appear to play a new synth version of Johnny’s big hit, Heaven Tonight …but first Paul invites Johnny out on stage, saying there’s someone very special there tonight and he’d like him to be part of it …

The crowd applauds and cheers and stands, as Johnny comes out and takes a bow …

Paul says the song is for Baz and Johnny, and then they play the number heard at the start of the show, Heaven Tonight, this time in synth 1980s style (see lyrics above).

A teary Annie and a pleased Johnny and an admiring Tim watch …and then the crowd stand to applaud, as the final image freezes on Paul’s face. Fade to black, and end credits begin to roll, with a Warren Zevon song over them ...