Jackie (Jo Kennedy) is an ambitious 18 year old singing barmaid who lives with her family in a pub just a stone's throw from the pylons on the south side of Sydney Harbour bridge.

Angus (Ross O'Donovan) is her precocious 14 year old cousin and manager, who intends to make Jackie a star by hook or by crook. He has a simple philosophy: 'Start out wanting a Volkswagen and you'll end up with the Volkswagen. If you start out wanting a Jag, you'll end up with a Jag.'

First up Angus gets Jackie to crash a gig at the Lizard Lounge at the Bondi pavilion where The Swingers, fronted by Phil Judd, are playing.

Jackie hooks up with a band called The Wombats and they're a hit with the crowd, while band leader Robbie (Ned Lander) is a bit of a hit with Jackie and they share a Bondi beach moment.

Next, aware of the potency of sexual symbolism from his reading of adult books, Angus gets Jackie to do a stunt wearing fake nude plastic breasts. Jackie walks a high wire between two buildings down Circular Quay way, and when she falls, she cashes in on the fifteen minutes of fame it generates - the target is a TV music program, WOW, similar to the real ABC pop show Countdown, run by gay Terry (John O'May, in a nod to Countdown host Molly Meldrum).

After Jackie makes it to the police station and the evening news, Terry himself bails her out.

Meanwhile, we meet up with the oldies who live in the pub with Jackie and Angus, and who are suitably eccentric.

There's mad uncle Reg (Max Cullen), always wandering around with a sulphur-crested cockatoo on his shoulder, a motif which will turn into a handy marketing ploy for Jackie, Angus and The Wombats. And then there's Jo's eccentric mum Pearl (Margo Lee) with her strange dress sense, which will turn out handy, providing Jackie with a tutu for her final big gig.

There's also a effusive, gushing, plump Nana (Pat Evison), swallowing her dentures and turning on the charm on Christmas day, and the passingly weird cat-obsessed Mrs Booth (Melissa Jaffer) is also on hand, while greasy, slippery Lou (Dennis Miller), Angus's wayward dad, turns up to give Pearl a hard time, and has a few quick fumbles before making off with the cash in the safe.

Career wise, things start to pick up for Jackie when she and The Wombats start doing some classic 1980s light pop routines, but then things start to go wrong again - the pub looks like it might be closed down unless it gets a quick infusion of cash, and Jackie herself goes off the rails.

She decides that she's a star in her own right, and she no longer needs Angus. She leaves Robbie and the band in the lurch, and sets her eyes on hunky compere Terry.

She unwisely agrees to feature on Terry's TV show in a wretched musical number completely unsuited to her style. Worse, she's startled - in a song and dance number featuring plastic sharks and dinkum Australian life savers - to discover that Terry bats for the other side.

But there's still hope. Jackie realises the errors of her ways, and matters build to a final WOW showdown at the Sydney Opera House, where there is $25,000 on offer to the prize winner, and Jackie has a chance, thanks to the help provided by Phil Judd and The Swingers (they also obligingly turn up to do the final Star Struck number for the film).

Helped by Angus, Jackie and The Wombats crash the gig. Will she win the $25,000 and save the eccentrics at the pub? What will happen to Jackie and Robbie now she's a star? And what will happen to Angus, and who is that Icecream Girl (Kaarin Fairfax) who has caught his eye, and whom he rolls around with inside the top foyer of the Opera House? 

Well it's New Year's eve, and the fireworks are going off ...


Production Details

Production company: Palm Beach Pictures presents; a Palm Beach Picture made in association with the Australian Film Commission

Budget: the budget started at $1.6-1.75 million. Estimates of the final cost vary between $2.2 million (co-producer Richard Brennan in the DVD commentary), $2.5 million (Murray's Australian Film) and $2.7 million (co-producer David Elfick).

Locations: Sydney, most notably the still standing and now heritage listed Harbour View Hotel at 18 Lower Fort Street The Rocks which has its own website here. The pub interiors were filmed on a set, leading to disappointment for those who turned up at the real pub expecting to find a mural of the harbour bridge on the wall. Some exteriors and interiors were shot at the Sydney Opera House, but the climactic musical numbers were staged in the Seymour Centre auditorium, passing for the Opera House.

Filmed: 10 week shoot - according to co-producer Richard Brennan it was shot with perhaps a day's overage. According to Brennan, the seventh week of the shoot took place in the same week that Prince Charles married Princess Dianne (Wednesday 29th July 1981) i.e. June-August 1981 shoot. Fireworks seen in the closing scenes were shot by DOP Geoff Burton and co-producer Brennan on New Year's Eve 1980.

Australian distributor: Hoyts

Theatrical release: the film was given what was claimed as its world premiere in Melbourne on the night of 5th April 1982 at Hoyts Midcity; it was released in Sydney on 8th April 1982 at Hoyts. It was released by Cinecom International Films in the United States, and was reviewed by The New York Times on 10th November 1982. (It had limited US and Canadian bookings thereafter). The film aired on Australian television on the Nine network at 8.30 pm on 11th June 1984

Video release: Star Video

Rating: NRC (December 1981, 2880.15m.)

35mm  Eastmancolor      Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision ® 

Dolby stereo

Running time: 105 mins (Murray's Australian Film); 95 minutes New York Times' review - the film was re-edited for its US release, and this is now the version that's available.

Australian DVD time: 1'31"31

US DVD time: 1'35"28

Box office: 

According to co-producer Richard Brennan, in the Australian market, some 300,000 people went to see the film, a few thousand fewer than went to see Joceyln Moorhouse's Proof and a few thousand more than went to see Fred Schepisi's The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.

However, as Brennan points out, the ticket sales were more to the young than the adult demographic, and this helped lower the amount of returns, though repeat business amongst the youth audience was good.

According to the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, the film did $1,541,000 in domestic business, equivalent to $4,484,310 in A$2009.

Brennan notes that while the LP spin-off did some business (a 45 became a top ten hit), the film didn't see any revenue from the exercise.

Brennan also notes that the film didn't travel well internationally, at least in non-English speaking countries. He believes that it is hard to move this sort of musical outside English-speaking markets because - whether dubbed or subtitled - the musical numbers aren't going to scan or rhyme as well as the original songs.

Brennan notes Star Struck sold mostly in the English-speaking world, and the cult following it later developed was also mostly in the English-speaking world. The film didn't perform particularly well in the United States. While it suited a New York sensibility, according to Brennan, it didn't appeal to audiences outside the big city demographic.

Brennan also notes that the film was later re-released by a distributor who had no rights to the film, with no returns for the original owners.

Opinion

Awards

The film didn't do particularly well at the 1982 AFI Awards, in significant contrast to Armstrong's previous outing, My Brilliant Career.

It was only nominated in three categories and left without a cigar:

Nominated, Best Music Score (Phil Judd, William Miller, Dennis James, Mark Moffat) (Bruce Rowland won for The Man From Snowy River)

Nominated, Best Achievement in Art Direction (Brian Thomson) (Graham "Grace" Walker won for Mad Max 2)

Nominated, Best Achievement in Costume Design (Luciana Arrighi, Terry Ryan) (Norma Moriceau won for Mad Max 2)

There were no nominations in any performance categories, and the film also missed out on a nomination for Best Film and Best Achievement in Direction. 

Availability

For a long time, the film was only available on relatively rare VHS copies, in the US and Australian markets.

Co-producer Richard Brennan notes that a scene with duet number went missing in VHS copies of film in Australia and US, though it was in the laser disc edition, and hastens to add that the number is now back in the US and Australian DVD releases. He notes that the duet put Jo Kennedy's fragile vocal range (and her vocal coach's work with her) to the test, and he can't imagine how it disappeared from some prints of films.

That problem was solved when Umbrella released the film on DVD in Australia as a single disc, and this package was then ported across to Blue Underground in the United States as a two disc edition. The packages are largely the same. 

Blue Underground US DVD two disc edition:

Disc 1:

Main feature with commentary track by co-producer Richard Brennan (and with sub-titles)

US trailer in unrestored 4:3 format

Australian trailer in restored 16:9 format

Poster and still gallery

Music highlights links to the 11 musical numbers

(the sound set up allows for 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, 6.1 DTS-ES, and Dolby Surround 2.0)

Disc 2:

Featurettes: 

Puttin' on the Show - interviews with director Gillian Armstrong, producer David Elfick and cinematographer Russell Boyd - 40'52" made for Umbrella by Mark "Not Quite Hollywood" Hartley, copyrighted 2004

Screenwriter Reflects - interview with writer Stephen MacLean 18'31" - interview with David Elfick, but with the questions replaced by a series of screen wipes.

Alternate, Extended and deleted scenes, include extended versions of Gimme Love and Starstruck finale, Alternate version of Body and Soul and two Deleted Scenes, titled Kitchen Chaos and Angus in the Back Seat, total running time of all footage 9'48". As might be expected image quality is only average.

The Australian Umbrella DVD package is much the same.

It contains the extras commentary with co-producer Richard Brennan, the "Puttin' on the Show" featurette, the "A Screenwriter Reflects" featurette, the alternate, extended and deleted scenes, the Australian and American trailer, stills galley, and additionally Jo Kennedy and Ned Landers performing on Countdown, a 3'42" clip of the pair in the ABC studio doing the domestic top ten hit Body and Soul.

The US release seems to have had some work done on the image - the feature seems sharper and cleaner - compare the final frames of fireworks and black to see the sparkle on the Australian edition. It also has subtitles, handy for those who have failed to learn to speak Australian, even if the subtitles are inclined to be a little wonky.

However, the Australian release does have the Countdown performance, presumably not available for the USA because of rights issues or cost.

The film celebrates the Countdown era, so those who were there at the time will find this of interest. At one time it could be found on YouTube, even if in an offensive 16:9 framing (as everywhere else, Australian TV was then strictly 4:3). But it's subsequently been deleted, so it's back to the DVD for Ozmovie cultists.

The additional scenes will be mainly of value to completists, and Richard Brennan's commentary is informative but a little dry for a show which is mainly about being optimistic and having fun.

In the usual way, those who want to see three clips from the film can find them at the ASO here, but Ozmovie cultists will just cut to the chase and catch up on this celebration of Australiana Sydney-style.

 

1. Source:

(i) Screenplay:

According to co-producer Richard Brennan in his DVD commentary track:

The original idea came from Stephen MacLean, an old friend of David Elfick's and mine, who'd written a semi-autobiographical piece, very humorous and whimsical, something that Stephen has a great talent for, about his life, his upbringing in a hotel, he was a bit of a scamp, he is a bit of a scamp, and er, the script he originally worked on had a very small musical component, that is the central character wanted to be a musical star, the Jackie Mullins character played by Jo Kennedy and she did get to perform at an open air concert at the end of the film. In my recollection I think there was only one other song in the script when we first worked on it.

Co-producer David Elfick first met Stephen MacLean when they worked together on a music magazine called Go Set, which ABC Countdown host Molly Meldrum also worked on.

MacLean's idea for the film was autobiographical, as Elfick recalled in the DVD 'making of':

Stephen grew up in a bar with an aunt with the fabulous name of Alma Broome. He wanted to write a Mickey and Judy let's put on a show type of story but set in a pub and use all the characters and anecdotes from growing up with Alma Broome

Elfick said that sounded like a good idea and that's how it began, though MacLean himself remembered it slightly differently in his DVD interview: 

I didn't grow up so much in a pub as around a pub that my mother worked in that was run by her best friend, and her best friend's son became my best friend and became in a way … he was the basis for the character of Jackie … his name was Andrew Kennedy …

What I had in mind with Jackie related to another friend … and there are certainly bits of her grafted in to it because of course it's a girl that my friend Nell Campbell who was Little Nell in the Rocky Horror Show and later had a club in New York and is a performer to this day, and was  recently in a Broadway show called Nine, that Nell would play the part of Jackie but as it happened Gillian Armstrong had different thoughts …

In an interview with Cinema Papers in its April 1982 edition, MacLean described his writing methods:

I just started writing down sketches of characters I knew from this pub where my mother used to work. I never start with plot; I start with characters. I think people most reveal themselves with their style and form of speech. So I jot down things people say, and they lay the seed for the scenes.

Once I have the rough architecture for a few scenes, I begin to evolve a plot to accommodate the characters I wish to depict. If they are major characters, I have to feel a love for them, because I am going to sit with them every day for God knows how long. Otherwise, it would be like sharing a flat with someone you don't like.

I see the character, then I hear the character, and what I hear is the spur to write. Most things are funny simply because a particular person says them. Think of Marilyn Monroe: she walks into a ship's cabin in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and says, "Look - round windows!" that is not particularly funny, but, when she says it, it's a scream. In fact, it was so right for her that Billy Wilder used a variation of the same gag in Some Like It Hot.

Inspirations come from the oddest quarters. One night in London I went to a perfect production of Chekhov's Cherry Orchard at the Riverside and he immediately became my favorite writer. Those people losing their cherry orchard and their entire way of life reminded me of the real pub people I knew. They lost their pub, and the loss of true location left them ghost-like.

(ii) US Influence:

According to MacLean in his DVD interview, the idea was derived from American films, with an Australian twist:

… it was a conscious thing to do a, just a variation on the classic  cliched Judy-Mickey plot that one saw on the mid-day movie when one was a kid in all those Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movies and to give that basic plot a very Australian, which you're going to do without even trying, you know, gloss, or lack of gloss (laughs) … anti-gloss … 

In his April 1982 Cinema Papers' interview, MacLean put it this way:

Starstruck is an odd form of Americana syphoned through the caustic Australian eye. Starstruck's form was created by many American films before it. It is the type of film which falls somewhere between reality and pantomime.

A lot of people go to films expecting them to represent real life. Well, there is nothing like real life except real life. And almost every film which tries to represent real life fails. Film is synthetic.

MacLean thinks that the film's American origins helps explain why the film was better understood in the USA:

I think that's why the movie really, I think the people that most got that movie and most appreciated that movie were Americans more than Australians. I think, well the reaction I always got people didn't seem to love the movie in my world but when I went to work in Los Angeles, Americans would send bottles of wine to a table when they heard you'd written Star Struck … they really loved the movie because they got the level of reality it was done on, whereas Australia and Australian movies are derived from people who worked in TV like I did, Homicide realism and ads, and I can remember when I wrote the script Australians would say to me 'oh what's that meant to be, is that like meant to be a send-up?', you go, no, it's a movie …

The good thing that the American consciousness  completely understands that you're not trying to imitate reality, you are doing a movie, whereas there's something about the Australian consciousness that thinks that everything is reality, and it's not reality, it's a movie and that's the most movie movie of movies. That has been rectified somewhat in the last twenty years, the Australian consciousness has become more aligned to what we're talking about

At the same time, MacLean was ambivalent about the American influence, as in his Cinema Papers' April 1982 interview, when he mourned its impact:

… That sub-plot about a pub and its people is about a disappearing species. I am talking about the Australians who had a sniff of the Depression. They have a different point of view to anyone born 10 years later. They are basically a working people with a special kind of wit and a theatricality about them which is very Australian. They are people like my mother and stepmother. But they are disappearing; we have been so colonized by the U.S.

One area that MacLean does admit to a problem in the script involves the making of believable transitions in musicals, between two characters talking and then bursting into song.

In American musicals, MacLean contends in his DVD interview, there were musical stars, and it was understood and accepted that they could go from scene to number, and then from number back to telling the story. MacLean thinks the Star Struck screenplay wasn't a work of art in that field …and that sometimes the result feels like plot broken up by video clips …

(iii) Musicals and placing the songs:

MacLean on the placement of the songs in the script:

Instinct told me where to place them. When the songs were obviously necessary to the plot, I wrote them in first go. But I also went over the script afterwards and wrote in "song" in the sections which would gain energy from the mere infusion of a song. Even a dramatic script can be likened to a popular song in structure: there is the opening chorus, the bridge, the melody, the climax. It is the bridge that most often lets a song down - and a script too. (Cinema Papers, April 1982)

(iv) Writer and Director:

Stephen MacLean in his DVD interview recalls how stage and screen director Jim Sharman - having read the script - came up to him in London and said to him "Gillian Armstrong".

So MacLean went and saw My Brilliant Career, and was sitting behind five nuns when he saw this period movie, and he couldn't relate that  to Star Struck, so he didn't think of Armstrong again. 

But he goes remember how the script reached Armstrong - Nell Campbell who influenced a lot of the character of the show, had a sister Sally Campbell a very talented art director, and Sally had worked on My Brilliant Career (she also worked in the art department on Star Struck). Campbell slipped a copy of the script under the door to Armstrong, who read it, and then got interested in it.

MacLean notes that "Gill at the time was such a hot deal that you virtually had your picture made". 

However before Armstrong signed co-producers and Brennan went through several other names, as Brennan recalled in his DVD commentary track:

Well Stephen went through a lot of drafts for David, and later for David and me, and we talked with a number of directors. David and I had had a big success in 1978 with Newsfront and we were hoping that working together again, lightning would strike a second time for us. We talked with Phil Noyce with whom we'd done Newsfront, we talked with Graham Clifford, the director of Burke and Wills … 

Elfick flew to the USA to meet Clifford, who had done the editing on The Postman Always Knocks Twice, but as a result of that introduction to Jessica Lang, Clifford got the offer to direct the actress' biography Frances, so he wasn't available, and at that point the producers turned to serious talks with Armstrong, who pitched strongly to do the show.

Elfick says he saw a synchronicity in the story, which featured a central female character and a story driven by women, not just the heroine Jackie, but also her mother Pearl and her grandmother, and thought it would be good to have a female director.

But in the DVD interview, Armstrong claims some reluctance on the part of Elfick, suggesting he was put off by My Brilliant Career, a straightforward period film, when what he wanted for Star Struck was a very commercial, contemporary musical.

At the time, Armstrong found herself put into a nice 'period films box', which was the last thing she wanted to do as a career. So for what she suggests was the only time in her career, she really went out for something. She got her agent to ring David Elfick, she met with him and did a big pitch about how she wanted to do something contemporary and musical.

Armstrong told Elfick she didn't want to do it period romantic soft, she wanted to do it hard edged, fast and furious. She  ran into Stephen MacLean in a party and pitched herself to him - she told The Age on 6th April 1982 that she sealed the deal with him by wearing high-heeled blue suede shoes, quoting MacLean as saying 'anyone who wears shoes like that should be able to make the movie.'

There was some residual concern. Armstrong recollects that at one point she had given an interview in which she said she she didn't like writers on set because it made her paranoid, with the writers always watching and judging whether she was delivering the way they had seen the film.

But Armstrong in this case claims that she always felt it was MacLean's (semi-autobiographical) story, and that they collaborated all the way through, citing a picture of her and MacLean working away at a card table on the side of a road, still re-writing the script in the middle of the shoot.

MacLean noted the tension in his April 1982 Cinema Papers' interview:

Directors are very suspicious of writers and expect the worst from them. But I am not by nature a writer - in that sense. Having gone through the whole showbiz mill, I know it is a collaborative thing and you do have to hand things over. I know there is no point going berserk, because for every point you win you lose one.

Gill came into the piece quite late, but she hardly changed the script. She did fix a hole, however, and add the finishing touch of Angus meeting the gum-chewing girl.

When you are someone like Gill or Phil Noyce, and you are quite famous even though you have only made one feature, I guess you are all that much more suspicious. You have to hold on to whatever attracted you to the project. Richard Brennan said to me, "You make the film when you write it, then somebody takes it and makes it again."

And that is what happens. If I had known that somehow the film would come out being Jackie's story more than Angus', I would not have thought it could work. Every other film is about a girl who wants to be a star. But because of the emotional qualities Gill invested in the film, Starstruck works. But there was no way I could know that until I saw it.

For more of MacLean's thoughts on the film, the script, comedy and musicals, see the bottom of this page.

2. Budget, Finance and Crewing - the early 10BA Years:

The film became a classic example of the problems introduced into the industry as a result of the 150/50 federal government tax concessions, which led to problems with budget, finance and crewing.

Co-producer Brennan explained this in his DVD commentary - the difficulties increased the pressure on the director, on the producers and on the budget:

 We were doing this film (in) the very new period for the Australian film industry … until now from the days of The Adventures of Barry McKenzie in 1972 for the first eight or nine years, films had been put together basically with a combination of a large amount of federal and state money, usually a sum like fifty thousand dollars from a television station and say fifty sixty seventy thousand from a local distributor We were talking about budgets probably up to half a million dollars six hundred thousand dollars some time I think. 

My Brilliant Career was made for nine hundred thousand, that was a budgetary cost that had only been exceeded by the cost of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. When the 10BA investment scheme came in it was possible for people to invest money in a film in such a way that a $10,000 investment would be treated by the Tax Office as a $15,000 investment the first 50% of their returns was not taxable which meant that if somebody put a hundred thousand dollars into a film it only needed to recoup 10%  of its costs for them to break even. Now the worst films will recoup a lot better than that, 20 or 30% of their costs, so this was very attractive for investors  and a scheme that was wound back over the next several years

But by January of 1981 we'd booked Russell Boyd as our director of photography and we were becoming a little bit nervous about the climate that we were working in, which was that lots and lots of people wanted to invest in films, lots of films were being made and it was worrying that we might not be able to get a really first class crew, in that there was an absolute explosion of production in those first year…, or not just those first years, the 10BA years … in a period where some 10 12 films were being made a year, 40 and 50 films were being made. 

Costs were going up which made it very hard to plan a film. It was particularly hard to plan a film like Starstruck in that the original script that David and I had worked through … had two songs in it, I think the finished film has 10, 11, 12 in it and it's considerably more costly to shoot musical sequences in that it's exhausting for people to dance, do big dance numbers and they have to be shot by a number of cameras which means that considerably more film stock's consumed which is costly for the production. 

As a result where Newsfront had cost $500,000 in 1978, Starstruck in 1981 was budgeted at 1.9 million dollars and eventually cost $2.2 million which was a nasty shock to my system. I was very good at bringing in films on time and under budget. Well this one came in on time but not under budget  ...

May of 1981 government decided it wasn't going to honour promise that investors could claim tax break in year that they made the investment. 

Brennan notes they were very fortunate and had already raised all but $30,000 of their budget by then. But in that climate and in that month two other feature films going into production fell over, and another film had its budget cut by 750k and shooting period reduced from 10 to 5 weeks. It was a time of industry tension as films started collapsing between the early days of financing and the start of pre-production. 

Previously, Brennan notes, state government bodies had carried overages and oversaw productions and were aware of films going over, and if the films only only ran over by 20 or 30k, they would put up the additional money.

Brennan previously hadn't had a film go over by as much as 10k, and resented that he now had to pay more than 100k to a completion guarantor, but it turned out to be a godsend as film went over budget by much more than that fee.

The substantial budget over-run led to pressure from investors, the AFC and from the completion guarantors, and so when it came to a plan to re-film the titles, the head titles ended up  being left as they were, because the creative team would have had to bear cost themselves and that was $7,000. As it was, they had to chip in to supply the glitter bombs that spread glitter over the participants in the climactic musical scenes.

3. Casting:

Casting was done by Liz Mullinar, and the film is a mix of seasoned professionals and two inexperienced leads.

As co-producer Richard Brennan explained, the script's requirement of two young leads caused some heartburn, since it's rare to find young actors with the experience to carry a show:

The two leads Ross O'Donovan and Jo Kennedy were both screen newcomers.

We'd had a lengthy period of searching for people to play these parts and they burst into an audition carrying a fire hose with them, rather like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Nobody else had come up with anything like that frontal assault on the casting system and they got the roles. We anguished for quite some time, were these two people that it would be worth spending two million dollars on?, but I think we came up with two very good choices. It was a difficult choice - Jo wasn't a trained singer, not a trained dancer. Angus is in fact an 18 year old, but or was, very nearly an 18 year old ... very convincing as a 15 year old  …

Director Gillian Armstrong explained the process in the DVD 'making of'. Casting agent Liz Mullinar arranged a big radio competition in Melbourne, a 'search for a star' routine.

When the creative team were getting down to smaller groups, they had six kids in the groups. They put Jo Kennedy and Ross O'Donovan together, and told them improvise a way to get to the producers, and find had to find a way to get into them, and grab their attention.

The pair were allowed to go off in the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne and then when they came back:

They came into this room to sell themselves and they were like on the table, they got the fire hose, they were throwing it out the window … like a tight rope … we were worried they were actually going to jump out the window. They were right from the time they met there was such magic between them  … we knew that was Jackie and Angus ...

According to Armstrong, Kennedy had dropped out of independent school and had an anti-authority attitude, which created some interesting times during the shoot. Kennedy was allegedly ashamed of some of the songs, not the sort of thing she'd normally sing, and of working with all these elderly people like Armstrong.

Ross O'Donovan, Armstrong thinks, was very close to his character. The creative team came to realise that he was the more mature one, and that he worried about Jo, but when doing the film O'Donovan was 17-18, playing 14.

He looked so young, he was stopped and questioned by an air hostess, for being a boy alone on the flight up from Melbourne to meet David Elfick. O'Donovan became more confident in himself as movie moved on, but David Elfick tells an anecdote about O'Donovan being punched by taxi driver for stealing taxi cab charge dockets, which had been supplied by the production office. The driver abused him for being a thieving punk (perhaps influenced by the blue hair O'Donovan had for filming). 

The result was that the creative team had cast two kids in the lead roles, who'd never acted professionally before, never danced at all either of them. Ross had never sung, and Jo had, according to Armstrong, been in a 'little off the wall punk band', but that was all. 

According to both Brennan and Armstrong, there was little real chemistry between Jo Kennedy and her romantic lead Ned Lander (Puberty Blues), "certainly not off screen".

Both think the relationship worked better on screen than it did off screen, but there wasn't the warmth between them the way there was warmth between Jo and Ross. It was covered over, and and Armstrong thinks it's not apparent in looking at film now. Armstrong suggests that Jo was something of a teen style fascist, who only moved in cooler circles, and Lander didn't qualify for cool, though he did have the look the film wanted.

Joyce Smithers and Deborah Conway also tested for the lead role. Kaarin Fairfax, who ended up playing the role of the Icecream Girl, the object of Angus's desire, was also a contender for the role - she had recently attracted attention in the Tim Burstall directed mini-series Descant for Gossips.

Colin Friels tested for the role of gay boy TV host Terry, but John O'May got it instead - May was an experienced stage musical performer, and had recently attracted attention with his work for the stage musical Chicago. He was, according to Elfick and Armstrong, the one musical star who could belt out a number, though he's only given one chance in playing a blonde Molly Meldrum, though both credit him, in those prejudiced years, with being pretty brave about the gay reference. (The real lifesavers in the swimming pool were apparently equally good humoured about doing the scene, and Geoffrey Rhoe, who can be briefly seen in the swimming pool scene playing Terry's boyfriend, was another Puberty Blues alumni).

So far as the adult roles were concerned, the creative team at least had the confidence of a seasoned cast. Pat Evison, who plays the chubby grandmother, had recently had enormous success on the TV miniseries version of A Town Like Alice, and was an experienced character actor/scene stealer - though according to co-producer Brennan she wasn't as good at post synching as she was at performing live, and so the film lost a little bit of her performance.

OTR star Margo Lee would give a final feature film performance as Jackie's mother Pearl - she died of cancer, though a year later she did do a telemovie with co-producer Brennan, called I Can't Get Started.  

Writer Stephen MacLean thinks the Lee character represented the mood of the picture, while Max Cullen's character - he wanders through the film with a white cockatoo attached to his shoulder - was derived a little bit from one of McLean's uncles.

Obscurantists will also be pleased to spot regular character actors like Syd "Mad Max" Heylen as a pub regular, and Crawfords star Lucky Grills sighted in the distance as a brewery truck driver.

Peter Davies, briefly sighted in Running on Empty, turns up as the fifth wombat, Timpany, for the band The Wombats - he would later go on to work in the art department of many films, and as an art director. Ian Gilmour, who first attracted attention in Duigan's Mouth to Mouth, did a voice on the telephone as a favour to the production.

But perhaps the most notable appearance is that of Geoffrey Rush as a flexible floor manager, apparently on the recommendation of casting agent Liz Mullinar. Both Geoffrey Rush and Richard Brennan in the DVD extras claim that it was Rush's first role, but that honour came months earlier with the crime comedy Hoodwink. That said, Rush has fun confusing Jo Kennedy in a cameo of TV floor manager chaos 

4. Production:

(i) Schedule:

 Co-producer Richard Brennan always kept a diary of his work on film productions, and so he provides a more accurate than usual detailing of the film's schedule in his DVD commentary track:

We left most of our musical numbers to towards the end of the film. It was a ten week shoot and this particular scene in the Lizard Lounge was shot in the seventh week, the week that Prince Charles married Princess Di I can't tell you a date (it was Wednesday 29th July 1981) but er it was towards the end of 1981 

We had to shoot three musical numbers in two days and this was the first one. This had 25 set ups in it and we were working like a well oiled machine at this stage. We managed to get 15 of them shot on the first day and the other 10 on the next day. I'm not sure just when we included the scene with the Spanish dancer that was the second of the three numbers and as you'll notice that was covered fairly swiftly. The final number … Temper Temper, was shot in one day flat.

According to Brennan, Body and Soul, probably the most popular song in film, took three days to shoot. The swimming pool scene, shot on top of a city building in a day, was a particular headache to shoot.

One scene set under the Sydney Harbour Bridge involved three lots of filming because of the need to match lighting, but at the same time, the budgetary pressures on director Armstrong saw her film one scene with Jackie and Angus in bed largely from a single angle in a couple of hours.

Also according to Brennan, the bulk of exteriors were shot in weeks 4 and 5 - the unit had only a couple of days of wet weather cover, but luckily the weather was generally favourable, and the unit got through all scenes in good condition.

The shoot was largely done with no more than an hour or hour and a quarter overtime - the one day the unit did work three hours overtime, was the night of the premiere of Gallipoli, and DOP Boyd and the crew who had worked on the film were unable to attend the triumphant opening night.

However the musical numbers complicated the shoot and the schedule in many ways. They required extensive multi-camera coverage, which incurred film and lab costs and took more time to film because of the need to rest actors and remove sweat to stay in continuity. They also took up more of the film's running time - the producers had always wanted the film to come in around the 95 minute running time.

(ii) Pre-shoot: 

Co-producer Richard Brennan estimated that the film eventually occupied some two and a half years of the lives of the key creative team. Even the shoot started early:

We had a very long period leading up to the film. As I said, the script was re-worked many times and on New Year's Eve (1980) I went out with Geoff Burton, a very fine cameraman but not the cameraman of this film, as you'll have noticed on the credits, that's Russell Boyd, and shot some fireworks on New Year's Eve that we could incorporate into the climax of the film. The reason was that Russell was unavailable and Gillian was working on her documentary 14's Good, 18's Better ...

(iii) Art department and costumes: 

Luciana Arrighi had done the costumes for Armstrong's My Brilliant Career, but according to co-producer Richard Brennan in his DVD commentary track, an international commitment meant she could only spend a couple of weeks designing the costumes with Terry Ryan, and she then let him have his head after that, and he did, according to Brennan, a fantastic job, producing an enormous and varied number of costumes on the smell of an oily rag

Writer Stephen MacLean  was also pleased with the outcome, as he recalled in his DVD interview:

Can't remember Luciana, seems to have disappeared during production ...

MacLean credits the costumes to the "two chaps" Antony Jones (wardrobe supervisor) and Terry Ryan (co-costume design credit) ... 

...and their kind of gay sensibility hitting those women and squeezing Margo Lee into a corset, and I just remember that and that they were very in tune with what it all was, and it had that kind of naivete too 'cause there you were having the nerve to do really Australia's first full scale screen musical and to not belabour it and think about what you're doing … of course you make a lot of mistakes, because you're not thinking 'oh I can't do that and I won't do that', and you're not questioning things, and you haven't got anyone looking over your shoulder, which was one of the great virtues, and I guess, to a point, still is of the Australian film industry, and that's the way everyone was doing it …

MacLean thinks the pair did marvellously with Margo Lee, and the tutu look and the look they gave Jackie … citing fond memories of the image of Jo Kennedy used on the American soundtrack album cover 

Brennan also considered the film lucky to have scored director Jim Sharman's favourite designer:

We were very lucky to secure Brian Thomson as designer. Brian's very well known as, probably best known as the designer of the Rocky Horror Show, both the stage version in Australia, the stage version in London, the stage version in New York and of course the famous feature film that's been running ever since it first came out. Brian's done very few films, mainly because he does the sort of work that he wants to do, and if he doesn't find the set up congenial he's just gunna say no. Happily we secured him for this film and the set that you're looking at at the moment  (in which Jo Kennedy is seen doing song) is the Lizard Lounge in which Jo Kennedy is performing is a terrific example of his work I think … (DVD commentary)

Elfick and Armstrong in their 'making of' commentary, notes that while Thomson had great ideas and was very imaginative, he was "a volatile person to work with", citing the Lizard Lounge shoot.

Armstrong remembers that Thomson was upset that that he couldn't see the set because of way DOP Russell Boyd had lit it, and had wanted Boyd sacked. In their defence, Armstrong explains that they saw the set when it was all white, and so made an executive decision to make it dark and atmospheric: "sorry Brian".

Thomson was probably under some stress - he had, according to Brennan, been working on the musical Chicago, which only opened on 6th June, just a couple of weeks before the show started shooting, and crewing the art department during the early 10BA boom days was difficult:

… the burst of production was such that we couldn't find (a) sufficiently large group of people in the art department to get the film made. Brian was particularly keen to work with Andrew Sanders as art director. Andrew had worked with him on Shock Treatment which was the sequel to Rocky Horror Show which Jim and Brian had done together in the UK a year or two before 

 According to Armstrong, there is a Brian style - bold, strong colour, brave concepts and the neon, the neon is always there, and the light bulbs and so on, all those show business touches, are really the real Brian stamp that I think were absolutely right and perfect for our story.

It was also Brian Thompson's idea to turn Jo Kennedy's bedroom into Bondi Beach.

This vision chimed with the vision shared by DOP Boyd and director Armstrong, who had wanted to take the film in the direction of the burgeoning rock video industry, trying to give the film life, energy, and a fresh, unusual theatrical look, while shooting the songs in a contemporary way.

Armstrong and Boyd contend the film paved the way for later Australian films interested in a popular culture look, such as the comedy Muriel's Wedding, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. 

(iv) Misadventures during production:

Co-producer Richard Brennan in his commentary track reports on a number of misadventures during the production - for example, during the first week Jo Kennedy had an asthma attack, which complicated matters, as she was very determined to do her own singing.

The unit also had a disastrous accident, which caused lot of heartbreak, and it was a matter of luck that it wasn't fatal. 

Kennedy not only wanted to sing, and not only wanted to dance, she wanted to do her own tight rope performing, but they hired a professional to do it - there were some 96 set ups in the high wire tight rope walking sequence with which Kennedy's character tries to draw media attention to herself.

Dale Aspin did the stunt work, but unfortunately had a nasty fall while shooting, somehow landing in a way that crushed several of her vertebrae. The unit didn't know how much damage had been done - she might have been up in day or two, or she might never have walked again. They discontinued filming that day, and Aspin spent the next four weeks in hospital. Brennan in his commentary track says he still can't watch the scene with any enjoyment, even though it's put together well, though in other circumstances, he suspects he'd enjoy it a lot more. 

Originally the unit had hoped to film this scene in Martin Place but there was no way they could shut that area down for four days, so instead they filmed down near Circular Quay, and even then that involved blocking off a busy street offering major access to Circular Quay.  

Another misadventure turned out to be a false alarm, with a report coming back from the lab that one of the shots hadn't come out in the processing. The editor attempted to work out what were the essential shots for the sequence and decided all were essential. Luckily, it turned out that one of camera assistants had sent a short end to the lab, "so that turned out to be the missing shot, which is to say no shot at all".

(v) Choreography:

The creative team talked with a lot of choreographers, including ballet dancer and choreographer Graeme Murphy, who had other commitments, and eventually settled for David Atkins, who had recently starred as gangster Squizzy Taylor and had done the choreography for that film.

Of all of the members of the creative team, it's fair to suggest that choreographer David Atkins copped the shortest straw. Compared to the staging of professional Hollywood dancer numbers, as Armstrong noted in her DVD interview, there was no way to cut around a few rough dancers, because Atkins was working with an entire cast consisting essentially of non-dancers.

Additionally, Armstrong and DOP Boyd had no experience shooting dance sequences and didn't realise how difficult and slow they were to shoot, though eventually they learned that it was important to get as many shots as possible, and hide other cameras on view in the shoot (usually 2 or 3 cameras were deployed, though not originally budgeted for).

Atkins did have some rehearsal time for some numbers - he was able to rehearse the Body and Soul number in the pub for some weeks, because it featured the adult character actors, none of whom were skilled dancers.

Armstrong thought the dance rehearsals were fantastic and the actors became the "most bonded group" and very relaxed with each other when it came to filming other scenes. Atkins also had plenty of time to think about I Want to Live in a House, which Armstrong says was easy to shoot, because in doing the dance moves, Atkins had almost storyboarded it for her.

But for the life saving/shark/swimming pool number, Atkins didn't get the music until the night before the scene was due to be shot. According to Armstrong, Atkins heard  the song for first time with all the lifesavers and they then had quickly start thinking about what they could do.

(vi) Locations:

The film is notable for the way it shows off its Sydney locations, most notably the still standing and now heritage listed Harbour View Hotel at 18 Lower Fort Street The Rocks, which has its own website here.

According to Brennan, the exterior shots at the Habour View were done on the first one or two days of the shoot.

Thanks to the real-life location of the pub, it was easy for director Gillian Armstrong to dress in shots of the Opera House, and the Sydney Harbour bridge - the bridge formed a visual motif in Brian Thomson's set design seen throughout the film.

It was also easy to include shots of trains going over the bridge, the harbour itself and areas near Circular Quay, such as the high wire stunt performed by the heroine Jackie.

The pub interiors were filmed on a set, leading to disappointment for those who turned up at the real pub expecting to find a mural of the harbour bridge on the wall. 

Director Gillian Armstrong noted a downside to the pub location. It was so real that every five minutes, talking and filming had to stop talking because trains were going by on the harbour bridge. The unit literally could not hear itself talk and that's why in the end a set was built to house the filming of all the pub interiors.

Some exteriors and interiors were shot at the Sydney Opera House, but the climactic musical numbers were staged in the Seymour Centre auditorium, passing for the Opera House.

According to co-producer Richard Brennan in his DVD commentary, the unit got permission to film in green room area and on Opera House stairs but that was it, and the rest had to be shot away from Opera House. The climactic set piece was originally planned as outdoor concert, but six weeks into shoot, they realised the vagaries of the weather meant it was unwise to do it as an outdoor scene, and so it was shifted to the Seymour centre interior (purportedly the Opera House).

The scenes took 3 or 4 days to film and the glitter bombs were paid for by David, Richard and Gillian as a nice capper to big number because by that point they had blown the budget.

A scene featuring The Wombats' van was done in the second last week of the shoot, designed according to Brennan, to show off Sydney in an exuberant way, and adding to the very Sydney feel of the visuals. 

The film also managed to dress in a couple of Bondi beach moments - the Lizard Lounge nightclub is ostensibly set at the Bondi Pavilion, while a love scene between Jackie and Robbie has Bondi beach, implausibly but lyrically, dressed into the background.

Designer Thomson even manages to get in Sydney's Luna Park by having it featured on the back of pop show TV host Terry's jacket.

In short the film is a visual feast and treat for Sydney siders, and for once the visual celebrations are integrated into the action - with a swimming pool scene atop a city building offering a bit of everything, including day and dusk cityscapes, life savers battling sharks, and long gone Ansett Airlines represented by a large sign.

(See this site's wombat moments gallery for examples of a film which offers many genuine wombat, cockatoo and Sydney moments).

(vii) Musical set pieces:

According to Brennan, one theatre scene (the mock-up of a TV studio number) was shot at the Australian Theatre for Young People, and used lot of ATYP children as extras.

According to Armstrong, the audience for the Seymour Centre climactic musical set piece came from four schools, each for a half day, for a total of a two day shoot.

She claims that the audience got into the shoot so much that they started to act like star struck teenagers, and the unit had to use the actors cast as bouncers as real bouncers to help keep the audience under control.

In all these multi-camera shoots, the cameras devoured film stock. According to Brennan, films at the time tended to have a shooting ratio around 11 or 12 to 1, and the budget originally allowed for around 15:1. But eventually the film came out at about 20:1, and the song with ATYP crowd had a ratio of 25:1.

(viii) Post-production:

According to co-producer Brennan in his DVD commentary, the film was the second Australian film to do its mix in Dolby stereo - the first had been Mad Max 2.

The production brought out American sound mixer, David Dockendorf, who mixed at federal government production arm Film Australia's mixing studio. The mix required a new panel, which resulted in lots of teething problems - Dockendorf was the only person there who had worked in stereo previously.

At the same time, the production did a lot of re-mixing of the music, and Brennan considers this a more successful re-mix, with Roger Savage doing the work (in fact it is possible while listening to the film soundtrack to hear wild and post-sync lines standing out a little from the mix, with some not being bedded down in an entirely convincing and transparent way).

According to Brennan, the creative team saw the first cut on 30th September 1981 and felt very high about the film. The cut was re-worked again, and screened towards the end of October, and by the end of November, the cut was locked off. In the process, the cut lost lots of aerial shots of Sydney, and lost a fantasy scene which can be glimpsed in a trailer for the film (the DVD release also features a heavy swag of out-takes). The film also lost a slower version of the title song which featured students bursting out of cardboard. Brennan says that while it looked terrific at the time it was shot, it was decided it didn't fit the film as they'd hoped.

The film was eventually finished on March 6th 1982, and the completed film was prepared fore the May 1982 Cannes Film Festival market place.  Elfick and Brennan went to Cannes, and Brennan described it as nerve wracking, because some associated with the film weren't confident it would travel outside Australia. 

5.  Release:

The film had a difficult and in many ways disappointing release, not helped by a censorship controversy.

(i) Censorship controversy: 

Censorship by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal saw the song She's Got Body, She's Got Soul banned from television broadcast. The production had planned to use the song extensively in its promotion of the film, and considered its banning a "terrific setback" in terms attracting audience attention. 

The producers protested and tried to fight the matter legally, but it took too much time and threatened to consume too much money, which they didn't have after the budget over-runs, and so they withdrew the action.

In his DVD commentary, looking back co-producer Brennan claimed to be now even more puzzled than he was at time, as to why the song was banned.

A report in The Age on 25th February 1982 explained the issues surrounding the film:

Ms Armstrong said this week that the censors had given the film an NRC rating which was  considered fair because it contained "some coarse language" and "one bare breast (female)".

But as a result, the promotional film clip for television of a song from the movie, which contained no offending ingredients, had also been rated NRC.

Under Australian Broadcasting Tribunal regulations, clips rated NRC cannot be screened on television until after 7.30 pm.

"This means the clips cannot be screened on teenage shows like Countdown, Simon Townsend's Wonderworld, Sound and Hey, Hey, It's Saturday, because they all go to air before 7.30 at night," Ms Armstrong said.

"What upsets us is that clips from NRC or M rated musicals like Grease, The Rocky Horror Show, Fame and Can't Stop The Music were shown on those programmes while ours have been banned.

"We feel we are being victimised."

Ms Armstrong said at first she had been told by the authorities that the clips had been rated NRC because of the location, a public bar.

But she said public bars had featured in other clips screened before 7.30 pm and quoted several examples including clips by Renee Geyer, Meatloaf and PhD.

"The promoters just submitted them as rock clips and got around the law that way," she said. "We were honest and said they were from the film."

After failing in three appeals to have the decision changed, Ms Armstrong said the only course open was to take the case to higher court.

"It's totally frustrating," she said. "With any musical it is important for the people to know the tunes before they see it and most hits from musicals are boroken on TV.

"It has been suggested that we make new clips but that would be very expensive and we have no money left…"

It was in fact, a classic example of Australian censorship obduracy, inflexibility and stupidity, and it is likely to have caused the film some commercial harm.

"We just want the film clips to be rated individually," Ms Armstrong said. "But they are digging their heels in and saying the film is NRC. Therefore clips cannot be shown, no matter how innocent they are."

Mr Ken Barton the Deputy Chief Film Censor, agreed that the film clip was quite innocent but said the Film Censorship Board was obliged to interpret and apply policy on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.

In special circumstances, he said, permission could be given to use television material rated other than G in general viewing time but that those circumstances did not apply in this case.

Asked abut the already quoted examples of clips from NRC and M rated films being screened in G times on television, Mr Barton said "It's possible that some slip through the nets," but that without checking he could not be sure.

Only in Australia, and with only two certainties - many more examples of censorship nonsense would follow, and this one certainly harmed the domestic release of the film. 

(ii) Critical Reaction:

The critical response to the film was mixed (see this site's review section for examples).

Most notable was the dismal response of high minded "serious" reviewers typified by the likes of David Stratton, who thought director Gillian Armstrong was slumming and should have been doing more serious things of the My Brilliant Career kind. Armstrong quotes Stratton as saying 'If she's going to do a contemporary film why do something so light weight?' suggesting Armstrong would be better off confronting the real issues confronting 'youth today', such as youth unemployment ... 

On the other hand, Armstrong says she wanted to show she could make another style of film, not just another period film - yet she claims half the critics said she'd made another film about a red headed heroine who's out there trying to achieve something: no matter how you try to jump out of the box, they put you back in it.

Armstrong says she'd been attracted by the exotic family story, a positive take on underdogs and in the DVD 'making of', she talks of a love story between brother and sister (though the plot is about cousins living together in a pub). She wanted to do a story about about a brother and sister who needed each other and looked after each other, and then she starts to break away and how painful that was for Angus … (In his DVD commentray, co-producer Richard Brennan put it gently: It's a nice story about people learning hard lessons in a not too hard way).

Armstrong thought of it as a take on American genre, "let's put on a show, but really Australian", and she tried to not follow fashions of time, as a way of avoiding dating the look of the film, instead giving it its own timeless, unique look.

Consequently the responses of critics like Stratton stuck in the craw, as Armstrongt recalled in a forum about critics and film-makers archived at Crikey here:

... it was really interesting to hear from Gillian Armstrong, who likes reviews as a moviegoer — though she might only read the opening and the finishing line to avoid ruining the movie experience. But as a filmmaker she explained how reviews can be painful, and how those dead tree/TV reviews could destroy a movie in release. She told a story about how her film musical, Starstruck (following My Brilliant Career and a couple of docos), was misunderstood by local critics, and how one critic wondered if she should be making this kind of frothy frivolous film, instead of say, a socially conscious feminist movie. And how reviews like that had killed it at the box office while it was much more successful overseas, becoming a cult classic in the States. And Armstrong told of how, years later, under the influence of a bar tab she pinned down that critic — David Stratton, stand up — and … had a chat. Apparently Stratton had changed his mind about the film, recanting and apologising. Much too late, alas. “Not that it has affected me,” remarked Armstrong about the reception of her film only thirty years ago. “I got over it.”

Unfortunately Armstrong's next film would be the unadventurous American outing Mrs Sofitel.

Writer Stephen MacLean quotes MGM's Freddie Field saying on the front page of Variety that he gave Armstrong Mrs Sofitel not for her work on My Brilliant Career but for her work on Star Struck.

While MacLean is pleased Field says the film got Armstrong her Hollywood break, another consequence was that Armstrong's subsequent choices for feature film subjects - whether Australian, as in High Tide, The Last Days of Chez Nous or Oscar and Lucinda, or international - as in Little Women or Charlotte Gray and Death Defying Acts - would tend to be conservative, and as a result Star Struck remains something of an honourable eccentric exception in her career.

Co-producer Richard Brennan mourns the response, noting that while there were critics who absolutely loved the film - Sandra Hall listed it amongst her fifty favourite films of all time, Meaghan Morris loved it - many found it disappointing after My Brilliant Career.

It was, Brennan thinks, such a big change of pace, with Career very muted, and shots one and all very beautiful, while in contrast, though a lot of Star Struck was also beautiful, with a lot very effective story telling, for some the change of pace was let down, and some preferred Armstrong to repeat herself. David Stratton should carry a heavy burden.

(iii) Commercial Response:

Asked to define the sort of audience he had in mind, writer Stephen MacLean responded in Cinema Papers, April 1982:

From nine to 18. If the film takes, it may then wash into the broader audience that in the old days used to trot along and see My Fair Lady. Starstruck has a form that an older audience would recognize and appreciate, and maybe get a giggle out of.

But, I am always suspicious when people tell you who their audience is; I don't think they know.

In the end, the film did moderate domestic business, but largely with the teen demographic, and without breaking into older audience demographics.

According to co-producer Richard Brennan, in the Australian market, some 300,000 people went to see the film, a few thousand fewer than went to see Joceyln Moorhouse's Proof and a few thousand more than went to see The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, translating into a bit more than $1.5 million at the box office against the cost of the film.

However, as Brennan points out, the ticket sales were more to the young than the adult demographic, and 'youth pricing' helped lower the amount of returns, though repeat business amongst the youth audience was good. Adults weren't so drawn to the film, especially those disappointed Armstrong had taken a radical turn away from the elements embodied in My Brilliant Career.

According to the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, the film did $1,541,000 in domestic business, equivalent to $4,484,310 in A$2009.

Brennan also notes that the film didn't travel well internationally, at least in non-English speaking countries. He believes that it is hard to move this sort of musical outside English-speaking markets because whether dubbed or subtitled, the musical numbers aren't going to scan or rhyme as well as the original songs.

Brennan notes Starstruck sold mostly in the English-speaking world, and the cult following it later developed was also mostly in the English-speaking world. The film didn't perform particularly well in the United States. While it suited a New York sensibility, according to Brennan, it didn't appeal to audiences outside the big city demographic.

Brennan also notes that the film was later re-released by a distributor who had no rights to the film, with no returns for the original owners.

(iv) US Release:

The film was picked up in United States by indie Cinecom who launched it on Australia Day in 1983.

When Cinecom launched the film, it wanted to celebrate the Australian theme, and decided to serve Vegemite sandwiches. However they spread the black goo thick on the bread like a chocolate spread.

According to Gillian Armstrong, this summarised the commercial divide. Cinecom was used to Australian art house movies  - this one seemed to be too commercial and too loud, with 'all this teenage music', so it was a very tricky for them to get the teen market in - they weren't used to seeing non-American films or listen to non-American music with a popular Australian inflection, influenced by US product.

Armstrong still thinks the film was six months ahead of its time in the United States and in her DVD 'making of' mourns that it wasn't released at the time that MTV went on air, and helped introduce American audiences to Australian pop music and pop clips.

(v) Stephen MacLean on the film's release: 

Writer Stephen MacLean, in his DVD interview, at least manages to get some humour from the mixed reaction to the film's release, and he tells an anecdote about watching the show on holiday matinee, with a six and a two year old girl in the seats next to him.  

MacLean says he enjoyed the experience, but decided to leave at around the one third mark, and encountered man who was dragging his wife out of the film  - she wanted to stay - and the man turned to MacLean, thinking him of like mind, and said "Jesus Christ  mate isn't that the worst movie you've seen in your life?"

Maclean said "Yes but have you seen ........?" though sadly he couldn't later recall the name of the Australian movie he flung at the man.

The man said "No" and MacLean said "That's even worse!" and off they went on their separate ways … but the anecdote does give an idea of the source of the humour that's on offer in Star Struck … 

MacLean also had his own explanation of the film's mixed commercial prospects. While he thinks the film emerged at an exciting time, when Australian music had just broken out, he also thinks this worked in one way for the movie, and in another against it, and that this might have been another reason the film seemed to work better on an American audience ...

... because Australian music was in this sort of boom and Australian music was all bands, I think there was this unconscious expectation that this musical Star Struck was going to be about all these bands you know … and when they go and see the movie, it's not about all these bands, it's this sort of take on a backstage Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland 'let's put on a show' plot, and I think somehow they had this expectation that it was going to be this band movie, and it wasn't, and so they're pre-judging it, whereas the great thing about when your product goes out somewhere else is, they've got no idea, the curtain goes up and they're more likely to (a) understand it, 'cause they're an American stylistically and (b) take it for what it is, so they didn't have that burden of thinking that it would be all these Australian bands that were so popular at the time ...

MacLean also thinks that it helped that American audiences struggled just to make sense of the Australian accent and words coming out of the gobs of the actors, so they can't judge the level of inexperience in the cast, all they can judge is the charm of the cast.

And he thinks that its improbable mixutre of Australian humour, sweetness and wild stylisation, probably tried for the first time with relative success, would become a progenitor for films such as Strictly Ballroom and Muriel's Wedding.

6. Australiana and wombat moments:

As well as the many Sydney-centric locations (see above), Brian Thomson's design and the costumes by the frocks department make many references to Australiana - beginning with the choice of the name The Wombats for the band, and then topped by the gimmick of the band wearing stuffed sulphur-crested cockatoos, a play on Uncle Reg's character turning up in many scenes with a real bird on his shoulder.

Background visual references range from the obvious - for an Australian audience of the period - such as TV bleeder Norman Gunston and Johnny Lockwood, star of soap No. 96 turning up in photos on various walls, to music industry personality Donnie Sutherland being briefly spotted appearing as a concert judge.

Then there are the familiar tropes and memes of Australia, such as Christmas cracker tissue paper hats, to period Christmas wrapping, to Pearl's stitched-up hair and clothes, culminating in Nana's fluffy-tissue box cover.

All this is done in good humour and without the associated bitterness of Barry Humphries making scathing observations of middle class Moonee Ponds culture, and it requires a keen eye to keep track of all the little sight gags that Armstrong, Thomson and their creative team manage to slip into the show.

The script isn't full-on in the sense of Humphries use of Australian-style slang - invented and real - in his two Barry films, but again there are occasional lines which might seem odd to international viewers.

A few examples:

Angus: It's Angus, face-ache …

Angus: Oh how slack's that. She'd be good for a shag

Jackie: …Mad as a meat axe. We can't do a thing with him …

Pub regular, trying to hand a plate of stew back to nana: Love you wouldn't give this to a Jap on Anzac day... 

Reg (to red-haired Wombat band member): Hey blue, don't blow on me cocky


Pearl: Shot through, did he? Well that's people for ya. They trample all over ya dreams …

Reg: Where's my little birdy?


Angus: Been a long night eh Aunty Pearl. But look at it this way, everything that can happen has happened.

(Pearl affectionately tweaks his nose)

Reg (with squawking cocky): Hey come to the bathroom quick, Nana's choking on her dentures.


Angus: Jeez you crap on Nana. Just tell me about these spirit voices.

Nana: Well they're, they're kind of dim ... and invisible.

Sign: New Year Chook Raffle To be drawn at midnight (the DVD sub-titles struggle with a lot of the language, and slide past this sign, and so some viewers might still be unaware that "chook" is Australian for chicken, and that the "chook raffle" is heralding the New Year, though in more recent times the rest of the world has begun to catch up with this subtle use of the English language).

 Pub regular Syd Heylen (wild line about Nana): You little ripper. What does she think she is, a bloomin' hippie? 

7. Date and title:

Conventionally the title for the film is spelled Starstruck. But in fact the actual name of the film, as shown in the film's main front title, is Star Struck, with a clear space between the two words, and the two S's obviously capitalised - see the main title on this site.

Ozmovies is not the only one to note this - Murray's 1995 Australian Film also makes this point, and spells it as per the main title. However, where others quoted on this site have referred to "Starstruck", this site has retained that usage.

So far as copyright date is concerned, the film seems to have been completed to the point where it could be reviewed by Variety at the very end of 1981. However, co-producer Richard Brennan, in his DVD commentary track, suggests that the film was still being prepared for the Cannes' marketplace in March 1982.

The final copyright notice on the film, which dates the film to 1982 and to Palm Beach Pictures, looks like an afterthought, in a different font, and in white, whereas the previous copyright notice in the end titles uses Roman numerals and is in a purple coloured font - but fails to mention Palm Beach Pictures. 

However this also dates the film to 1982, and that is the date of production for the film that this site uses.  

7. Music:

Writer Stephen MacLean says he wished he'd had more input into music. He wanted to use a song composed by a moonlighting production designer Brian Thomson, which MacLean's friend Little Nell had recorded (MacLean sings an example in the interview 'she's mer mer maid').

However, it sounds as if this approach set the template for the way the music for the soundtrack was cobbled together and grew topsy turvy.

Judging by the commentaries in the DVD extras, it's not clear how much the credited Musical Director Mark Moffatt had to do with the finished soundtrack, which had grown in ambition from a screenplay with a single song, to a show with some eleven major numbers, and other bits of music. Rather pointedly, Gillian Armstrong and David Elfick take a joint "Music Selected by" credit.

In the DVD 'making of', director Gillian Armstrong confesses to having been very naive about the amount of time it would take to do a musical, and the time and the expense involved in shooting the dance numbers, with actors getting tired, and getting covered in sweat, which affected continuity, and with one solution - two or three camera coverage - adding to the shooting ratio, and to film and lab costs. In the end, this became the preferred solution - get as many shots as possible for coverage and editing, and hide the other cameras.

Armstrong also admits to being naive about the time it took to write good songs, and to find songs suitable for the sound track. The creative team put out a call to the music industry to submit songs for the film, but according to Armstrong, a couple of weeks before they were due to start recording songs, the musical director told her he'd listened to all the submitted tapes, and there was nothing, nothing any good, to be heard.

In a panic, Armstrong took a box of tapes home and began listening to them, but found nothing, and in the end, she claims that the show was saved by Phil Judd and The Swingers, a popular group of the time (Judd had been a member of New Zealand band Split Enz).

But that too was a difficult experience. She and co-producer David Elfick talked to head of Mushroom Records, Michael Gudinski, and she went to a rock show after party to meet Judd, but he was wooden and uncommunicative, and looked at the wall rather than talk to Armstrong, and she says she went away from the meeting thinking that they weren't going to be hearing from Judd and the Swingers.

Facing madness and disaster and no music for a show billed as Australia's first comedy musical, David Elfick luckily got a call from the band, which had gone off to record an album on the north coast. The drummer had broken his arm horse-riding, the band couldn't record their own album, and at a loose end, they'd put down a song for the film, with a suggestion that if the creative team wanted them to write anything else, they were available.

Meanwhile the demo song was on its way, and according to Armstrong, it was the fastest turnaround of anyone they'd approached. They had the song within five days, and it was the theme song for Star Struck. 

By that time, Armstrong confesses to having said to Elfick that maybe they couldn't do a theme song, that every song to date that they'd been offered had been so corny, and maybe there's no such thing as a title song that's not really cheesy. 

Perhaps it couldn't be done: "Then this tape came in, we played it, and we were like … (looks astonished) … knocked out … like this is amazing, then this call, they said you want anything more? We're like, yeah, yeah, they said 'which?', we said 'Anything!'".

 According to Elfick, the one big mistake they made was that they should have put The Swingers' Counting the beat song into the movie. They thought that because it had already been a hit, that it should be discounted. They'd made a pact that everything in the film had to be new, and they thought that putting a year-old hit song into the film would date it and make it seem like it was just re-cycling old material. Looking back, Armstrong noted that if they'd thought about the film in an international context, they would have realised nobody would have heard Counting the beat, which was only a domestic hit in Australia.

Armstrong also confesses to the creative team having turned down two bands, Men at Work, and INXS, both of whom were interested, and both of whom would take off when MTV started some six months after the film was released (at the time the film was made, Australian music was big domestically, thanks in no small part to the ABC pop program Countdown, but was still relatively unknown internationally, and Armstrong compares releasing the film in the United States with Australian music to like launching a film with music from Botswanaland). 

The late arrival of the music also created difficulties for the choreography. Armstrong mentions that she and David Atkins had, at least for one number - the swimming pool sequence featuring dinkum Aussie lifesavers and sharks - to listen to the music the night before it was scheduled to be filmed, and that Atkins then had to come up with moves and rehearse them with the cast.

The film exploited the talents of any number of people active in the music industry at the time. Writer Stephen MacLean and co-producer David Elfick were aware of the movers and the shakers, having first met when they worked together on a music magazine called Go Set, on which ABC Countdown host Molly Meldrum had also worked. 

Molly Meldrum gave Ross O'Donovan a thorough work out in preparation for his main song, I Want to Live in a House, filmed in Richard Lester Beatles style - it's reported by co-producer Richard Brennan in his commentary track that O'Donovan returned from Melbourne exhausted after his encounter with Meldrum (who in turn was something of a role model for the gay rock show host Terry, played by John O'May). 

Janice Slater acted as vocal coach for Jo Kennedy. Kennedy had an untrained voice, and according to Armstrong had been in a "little off the wall punk band, but that was all", and this created some nervousness. According to co-producer Brennan:

 She didn't have a trained voice, doesn't have a trained voice as you can hear because it is her own voice that you're listening to, and David and I, probably to a lesser extent Gillian, had considerable misgivings about that. David and I felt that we were caught between a rock and a hard place. We wanted the film to have a great look, we had very high hopes for it, nothing like this had been done in Australia before, and we hoped that we might have something that would work in Australia as well as a film like Fame had worked overseas. In the period leading up to filming we, David, myself Russell and in particular Gillian looked at a lot of films. We watched Breaking Glass, we watched Grease, we watched Saturday Night Fever, we watched Hair, we watched West Side Story, and as we developed the project the musical numbers began to swell, two became four became six became seven became ten and our original putative budget, at this stage we hadn't completed raising the finances for the film, we hadn't locked down our budget had risen from $1.6 million to $1.75 million and as I said there was a burst of production going on which meant that it was more difficult to secure people's services and fees were considerably larger than they'd been a year or two before …    

Michael Gudinski's Mushroom took charge of the making of an LP and a 45, though co-producer Richard Brennan claims that the film saw no returns from the exercise. 

According to Brennan, the LP sold well enough (the 45 produced a domestic top ten hit)  but Brennan can't remember getting any cheques back from it: that's the way it goes with LPs. Made money for somebody.

Gillian Armstrong does note however that the film team were able to create the cover art for the Australian album. Paul Worstead, who had done the head titles for the film, created the layout for the LP gatefold, with a pop-up 3D style collage in the middle. Worstead, she says, went on to become the first Mambo artist, and so helped give the LP an early Mambo look.

Phil Judd, at time of writing, still had an official website here, and a reasonably detailed wiki here. The Swingers have a briefer wiki listing here. Both wikis have handy links to more material. Judd would go on to do a number of scores for other Australian feature films, including Rikky and Pete, Mr. Reliable, Hercules Returns, the telemovie Eight Ball, Death in Brunswick, The Big Steal and Amy.

Split Enz's Tim Finn maintained the New Zealand connection by writing the song Body and Soul, sung by Jo Kennedy, which made number five on the Australian singles charts in May 1982.

Lyrics for the title song, which features in the body of the film, at the climax, and in a variant, largely musical form, dominated by saxophone, over the opening and closing titles - below, as performed at the climax of the film by Phil Judd:

Oh yeah

(Music starts playing, crowd cheers)

Well, I ain't gonna sweat inside 

Like no well-trained dog

All right

Don't struggle and stall

But I've got a right to dream

All right  (Subtitles: Oh yeah)

Be my hero    (Subtitles: We love heroes)

Be my star     (Subtitles: We love stars)

Hey hey hey

I do believe

I will surely go insane

Yeah that's right

Square peg in a round hole

It just ain't right

Alright

Oh be my future

Be my pop! Pop!

Starstruck

I only want to take your photograph

Starstruck

I really want to have your autograph

Starstruck

La la la lah (etc)

Chase my dreams

I'll fantasize or bust

All right

Look at me,

Inside my cloud of dust

Be my hero

Be my star

Star … starstruck

I only want to take your photograph

Starstruck

I really want to have your autograph

Starstruck

La la la lah (etc)

Who do you want to be?

What do you want from me?

Who you going in to see?

I've got the right to dream ...

(Music becomes discordant and fades away over various images

of Angus with rolling down the steps inside the Opera House with

the Ice Cream Girl, and Jackie and the Swingers bowing to the

cheering crowd)

(For more details on the music for the film, see this site's pdf of music credits)

8. MacLean on Australia, comedy and other Star Struck matters:

Stephen MacLean was never short of an opinion, though sadly he died at Pattaya in Thailand (the location of his DVD interview) of cancer, after a long illness, and there was a detailed obituary at the Sydney Morning Herald published on 2nd May 2006 here.

Happily he delivered any number of those opinions in various interviews in relation to the film, on subjects embracing comedy, Dame Edna, Australian culture and sundry other matters.

They help enhance an understanding of the film and some are assembled below. All - except where noted - are from MacLean's April 1982 Cinema Papers' interview:

(i) The Campbell connection:

MacLean wanted "Little Nell" Campbell in the lead role, and it was Sally Campbell who connected director Gillian Armstrong to the lead role. It comes therefore as no surprise to read that MacLean was an admirer of Ross Campbell, an Australian humorist and regular writer for magazines such as The Australian Women's Weekly and the Daily Telegraph:

A great Aussie writer, Ross Campbell, just died. He labored for many years doing columns for the Packer press. He wrote real things like the humiliation a father feels when his kiddie says, "Daddy, why doesn't our fridge have a light in it like everyone else's?" And, of course, all those middle-brows aspiring to seriousness just don't have the brains to attach to real talent like that. It doesn't hide behind a cause, but it has the confidence to be itself; it isn't phoney.

But comedy will once again gain prestige, as it had in the 1930s, with columnists like Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley in journalism, and Ben Hecht and Billy Wilder in film. They were very frivolous but they dealt with serious things - and isn't that black comedy? And these people were very highly regarded - and still are ...

(ii) Australians and comedy:

I can remember when the first Australian films came out in London, somebody said to me, "The thing about you Australians is you should stick to being funny." That is a crazy generalization, but I do think there is a strain of Australian thinking which leans towards morbidity. That's okay, but it's often expressed in a pretentious, middle-class way - Toorak 'quality' culture at one end, Carlton 'alternative' at the other.

Perhaps our sense of isolation gives us a morbid strain, but the work seldom has the patches of levity the Russians bring to their morbid books or plays - you know, that terrific manic quality. In our case there has been too much striving for intellectual superiority, and it has produced a lot of dull, boring works - more so in theatre than in film.

One film that does really hit the mark on this score is Paul Cox's new Australian feature Lonely Hearts, which is bleak and sad, but funny! That's the thing: whenever tragic things are happening in life, something zany is usually happening simultaneously. I'd like to see more Australian black comedy …

… to me, Don's Party is one of the best Australian films ever. In that one David Williamson was funny and serious…

We are getting out of that post-World War 2 period when comedy, and it happened here also, became a very lowly-prized commodity. The 1970s brought back more appreciation for the craftsman. I'm glad. Australia has a bit of money in the kitty, so it tried to buy 'art' and 'culture', which is a prime example of a middle class getting culture-obsessed and getting it all wrong.

So I loved Don's Party because it was serious without being doggedly heavy or doggedly intellectual. But that is a very rare work. I suppose Alvin Purple and the early comedies were sort of awful; there was some great stuff in the Barry McKenzie films, but it was more spot burlesque comedy. And the public loved them.

I respect the real public, not the culture vultures, because they dare to like what they really like, which is more than you can say for a lot of critics.

We should value comedy. Our most remembered Australian talent since Melba will be Barry Humphries, and it wasn't an arts grant system that fostered him, was it? In developing talent, the culture vultures reign, and there seem to be a few films about having affaires with Frank Moorhouse, don't there? In writing, there is too much false value placed on well-intentioned but obscure pieces, when those very writers often have the talent to be encouraged out into the open, to drop all the references only they find interesting. In those circles, you can be frivolous or flippant, but only if you throw in wooden 'serious's stuff.

Australians seem compelled to act out the role of 'the artist' French-style. And the industry itself hangs naive labels. For instance, when Starstruck got going, some people said to me "Gill Armstrong doing Starstruck? She is far too serious. She could not have the sense of humor to do Starstruck." Can't you be serious and have a sense of humor - or even a sense of comedy? People could not comprehend that a woman (and I emphasise the sex) could be serious about her work and have a sense of humor.

As for myself, I have suffered the reverse of that; because I might crack a few gags wherever I go, people often think I'm not serious about my work. That's the Australian culture climate, love.

I find the Australian public is far more adventurous than the people who develop talent…

If you are rolling $5 or $5 million, you are still rolling it, so why be conservative? The basic principle of rolling it is against that. And as for being concerned about your future, you don't have one unless you take risks.

(iii) Australian women and comedy:

Starstruck was written straightforwardly as a theatrical experience rather than real life. And Gill Armstrong has struck the right note here, whereby the people are heightened, are leaning towards caricature, but nevertheless demand to be taken seriously. The characters disengage themselves from their backgrounds.

I relate Edna Everage to this, the fine line between character and caricature. Edna started out as a satirical character within the dramatic framework of Moonee Ponds. As the years went by, people began to think of Edna as a real person.

This is tied to the sense of reality Australian women bring to transvestism. We have all met an Edna, so you almost believe she is a real person. Les Girls at Kings Cross has been running 20 years for a basically female audience from the suburbs, and they go and watch these guys sort of ridicule femininity.

Patrick White wrote in his memoirs that Australian women are far more interesting than Australian men because of this male element in their make-up. He wrote that Australian men do not possess a corresponding feminine element in their make-up, and are consequently less interesting.

White went on to despair about a certain type of woman who stifles that wonderful feminine part to ape the worst kind of male qualities. They are often very witty and put people in their places with their tongues - women who have been forced to be strong and tough, like Pearl (Margo Lee) who runs the pub in Starstruck. Edna is an extreme of that type - "Australia's answer to the Jewish momma", as Barry Humphries billed himself in New York.

When challenged that Pearl was actually a rather said, almost tragic figure MacLean would have none of it, and denied she was just being used by Lou (Dennis Miller), despite his robbing the safe:

I can only think that Lou was a good root and Pearl liked a good root … she is not prepared to accept that at all (robbing the safe). That just happened in a soap opera plot twist - though I actually grafted that in from a real-life memory. I think Australian women are used to covering for men, in one way or another.

(iv) The matriarchy, feminism and comedy:

In his DVD interview, MacLean talks about discovering a book with a huge long dissertation written in completely clinical psychoanalytical terms  about Star Struck which claimed that the film was obsessed with two things - sex ("go figure") and "the matriarchal figure" ...

... a lot of people picked up on that at the time and write these dry academic things about the matriarchal aspect of Star Struck and this was a time back then when, this is a film directed by Gill Armstrong  who's become this, who's become famous overnight with My Brilliant Career which is about kind of suburban feminism transplanted to a girl trying to get a book published way back when and it was a time when women were making the cross-over at the tail end of the first wave of Germaine Greer's Female Eunuch, woman's lib era, there is something and I think that influences Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding, Priscilla which is a re-positioning of women, and the Australian society was always very divisive, the gulf between men and women was something that was just so obvious and that was finally being dealt with and even though it was pretty brutal society and men were as rough as guts and you know mum got a black eye if tea wasn't on the table at six blah blah blah blah blah it was always really mum who ran the show and it was a matriarchal society.

I think England was more of a patriarchal society, that's very much reflected in that genre where the women are actually stepping out  of manipulating things from behind the scenes to going out front and manipulating things out front, but one other thing that I remember feeling about the movie at the time is, well of course the star of the movie is the girl, Jackie, and it was directed by Gillian Armstrong, whose speciality was, her basic story was, whether it be My Brilliant Career or Star Struck at that point, was 'local girl makes good', but I felt one of the things at the time that the movie missed was, yes the girl's the star, but suddenly it's the boy's story, and it is the boy's story. He's going through adolescence and he's the one going to be left holding the bag at the end. I think the movie at the time I can imagine was slightly out of whack because that wasn't addressed, the subtlety of the girl being the star, but actually the boy's story I can remember feeling wasn't quite there  …

(v) Jackie and the gay character:

Almost every woman, however sophisticated, instinctively does not like finding out that the man of her affections is gay. That person being gay cuts her out on the sexual level, which is a very large level to be cut out on …

When asked then about Jackie's line about the gay character:

… I might have failed there; it is all a bit murky. I got edgy because that whole gay sequence was re-written and changed into a pool party instead of a leather bar, as I had originally written it, because we felt leather bars had already been done. But I did not quite keep track of the re-writes and the actor playing the part, John O'May, who had seen an earlier draft, said, "I am really disappointed. This was a good part and a chance to say something. Now they kind of dump on him when they find out he is gay."

I never wanted that to happen and neither did Gill. So, I took his point and had a last-minute fiddle on location.

Actually, I don't think her line is out of character. Angus says, "He can't be gay!", and she says, "Why can't he?" - meaning, "Look around, a lot of people are."

It was one of those situations where I did the re-write to accommodate a different situation. When it was a period script, the kids went to The Purple Onion, which was a famous club in Sydney, and they met this fantastic drag queen, who looks exactly like Pearl.

(Then when asked about minority groups or stereotyping, e.g. homosexuals and fat women):

I did not write Nana fat. She was not fat in the script. But Pat Evison is great; she uses her size to great, comic effect. (Cinema Papers April 1982, as also for remaining comments below)

(vi) "A Star is Born", the 1960s mod revival, and other film influences:

For someone who likes musicals, I often find them a laborsome experience to sit through. Somebody is talking, then they turn to sing in another voice, which always worried me and sent me running for the popcorn. The only one like that which really works is The Bandwagon, largely because of the conception of writers Adolf Green and Betty Comden.

A Star is Born was the first musical I believed. Every musical number happened within a realistic context. So at first I put Starstruck's songs in a strictly realistic context, such as a band performing on stage. But Gill said, "No, let's just do what we feel like." Take that scene in the bar where Jackie (Jo Kennedy) just starts singing "It's Not Enough". I had always wanted a ballad in the bar, because I just loved it when Judy Garland was jamming with the musos in her film, and the James Mason character comes in and sees her. That was realistic, whereas Gill has our girl start singing. I think it works well, in the end …

… It would be great if Jackie walked up and said: "This is Mrs Norman Main." No, I do not think it (A Star is Born) influenced the structure, just the feeling.

I took the advice that writers get: if you want to write a book, write the kind of book that you would want to read. But people are not honest about films they really like because they do not want to look dumb. I thought I would get down to the kind of film I really love - and it was A Star Is Born, which I saw at 12 and really blew me out. I reasoned that if I could keep the magic of that film with me while I wrote Starstruck it would keep me going.

So, Jackie became the Judy Garland character on the way up. The pub background became the Norman Main character: the alcoholic on the slide down whose time had passed, who was of another era. That pub became a person to me.

In A Star Is Born Norman dies and in Starstruck, which is a much more simplistic piece, Jackie saves the pub. That is the pantomime aspect of it. I think pantomime fits the form by the very nature of pop music. I thought Breaking Glass was a hideously bad film, and it was serious …

We are in the midst of a 1960s revival, and it is more subtle than most, and pre-hippy. New Wave is a pre-hippy 1960s term.

When I first wrote Starstruck, I was working in London on a Fox short about the mod revival. So I set Starstruck in the 1960s mod style, which was a mistake because you should always remember fashion is a wheel and the wheel turns too quickly for films. David Elfick (co-producer) then came up with the shrewd and tough notion that the period setting might be seen as a crutch for the film. Australians tend to art direct their films rather than give them a good story. So David thought the script had to be made contemporary.

There is a feeling to Starstruck I connect with British style pieces of the 1960s: Smashing Time, Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, Here We Go Round The Mulberrry Bush.

I had dinner with Diana Melley, and she mentioned that her husband George wrote the dreadful Smashing Time, "which looked so old-fashioned when it finally came out in London." And I said, "Oh but we teenagers in Melbourne loved it, because of the time-gap between us and London." We all went and saw those films in larger numbers than other countries. They had a sense of optimism and glossiness which Australia still feels. Relative to the rest of the world, we have more to be optimistic about. Those films had a kind of screwball fun which suited the Australian sensibility, and, even if they maybe weren't the greatest films in the world, Australians were quick to pick up on the satire.

Look at Can't Stop The Music. That film did no business anywhere in the world whatsoever. It is a terrible film, but it is pure anarchy and a big joke on The Gang's All here and all those Twentieth-Century Fox musicals. Australians, apart from the clever sell that Alan Carr gave it here, go the joke, whereas the Americans did not have the sense of humor to get it. We got the joke about the Here We Go round the Mulberry Bush-type of films better than anybody.

Australians have a highly-attuned sense of humor. That comes from being a combination of Scots, Irish and English, who are the funniest races of people in existence, one way or another …

(vii) On Jackie and Angus:

Starstruck is just meant to be entertainment. That is not to deny that entertainment films can't be serious. But Starstruck is not meant to be taken terrifically seriously. Seventeen-year-old girls and boys are usually pretty selfish …

If Jackie is taught a lesson, then it was that her cousin Angus, who was also her manager, actually knew what was professionally better for her, what was 'right' for her character as presented to the public.

Performers rarely know what is good for them. Mae West is one of the few in the history  of show-business who knew everything about what she should  do. And anyone who is a big star has some capacity for that. That is why there are a lot of brilliantly-talented people around about whom everyone says, "Why aren't they stars? They are so talented." But they do not have that conception of identity which is what being a star is. And Jackie did not have it for herself; she just had the ambition.

You will find that relationship through the history of showbusiness, from time immemorial, and it is almost like a pimp/hooker set-up - Barbra Streisand has a hairdresser, Judy Garland has her thug.

Basically, I saw the script as a love story between Angus and Jackie, a kind of Les enfants terribles. The way the film played is different, because, quite naturally, it took on a life of its own. Now, it is not Angus' story - it is Jackie's story.

I don't know if you have ever hung around with an older girl when you were 14. It is okay when you are 10 and she is 14, but when you are 14 and she is 18, she is going out and living her own life. You are a minor, and there comes a chop-off point. You feel betrayed. And Jackie, because she is older, is just zooming ahead. Angus only has his brains with which to hang on to her.

Gill came up with the idea that Angus should mature at the end and find his own girl; he is about to go off on his own tangent of maturity. I can remember going, "Oohh!", because I thought of Saturday Night Fever, the story of which I loathed. John Travolta treats all the girls like slobs, then we are supposed to believe he has opted for 'maturity' at the end because he aspires to a half-assed, middle-class bourgeois world where everyone will now treat him as a slob.

But our ending doesn't have those social implications - and it works. (Cinema Papers, April 1982)

(viii) On being an associate producer:

"I was the only person who'd associate with the producers." Sorry it's an old gag.

Initially, I did things like soliciting songs. I sent out music break-downs, had lunch with publishers, put the net out. I'd talk to the Art Department about heroes Angus might paste to his walls, that type of thing. I also did a few quick fiddles during shooting.

I didn't get to rehearsals, but I would have liked to, because I would have altered some of Angus' dialogue. I wrote his stuff in short, staccato sentences - the Jewish kind of talking. Ross O'Donovan naturally speaks in long, rambling sentences with a nasal accent. It was his first part; I would have liked to have adapted the lines to him.

But when you hit upon a director, you just have to go with that decision. It is at that point you have either won or made a mistake. And it was no mistake with Gill. (Cinema Papers, April 1982)

(ix) On the influence of pop clips on the film:

Those thrilling Devo-type clips rely almost wholly on cutting. You can use cutting to communicate rhythm for the length of a clip, but you have to use it sparingly in a feature because it's tiring - which is what Gill has done. I think she's right.

But I think any of those songs could lift from the film. This is how I think an audience responds to film clips of musicals on television. First, they get to like someone in the clip. They get to thinking about maybe buying the record. Then they want to go to Grease or whatever so they can see John and Olivia do the songs bigger and louder than on television …

MacLean gave the songs settings designed for the demographic:

The Starstruck theme song takes place in a schoolroom because Angus (Ross O'Donovan) goes to school and much of the potential audience will, too. The schoolroom as a setting for pop might seem an overworked location, but it is all relative to the amount of time kids actually have to spend in them.

It was part of a plan to use the pop songs in real life pop program equivalents such as Countdown to promote the film:

… We have to get that music out there and expose people to the clips. Their response to the film as a whole will be another story.

But as noted above, it turned out that censorship blues prevented the film from exposing pop shows and their audiences to the musical numbers, thereby skewing the domestic response to the film as a whole.