DEAUVILLE FESTIVAL 2001
Australians really are everywhere – even at
Deauville, the town in Normandy where each year the Americans
launch their French cinematic invasion, reports Helen Barlow.
This year, Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger led for Australia.
Situated on the windswept coast of Normandy, The Deauville
Festival of American Cinema serves as the launchpad for US films
into France. Numerous movies are shared with the Venice Festival,
which runs simultaneously, and film-makers and actors head for
the more relaxed environs of France after a more hectic time
under the Venetian spotlight. This year, however, the festivals
shared only Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence (with
Haley Joel Osment on the publicity trail after visiting Australia)
and Larry Clarke's Bully (the director and his female stars,
Rachel Miner and Bijou Phillips, came to Deauville).
Jackman, who looks even better in the flesh than on screen, told
the assembled crowd at the Swordfish press conference: "The
last time I answered this question I got into a lot of trouble, I
got my ass kicked, because I was asked about the virility of
Australian men and I trolloped out some answer about the outdoor
lifestyle and that quote was translated to the Sydney Morning
Herald which commented saying that Hugh Jackman was talking
absolute bollocks about the most urbanised country in the world.
And I thought touche. Who knows? I think really in Australia it's
a small business. Everyone trained hard as actors, and got a job
doing whatever they could. I myself did a lot of musicals I
dressed up in a koala suit, for crying out loud. I think in a
small country you have to be adaptable and that's where Hollywood
and Australia work well together, because in any one day in
Hollywood you can be a priest and a pimp--you can audition being
The astounding thing though was Deauville's Australian flavour,
as one journalist noted: "Australians are everywhere"
at the moment in international film-making. Still, Heath Ledger
and Hugh Jackman are not just anyone, and the two Australian
stars added much needed glamour to the event. It became clear to
the French (many of whom had not realised Jackman was an Ozzie)
that Australian actors, including Russ the Gladiator, have
captured the imagination as fully fledged hero material in
“Everyone trained hard as actors... I dressed up in a koala suit...”
Halle Berry piped in: "That's bullshit - they're just so
cute. All of 'em." A round of applause ensued for the
virtues of our home-grown stars.
The ever-charming Heath Ledger, presenting A Knight's Tale,
looked the epitome of an Australian surfer, and made lighter of
the Australian male conundrum. "I think it has something to
do with the government investing quite a bit of money into this
actors' factory in Australia. It's a special microchip they've
implanted in the back of our brain as well as a microphone, which
is handy, so they don't have to mike us up. We're diverse actors
so we can play all those things. That's my only theory," he
says with a chuckle. "Bill Gates is onto that and he's going
to load up Hollywood anytime now." A pause. "I really
don't know, it's such a hard question to answer, but I seriously
I think it's the same thing about any foreigner playing an
American role. They're playing an American character but
underneath that is all the sense of humour, sensibility, the
characteristics of the country where they're from. The Americans
are just curious about THAT smuggled under the American accent,
but I really don't know. I really don't know."
“… acting is reacting.
The reaction is real”
The most significant event for Australian cinema in Deauville was
the world premiere of Tempted, directed by Bill Bennett. Using
the same improvisational technique he employed in Kiss Or Kill (starring
Frances O'Connor and Matt Day) he gave Burt Reynolds and Saffron
Burrows a one page scenario and had them improvise their scenes.
In Deauville a surprisingly sprightly, tall and imposing Reynolds
presented the film at its premiere, and in what was a career
tribute, he also spoke about his trials and tribulations-and
there have been many throughout his career. Clearly, he and
Burrows had a wonderful experience making Tempted, as Reynolds
now appears with her in Hotel, directed by her boyfriend-partner
and constant collaborator, Mike Figgis. Burroughs appreciates
that like Figgis, Bennet comes from a documentary background.
"We didn't rehearse, so we wouldn't know what the next
moment would be," she says.
Adds Reynolds: "When I was under contract a hundred years
ago I spent a lot of time watching Spencer Tracey making Inherit
The Wind, and he never ever said a line exactly the same way. The
reason was not to throw the other actor, it was a gift, because
acting is reacting. The reaction is real. It's not fake because
he doesn't know it's coming. So in that sense it was thrilling.
The big problem with Tempted was to have the other actors stay
with the story, stay with everybody, because obviously, no
offence, but I wouldn't have wanted Robin Williams in the middle
of the scene."
“There are those Australians
Tempted had those tell-tale Bennett trademarks: a thriller with
multiple twists, a female protagonist, a rural setting, scenes in
moving cars and frequent visual flourishes. The response among
the attending press was mixed, but everyone agreed that the
performances were more than convincing. Set in a murky New
Orleans environment surrounded by swampland, the story tells of
Reynolds' wealthy, terminally-ill husband, who offers a young man
(Peter Facinelli) $50,000 if he can convince his wife to sleep
with him. The rest of the story should not be told but suffice it
to say that Reynolds gets the chance to play nasty (as we love
him) and Burroughs is smart and sexy as always (like in the
upcoming Enigma and previously in Deep Blue Sea).
Also world premiering at the Festival was World Traveller, by
Bart Freundlich, who previously directed The Myth of
Fingerprints, and whose partner, Julianne Moore, takes a
supporting role. The film stars Billy Crudup as a confused,
wondering soul, a man who has commitment anxiety and flees his
family, and it's not completely dissimilar to Crudup's previous
turn in Jesus's Son, directed by one-time Sydney resident, New
Zealander, Alison Maclean. Crudup has since appeared in Gillian
Armstrong's screen adaptation of Sebastian Faulks's novel,
Charlotte Gray, alongside Cate Blanchett. There are those
Australians again. It even seems that the film is being
positioned in America to be released in time for the Oscars—and
after the birth of Blanchett's baby.
Published September 13, 2001
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(photo courtesy David Morgan)