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BROWN, BRYAN & McMAHON, TRAVIS

FIRST IMPRESSIONS CORRECT
Actor and producer Bryan Brown recognised a natural filmmaking talent in Jasmine Yuen Carrucan when she sent him her first feature script – so he helped produce the film, starring Travis McMahon as a desperate kidnapper taking his victim on the road in the outback. Bryan’s judgement of Jasmine proved accurate, as the two men tell Andrew L. Urban.


“All the characters I’ve played over the years are different characters … but they’re also me,” says Bryan Brown, one of Australia’s most recognisable and respected acting icons, as he talks about his latest role as an outback cop, Rosco, in the debut feature Cactus, by Jasmine Yuen Carrucan. Rosco is a small role, but an important one; like the role of the truck driver, Thommo, played by Shane Jacobson of Kenny fame. “I rang Shane and said it was just a couple of days work but it would be great if he would do it,” says Bryan.

The reason Bryan made the call – apart from knowing Shane – is that Bryan took on the role of executive producer at the very beginning, after discovering that the project was likely to be underfunded, and he felt motivated by the script. “Neither Shane’s role nor mine are big but both characters have to be memorable…” And they are. Bryan, who has been producing TV for some years, enjoys being a producer – “but only the part where I get to work with the writers, directors, the camera people… the creative team. I really don’t like the other parts … the money and dealing with lawyers, that stuff …”

"I read it straight through in one go"

Jasmine Yuen Carrucan had sent Bryan her screenplay with a view to having him play Rosco. “I read it straight through in one go,” says Bryan, which in itself was a good sign. “I don’t usually get past page 10 in most scripts …” He rang Jasmine and asked about the film, and when she indicated she had a few pennies to make it with, Bryan offered to help make it, “so as to get the most out of the script.” For a start, he sent it to Robert Slaviero at Hoyts Distribution, who quickly took it on. Like Bryan Brown, Slaviero saw the commercial potential for the kidnap / road movie with an unusual premise and fresh elements.

John (Travis McMahon) kidnaps a young man one night in Sydney and bundles him into his car for a long drive into the outback. The prisoner, Eli (David Lyons), is frightened but confused why he is being kidnapped – and by whom. The long drive pits the men against each other, but it also forces them into an uneasy bond as John reluctantly reveals his compelling motivation for taking on this job. A single unintended event leads to the unravelling of John’s delivery plan and thrusts the two men into a vortex of tragic consequences.

On the road, John runs into Rosco, who warns him that he’s now in Rosco’s territory and if he fucks up, he’ll have to answer to him, Rosco. And that’s a promise Rosco keeps. “I like this character,” says Bryan, “he knows who he is.” Among the elements Bryan likes about Cactus is one that he feels elevates the film above the average kidnap drama. There is a scene in which John lets Eli out of the car and responding to Eli’s pleading, unties him and lets him go. Eli sets off in the heat of the outback day only to stumble to a halt a few hundred yards along, realising he’s in a vast land – a vast prison without bars. He shuffles back to the prison cell of the car. “He was allowed to run away – but to what? The Australian landscape is such a force, we should make more films set out there,” says Bryan.

Impressed by Jasmine Yuen Carrucan from the start (“I sensed an inner strength … a confidence …”) Bryan was convinced he’s backed a future filmmaker when he saw a couple of scenes she shot in preparation for the film. “That footage got us into the AFC’s IndiVision program,” he adds, which helped develop and fund the film.

"she wasn’t some naïve newcomer"

Jasmine Yuen Carrucan is no movie novice; she comes from filmmaking experience in the camera department, “so she knows the game … she wasn’t some naïve newcomer.”

She also proved a natural as a director, says Travis McMahon, who relished the role of a desperate man driven to accept a terrible job to make enough money to buy his ill wife an operation. “Jasmine was great, she knew when to talk and when to leave us alone,” he says. “Having had the guts to write the screenplay, she also knew how to deal with the actors.”

The role of John offered Travis a chance to explore a character he found fascinating. “He had very carefully planned the whole thing – except for the human element…. What happens when the two men are cooped up in the car for all that time …”

Often physically demanding, the role was nevertheless a fun experience. “The biggest challenge was fighting the flies and keeping them out of the car,” he says laughing.

"a matter of trust"

As for the fight scenes, he and his co-star David Lyons had become good mates when working together in a NIDA production of No Names No Pack Drill. “It became a matter of trust; I left it to David to control how far we’d go, and we were always looking out for each other.” There was no chance for stunt doubles, nor for a stunt driver; Travis did all the driving, and it was for real, with the film shot in sequence along dusty NSW roads. “I did LOTS of driving,” he laughs.

After playing the desperate kidnapper in Cactus, Travis is making a priest in Birthday, a drama about set in a brothel where one of women is having a birthday. It’s just what an actor likes: variety. “After that? There’s a serial killer role in the works….”

Published May 1, 2008
 

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Bryan Brown as Rosco

REVIEWS

Cactus (M)
Written and directed by Jasmine Yuen Carrucan
Australian release: May 1, 2008


Travis McMahon


Jasmine Yuen Carrucan







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