I recently had a conversation with an Australian actor and something they said really bothered me. This person has become quite iconic here in Australia but has never actually worked outside of our shores. We were discussing various aspects of the Australian film industry and the film THE HUNTER was mentioned. The lead actor of that film was Willem Dafoe and the asinine comment was made that "Yanks come here and steal our jobs". The remark was really vexed and it annoyed the shit out of me. To start with Willem Dafoe is an actor of the highest degree... what's to diss? It's not the first time I've heard this type of opinion and it immediately took me back to the era of Aussie genre films in the 70s and 80s. Back then American leading actors were brought in to star in films to bolster the international appeal. Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacy Keach appeared in ROAD GAMES. Dennis Hopper was MAD DOG MORGAN. Steve Railsback in TURKEY SHOOT. Meryl Streep in EVIL ANGELS. Henry Thomas in FROG DREAMING... the list goes on. As documented in Mark Hartley's film NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, there was a lot of resentment towards the American talent from Aussie crews.
What is it about Australians? What makes us so defensive? It's not exclusive to the film industry and we seem to have a massive complex and insecurity in all sorts of areas. When Aussies start dominating Hollywood and taking the world by storm we celebrate them. We take pride in the fact that our own people are making good in the big wide world and yet we shun outsiders when they try to get in. Never mind that big American productions come to our shores and generate thousands of jobs. Never mind that we import the occasional foreigner to star in a film, which would otherwise sink. Would LOVE'S BROTHER have performed if Giovanni Ribisi hadn't been in it? Billy Connolly in THE MAN WHO SUED GOD? Would RED DOG have had much of an impact overseas without Josh Lucas?
We make great quality films and I could list hundreds of excellent ones without international "guests" in them and so the very fact that we're producing such a high standard of cinema surely means that it's no big deal when big stars do come and play with us. I personally get a little bit chuffed when I see big-time players showing up in our movies. In fact THAT is where my pride comes into it. Wasn't it awesome to see people like John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson and Danny Huston show up in THE PROPOSITION? And how about Anthony Hopkins in SPOTSWOOD? Patrick Warburton in THE DISH? Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe in DAYBREAKERS? Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Connelly in DARK CITY? etc...
We should embrace the fact that such international stars find it appealing to work with us. If any film is to succeed then it needs to have a hook. Yeah sure a story can be strong enough to carry a movie but how far do Australian stories travel without faces the rest of the world can recognise? I hate the tall poppy syndrome that so many Aussies possess and I hate hearing people being so spiteful and protective of our industry. I wont reveal who the actor was at the start of this article but I will say that it changed my perceptions of them. Half of the films this person has starred in would have been financial catastrophes without Hollywood actors... hell, most of the films wouldn't have even been made at all.
If we're happy to export - then rejecting import is vapid and thickheaded.
I've got a lot more to say about this and there are endless examples I could use... and i might return to the subject later... but for now, rant over! lol