Having been involved yesterday in filming a scene for Artspear Entertainment (my son Joe and his partner Rita’s film production company) I thought it high time I outlined the path that I’ve trodden to attain such dizzying heights in the acting business.
1. The earliest role I can recall playing, was the part of a canary way back in Grade One. All I remember about it, are the yellow wings I had to put on and the beak that made it hard for me to see where I was going. Don’t recall what the play was all about, but strangely enough I’ve been terrified by the thought of going down coal mines ever since.
2. My next opportunity came in Grade Six when our year level performed a mini Annie Get Your Gun type thing at the school speech night which was held each year at Brisbane City Hall. Because I attended an all boys college our ‘Annie’ was actually played by my best friend in grade six Jeff Morris. (To be honest when I saw Jeff for the first time in full costume and make-up as Annie I had to quickly remind myself that we were just good friends.) My own role was as one of three members of the Pony Express. We had a little scene together where we exchanged a few lines while we ate a meal around a campfire. Then we would spontaneously burst into this song:
Galloping, galloping over the hills, boys of the Pony Express!
Stirrup and leather, through all kinds of weather
Ummm … something, something, something, something something … our best!
It was a great song (except for that something, something, something, something something line which I always thought needed more work). The best bit though was that on the speech night itself, instead of just pretending to sit around a camp fire eating something, the Marist brother directing the show gave us real chicken drumsticks to gnaw on! Everyone else in the cast was so jealous. For a moment there we were officially the highest paid actors in Year Six!
3. Aside from playing a fairly insignificant one-line-speaking Spanish soldier in our year 12 performance of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, I next trod the boards in a few very miniscule roles while I was a teacher at St Peter Claver College. These occurred in the school musicals and eisteddfods. My biggest part came as the lead in a sketch called Boots ‘n All where I played the coach of the worst football team in history (one of the players was actually a girl but no one including the coach realised this). It was a lot of fun and the critics were unanimous – none of them turned up to see it.
4. After the stunning highlight of my leading role in Boots ‘n All I guess like so many before me, I was seduced by the celebrity lifestyle and my career floundered. There were the parties, (each year I had one for my birthday – sometimes other people even turned up) the women, (whose pictures I cut out of magazines) and the drugs (my hay fever and sinuses were really playing up!). Luckily many years later I was rescued from acting oblivion by my son Joe who had begun fulfilling his dream of making films. He obviously saw the limitless, untapped acting potential in his father.
5. I started off with various behind the scenes jobs for Joe (transport, stand-in camera man, making props, holding stuff, keeping quiet while he filmed, being thrown out of my study/bathroom/house, handing over money etc) but eventually I graduated to being in front of the camera. Here are a list of my on-screen credits in Joe’s early school and uni productions.
The Faketrix (A 3 hour Matrix take-off): ten second scene where I run away from the camera and get shot in the back. Heart-wrenching stuff.
The Moon Landing – The Director’s Cut: I played a grieving man (alongside daughter Meg) at what is mistakenly thought by the documentary makers to be Neil Armstrong’s funeral. Later on, my legs and feet make an appearance supposedly as those of a cameraman being chased by an angry member of the public. (Nominated for ‘Best legs in a Non-speaking Role’ by Limbs Magazine)
Martian Springs: Adrie and I play the parents of the main character (Joe). Our performance resulted in Adrie and me being touted (ok, just by us) as the greatest husband and wife team since Betty and Barney Rubble.
The Ping Pong King Kong: me as a master ping-pong player. You can watch the first half of the film here. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) all you see of me is my fist grabbing the ball right at the end. (This is where the technical tv and film phrase, a ‘grab’ originated) If the second half was on Youtube you would see me taking on both those pathetic ping-pong players at the same time and thrashing them!
A Water Carol: Joe cast me in the role of ‘Old Man’. When we came to film my scene I asked Joe when I was going to have my special-effects make-up applied. He said I didn’t need it. You see, that’s how much faith he had in my acting ability!!!! I still get a bit teary-eyed just thinking about it.
6. Finally my big break came with Artspear’s first feature film The Killage. Joe and Rita needed someone to play the part of a bus driver and even though the role involved only a few seconds of screen time in a 100 minute film, it was obvious to me from the start that the success of the entire production would hinge on it! I knew that what they really needed was someone with a deep understanding, appreciation and talent for both acting and fast-paced transport.
And that’s when it hit me. I HAD PLAYED THE PART OF A PONY EXPRESS RIDER IN GRADE SIX! I WAS THEIR MAN! I WAS BORN FOR THIS ROLE! (Luckily, as it turned out, I was also the only person Joe and Rita could find who had a licence to drive a 22 seater bus, so that came in handy too.)
I’m proud of my work on The Killage. In fact my face is the very last image seen on the screen after the credits run. I think you’ll agree, the perfect combination of horror and comedy – just like the film itself!
Which brings me back to yesterday’s film shoot for an episode of The Void (a six part comedy series written by Joe and starring Joe and Rita which will screen on Briz31 TV in October). The scene they were filming was a take-off of the film Speed and I was playing a bus driver again!
At first I was worried about being typecast and totally losing my versatility as an actor. But then I thought, hey, maybe I’ve found my true calling and anyway, who said you couldn’t be versatile just playing bus drivers? Not all bus drivers are the same are they? Some drive 22 seaters, some 14 seaters, some drive manuals, some automatics, and then there are all the different makes, colours and models of buses – the possibilities are endless!
So even though I will continue to dabble in writing, I think I have finally found my true niche in the world of acting. Maybe I could even earn a place alongside the greatest screen bus drivers of all time! (And if you don’t think there have been any, then go HERE.)
I’m confident I can make a go of it, because if I’ve learned anything as a result of my acting journey it’s this: in order to succeed in this crazy business it’s not enough just to be super-talented like me. You also need a mountain of passion and determination. You must be driven. And I ask you. Who could be more driven than a bus driver?