Dessicated Coconut

Access All Areas interview transcript

Access All Areas interview, broadcast on ABC in Australia in January 2004.  Transcribed by PrincessFaz.
 
Screencaps and audio may be found here:
 
UPDATE:  Graphic Allusions, the site that was hosting the screen caps and audio, has been reorganized.  The Access All Areas stuff is no longer available.  The original summary post is still up at The One Ring website.
 

 
From a psychopath in The Boys, to a sex symbol in SeaChange, from Marrickville to Mordor, David Wenham has grown into one of Australia's most remarkable actors.  And now, with a string of impressive and interesting roles looming, Wenhams star is burning brighter and brighter. The handsome redhead is at the top of his game at home, but is he on the brink of cracking the U.S.?
 
Coming up, we'll take you through the fascinating roles that have transformed Wenham in a chain of success stories. The shy actor reveals why he shuns the celebrity light...
 
David Wenham: "The character I find I'm least successful of portraying is myself." (clips of Dom saying 'Daisy, thats what we call him', Peter Jackson, Viggo saying "I really like the way he approaches his craft" and I think Miranda Otto "there are a lot of things I love about David").
 
And we delve into the actor's secret past...
 
DW: "Nothing more from the vault, please" (laughter)
 
From center stage to silver screen, actor David Wenham has seemingly limitless range. His dreams of Belvoir Street theater became a reality in 1994 when he starred alongside Geoffrey Rush in Hamlet and Cate Blanchett in Tempest.  Since those early days, we've seen Wenham blossom into a major movie star. And now, like his co-stars, will Wenham be next in a long line of Australian movie stars to make it in Hollywood??

Host: "Hello, how are you?"
David Wenham: "I'm good, I'm very nervous--"
H:  "Are you?"
DW: "Yes, but I'll breathe in and I'll be all right."
H:  "How's the journey been so far?"
DW: "The journey's been a surprise journey.  I never would have considered that, uh, I'd be making movies.  From a very young age all I wanted to do in terms of becoming an actor was perform in a particular theater in Sydney, which was the Belvoir Street Theater.  And I did that, and that was like the limit of my ambition, but, I sort of went a little bit past that.  I pinch myself, I regard myself extremely fortunate to be doing what I'm doing at the moment."

Fortunate indeed. David was the youngest of 7 in a family of devoted Catholics. He attended Christian Brothers School in New South Wales where he studied drama. In his late teens, the gawking (?) redhead auditioned for the prestigious school NIDA, where stars like Mel Gibson and Judy Davis began, but Wenham ws rejected. His talent however was recognized by (?someone) at the University of Western Sydney, where Daisy, as he was nicknamed, took to the stage at just 20 in the production of The Crucible. (clip from the play in which you can hear him say "witches" but the rest is unintelligible). It was during these early years that David found unique ways to earn a living.

DW: "I used to film at Trots(?). I was the cameraman at Trots for 2 years while I was at acting school. "
H:  "Really?"
DW: "That and a bingo caller, that's how I put myself through"
H:  "Really, bingo makes a living?"
DW: "Yes, that right, tough it out. I was 19 and all that sort of stuff but we were very strict when we called Bingo and I wasn't allowed--2 ducks quacking, whatever, that sort of thing--very strict."

(clip from old commercial with David on the phone).Yes, believe it or not this is David. David landed his first ad in 1991 sporting a very retro bowl cut. David may wish that this long lost commercial was lost forever. (cheesy soap opera music plays) The classic Aussie soap Country Practice was not a big quality show in it's day, but it touched the hearts of many Aussies and gave David the opportunity to exercise his acting muscle on the small screen. A new platform for the young actor.

DW: (being funny and sounding dramatic)"I was fortunate to visit the valley 3 times, uh, as 3 different people. I played an ambulance man, uh, a very inept policeman, and also a man, who...had kidney failure, in the valley. (laughs) Uh, don't show any of that --"
H:  "We've got it..."
DW: "For God's sake..." (laughing) (clip of DW's character saying 'I've decided to stop dialysis altogether...I dont want to do it anymore.'   'Then you'll die.'   'Yeah, I know'.)

David outshone the mediocre cast with his moving performance as a 25 yr old patient, giving the Aussie audience just a taste of what was to come.

DW: "No more from the vault, please." (everyone laughs).

Two years later Wenham landed his first feature film, a job he took for free.
 
Someone talking, I don't know who:  "When David first heard he was going to do a picture, I think he took it with stride and a as a superduper graduate from the theater and thought "I can do this"---he's a cool cat, very cool cat"  (followed by a clip from the movie)

H:  Let's go back.  Seeing Red was your first feature film, going back -- "
DW: "You are going back!"
H:  " You were only 27, did that whet your appetite for the whole thing?"
DW:   "It was 2 years ago."
H:  "Yes." (everyone laughs)
DW: "Did it whet my appetite? It was strange because it was a very low budget film and it was just an opportunity to work in film which was rather, was a strange new experience for me. It did whet my appetite, it sort of increased my, uh,..I get hungrier and hungrier each time."

Hungrier indeed, Wenham devoured roles at a rapid rate. In 1996 he starred alongside Toni Collette as a pyromaniac in the Aussie hit Cosi (clip from Cosi; Doug saying "You can always find loneliness in a marraige, but never solitude. I like my solitude."). In 1997 he won an AFI for best actor in a TV drama for Simone De Beauvoir's Babies.
 
Clip of DW: "I'd like to thank ABC and Artists Series for giving me the opportunity to play a charcter whose wardrobe I was actually interested in purchasing after the shoot" (audience laughs).
 
And just one year later, Wenham stepped into the shoes of psychopath Brett Sprague in the terrifying film The Boys (clip from The Boys.  Brett Sprague saying "I thought about you a lot while I was away. You know something, I didn't think about you at all..you're a *#% brain" "You're pathetic, Brett" ). Wenham won an AFI nomination for his chilling performance in the film, which he also produced. The Boys received a whopping total of 13 AFI nominations.

DW: "it's a film that I'm extremely proud of, for many different reasons. It's certainly opened doors for me both here and overseas.  Actually, it's probably the project that helped me get access to scripts that were outside this particular area."

Wenham headed back to the world of TV that same year for a role that would see him go from psycopath to sex symbol overnight. Seachange and his adorable Diver Dan won him popularity nationwide.
 
Sigrid Thornton:  "I think the release of The Boys in the same year that Seachange was becoming the next big thing was very advantageous and great timing for David, for he was able to so completely change from this sinister character in The Boys that I almost couldn't watch, not because it was far away from David, but because he was such a sinister bloke. I really had to see it that David was capable of that-it's just a measure of what kind of actor that he is. Seachange for David placed him in the line of romantic lead. I actually don't think he'd done that kind of work before.  Looking back on that, David agreed that it was a really great thing to do because it expanded his repertoire overnight in the eyes of the general public." (clips from Seachange)
 
Wenham's Diver Dan will live on in the hearts and minds of Australian people, and will remain one of his most loved characters.
 
Seachange was enormously successful, triggering a whirlwind of popularity for David. In 2001, he starred in 4 films back to back, teaming up with Hugo Weaving to play a cheating husband in Russian Doll, followed by a cameo in the smash hit Moulin Rouge as the splendidly camp playwright Audrey (clip of Audrey saying "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!   That insufferable droning is drowning out my words. Could we please just stick to a little decorative piano?")
 
Morphing into a trigger happy cowboy was next for David as he headed to Macedonia to star alongside Hollywood heartthrob Joseph Fiennes in the US film Dust. Despite a solid effort from Wenham, this tale of romance in the wild west was a box office flop in America. But Wenham was soon back on Australian screens in The Bank, as a mathematical genius, followed by his role as a bush ranger in Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. All eyes were on David Wenham, but somewhere between Diver Dan and Lord Faramir is a man who wants only the characters he's played. Content to while away the time chatting about the myriad of characters he's brought life, it's clear that the only character Wenham isn't comfortable talking about -- is Wenham, and he has successfully dodged my discussion about himself until now.

DW: I'm just uncomfortable...uh, the character that, uh..., I find I, uh ,I'm least successful portraying...is myself--for the camera. I cant.., it's like, you know, I share that with, um, with people who are closest to me. I dont particularly like putting that out, um , in the public arena because, uh, I think--it's something private and precious."

(clip of someone talking about it)  Embracing the whole publicity and star kind of thing is definitely part of the job of an actor, to the extent that it is still part of a job. I don't think it has to pervade your entire life.

Sigrid Thornton: "I think David is kind of reticent about some of those kind of high profile elements to the job.  But on the other hand, I think he's extremely canny about the choices that he does make."

One opportunity David didn't miss was the Sydney premiere of his film Gettin' Square. The paparazzi was standing by as the stars of the silver screen made their way along the red carpet. The chance to shine in the limelight is an opportunity that most actors would thrive on, but Wenham couldnt think of anything worse.

DW: "I'm not very good at it, I find, getting my photo taken, for example, uh, I know this sounds very strange, I'm comfortable in the guise of the character I know and have to, uh, operate, but myself-- posing for the shots on the red carpet, that particular character I'm not good at. There's a lot of actors who love that and revel in it and relish it, whatever, I don't ,I really don't. "

Ironically, the shy actor is renowned for exposing what to many actors is their most vulnerable side:  flesh. (clip of Josh from Better Than Sex: "Did I say good-bye?" "I don't think so, not properly" -heavy breathing) Layers of clothing seem to drop off Wenham wherever he goes. (clip continues: "See ya..." "Bye...")

H:  "We saw a very naked side in Better Than Sex. Were you comfortable with getting your gear off in front of the camera, in front of the whole of Australia?"

DW: "Yeah, I don't, yeah...I dont mind exposing myself so to speak (host laughs), but if you thought about it too much, you wouldn't put yourself in front of the camera and do it. For the four or five weeks we went shooting, I didn't actually think that anybody would see the film.  Not that I didn't want people to see the film,...you're aware how so few people there are --- you're working, not aware of the fact that um, that one day, your bottom is gonna be, you know, a couple of dozen feet tall." (host laughing)  (clip from Better Than Sex of Josh on the pay phone)

H:  "The sex symbol status rose with Seachange much to your horror."

DW: "That's right, yes."

H:  "Most actors would love to be called a sex symbol but not you..."

DW: (pause)  "...Nooo." (laughs) "No, I look out-"

H:  "Why?"

DW: "I just adjusted my seat (he must have done something funny because the host laughs again).  I find it imposs--you know, you can't live up to that label or I certainly don't think I can."

(clips of stars talking about David:  "David Wenham, the thinking womans sex symbol" "The flexible woman's sex symbol" "He's just so versatile when he's acting, I think it's fantastic" "He's got so much appeal. Slow appeal, I think. David is a wonderful actor and anyone that's talented is pretty sexy.")

DW: "When I think of sex symbols, I think of ...you know, Brigitte Bardot or, uh, Julie Christie, or from a male's perspective Paul Newman or Robert Redford. I, um, don't see myself in...in those categories. So yeah, I'm slightly uncomfortable about it."

So it seems that David himself is the only one who can't see him wearing the sex symbol tag.  In fact, his role as hapless Johnny Spitieri in Gettin' Square sees yet another snug fit as he is stripped down to his undies again. (clip of his co star in GS, I think: "If you look as good as David Wenham, then you can afford to wear those undies and run down the road half naked. He's got the body of an athlete in this movie--he's sensational. I hated working with David, hated it hated it every day. (laughs) He's the worst actor Australia has ever had."

DW: "I don't think anyone particularly enjoyed seeing Johnny Spitieri in the buff, which is the character I played in, uh, Jonathan's new movie, Gettin' Square. Slightly different, um, slightly different body sculpting.  Johny Spitieri is a character who, in order to realize, I didn't exercise, which I absolutely loved, and I didn't eat very much, so I had a diet of lettuce leaves and tomatoes for quite some time and got very hungry, but that's how I achieved the rather magnificent physique of Johnny Spitieri." (clip from courtroom scene of movie where Johnny Spit is worried about bus fare home)

Clip of costar talking: "David's got many funny habits, he wears his oufit out quite a bit, so he'd wear the actual Gettin' Square--he'd wear all his clothes out to the pub and he wouldn't get out of character once. In fact, I actually just met David Wenham, he's always dressed as Johnny S. and he was that much into it, method."
But method acting and a brilliant sense of comedic timing aren't the only ways
Wenham gets laughs on set. Although David has a very intense work ethic, it
seems there's always time for a joke at someone else's expense.
Jonathan Teplitzky: "He is a bit of a prankster and we had some incredibly
entertaining times on Better Than Sex particularly, Better Than Sex was a unique situation, just Susie and David and it was just in one location
predominantly.  A lot of the filming was about just moving from this side of
the room to that side of the room, so a lot of them was very
stationary--they're in bed, they're in the bath, and a lot of hilarity was
had."

Susie Porter:  "He is a bit of a prankster. He is the kind of person who'd
put a whoopee cushion in the bed but I don't think he ever...(laughs)... No, I can't
remember any whoopee cushion. "

Peter Jackson: "He was pretty well behaved on set but he has got a very, very wicked sense of humor, unfortunately the character of Faramir is fairly straight but he has got a very emotional scene.  I think the scene with Faramir, David, charging towards Osgiliath and Pippin singing is one of my favorite scenes, but David is just superb to work with. He is...he is a cheeky little chap."

DW: "yes...I look.." (gives silly laugh, eveyone laughs) (mock serious voice) "It's amazing what gets out."

Wenham has most certainly surpassed his dream to perform at Belvoir Street Theater.  With unending opportunities calling, it's been almost 10 years since he last took to the stage here. Landing the role of Faramir in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings threw Wenham into the international spotlight.  It's his most high profile film to date.

(Clip of Faramir saying "So this is the answer to all the riddles," etc..)

DW: "That was pretty fabulous.  For me the most fabulous thing about that
was the opportunity to work with Peter, because before I did the project I'd
seen every one of Peter's films. I'm a huge fan, and he would have been on the
top of my wish list of people to work with, so the opporutnity to work
with Pete was a very special one. "

Peter Jackson: "He's the funniest guy, he's so generous and so laid back and he's obviously a very, very clever, powerful actor. David's fantastic. I love him."

Viggo "I really like the way he approaches his craft. He's very serious
about it, he works very hard but he also has fun with it."

Elijah Wood: "He's a lovely guy, lovely, yeah, wonderful to work with. He's
got a great sense of humor as well, so he's always a joy to be around."

(clip of Faramir: "At last we understand one another, Frodo Baggins..." )

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has undoubtedly raised David's international profile,
opening the door to film roles not previously available to the chameleon.
So will David, like those before him, Russell, Hugh, and Geoffrey, be the
next Aussie talent lost to the back lots of Hollywood?

Someone (don't know who, sorry): "It's just a matter of the right part until he breaks overseas. His appeal is his ability to turn himself into something"

Sam Worthington: " America's just going to gobble him up, you know, that's for sure, hopefully. I dont think David really worries about it, which is good, to understand that balance."

Someone (dont know who) "David is just breaking into the whole American thing within the last couple years, with Lord of the Rings and Van Helsing and other big films that he's done, and he's really still just feeling his way around."

So does leading a film in the US represent success for David Wenham?

DW: "Not for me, it doesn't. That's not to say that I don't enjoy working in
the US or working on American projects but it's not something that, you
know, I strive towards."

H:  "So we're not going to lose you to the US?"

DW: "This is my home.  Australia is my home.  I want to continue living
here. I want to continue working here.  If opportunities arise to work
overseas, including America, I'm open to them but I don't want to shift
location, no. I love it here".

And that will be great news for Wenham's longtime girlfriend, actor and yoga
instructor Kate Agnew, who has endured months of separation from Wenham due to his filming commitments overseas.

H:  "A very exciting new role coming up for you -- fatherhood. How do you
think that's going to change you?"

DW:  (pause...) "Oh...GOD only knows. Who knows? Um...I honestly don't know,
um, I'm open to it."

H:  "Scared?"

DW: "Yea, a bit. I'm open to it though and I'm looking forward to it...I do
like children."

We hope so. Kate and David welcomed Eliza Jane into the world not long
after our interview. It's been a wonderful year for David. Fatherhood and
the announcement of an AFI nomination.

Reporter:  "I'm on the red carpet for Australia's most star studded film night of the
year--the AFI's. David has been nominated for best actor in a feature film
three times but he has yet to take it out. Will tonight be his big night?"

(someone??) "I'm very much hoping that tonight will be the night David
cracks an AFI award.  And it will be the first AFI award he'll win for a
film performance, which would be fantastic."

Someone else (I think it's Miranda Otto): "He's one of the most enlightening and funny and wicked people I've ever met and I wish him all the luck as he transforms."

Man: "Just when you thought he was Diver Dan he can suddenly be a ratty
sleazebag in Gettin' Square or he can be rather menacing in The Boys."

Reporter: "Do you think it could be David's night tonight?"

Miranda: "Yeah, it could be Davey's night tonight.  You never know."
Man that Miranda is with:  "I suppose you would have to wonder whether it was David Wenham's turn.  The obvious answer would be no, surely not, hopefully anybody would be more worthy of the award than David"   (he's joking)

Clip from the ceremony: "And the award goes to David Wenham for Gettin'
Square
" (clapping)

With proud girlfriend Kate by his side, David did it.  He took home the AFI
for best actor, wrapping up an exciting chapter in his remarkable career.

Host: (back in studio) "You're a massive AFL fan.  You support the Swans."

DW: "Yeah, I'm a huge AFL nut and a big Sydney Swans supporter."

H:  "How long have you been a supporter?"

DW: "Of the Swans, ever since they moved to Sydney.  The AFL even though I grew up in NSW.  From about the age of 8, I was the odd boy who used to watch the AFL on Television"

H:  "I'm assuming babs will be a Swans supporter?"

DW: "I hope so."

H:  "I don't think they have a choice."

DW: "Mmmmmm."

H:  "We'd like to give babs, in spirit..."  (DW laughs)  "..so this is for...." (gives the baby a little Sydney Swans jersey)

DW: (laughs) "Oh, that's gorgeous, aw, it's beautiful."

H:  "We wanted to sort of, you know, get the Swans vibe..."

DW: "That's lovely." (embarassed)  "Let's hope this leads to good things.
Here's a bit of product placement..." (everyone laughs) "...in the 2004 season."

H:  "I hope so."

DW:  "Thank you very much. It's beautiful."

H:  "Good luck being a dad."

DW:  "Thank you."

David wenham has been plying his trade in Australia for over 20 years. With
two AFIs under his belt, more than 26 films, and countless stage roles
behind him, Wenham's refusal to acknowledge his celebrity could be the secret
why this diverse actor has become somewhat of a local hero.

 

Home | About | Bio | Links | Interviews | Gallery | Fiction | Movies | FAQs | Humor | Daisy's Sacred Grove

Enter supporting content here