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New Zealand Herald
From 'SeaChange' to sheets change

He's done violence. Now David Wenham is doing sex.

It looks like that's how the former SeaChange star - he played the charming, laconically philosophical Diver Dan in the hit Australian telly series - is picking his film roles.

The last time we saw Wenham on the big screen was as suburban psychopath Brett Sprague in the chilling The Boys.

Other roles included the lead in Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, about a Belgian priest working in a 19th-century Hawaiian leper colony. That film has barely seen a projector because of legal wrangles between director Paul Cox and its producers - which doubly disheartens Wenham since he effectively quit SeaChange for the part.

But now filmgoers will be able to see quite a lot of the actor.

In Better Than Sex - a quirky comedy about two Sydney strangers who embark on a commitment-free, three-day fling only to find life isn't that simple - Wenham's character, Josh, didn't use up much of the costume budget.

"It's always bit of a tricky issue, I suppose," Wenham muses, Dan-like, about having a line of work where getting your gear off is a requirement.

"You try not to think about it too much because if you did you would never step in front of the cameras like that. But I look at it now and think, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I actually did that'."

But Wenham says the film is about aspects of human relationships other than the ones represented by the frequent love scenes with co-star Susie Porter.

"Essentially, what it is about are the small moments that occur between two people who don't really know each other but really want to. It's a situation everybody has found themselves in at least once in their life.

"It's two people anyone can relate to - they are two real people up there on the screen. And it is interesting to see how audiences who have seen it in different places react, depending on their own experiences."

Do women react differently to men?

"They certainly do. Women find it slightly more appealing. Men are a little bit hesitant with the film and I don't know why."

Those blokes, huh. So after the likes of The Boys, was doing Better Than Sex a sort of light relief?

"Absolutely. They are ends of the spectrum, both films I love for various reasons."

Better Than Sex does have, for reasons best explained by the film itself, a scene or two of Wenham wearing a wedding dress. All good practice for the costume-heavy films he's done since.

He's in Baz Luhrmann's extravaganza Moulin Rouge - "I play a character called Audrey who is a very effeminate writer who thinks he's a genius. That's as far away from my own being as you could possibly be."

And he is part of the Australian contingent in the cast of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, though his character, Faramir, brother of Sean Bean's Boromir, won't appear until the second or third movie.

"It's very odd doing stuff when you think, 'This won't be seen for over three years.' I'll be unrecognisable by then. But it was an amazing experience to be involved in. I felt privileged."

And looking back, he can't say anything but good things about SeaChange and the mark it made either.

"I am amazed how much it has become ingrained in the Australian psyche. Over here it had the most phenomenal effect.

"It was made for the ABC which isn't known for popular drama series and normally has a very small audience, and it became the most watched show in the country - a phenomenon."

And the reason for that was the scripts?

"You can't do it if the writing's not there. You just can't. It becomes alchemy otherwise."

He's not doing badly is Wenham, having stamped his mark on what is the best television drama series to have come out of Australasia in the past decade, as well as appearing in the biggest film production, and being able to fit in provocative indie movies as well. So what now?

"My burning ambitions seem to be dwindling as time goes on, which is probably a good thing because the less ambition I have, things come a little bit easier ... which is probably the case in anything."

It's a notion which would surely find approval with Diver Dan.
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Better yet for shifting star
Daily Telegraph (Surry Hills, Australia)
Nov 9, 2000
It's all change for David Wenham. TV's Diver Dan has bared all to become a sex symbol
David Wenham, the pale, ginger-haired and, well, slightly scrawny star of SeaChange and The Boys, is as surprised as anyone to find himself cast in the role of a sex symbol.
"I find my career path has taken me down a road I never would have envisaged,'' he says on the eve of the release of his latest film, Better Than Sex, a cheeky love story that puts the one-night stand back into romance.
"I always saw myself as a character actor. Now, I find myself in this area. It's extremely amusing.''
The 35-year-old actor seems genuinely nonplussed by the strange turn of events, but then Wenham's star has been rising "at an exponential rate'' since 1998 -- the year in which he simultaneously seduced audiences as fisherman [Diver] Dan della Bosca in the hugely successful ABC-TV series SeaChange and sent shivers down their collective spine as a psychopathic killer in Rowan Woods' film, The Boys.
The role of Brett Sprague confirmed Wenham's reputation as an actor capable of terrifying intensity.
SeaChange, on the other hand, showed his ability to play a light-hearted romantic lead.
"It was quite fortuitous both of them came out at the same time,'' Wenham admits, "because it sort of confused people as well as to where they'd like to slot me as an actor.''
Diverse roles followed -- from a very gay Cleante in Barrie Kosky's notorious Opera House production of Tartuffe, to a 19th century Belgian priest in Paul Cox's film Molokai, about a Hawaiian leper colony.
In the past 12 months, Wenham has shot five films back-to-back -- Better Than Sex, Moulin Rouge, a low-budget Australian romantic comedy, The Russian Doll, a film shot in Macedonia, called Dust, in which he plays a nasty, turn-of-the-century cowboy on a journey to redemption, and The Bank, a thriller set in the world of high finance, from the team who made The Boys.
After he finishes shooting (Lord of the Rings) in New Zealand later this year, Wenham intends to take a self-enforced break.
"[Working at such a pace] is not something I set out to do. It just so happened they were all projects I was very interested in doing. They're all so different and yet so enticing.''
Better Than Sex, first-time director Jonathan Teplitzky's warm, frank and very funny look at contemporary relationships through the eyes of two thirtyish inner-city dwellers, appealed because it was "surprising''.
"The perfect image has got a little bit out of hand,'' Wenham says. "I think that's what's so fantastic about this particular film. [Co-star] Susie [Porter] and I ... well ... it's not Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts up there; it's two people everyone can relate to, hopefully. I think that's attractive.''
Wenham says he didn't give much thought to the fact his role in Better Than Sex is likely to reveal more about him than polite society might consider decent.
"That was raised in a forum after the film screened at the Melbourne Film Festival. Until that moment, I hadn't really been conscious of sitting in a cinema with 2000 people actually watching myself pretty much in the nude with Susie ...
"That's something you wouldn't really want to think about when you are actually shooting the film. If you did, you'd never do it.
"You arrive at work, take off your clothes, say good morning to Susie, who has also taken off her clothes, get into bed and film some stuff ...
"Susie was a great person to do that with. We had so much fun on that film and I think it's translated on to the screen.''
Better Than Sex opens in Sydney today.

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David's Roots
Appeared in Issue 18 of Scoop (Summer 2001/2002)
Writer: Liza Beinart

Sunset Cinema's Grass Roots Film Festival may have been designed to attract WA filmmakers whose only way is up, but "grass roots" is certainly not the way to describe Better Than Sex star David Wenham who's scheduled to host the festival in February. Having judged the ScreenWest Awards a few years ago, David says he's amped get back to Perth and sees a shining future for the WA film industry.

"I had such a fabulous time and I could really see the potential for emerging talent in the film industry," David says. "I also found [WA] an incredibly beautiful place. I was only over there for two or three days and it certainly appealed to me and I'm looking forward to coming back."

A veteran of short film involvement even before the genre had garnered the respect it enjoys today, David says he has fond memories of working with independent filmmakers on low to no-budget films. That should make him an ideal host for the festival, which is designed to give first-time and inexperienced filmmakers the chance to have their work viewed by the public. And as far as David's concerned, we've got the locations it takes to make some great films.

"[Perth is] unlike anywhere else in Australia; it has incredible appeal geographically and it's very distinctive and so beautiful. In terms of location, it's unparalleled. It isn't up there with Sydney at the moment, because Sydney has a studio and WA doesn't which makes it slightly difficult for films to go over there, but that gap could be bridged at some stage." So with all this praise, would David ever make a film in Perth?

"If the script was a wonderful script and I was asked to and it was an appealing project, absolutely."

Give the local industry the support they deserve on February 28 at Sunset Cinema in King's Park - see p. 120-121 for more Sunset Cinema details.

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Diver Dan resurfaces a stud

Daily Telegraph (Surry Hills, Australia)
March 4, 2000

EVEN though shy boy David Wenham set a few pulses racing when he played Diver Dan in SeaChange -- he has never considered himself a stud.

But his pin-up status may change a little, with these raunchy bedroom pics doing the rounds.

And no, Confidential hasn't intruded on an extremely private morning wake-up moment.

Wenham is in fact on the set of his latest flick Better Than Sex in which he stars opposite Two Hands actress Suzie Porter -- who will soon be seen in Monkey's Mask.

The low-budget movie is about a pair who have a one-night stand that becomes complicated.

Shot in Surry Hills over four weeks, the film also features Water Rat Catherine McClements.

Insiders say Wenham and Porter got along well together during filming -- a must, considering bedroom scenes like this one could take up to two hours to shoot.

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David Wenham
London Australian Film Festival

Interviewed by Sian Kirwan

How well do you think "Better Than Sex" will do internationally?

I think it's one of those films that people can relate to no matter where they are in the world. Because it's a love story it has a universal theme that can travel. Even though it was shot in Sydney and is an Australian film, it could have been shot anywhere.

In the film yourself and Susie Porter's roles don't call for much wardrobe. Is it strange to see your naked body splashed on screen?

Yes, very, but I tend not to think about it too much. I'm not uncomfortable with being naked but some of the positions Jonathan, the director, put us in were quite compromising. Fortunately Susie's got a great sense of humour and we just got on with it and had a laugh. I must admit, my parents haven't seen the film and I'd be quite embarrassed if they did.

How is British cinema perceived in Australia?

Probably better than it is in Britain actually. Most of the British films we've had have been huge hits and the Australian public seems to enjoy them. It makes a change from the American ones I suppose. Like Australian cinema it's probably preceived better internationally than in it's own home. Sometimes films do better abroad than in their own country.

How are you enjoying the UK?

I love it, it feels like my second home. I feel we share similar sorts of sensibilities and outlooks, and a similar sense of humour. I love all those Monty Python films and old British TV comedies.

The London Australian Film Festival runs from 6th April - 12th April 2001. For more information please contact the Barbican.

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Lord of the schwing

Date: 27/10/2000
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald

David Wenham bares all in a new film. But it's not just about S.E.X, writes SACHA MOLITORISZ.

You know David Wenham's face. Quixotic and compelling, it has been spotted everywhere over the past few years. It has popped up on TV in SeaChange, on stage in Art, and on the big screen in everything from Cosi to The Boys.

Now, then, for the rest of his body. Meet Better Than Sex, a low-budget comedy about two young singles - Wenham and co-star Susie Porter - who meet at a party and fall into bed, which is where they stay for much of the ensuing 96 minutes. Unless they're in the bath. Let's just say the costume designer shouldn't expect to be nominated for an Oscar.

"I've watched it once, at the Melbourne Film Festival," Wenham says. Gee, even a self-confident rhinoceros would have been embarrassed seeing itself, you know, starkers and going for it. How did Wenham feel? "I didn't really think about it till the Q & A session afterwards, when someone asked, 'So, what was it like being in an audience watching yourself and knowing all of us were watching you too?' That's when I became Mr Tomato Face.

"But it's not graphic. The sex scenes are tastefully and interestingly done. It's not so much a film about sex, it's a film about the before and after."

Wenham's right. Though the sex scenes are intense and integral, Better Than Sex - as its title suggests - is about translating an initial spark of attraction into something more substantial, about moving from infatuation to love. It's a low-budget debut from Jonathan Teplitzky, and it satisfied the fickle first-night crowd at this year's Sydney Film Festival.

"The script was the first thing that attracted me - I just found it refreshing," says Wenham. "Then, on meeting Jonathan, he excited me with his vision. And with Susie [Porter] the energy was just infectious.

"Then when we started filming it was a true collaboration. None of us were doing it for the money, it was just such an enjoyable film, which we shot in a warehouse in Surry Hills in the middle of summer."

But while Australians are about to see a new, more intimate side of Wenham, the rest of the world still wouldn't know his head from John Howard's. One Web site even refers to him as the "largely unknown Australian actor David Wenham". That, however, is about to change, because the Web site in question is, which reports that Wenham has a "key supporting role" in episodes two and three of Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, currently filming in New Zealand.

"I was on a horse the other day and I had to pinch myself. I'm a pretty lucky boy. I've been working with Miranda Otto, which was great, and last week with Elijah Wood."

The first instalment (minus Wenham) of Lord of the Rings is due for release Christmas 2001, with part two due a year later. But even before international audiences see Wenham as the heroic, honourable Faramir, they might catch him in one of the other six features he's worked on over the past year. They include:

* Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. "That was a great deal of fun. Mine isn't a huge contribution, but I love working with Baz, I think he's an incredibly creative and imaginative person. I feel it will be a visual and aural feast."

* Russian Doll, the new film from the director of True Love and Chaos, Stavros Kazantzidis, and co-starring Hugo Weaving. "It's a romantic comedy where I play a philanderer."

* Dust, shot in Macedonia and co-starring Joseph Fiennes. "I guess you'd call it a Balkan Western - I think this will be the first," he laughs. "And I got to play a cowboy. It's from the director of Before the Rain, and it'll be very hard to pull off, but if he does, it'll be very interesting."

* The Bank, a thriller from the team behind The Boys. "I did it in Melbourne a few months ago, and Robert Connolly wrote and directed it." (When he gets the time and the right idea, Wenham is planning to hook up with the same team for his own directorial debut. "I've got a few things in mind. It's not something I want to rush into.")

* And, of course, Better Than Sex and The Lord of the Rings. "Look, it's not ideal. Ideally I would like a bit of a break, and I will have one at the end of the year after Lord of the Rings. But all the projects I've been working on I wanted to work on.

"But it could all stop tomorrow. The film I'm working on now could be my last, and I always try to remember that. You just try to ride the wave, and if it gets to the shore, you just hop back on your board and paddle back out as hard as you can to try and catch another wave."

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Naked ambition
The Advertiser
09 NOV 2000

David Wenham puts it all on the line in his new film, Better Than Sex. The movie has meant plenty of exposure, in more ways than one, reports CLAIRE SUTHERLAND.

TAKE a long, hard look at David Wenham, because he may not be here for much longer. The Australian actor, best known for playing the laconic Diver Dan on the hit ABC TV series SeaChange and for transforming himself into the softly spoken epitome of evil in The Boys, is about to take his talent international.

Wenham, having just wrapped up his Melbourne high-finance thriller The Bank, is in New Zealand with the likes of Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen, making the feverishly anticipated The Lord of the Rings.

And, if that doesn't thrust him into Russell Crowe-style fame and fortune, it seems only a matter of time before something else does.

Perhaps it will be Baz Luhrmann's much delayed Moulin Rouge.

Wenham, fitting in a day of promotion for his latest film, Better Than Sex (opening across Adelaide today), between shooting the final scenes on The Bank, is flu-ridden and exhausted. He's also gentlemanly in a manner just the right side of effeminate; thoughtful, precise and obliging.

But he's not a completely open book - surprising, considering he spends much of his screen time in Better Than Sex in the buff.

While most film commentators focus on the bravery of the woman involved in a sex scene (in this case, Susie Porter), Wenham reckons it's just as nerve-racking for the man.

One of the first times he saw the film with an audience was at the Melbourne Film Festival.

"I was totally removed from it and nearly forgot it was me up there and just enjoyed the film,'' he says. "It was only afterwards in the forum when somebody asked 'What was it like with all of us here watching you in the nude?' that it really hit home.

"I thought 'Gee, you were, too, you dirty dogs'.

"They should have just been concentrating on the film, on the dialogue,'' he laughs. "If you thought about that, you'd never do it. You'd never do it.

"I'm willing to do that - and actors are - but then you get self-conscious in other areas of your life, going to the beach or something. You never think about it when you're in front of the camera.'' The film is a surprisingly engaging comedy about a one-night stand. Its accessibility is surprising because the subject matter is one that might offend more conservative audience members, but Wenham and Porter are so endearing and human that all is forgiven.

"It's a fine balance because everyone does have opinions about one-night stands and it's a film that doesn't moralise or judge. It just leaves it up to the audience,'' Wenham says.

"I think most people can relate to certain situations that occur in that film. My instinct is that it's very accessible.''

Wenham has made some careful career choices since graduating from the then little-known Theatre Nepean drama school in Sydney's outer west.

And, although he's assembled an impressively eclectic list of credits (Paul Cox's Father Damien, The Boys, Idiot Box, ABC TV's Simone de Beauvoir's Babies ), he insists that there's no grand plan.

"I think 'Am I going to enjoy doing the film? Is it going to be an enjoyable process for me? Am I going to be fulfilled creatively from it?','' he says.

"Those are sort of the criteria, because I'm happiest when I'm actually working when I'm on a set or in a rehearsal room. It's when I feel most alive in a cliched way.''

It's lucky, really - this year, Wenham has spent only January in his Sydney home.

The rest of his time has been on film sets in Australia and overseas. While he's not rushing to base himself offshore, he's happy to go where the work is. He has no objections to the likes of Fox Studios setting up in Australia.

"My stance on the Americans in Australia, and especially Fox Studios, is there is room for Fox here,'' Wenham says.

"The only danger would be if our local industry became homogenised and suffered because of international movies being made here. At the moment, I don't believe that's the case.

"I don't think you can have it both ways - I've been fortunate in that I've worked in productions overseas and I can't very well come back here and say overseas people can't come and work here. I think that would be ridiculous.''

The Bank, made by the same collaborators as The Boys, was meant to have been shot in Sydney, but came to Melbourne when the shooting schedule came perilously close to the Olympics.

Wenham is glad it did.

"It's actually better us having filmed (in Melbourne) because we've had access to locations that we would never have been able to have got,'' Wenham says.

"People in Melbourne in the necessary positions are very, very welcoming to film crews down here. I believe there's going to be a big influx of shooting in this state.

"It's much easier to shoot here. Location fees have gone through the roof (in Sydney), so that does impact on smaller-budget Australian films.''

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The Houston Chronicle (Houston, TX)
Nov 4, 2001

Romance uncovered; Actor David Wenham's new film straddles the line between love and sex.
Louis B. Parks.
ASKING if the glass is half-full or half-empty is not the only question that defines personality.
There is, for example, the quiz about love and sex. Do people fall in love in order to have sex? Or is the pursuit of sex just a search for real love?
The relationship between love and sex is as ever-shifting as a Mobius strip for Josh and Cin in the Australian film "Better Than Sex," opening Friday at the Angelika.
"It's about two people who don't know each other at all but really do want to get to know each other," said David Wenham, the 35-year-old Aussie actor who plays Josh. "And they don't have much time to do it."
Few films, and very few American films, attempt the delicate mix of comedy, romance and all-out lovemaking found in Better Than Sex. While the camera never shows anything hard-core, the heady mix of bare flesh, passionate faces and suggestive sounds may well lead viewers to think they see everything. The main characters are having - and hugely enjoying - various forms of sex most of the time.
"I think (director) Jonathan (Teplitzky) is extremely clever," Wenham said. "Especially in the way he covered all the action. It was in a very suggestive way, as opposed to having a full shot of both of us. Extremely imaginative, creative coverage."
Cin (Susie Porter) and Josh meet at a party in the opening scene and bumble their way toward what is supposed to be a one-night stand. Who knew they'd like each other?
Although a very small percentage of Australian movies ever make it to the United States, Wenham said he's not surprised this one did.
"It's a film that has universal themes and can travel very, very well," he said. "It just happened to be filmed in Australia, but I think anybody can relate to what it's about. Two people who want to get to know each other."
In addition to several Australian movies, Wenham starred in a hit TV series there called SeaChange, which he describes as having a tone much like Northern Exposure. He also had a minor role in Moulin Rouge and will be seen in the part of Faramir (second son of Denethor II) in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, the second and third films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
For a mainstream romantic comedy, Better Than Sex is very frank. Wenham said he knew what he was getting into.
"Oh, the script was certainly very indicative of what we're entering into," he said. "The script was the thing that drew me to the project. It was quite an unusual film, but a very accessible film, as well. And a very bloody funny film.
"But the fact that it is very frank and does involve a lot of nudity was certainly evident up front."
No pun intended.
If he had any qualms about a film with so much sex and nudity, Wenham found an interesting way to deal with it.
"I must admit I tried not to think about it too much when we were shooting.
"It was only after a screening in Melbourne, for a couple of thousand people, that I did a question-and-answer session afterward, and somebody asked me what it was like to know that 2,000 people were sitting there in the dark watching my bum up on screen. I must admit it was the first time I ever thought about it."
Actors frequently assure anyone who'll listen that filming love scenes is awkward and uncomfortable, to boot. For Better Than Sex, Wenham and Porter had the advantage of having known each other for several years. Some of that on-screen good humor was not hard to create.
"We're friends," Wenham said. "We have a similar sense of humor. So we approached it extremely lightheartedly and, I must admit, had an enormous amount of fun, just playing."
Even in a movie intended to be funny and frothy, love scenes always bring up the matter of taste.
"An audience will let you know if something is gratuitous or not, and I don't think this is gratuitous in any way," Wenham said. "People can relate and find all the situations very amusing.
"As an actor, if you are involved in shooting something like that and feel you are being used to some extent, you're certainly very aware. But that never happens in this film."
That's the way Wenham sees it, anyway, and many viewers will agree. But with a film that deals with sexuality as casually and frankly as Better Than Sex, others are sure to see the glass as more than half-empty.

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Australian Magazine
21 OCT 2000
With five new film rolls in the can and this week's announcement of an AFI best actor nomination, David Wenham is star material.
David Wenham leans back on a couch in Melbourne's Rockman's Regency Hotel, flashes a smile that promises mischief and announces: "I love playing thugs.
"I love getting permission to let loose. It's their ready-to-rumble energy that attracts me; their half-suppressed, half-expressed frustrations."
But there was nothing lovable about the hardness in Wenham's memorable turn as a psychopath in The Boys. His co-star in the film, Toni Collette, recalls looking into Wenham's pale blue eyes on the set and seeing nothing: he was that chilling as Brett Sprague. Nor for that matter was there any tough tenderness in Wenham's portrayal of Doug, the wacko pyromaniac in Cosi, despite the character's comic moments. Both of these read-my-knuckles roles were light years away from Wenham's later incarnation as Diver Dan, the ladies' man in the first series of SeaChange.
Sipping from a glass of iced water on a drizzly Melbourne morning, Wenham is in fine fettle. "Years ago, when I was in drama college, I had my head shaved and ear pierced for a role in a Berkoff play. Feeling pretty tough, I swaggered on to the 426 bus back to Marrickville [his parents' home in Sydney]. My mum and dad got on - they'd been to the theatre - and walked straight past me. When I yelled out, `Hey, Mum, it's me', the blood drained from her face. She called me a bloody idiot."
Some actors have it, others don't. Judging from some recent notices, Wenham has it in spades. He pours himself into a character, like jelly into a mould, whether it's a brute or a wimp, a nerd or a ladykiller, a rake or a cuckold. "I know a great part when I see one; it's a role you can immerse yourself in."
Wenham, 35, may soon have to adjust to a new role: major star. Between now and next Easter he appears in no fewer than five films hitting multiplexes across Australia. The romantic comedy Russian Doll, in which he stars with Hugo Weaving, opens this week; from November 9 he plays bedroom mazurka with Susie Porter in Better than Sex; on December 21 he opens with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's musical Moulin Rouge; and next January he plays an Oklahoma cowboy beside Joseph Fiennes in the western drama Dust. Sometime over the next few months, Wenham will also morph into a 19th century Belgian priest in Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, now the subject of fierce bidding between two Australian distributors.
These days, Wenham is so hot he's getting calls from Los Angeles casting agents, he has 60 Minutes chasing him for an interview (he turns them down) and says no to an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle ("I'm picky about what I do"). Our one-day interview is wedged between the final shooting days of the anti-bank thriller The Bank - in which Wenham co-stars with Anthony LaPaglia - and a three-month shoot in New Zealand on Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of Lord of the Rings, in which Wenham plays the nobleman Faramir.
Not bad for a movie-mad kid who was knocked back by NIDA when he was 18 and who started with walk-on roles in Sons and Daughters, A Country Practice and Rafferty's Rules. Wenham, who has spent the past decade quietly chalking up awards for his stage and movie performances, has been crowned a sex symbol by a small army of women journalists. "It's so bizarre; the skinny kid from Marrickville being described in newspaper and magazine stories as a sex symbol," marvels Wenham. "I just don't get it."
Nor do I. In the flesh he's shortish and skinny, with an agreeable enough face that is slightly pockmarked from adolescent acne. Wenham doesn't come across as your standard smouldering hunk: for our photo shoot in a pool later in the day, he obligingly strips down to his boardies but sensibly demands that only his head and shoulders be photographed. After an advance screening of Better than Sex - which tracks a three-day affair from lust to love - a male reviewer warmly praised Wenham's performance, but quipped that he shouldn't have taken his clothes off. No problems, Wenham cheerfully rejoins: he was never comfortable with the tag of babe magnet anyway ("I've had a steady girlfriend for seven years, thank you very much").
But ask the actor's peers about his talents and the responses verge on the rapturous. Hugo Weaving: "His range is extraordinary; he can play a psychopath or a romantic lead." Jonathan Teplitzky, director of Better than Sex: "He digs and digs until he reaches the emotional core of a character, and he does it with consummate ease." Adam Cullen, whose portrait of Wenham snared this year's $35,000 Archibald Prize: "There's an Australian-ness about him I really like . a tension between his straightforwardness and something more complex." Margaret Pomeranz, of SBS's The Movie Show, coos: "He's sooo cute and masculine. And he doesn't seem to alienate the blokes: he has this laconic, slightly weatherbeaten style they can relate to." Even director Stavros Kazantzidis, with whom Wenham is rumoured to have squabbled on the set of Russian Doll, describes him as "professional and businesslike. He walks away, works out the character and brings it back to you all fleshed out."
Such glowing testimonials would normally drive a jaded journalist to hunt down naysayers and critics, but apart from some unverifiable backstage gossip, Wenham does not seem to have earned himself any real enemies. But maybe he's not yet a tall enough poppy. "If it makes you happy, a theatre reviewer for a major paper once called me `moronic'," says the actor dryly. "It was his first review and he went on to become a leading newspaper reviewer." A blistering headline attached to a review of his role as a nerdy scientist in A Little Bit of Soul - "This is Pure Hell: Burn Baby, Burn" - only made Wenham laugh ("but the film's director wasn't so amused"). Wenham says he does pay attention to reviews, but insists he's not easily bruised by criticism.
Wenham's toughest critic, however, may be himself. Off-limits for today's interview is any discussion of Russian Doll: continuing script changes during its production meant that Wenham's role was reduced and re-framed; according to a colleague, he was less than thrilled both with his performance and the final product. A shame, really, because Russian Doll is an amusing, wry and warm entertainment. "An actor can be proud of his work in a dud film," says Wenham, speaking in general terms about the industry, "but first and foremost I want to be in a good production. Some producers and directors are very good talkers, but the results don't live up to their promises."
Russian Doll off the agenda, Wenham wants to talk about Better than Sex, which he believes more than lives up to its marketable title. "I'm no Brad Pitt and Susie is no Julia Roberts," he says. "The movie doesn't deal in glamorised Hollywood sex: it's about the Everyman and Everywoman. It's something audiences can relate to."
There's a cool air about Wenham, as if he has just breezed in from a swish cocktail party. "There must be something about me that says: `Don't come near me, don't talk to me and don't write to me,'" he muses. "People recognise me but very rarely approach me. Even at the height of SeaChange, the fan mail I got tended to come from young kids and old ladies. Because I'm not dying for publicity or desperate to be a `star', maybe I hold back something."
Reticent or not, on the likeability scale, Wenham rates highly. After sharing a few memories of his working-class upbringing in Marrickville, where he says he learnt his "street smarts", we discover to our mutual surprise that we once lived opposite one another and shared a one-eyed support for the long-defunct Newtown "Blue Bags" rugby league team. "I'd go to Henson Park to barrack for my loser football team, but I loved just sitting there and watching all these quintessentially Australian characters," he recalls. He has fond memories of growing up with five elder sisters and one elder brother, even though it meant not having his own bedroom until the age of 12. "I used to sleep on a mattress in the dining room, which was okay because I was always the first for breakfast."
Wenham sees his upbringing as a blessing. "I'm so glad I'm not Val Kilmer. I'm so glad I didn't have his ridiculously privileged upbringing and grow up with his sense of entitlement in life.
"I have never met him or worked with him, but from what I hear he is less in touch with reality than ever before." Wenham's hero is the late John Hargreaves, who once declared: "Listen real, think real and don't do anything else." Very few actors, says Wenham, actually listen to other actors while performing: "Most are totally preoccupied with their own performance." Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving are exceptions, he says - both are good "listeners" and generous performers.
Acting turned out to be Wenham's salvation from a career as a clerk with the NRMA. "I only lasted six weeks - which was when I got a spot in Theatre Nepean's drama course - but it wasn't until SeaChange that my mum finally stopped reminding me I should never have left the NRMA." As a struggling actor, Wenham supported himself as a bingo caller at Marrickville Town Hall and valiantly tried to earn extra pocket money as a lawn bowler at the local bowling club. "A mate of mine was convinced we could beat the old codgers and make a killing. We dreamed of going to competitions on the Gold Coast and grabbing the $200 prizemoney. The bowling club must have felt sorry for us because they kept rigging the meat tray so we would win. The next youngest player was about 75."
Wenham's larrikin spirit emerged early, recalls his sister Maree, a nurse in Melbourne. "He was no mummy's boy, he was always tormenting his sisters with practical jokes and trying to be the performer." But he later had to deal with some trials himself: the terror of auditions and the pain of rejection. "The first year after graduating from Nepean was pretty hard for David," she says. "He kept his feelings to himself but you could tell he was pretty sad and disappointed." And then his luck turned. "I don't think he has ever been as excited as when he got the lead role in The Boys."
I first saw Wenham perform in 1991 in a production of The Boys at the tiny Stables theatre in Sydney's Kings Cross. In the confined space of the venue, his performance was electrifying. "I've met guys like Brett," he says. "Damaged guys who are so full of anger they are about to burst, ready to take it out on the world."
If The Boys established Wenham as a serious actor, SeaChange set him up as a leading man. While the salty charms of Diver Dan were winning female hearts across Australia, Wenham was on a small island in Hawaii, filming Molokai: The Story of Father Damien. "When I returned to Australia my friends told me they were sick of reading about me, but I had given only one interview - and that was by phone from a lighthouse - the whole time I'd been away. I don't know where the journalists got all their material from."
Despite what Jonathan Teplitzky describes as Wenham's "laser-like focus", he doesn't seem a 24-hours-a-day actor. Over a lunch of shepherd's pie, Wenham's conversation spans topics ranging from the Pope to John Howard to the giant image of Pamela Anderson on Sam Newman's house in St Kilda. He has no desire to spend his downtime revisiting his work, he admits. "I wouldn't hire out The Boys or Cosi; I don't see the point." Had he not been an actor, he would have opted for football or, more realistically, dancing. "I would love to have been an elite footballer but at school most of my footy mates were twice my size." Dance can hit an emotional core rarely matched in theatre, he adds.

"I have stood up for a play only once or twice in my life, but for a dance production, at least four or five times. I'd love to harness that kind of energy in a play."
Strolling the back lanes of Melbourne's Chinatown after lunch, Wenham describes acting as a lonely tunnel of concentration. "I walk and think. I imagine the character: I see him, hear him and look for where he might be. I investigate him: through books or whatever is appropriate." Good actors, adds Wenham, have a passion for observing the everyday world and are driven to become what they see in the most authentic way possible. "I'm not interested in doing an empty special effects vehicle like Twister. People don't watch a movie like this for the story, and in this respect it's no better than porn. I tried to sit through The Perfect Storm, but like the fishermen on the boat, I didn't survive," he quips.
Now that Wenham is on the fast track to stardom, why continue to bother with small-budget movies? Would it not be logical to move into the megabucks film category? "People say you have to be in a big movie - preferably one that turns into a hit - to keep the momentum of your career going. But Australian movies like Muriel's Wedding and Strictly Ballroom proved you don't need a huge budget to have an internationally successful film. Maybe that mentality exists in America, but not here."
As Wenham is not the type of actor who fits into a tidy pigeonhole, audiences could be in for further surprises, says Robert Connolly, who directed the actor in The Bank. "There's a fearless quality about David, matched by tremendous potential. He has great comic skills that he hasn't fully explored yet: I can easily picture him taking on Jim Carrey-type roles, for example. The sky is the limit."
But Wenham, who has been working his tail off for more than two years, insists he is no workaholic and is keen to start a family over the next couple of years. After his role in Lord of the Rings wraps in January, he plans to take a six-week break with girlfriend Kate, a Sydney yoga instructor. "I'm sick of running up huge phone bills and the loneliness of hotel rooms." Wenham pauses before adding, "But then, in this business, if a great role comes along, you have to grab it while you can."
In bed with David Wenham
You're an average guy - perhaps not the best-looking or most popular person around, but smart and honest. You're at a party, you're about to return to London in three days' time and you meet an attractive woman. You share a taxi, but you're not sure whether to ask her up for coffee. You decide to throw caution to the wind - after all, you're never going to see each other again - but before you summon up the courage, she asks you up first . This pretty much describes Wenham's role in Better than Sex. You'll see some prime acting by Wenham and Susie Porter, both of whom have expressive, if not exactly A-list bodies. Is it love or is it just a one-night stand? It takes the couple three days of bedroom gymnastics to decide.
Better than Sex earned nifty notices when it opened the Sydney Film Festival earlier in the year and has been sold to 11 countries, including North America. It also earned Wenham an AFI best actor nomination, announced this week. But the film occasionally dips into cornography and stale dialogue; there's a hackneyed scene with Wenham in a wedding dress and an impossible-to-believe taxi driver who keeps appearing at the couple's doorstep.

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'Unknown' hunk ready to be a star.
The Boston Herald
Dec 7, 2001
Stephen Schaefer.
Clearly, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger and Hugh Jackman weren't enough, for here comes David Wenham, another hunky young Australian actor poised for American stardom.
He plays half of a couple in the new film "Better Than Sex," one of those sex-and-relationship pictures where two people meet, have sex and then try to figure out if a commitment's coming. Yet the Australian import isn't the first Wenham film to hit the States: He had a small part in "Moulin Rouge."
Like Aussie actors who have preceded him, Wenham possesses that unforced guy's guy aura that travels well. He certainly hopes so anyway: In pursuit of a career beyond Australia, he has been touring the world to make movies and promote them.
This fall, he played an American cowboy with a touch of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name in the Balkan western "Dust," which opened the Venice Film Festival. He showed up in Toronto to screen "The Bank," a thriller, and then came to New York for "Sex."
It must be odd to be famous at home and unknown everywhere else, but Wenham, at 35, has seen enough to remain good-humored about the situation.
"Three years ago, I did a show called '(Sea)Change' in Australia," he said. "It was a piece of television on the ABC network . . . and drama shows on the ABC don't get huge audiences. But this show became the most popular show in Australia and just burned into the Aussie psyche. . . . That certainly made me a recognizable figure on the Australian landscape, but nobody overseas sees that show."
So here Wenham sits, amused to find himself grouped among Australian heartthrobs. "I don't know if I'd feel comfortable as being described as 'the next Aussie hunk,' " he said. "I think I'm more left of center."
Once he scored locally with his television series, he found himself the star of another Aussie smash, a film titled "The Boys." " 'The Boys' was probably the film that opened a few doors," he said. "It's hard to design a career, but I try to some extent with a group back at home."
Yet for now he's content to continue on his international journey in pursuit of fame, fortune and better roles. "Have suitcase, love traveling," he said. "I really do feel comfortable wherever I am."

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For a few dollars more
Million dollar smiles ... David Wenham and Sarah Wynter, stars of the new Australian movie Three Dollars, beam with confidence as they stride the red carpet at last night's Sydney premiere.
Photo: Wade Laube

David Wenham and Sarah Wynter strode the red carpet at Dendy Opera Quays last night at the premiere of new Australian movie Three Dollars.

Based on Elliot Perlman's best-selling novel, the movie stars Wenham, Wynter and Frances O'Connor.  It tells the story of Eddie Harnovey (Wenham), an honest man who finds himself with a wife (O'Connor), a child, a mortgage, but only $3 to his name.

Guests included actors Richard Roxburgh, Sacha Horler, Sybilla Budd, Hugo Weaving and Joel Edgerton.

The film is set in the 1990s but Sydney-born Wenham says its message of middle class families struggling in society is still appropriate today.

"I could relate to the main character who happened to be the same age - 38 - as I am, and in a similar situation except that in the film his character loses his job and basically his life falls apart," said Wenham.

"I haven't had that happen yet but I can understand people that that has occurred to."

Wenham describes his character as "intelligent, with a great sense of humour and a great man".

But it's this one quality which he says, leads to his downfall.

"He's a good man who puts himself last and is always interested in the good of others and that's ultimately to his detriment," said Wenham.

"Because of that he loses his job, his life falls apart."

Wenham said the political and social themes, combined with the "great moments of humour" present in Elliot Perlman's novel attracted him to the film.

"It was written during (former Premier Jeff) Kennett's Victoria but it happens to have huge resonance now," the actor said.

"Most middle-class families are mortgaged to the hilt, and if interest rates go up another quarter of a per cent it will impact on people.

"There's a theory that says most people are only two pay packets away from financial ruin..."

The film also offered the star a chance to work again with close friend Australian director Robert Connolly, who was behind Bank and The Boys.

"He's great. He happens to be one of my best friends but also we share similar outlooks on the world," Wenham said.

The 38-year-old also praised his Australian co-stars Frances O'Connor, Sarah Wynter, but saved his highest praise for 10-year-old Melbourne actress Joanna Hunt-Prokhovnik, who plays his daughter Abby in her first feature film.

"Joanna, I would say is the best child actor I've ever worked with and certainly one of the best actors I've ever worked with," he said.

Wenham has appeared in overseas films such as Lord of the Rings, but has also starred in Australian films like The Bank and Gettin' Square, for which he won an AFI award in 2003.

Newcastle-born Wynter, who is best known for playing Kiefer Sutherland's love interest in the hit drama series 24, put Hollywood on hold to make the film.

She has two other films coming out over the next year.

Her other releases are Shooting Livien with Ally Sheedy, Dominic Monaghan and Jason Behr, and independent film LA thingys.

Three Dollars, which was shot in Melbourne, will open across Australia on April 21.

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Three Dollars; Money talks over lunch

Two good mates want to chat about the Australian film industry - and a couple of bucks, writes BEN McEACHEN.

DRESSED casually and doing well to disguise the fact they got up at dawn to fly to Adelaide on a whirlwind national publicity tour, director Robert Connolly and actor David Wenham are top lunch companions. With fine table manners (Wenham pours water, Connolly inquires abour your occupation) and perpetual conversation, the duo are solid Aussie blokes. Little wonder, then, they were drawn to Elliot Perlman's much awarded novel, Three Dollars.

"We're interested in telling these contemporary adult urban stories," explains Connolly, who worked with Wenham on The Boys (1998) and The Bank (2001). Met with consistent praise and substantial returns, both films starred Wenham. Connolly produced The Boys and made his directorial debut with The Bank. His producing partner, John Maynard, has also worked on
all three films.

These good mates are clear about what they want to make. Hoping Three Dollars will find the audience that got into Lantana, they had no interest in attempting an ocker comedy or directly competing with Hollywood product.

As we learn during table-top discussion, Wenham and Connolly aim to create better films, not higher profits necessarily.

"I read it the (book) first time when I was single and didn't have a financial worry in the world," says Connolly of Perlman's novel. Three Dollars centres on Eddie, a nice guy facing life's complications, which involve job loss, mortgages, a disappointed wife, Tanya, and recurring childhood sweetheart,Amanda.

"All I was interested in was whether Eddie ended up sleeping with Amanda. What fascinated me was the single-man approach to the story. When I read it again, it was after The Bank. I was married, I had a kid on the way, I had a mortgage. I thought 'Oh my, there's this whole other emotional, human dimension to this story'. It's a very complex, rich story."

While Connolly talks effortlessly, stubbly Wenham is more reserved. But in between mouthfuls and supportive looks, he is happy to share his perspective.

"I echo Rob's sentiments entirely," says one of our most popular actors. "I could also see, from a selfish point of view, Eddie being a wonderful screen character."

Wenham has heard Eddie described as "decent" and a "hero we need", attributes which stood out to him in a film world of more "abhorrent" characters.

"He's a good man," Wenham declares strongly before Connolly interjects: "And the world tests him. The film is about taking a good man and testing him in issues of fidelity, as a husband, a father, a money provider for the family."

Three Dollars will also be a solid test of Connolly and Wenham's standing. With a solid track record behind them, they are optimistic about putting an Australian film into a marketplace slowly recovering from home-grown blunders.

"I feel it's important to make Australian films for Australian audiences first," says Connolly, as Wenham nods strongly.

That attitude frames this lunchtime discussion. With both men keen to continue living and working in Australia, despite Wenham's international success as part of The Lord of the Rings juggernaut, best take this opportunity to quiz them.

Easy stuff first, then: How do we restore our film industry to its rightful glory?

"Make better films," says Connolly simply. "The audience in this country has thrown down the gauntlet to film-makers and said 'The films aren't good enough; we're not going to watch them'.

"Everyone who has then thought 'We've got to make more commercial films' - it's been a disaster."

Wenham interrupts: "What is a commercial film?" asks the self-professed "gypsy" actor who has moved nicely between big international productions (Van Helsing ) and small Oz gear (Better Than Sex ) since TV's SeaChange got him noticed. "It's a lucky dip what actually makes a film successful. If we look at our local films that have been commercially successful at the box office, all of them had people in them that weren't famous at the time - Toni Collette in Muriel's Wedding and Paul Mercurio in Strictly Ballroom.

"You couldn't actually say, prior to the film existing, 'we need that and that' and it's going to magically make $20 million at the box office."

Connolly: "Our industry has always been at its best when it has been pioneering, rather than trying to replicate.

"In marketing terms, the Australian film industry should find its point of difference from America rather than trying to emulate America."

Many of the crew members on Three Dollars had worked on Wenham/Connolly's two previous films. The pair recommend finding artists who share similar ideas, and then "raising the bar".

But even with earlier success, Wenham's growing fame, and luring expats O'Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence ) and Wynter (TV's 24 ) back to Australia, getting funding for Three Dollars was still a battle. So those behind the film extol the virtue of a carefully considered promotional campaign, to give their film its best shot in a market dominated by Hollywood product.

While US films being made on our shores are drawing most attention in the aftermath of the Eucalyptus disaster, Connolly believes film-makers in Australia are becoming more discerning, and we will see bolder, more ambitious films.

One such movie should be The Proposition, a dark Australian "western" written by Nick Cave. Starring British actors Ray Winstone and Emily Watson, as well as Guy Pearce and David Gulpilil, Wenham recently completed filming his part in the hotly anticipated drama.

"I'll leave you in suspense," says Wenham, giving nothing away. "Surprise is the best way to be. I haven't seen it but I think it will distinguish itself as something we have never seen from this part of the world before -in a very good way."

Read on, MacDuff!

More articles below:

(Answered by Fire, Gettin' Square)
(Better Than Sex, Three Dollars)
(Dust, After The Deluge, The Bank)
(The Boys, Molokai)
(Lord of the Rings, Theater, Miscellaneous)

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