Rob Sitch & Lachy Hulme (Any Questions For Ben, The Late Show) : Movie Interview
After almost a decade long absence from cinema, the Working Dog team (Frontline, The Late Show, The Castle) are back on the big screen with Any Questions For Ben? a film which takes a look at the trials and tribulations of a twenty-something who seems to have it all… but still craves more.
WATCH OUT FOR | MOVIES’ Sean Lynch caught up with Working Dog guru Rob Sitch and Hollowmen star Lachy Hulme to talk about all things comedy.
It’s been 10 years since the last film, I’m assuming you’ve had a few ideas in the pipeline over that time, what was it that really stood out about AQFB for you?
RS: They’re pretty varied. I sort of said to the guys that if we tried to do something contemporary, it might keep our enthusiasm up. It’d always feel fresh.
You have a knack for writing and creating wonderful roles and moments for periphery characters (Farouk from The Castle, Santo’s Uncle in The Late Show), just as much as your core cast, when writing for Lachy’s character Sam – did you always have him in mind, because it’s such a perfect fit.
RS : We knew Lachy could do it
LH : When you think of a middle aged Italian multi-millionaire, you think of me!
RS: We knew Lachy could walk on and have a presence. Those types of guys ARE successful, and what they do works but… it works for them, and they are sure that it’ll work for you too.
LH: After our first conversation about the character, we came away with the concept that for every time you meet him you should walk away feeling like you’ve just been frisked. I’m basically doing DeNiro [Transforms into DeNiro] Just doin’ a little bit of Bobby DeNiro… and when I’m sitting behind the desk, it’s The Godfather.
Rob, having performed so much in your career, how much influence do you have when it comes to the performance decisions of your actors to ensure you get exactly what you’re after?
RS: Not much, in the sense that they [the actors] have got to have comic instinct. When we first met Josh [Lawson] we were like “Wow, we could write anything for this guy”.
LH: He’s a funny f**ker, that’s what he’s trying to say. [Laughs]
RS: But that’s the thing, we didn’t HAVE to cast an Italian to play an Italian, because we knew Lachy could go off and say “I get it, I’ll go off and build all those pieces”. So all we had to do was render that and let him go on and do the rest. It’s more the delivery of the lines that matter to us. We knew he could deliver that physical presence. Felicity [Ward] had never done a film before, but we knew she could lay the cards down. I think we get more juiced by comic instinct.
Casting has always been Working Dog’s strong points, whether it’s finding Stephen Curry and renewing Michael Caton’s career, to discovering Josh Lawson – you’ve always taken risks outside of the norm that always seem to work.
RS: Jane’s very good at spotting. She is exceptional.
LH: I owe my career to Jane [Kennedy].
RS: In casting we always choose the low hanging fruits first, the people we know – Josh [Lawson], Felicity [Ward], Lachy [Hulme] and David James. I think Jane is very good when it starts getting hard. Like when she suggested Dan Henshall to play the sensitive, warm role – I asked her “Well, what’s he doing at the moment?” and she said “He’s playing a serial killer in Snowtown“. But it just goes to show, if you can act – you can do anything.
One of Working Dog’s greatest comic strengths, going back to The D-Generation, has always been “embracing the dodgyness” and lo-fi aesthetics. How did you go about retaining that natural sense of comedy with this film – arguably – one of the slickest looking products you’ve ever made?
RS: That’s an interesting point. We were just saying that Melbourne is going through something of a Golden Age, and to counteract Ben’s head spin-out, the city has to feel great. So when people come up to Ben and go “What are you doing? Your life is unbelievable!” and he has to think “Yeah, I know, but why am I feeling hollow?”. So if he’s going to f**k up with a girl, the girl has to look magical, so that it’s a serious f**k up.
LH: As the world’s biggest D-Gen fan, it is a MASSIVE departure visually. The rawness, the dodgyness, which is part of the theme they do – the first time I saw Any Questions For Ben? I was flummoxed by the beauty of the film. I tell you what really threw me… I saw a hot chicks ass in Working Dog film! I was completely gob-smacked!
RS: [Laughs] I did have to call for a closed set more often than I have in the past [Laughs].
LH: But, yes, it’s a huge visual departure for them – but as Rob was saying, it really needed that to put the sheen over the world that Ben is in so that the whole audience is going “What’s wrong with you?”.
RS: Also, the lives of people your age – there is something magical going on.
Do you feel like you’ve caught the “sheen” bug now, are you going to be able to go back to lo-fi from here?
LH: I don’t know… did you see the debut of Sport’s Fever? [Laughs]
RS: [Laughs] We love Dodgy! [Laughs] I think we’ve always had the skills to do it, but it’s always story dependant – if there’s drabness, it better be intentional, otherwise it’s just drabness.
Speaking of Sports Fever, can we expect your long awaited return to the small screen, especially after a killer on-screen role in Any Questions For Ben?
RS: I get hazed into doing things. Josh hazed me into doing The Headmaster…
LH: In the read through initially, Rob played every other role. It was me, Josh, Rob and David James – and when he started doing the Headmaster bit it was like “Come on… Robbie!”.
RS: On Sports Fever, I used to play the New Zealand commentator with Ed [Kavalee] and that used to just be a muck around thing with him. And the others just sort of said “You’ve got to do that!”
That’s where the best characters come from! Is that a similar process for writing characters in this film?
RS: Headmasters that don’t know they’re insulting you, it’s just a funny concept. Because that’s what happens when you go back to school – you’ve moved on and they haven’t. We were mucking around, but I thought… I know the music of it, so I’ll do it. He had a bit more to say in the original cut, but we realised we could reduce it right down to me looking at my watch.
LH: Let’s get down to it Rob – are you making a return to television to amuse the masses? Is the Medico of Mirth making a return to Sports Fever?
RS: There’s a couple of other things that are amusing me, so if I ever make up characters I will.
LH: Let’s do a deal, you think of something – I’ll do it with you on Sports Fever….
RS: I’ll play Brent, you play Todd [Laughs].