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Home Blog London Film Festival Press Conference: The Boys are Back
Press Conference: The Boys are Back Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 16:49

Some films you just instinctively enjoy. Even the sad ones. The Boys are Back has its fair share of loss and grief, but its tale of journalist Joe Warr and his two estranged sons is a curiously uplifting piece of cinema. No surprises there, though, given that it stars Clive Owen and two wonderful child actors - including the natural George MacKay - and is directed by Scott Hicks. They sit down with producer Greg Brenham to talk to us about death, Hollywood, and washing up.

Scott, this film is a sort of homecoming for you, returning to shoot in Australia. Are you one of the boys who are back?

SH: Yes, I suppose so! We did shoot a week in London, but filmed the rest in South Australia, which is where I live. It's a little less known in films. The story is the main focus of the piece, but it was wonderful to film in a place that I love.

The memoirs, an emotional tale of one man's real-life battle with grief, aren't really that cinematic. Why try to adapt them?

GB: It's not very cinematic, no. It's more of a series of anecdotes - it doesn't have a narrative arc at all. We were actually approached for advice on how to put it on the screen. It was such an emotionally deep well to pull from; a very compelling read. Our advice was to work with us!

Clive, you're perhaps known more for your action roles, was this your most emotional part to date?

CO: I don't think it is a departure, but lots of people keep telling me it is! I suppose I should just accept that. But I was very taken with the script, how unobvious, delicate and moving it was. I'm a father, so I found some of it deeply upsetting, and I liked having the grief and parenting told from a guy's perspective. It was beautifully written.

How challenging was it to avoid that Hollywood tendency to be overly sentimental?

SH: That's the nature of indie film-making, to have more of an edge, something a bit more raw. It was a challenge to find the balance between being emotional and sentimental - we just had to tailor it to find that fine line.

CO: We didn't want to make that kind of thing. Real families just aren't like that. In mine, I do the washing up!

How hard was it to get a bond going between Nicholas McAnulty (Joe's son) and Clive?

SH: Well the first set-up was to find a great 6-year-old - one slip-up in a single scene and it all falls apart and takes the audience right out of the movie. We had lots of rehearsal time, and did days out and stuff. It's all about building trust between them, so he doesn't think "why is Clive being weird with me?" and realises it's all part of playing the character. They need to feel completely natural together as a family.

George, did you always know Clive was going to be your dad?

GM: Yes, I did. I had a meeting with Scott and Clive beforehand, but the actual first scene we shot was chronologically correct; it was the first time our characters met. It worked really well.

And how did you get on with Nicholas? Did you beat him up?!

GM: No, he beat me up! He was lovely, full of energy - a really smart kid.

What advice would you give to young actors?

GM: Only do the films you want to do. But then, I'm spoiled at the moment, I'm still at school! I don't depend on acting for my living, so if I don't have anything for months, it's fine. It's not my job. Yet.

Clive, do you try and choose a variety of roles with different tones?

CO: I don't really set out to do that - it's just an instinctive response to material. I was trained in theatre, which involves lots of different parts. I enjoy exploring roles. I'm a parent, so this felt familiar, but when it comes down to it, if I like the material and like the director, I do it.

You're a father yourself - what children do you have?

CO: Human! [Laughs]

How did you find Joe as a father?

CO: Well, he's a radical parent put in a radical situation. You can either view him as irresponsible or a lot of fun! But he's had a tragic loss, so for me I can forgive him anything that tries to bring a little light into their lives. I don't advocate that parenting style, but it's not about that - it's about one man's way of coping.

Are you a better dad than Joe?

CO: I'm hopeless on and off screen!


What were all the stars wearing to the premiere? Check out the pictures from the red carpet over here. 

  • australia
  • clive owen
  • grief
  • lff
  • london film festival
  • loss
  • memoir
  • premiere
  • press conference
  • red carpet