He beat out some big names to take the lead role in the new Aussie drama OYSTER FARMER, and judging from ALEX O’LACHLAN’S powerful screen presence, it was a gamble that paid off.
FilmInk’s Gaynor FLYNN met the young actor at The Toronto Film Festival
It must be intimidating for an up and coming young actors to be compared with Oscar-winning colleagues. I the case of Alex O’Lachlan, who makes his feature film debut in the new Australian flick, Oyster Farmer, which has earned him an instant comparison to Russell Crowe, the comments are more puzzling that intimidating. “I don’t know what that means,” says the 28 year old. “If they mean talent wise, then I find that very flattering. Russell Crowe is a tremendous actor with incredible power on screen. As a young actor, people who aren’t in the industry often say things like. “Oh so what do you want to be? The next Mel, or the next Russell or the next Heath?’ I don’t want to emulate anyone’s career. I want to just be me.”
And in Oyster Farmer, he does just that. The film, by first time director Anne Reeves, is a romantic, atmospheric drama about a young man who runs away to the isolated Hawkesbury River and finds a job with a crew of eighth generation oyster farmers. The poignant tale explores mateship and what it means to be a man. The film wowed them at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Where O’Lachlan was immediately heralded as the next big international thing.
But we may not have even heard about O’Lachlan for years to come if the investors had gotten their way. They wanted a “name” actor, but Reeves refused to cave in, and the results are obviously paying off. O’Lachlan is a find by anyone’s standards, although in true Aussie understated style, he plays down the fact that he won the coveted role ahead of some steep competition.
Winning a role he says, can come down to something as simple as having the right colour hair. “Something in this industry that you’ve got to deal with a lot is this weird attitude that people have of superiority. And one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard is when Sean Penn got up to accept is Oscar and he said that we all know that there is no best in acting.”
The pressure of carrying his first film was intense, and O’Lachlan was also up against some of Australia’s finest performers. “Jack Thompson has given me so much insight,” says O’Lachlan of his co-star. “We met on the set of Man Thing [a Marvel Comics film shot in Australia and directed by Brett Leonard], which is where I met his son Patrick as well, and from the minute we all met, it was like “G’day mate, please to meet ya”.”
“It was all very Aussie, and we hit off straight away. So he was an enormous help, and the basically I just had to learn to get over myself,” laughs O’Lachlan when asked how he coped with the nerves. “I’d be like, “Fuck man snap out of it, this film isn’t you, you wanker. There are like a million people involved, and I am a tiny piece of the collaboration of many artists, so get over yourself and do your fucking job”. So I had this little conversation with myself every day.
And of course you do your research. I am big on living like the character, so I went up to the river and I actually stayed up there for a week with a swag and not many pairs of undies, and a fishing rod. Then I spent a lot of time with the boys up there working with oysters.”
But even then I wasn’t completely prepared for the gruelling demand of the shoot. “Shooting up there was a pain in the arse,” Alex laughs. “We got stuck in the mud for like six hours one day….it was fucked. Then there’s the fog – you can disappear in that and never be seen again. So it was tough because there are big tides up there, and before you know it, you’ve got no water under you and you can get stuck if you’re not careful. So the shooting schedule was completely dictated by the tides. If it wasn’t for the first AD Mark Turnbull, I’d think we’d still be up there filming!”
But the tides the mud and the weather all paled into insignificance compared with his first onscreen love scene. “Mate, it was fucked and I hated it,” he laughs. “I love Diana Glenn, who plays my love interest in the film, but it’s a hard thing to do. I mean the film crew is right up every orifice! And in this instance, we were in the middle of Sydney Harbour buck naked except for our set of cock socks and modesty panels, which are for hygienic reasons, but it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, let me tell you! So it’s quite disturbing, especially when you watch it back and you go, “Oh that’s what I look like!””
As for what’s up next, O’Lachlan will feature in Mary Bryant, a swashbuckling mini-series due for release in the not too distant future. “It’s kind of freaky waiting for everything to come out,” he laughs, “so I try not to think about it. I’m just trying to get as much work locked in now, before everyone sees my work and goes, “Okaaay”,” he jokes. “so I’m working on a piece with Pat Thompson and Brett Leonard called Feed. It’s a psychological thriller and it’s coming your way.”
I came up here camping with David Field, before we started shooting. One night we where lying down looking at the stars, I said, “Mate, I relate to this character so much, I am worried about playing myself.”
– Alex O’Loughlin, Oyster Farmer set interview, 2003
- I know we are all harsh on ourselves whenever we see what we look like on film and pictures – but one thing is for sure, Alex need never to worry about what he looks like …… he is YUMMY!!
- A number of the men who appear in the movie are real oyster farmers.
- As you can see on the interview pictures of Anna and Alex, she is pregnant. Anna mention in her director’s comments on the DVD, that there were quite a number of “oyster-babies” born amongst the cast and crew, nine months after filming the movie – she thinks the oysters worked their magic 🙂 .