Director David Michôd has been in high demand ever since the stunning Animal Kingdom was unleashed in 2010. So it’s pretty much a given that his 2014 follow up The Rover be met with the same ecstatic enthusiasm with which AK was received. With positive reviews pouring in from every corner in response to to the recent premiere of The Rover at the 61st Sydney Film Festival, a chance to delve deep behind the scenes with an intimate Q&A, aimed at giving us more insight into the damaged and menacing near-future Michôd has created for the film, was a very welcome opportunity. And what better way to supplement the value than add the two main stars, Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson, and the film’s producer Liz Watts, to the panel?
With questions fielded by Margaret Pomeranz, the event – presented by Sydney Film Festival and Vivid Ideas – gave us a few juicy pieces of behind-the-scenes insight to give us a clearer picture of just how this extraordinary film came to be. We bring you 5 things we learned at Inside the Rover:
1. A director’s past work is key to getting people on board
Watts, who also worked with David on Animal Kingdom, spoke about her admiration for the 41 year old director, drawing attention to his 2007 short film Crossbow as something which really sparked her interest in working with him. “What I saw [Crossbow] I just felt like ‘what else have you got,’ and it’s nice to see the focus in someone’s talent and ability”, Liz said, smiling at Michôd as she spoke highly of the potential she saw in him while mentoring the producers of Crossbow.
2. Guy Pearce had to physically transform in order to truly understand the role of Eric, as well as watch what Robert Pattinson brought to the table.
“It took a lot of work to understand the character,” Guy told Margaret, “I just couldn’t get a handle on the character so I had to take him out of an intellectual space and [place him] into a physical space to really focus on the creature that he is”. It was intriguing to hear such a revered actor speak about the difficulties that come with trying to understand a script, and with Eric being such a violent and bitter personality in film, it makes sense that Guy had to first consider the setting and work from the outside-in. “It worked once I started to see him as the creature that he was in the landscape that he was in”
Pearce also said watching what Pattinson did with his character really helped him make sense of the dynamic that Michôd envisioned and how it would work on screen. “It’s like an old grumpy dog and a young pup; watching the dynamic and power shift between these two animals really makes all of it sink in,” said Pearce.
David added, “To see great actors brings these characters to life was exhilarating”, to which Guy started reminiscing on the first time he saw the script and all the options that were laid out in front of him. “It’s exciting when you get a call and you start to think of all the possibilities [a script can give you],” smiled Guy, speaking to the great amount of interpretation required to really bring The Rover to the screen.
3. Outback Australia was a culture shock for Robert Pattinson.
Crouching over and relatively quiet for the first few questions, the hugely popular Robert Pattinson perked when Margaret asked him if filming in a sort-of Australian “ghost town” was a culture shock. “It’s an extremely specific place”, Robert smiled, “It’s insanely hot…everyone looks like they just killed someone.”. “Waking up with 700 flies in the immediate vicinity” was just something Robert Pattinson was not used to.
RPattz went on to describe the bright personalities he met during his stay in the South Australian town of Marree, “There was an English guy working behind the pub there who said he was a member of Anonymous and was on the run from MI6”; this was in addition to the ex-French Foreign Legion agent who claimed to the one one assassinated JFK. Robert couldn’t contain his laughter recalling these stories, bringing a picture of a highly isolated town and it’s small population of 60 straight to Sydney Town Tall. You’ve just blown his cover,” joked Pearce, in regards to the apparent JFK-killer; Pattinson’s face filled with regret Shit, I didn’t even think of that…and he confided in me too!”.
4. David sees The Rover as much more optimistic than Animal Kingdom.
It seems strange that a setting as bleak and dangerous as that made for The Rover can also be called optimistic, but Michôd seemed resolute about it. “It’s much more optimistic than Animal Kingdom”, David suggested, “Animal Kingdom was about how self-interest is all there is but with The Rover it’s like even in incredibly challenging politics there will always be the need for intimate, human connection…the need for human intimacy drives us”
5. Robert Pattinson ‘hunted down’ David Michôd and owned the audition.
For those who don’t know, David Michôd is part of Australian film collective Blue-Tongue Films which includes his brother Nash, Spencer Susser, Joel Edgerton, Kieran Darcy-Smith and Luke Doolan – actors, writers, and directors who create an air of collaboration amongst themselves; little did they know it would attract the teenage heartthrob who sprung to fame from his time as a romantic vampire in the Twilight franchise.
Pattinson stated his desire to work with Blue-Tongue Films has been burning for quite some time, “working on a film can be quite isolating, so I wanted to look for small collectives…I think you were the last one I met”, Pattinson smirked at Michôd after telling us that he “hunted down” members of the collective.
David explained that he didn’t know what to expect from Robert Pattinson came to his house to audition for the role of the simple and naive character of Reynolds. “I hadn’t seen the Twilight films so I had no idea who I was meeting,” said David, “At our first meeting in LA I remember he had a can of coke in front of him and a tea which he added 6 sugars too.”. It seemed like Robert quickly showed David just what he was capable of, but not before he was put through a grueling four hour audition; “I tortured him for four hours because I didn’t know what he could do,” David said, speaking on Robert. Pattinson simply smiled, took the mic and said, “it was a pleasure..
David quickly added that “Robert came closer to what I envisioned for the characters than anyone that auditioned”, speaking highly to the diversity that Pattinson can bring to the table and showing everyone that he isn’t one to be defined by the role all the screaming girls in the audience probably knew him best for.
The Rover is released in Australian cinemas Thursday June 12