Interview: Force of Nature: The Dry 2 cast and guests take to Westpac’s OpenAir Cinema for the Sydney premiere

There couldn’t have been a more contrasting set of circumstances for the premiere of Force of Nature: The Dry 2 when compared to its predecessor.  The Dry, one of 2021’s most lucrative Australian box office successes, a desolate, drought-stricken set thriller previewed to a downpour of rain in late 2020 ahead of its release.  For the anticipated sequel, glorious, some might say initially sweltering conditions for a film that’s set in the dark, rainy outskirts of the Australian rainforest.

Classic Australian weather!

As the Robert Connolly-directed sequel prepares to intrigue local audiences, the cast and a variety of special guests stormed the red carpet against the glorious backdrop of the Sydney Opera House at Westpac’s OpenAir Cinema to celebrate the film’s impending release.  Connolly, cast members Eric Bana, Deborra-Lee Furness, Robin McLeavy, Sisi Stringer, Lucy Ansell, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, author Jane Harper, producers Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky and Bruna Papandrea, and special guests, including Miranda Tapsell and Anyone But You breakout Joe Davidson were on hand, with our own Peter Gray speaking to a few of them in conjunction with his extended coverage.

Hi Jeremy.  Before I get to Force of Nature, I just want to thank you for being a part of Sequin in a Blue Room.  It’s always a really special thing to see the queer experience represented in a manner that has some truth to it.  

Jeremy Lindsay Taylor: Oh, thank you so much.  Yeah, it was a really special film to be a part of.  For a young filmmaker? For it to go global was really exciting.  I read (the script) and I said “Yes.” I’m about to cry now, mate.  It was very special.

Speaking of going global, with The Dry, we always hear that it’s “Barbenheimer” that saved cinema, but I think The Dry really saved Australian cinema in those early months of 2021.  Because it had that international reach, do you feel like there are more eyes on your work now?

Jeremy Lindsay Taylor: Oh, absolutely.  I mean, I wasn’t in that many scenes in The Dry, but I knew Robert Connolly, and I had worked with him before, and he really wanted me to get that role.  I gave it everything I had in just those few scenes, but it showed.  (The producers) have hired me three times since.  I always say to young actors that it doesn’t matter how many scenes you got.  You could have one scene, but the right people will notice you if you do the right work.

Had you read Jane Harper’s book before signing on?

Jeremy Lindsay Taylor: I have, but I haven’t seen the film yet, and neither has my wife, Marnie (Pleffer).

Marie Pleffer: His character is more referred to, rather than being a flashback.  It’s in the psyche of (Eric’s character) and he’s a bit of a guide for him.  He’s not necessarily featured.

Jeremy Lindsay Taylor: I remember Rob ringing me telling me he was writing me into the sequel and if I wanted to do it.  “No, Rob.  Of course not!” (Laughs).  He grew up with his dad bushwalking, and he has this whole history and childhood mapped out with his own father from his real life that he wanted to explore and bring into the screenplay, so it’s a whole storyline that he wrote into the screenplay that’s not in the book.  I was pretty excited when I read the script.  I can see that the character’s in there.  (Robert) told me I did a great job in The Dry and that I earned this.

Joe, I spoke to you upon Anyone But You‘s initial release, but I will say congratulations again as your film is a certified success now!

Joe Davidson: Yeah, we got that stamp of $100 million (laughs).

That’s got to feel good to have such a success on the resume and knowing more eyes are on you now.

Joe Davidson: Oh yeah, I just have a massive ego now (laughs).  I hope so though, I obviously want to keep the ball rolling and work in the US more, and the UK.  I love Australia, but I’d love to branch out and be an international actor.

And we know the comedy has worked well for you, but being here at the premiere of a dramatic thriller, do you see yourself in something like The Dry?

Joe Davidson: I actually auditioned for the original of this, to play the police officer.  It was when I was on Neighbours I auditioned for Raco (ultimately played by Keir O’Donnell).  I didn’t get it, but went and watched the movie and I loved it.  I’m excited to see this sequel.  I know nothing about it.  I didn’t want to watch any trailers, because I wanted to go in blind.

When you watch a film that you auditioned for, do you watch that performance thinking “I could’ve done it better?” or “That’s an interesting choice to what I would’ve done?”

Joe Davidson: Sometimes I think of what I would have done differently.  I don’t think about if I would have been better.  I mean, maybe sometimes I think I could have done it better, but then other times they do it better, but I think when anyone watches their dream role they think “I could do that.”

What is that dream role for you?

Joe Davidson: I mean we all have the “favourite” role we’d like to do, probably something like Lord of the Rings, but one of my favourite roles that I went for was for the role of Travis in (the television series) Hunters (ultimately played by Greg Austin).  I really liked the writing in that show, and I liked the character, he was an almost Joker-like character.  I thought it was so fun, and I love those characters that are extreme and whacky.  Mate, it’s probably why I liked mine in Anyone But You (laughs).

And on Anyone But You, you’ve been really supportive of the film and the fanbase that’s come out of it.  Has there been anything that’s surprised you with that?

Joe Davidson: Yeah, it’s interesting.  I’ve gone with a wide group of friends.  I have the freer friends, the more conservative friends, just everyone from all the walks of my life, and I really like seeing it with my more conservative friends because I love that shock value of seeing them react.  Everyone that walks out of the cinema and sees me asks “Show us your ant-eater!”  So that’s fun (laughs), but, for me, I just like seeing people walk out of that cinema happy.

Deborra-Lee, it’s been a while since we’ve seen you in a film.  What was it about this that made you say yes to bring you back on screen?

Deborra-Lee Furness: I’ve been busy (laughs).  But it was the director, Robert Connolly, Eric Bana is an old friend, it’s a female-driven ensemble cast with a fantastic group of actors, and I thought “Yeah, it’s time for me to go play.”  Plus, my children are respectively of an age where I can ask them “Can mum go off and play?”, and they’re like “Go for it!”  It’s always nice to go back to work.

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.