Interview: The Dry actor Joe Klocek on playing a young Eric Bana and the collaborative mood on set

Joe Klocek may not be a household name yet, but after his starring role in The Dry it’s likely Australia’s latest star has been born.  In the lead up to the film’s anticipated release, our own Peter Gray zoomed with the rising actor to discuss his comfortable casting process, the collaborative mood on set, and how he approached playing a young Eric Bana.

How familiar were you with the book? Had you read the novel prior to auditioning?

Immediately after auditioning I bought a copy, and then I was even more excited about it.

How was the casting process for you?

When I went in for the initial casting I didn’t know much about the project.  I didn’t know much about who was or attached or the novel.  I basically learnt in the room what it was I was auditioning for.  I thought “Wow, this is a pretty big deal” and I remember I had the opportunity on my first audition to speak with the director (Robert Connolly) over the phone to get notes on how he saw the character which was really helpful given that I hadn’t yet read the novel.  I’ve worked with Rob before, and I’ve been in that casting room before, so it was a very comfortable audition process for something that I really wanted.

You’re playing the younger version of Eric Bana’s character.  Obviously you don’t have any scenes together, but him being a producer on the film did that allow the two of you to collaborate?

He was always around, he was always on set.  In pre-production I got to meet him, and we really only had one long discussion about how we were going to portray the character.  I was quite nervous to talk to him, having only met him about 5 minutes before, so I was thinking what to ask.  I knew this would be my only opportunity so I just came out and asked “Eric, how are you playing Aaron Falk”? And he told me not to worry about it because essentially we’re playing two different characters.  Having watched the film I hope that you can see that he changes throughout the progression of the film.

The film being set in such a country town, one that had been affected by drought and bushfires, a topic that hits quite close to home.  How was the filming experience in such a small town?

I really loved getting out of the city for a while.  It opens up your eyes to how the backbone of Australia actually works.  We were shooting in a town that’s about 5 hours out of Melbourne, and they had their pubs shut for about 6 months of the year because there just wasn’t enough business and it was too expensive to stay open…so I think it was really important to shoot The Dry in these locations.

I spoke to Robert and he was just the most enthusiastic person, it really took me aback.  What was that energy like on set?  A story such as this that’s so dark and dramatic, and you have someone like him who’s so energetic…how was that dynamic?

He takes the work seriously but he doesn’t take himself seriously which is the most invaluable asset of a director.  I worked with him before on an ABC program called Barracuda, and he has this way of working where it’s very fluid.  He lets everyone in each department do their own thing to their best of their ability.  He let the actors work fluidly without structuring, without worrying.  Some days we got to set and he’d want to try it a certain way, or he’d want to re-write the scene, and he had the liberty to do that because he wrote the initial screenplay.

Because your character is very much featured in just that one timeline of the story, were your scenes shot all in one block or were you able to see what else was going on with other aspects of filming?

The film was split into two, so you had the present day and the past, and it was shot like that too.  So we were on set for the first few weeks, and I think Rob found it important to start with the past and work from that.  It was very much like shooting two films.

Luckily the film was completed before COVID reared its head.  Had you had anything lined up prior?

I almost feel guilty saying so, because I know how hard this year has been work-wise for others, but I was fortunate enough to have shot and completed another film.  It should be coming out next year, and we were actually shooting through the pandemic…we were the first and only film set in the world to be functioning.  And there was a lot of apprehension around how that would work but it did, and fingers crossed we’ll see if it paid off.

The Dry is screening in Australian theatres from January 1st, 2021.

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.

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