Impulse Gamer Interviews Geoffrey Wright - -

Impulse Gamer Interviews Geoffrey Wright

Tell us your inspiration behind Romper Stomper?

The inspiration was the observation that certain skinheads in Melbourne of the 1980s had made a transition.  They went from simply being thugs to thugs who took an interest in the Third Reich as a model.  I didn't think there'd been anything like it in the long history of street gangs in Australia.  It all seemed like a pretty interesting basis for a film.

If Romper Stomper was released today, do you think it would have the same impact?

---I presume if you ask if Romper was released today that you're referring to an updated version, written according to today's situation (as opposed to the situations of the early 1990s).  I think the impact of such a film today would probably have more impact.  I think this because any reaction would be supercharged by the internet, which was barely in its infancy two decades ago.   

There have been parallels behind Romper Stomper (1992) and American History X (1998), do you find these comparisons fair?

---I don't mind the comparisons.  History X is a good film, but, of course, it was made with a budget about twenty times bigger.  Julian Temple famously shot a million feet of film to make History X, while Romper would have been made on a fraction of that.

I will say, though, that History X conforms to certain patterns of story telling while Romper is really off on a planet of its own, putting the audience inside the noise and fury of the gang.  Romper is a subjective experience, History X is an objective one. 

Undeniably Romper Stomper was the film that made Russell Crowe, what was Russell like as actor?

---The Russell I knew was a superb worker.  He'd leave nothing to chance, he'd think about everything he had to do, he'd try many different things before settling on a solution.  He was practical, tireless, exacting, meticulous, inventive. 

What made you choose Russell to be the lead role in Romper Stomper? 

----I'd seen Russell in a supporting role in 'Proof' with Hugo Weaving.  I thought there was something very intense and brooding about him, I saw him and thought of the role of 'Hando'  straight away. 

Russell embodied Hando from Romper Stomper perfectly, how did you help him perfect the character?

---I just told him everything I thought I knew about the character then let him go off and think about it.  When he came back he'd show me this idea or that and I'd give him a reaction.  He was never, ever, short of ideas. 

As a director, what were your most challenging parts of Romper Stomper?

---Getting through all the action and crowd scenes in the six week schedule was the hardest thing, but working with the cast was always thrilling and energizing. 

With several years experience as a director, would you direct Romper Stomper differently today?

---Yes I would, I'd probably rely less on 'master shots' - that cover the entire scene - and have more faith in breaking the scenes up into shots of more limited coverage.  But in those days I had less experience in understanding how to shoot with more economy. 

Do you find there are big differences in making films in Australia compared to the United States?

---In the US the budgets are simply bigger, at least most of the time.  Also, the choice of crew people becomes bewildering because there's so many good people to choose from.  Having said that, Australian crews work as hard as American ones and are just as creative.  They're often more fun than American crews and a lot more fun than British ones.

The film business in the US is based solely on capitalism, but the Australian business is often concerned with issues of 'culture.' It's easy to find out decisions that get made by the sources of finance in Australia but in America it's often a mystery why certain decisions get made.

In terms of Hollywood filmmaking, what do you believe are the pros and cons?

---Hollywood is inhabited by so many wonderfully talented people both behind and in front of the camera, but it's also inhabited by the nastiest people you'll ever meet.  Everything is in extremes.  I think the best thing is that Hollywood is a well-stocked market place of scripts and stories and contacts.  Networking is giddy there, very exciting and rewarding.  

Why do you believe that Australian films have such a big impact in other countries?

---We develop actors of a quality that is extraordinary considering our population, I think.  Our actors tend to be braver, wilder, yet more down-to-earth. 

You've directed another Hollywood megastar (Sam Worthington) in Macbeth, how different an actor is Sam compared to Russell?

---Sam shares with Russell a don't-mess-with-me strength.  He's quieter bloke than Russell, in the way that Steve McQueen used to be quiet.  He has, on screen, a slow-burn energy, while Russell has a fast-burn one. 

For our film students at University, what words of wisdom can you part on them?

---Filmmakers need to form relationships with trustworthy fellow travelers.  Directors need to find producers, both of these need to find writers.  If you can form this triangle for a project or two you'll increase your chances of successfully mounting projects.  Filmmaking is a team effort, find and form teams that may last at least a few years and hopefully more.  Also carefully examine the contracts you make with each other, keep them fair, keep profit sharing fair, and use separate lawyers. 

What does the future hold for Geoffrey Wright? 

I want to shoot a project called 'Australian Gothic.'  A horror film about revenge and justice. 

Lastly, Romper Stomper was just released on Blu-ray, will we see a Director's Cut in the near future?

The theatrical version of Romper Stomper - the only version ever released - is the director's cut.

Most so-called "director's cuts" are marketing devices.  The version initially released is, more often than not, the better version and probably one that the director approved of.  However, you can possibly make a few more sales of DVDs if you trumpet "director's cut" in the marketing. 

One of the most interesting examples of a dubious "director's cut" is 'Apocalypse Now.' 

These days the recut version of A.N. is the ONLY version people can see but, in fact, it's just a version with all the fat shoved back into the story that the filmmakers were quite correct to remove in the first place.  Putting all the second rate scenes back in warps the narrative and deadens the pace.  It's a completely inferior experience to either of the slightly different versions that were released theatrically.  (The differences between them were marginal and concerned some images at the very end of the film).

Having said that, from my point of view, a film I did in 2001, 'Cherry Falls' that was theatrically released in Europe in its most harmless form (the airline version!!!)  I'd love to recut the harder version of that! 

Thanks for your time Geoffrey and all the best. 


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