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Exclusive Interview - Clubland (Aka: Introducing The Dwights)

By Sean Lynch
Interview with Khan Chittenden & Richard Wilson
Stars of Clubland.

Khan Chittenden & Richard Wilson

Khan Chittenden (below) is keeping
his feet firmly cemented on the ground

Khan Chittenden

Richard Wilson
with Brenda Blethyn (below)

Richard Wilson

We are living in a new Golden Age of Australian cinema. After an extremely rough patch in the world of locally produced TV and Film, the creative minds bred in Australia are final getting it right with a string of Aussies joining the A-List in Hollywood, as well as churning out some of the best cinema experiences in years.

But it's the most recent batch of flicks have really set the bench mark. "Clubland" (or "Introducing The Dwights" as it will be called in the US) has just been sold to Warner Independent for $4 million after a successful run at Sundance - and is about to become the first Australian film in history to open in the US on the coveted July 4th weekend. 

SEAN LYNCH recently caught up with two of the films stars, the likeable Khan Chittenden (KC) and Richard Wilson (RW) (who had just arrived back from the Russian film festival in which he was promoting "The Proposition"), to talk all things Hollywood.

So Richard. How did things go in Russia?

RW: It [The Proposition] was one of the Top 10 Foreign films at the festival over there. I've been there for a couple of weeks and it's been great.

So was it just wandering around for a couple of weeks not understanding what they hell anyone was saying...

RW: Well I had an interpreter, luckily. I had a 24/7 interpreter that followed me everywhere, she was brilliant.

As in followed you everywhere?

RW: Yeah...
KC: ...Everywhere?
RW: ...Oh no, no, no [laughs]. No don't print that, I've got a girlfriend!

Khan, you got to go to Sundance for the Clubland premiere. How did that all go?

KC: I went with Emma [Booth] and Cherie Nolan [the director]...it was a great experience really.

Was it all just a bit crazy? I'd assume it was just an hour or so watching the movie...then [party] it up for the rest of the time, really?

KC: [Laughs] ...Basically...[laughs]
RW: [Laughs] Not in Russia, you get shot for that! [Laughs]
KC: You just have to slip them a few bills [laughs]. Nah, it was a great experience. There was a lot of press to do there because there was a lot of interest in the film. Like, there wasn't a person there that hadn't heard of it, or wasn't looking forward to seeing it. I mean, that first opening night screening, there was about 1500 people just jammed into this Gymnasium that had been converted into a cinema.

There were a few other Aussies up there for the festival?

KC: Brendan Cowell and Matthew Saville were there for Noise. I saw Noise and it's a pretty great Aussie film. I mean, it's pretty dark and has a really quite intrinsic Australian sensibility to it. So I don't think it was embraced in the same commercial sense as Clubland was. But it's such a great achievement for both films to be seen there...

Richard. You've had some pretty plum roles leading up to your performance in Clubland (The Proposition, 48 Shades, Deck Dogz). Are you picky when it comes to scripts, or you would happily take a Starburst ad if it was on the table?

RW: I don't know about a Starburst ad, it depends how much they pay [Laughs]...
KC: What about Playschool?....[Laughs]
RW: Playschool? Not Playschool [Laughs]. No I wouldn't say picky, I don't think in Australia you can afford to be picky because theres such a limited amount of work. So when a role comes along, something like Clubland, it was such a brilliant and challenging role that you only come across maybe once in an actors lifetime. I've been very fortunate, but you just can't afford to be picky in this country.

Khan, even you've had a good run with films and TV [a major role on Blue Water High]...

KC: That was actually my first foray into the professional industry after I left WAPA. Then I did Caterpillar Wish, and I've got a film that went to Berlin [and about to hit Australian screens] called West. And then along came Clubland, and like Richard said, it's just one of those roles you feel fortunate as an actor in this country to be able to sink your teeth into.

Both of you seem to have been into acting since a young age. I read somewhere that Khan used to perform magic shows as a kid?

KC: ...Yeah [Laughs]
RW: You did that too! Like, used to put on shows for your family and stuff? [Laughs]

[Laughs] What sort of magic tricks were part of your repertoire?

KC: ...I don't know [Laughs]
RW: [Laughs] I've got one! What you do is....

[From here Richard begins to explain the concept of a trick involving a coin, string, a table cloth and a ball and a bit of levitation with great enthusiasm]

KC: [Laughs]. I had a trick called 'The Hollow Egg'. You crack it on someones head, and amazingly theres no yolk...
RW: How do you do that?
KC: ...Oh, with a needle [Laughs]. I got it out of a magazine called 'I Spy: The Trick To Being a Magician For Under 10's' [Laughs]. And a trick with a with a carrot fashioned like a finger and a tea towel and some pens. So yeah, some really high tech David Copperfield stuff...

[Laughs] Well, we could talk dodgy magic all day, but I probably should get back to the flick. Richard, your role is a stand-out in Clubland [that of a teen with cerebral palsy]. What sort of preparation goes into that? Because there's a fine line between getting it accurate and taking the piss...

RW: It was really quite scary at first, when I got the role. Because you want to do something like this right, you know, you can't look like your 'acting' with cerebral palsy, because theres so many people out there with the disease and it affects so many lives - and to not do it right would not only be offensive to them - but bad for people who see it.

I did a lot of preparation. I spent some time at Disability Services Australia, and no one knew I was an actor, they all thought I was disabled, so I could get a real response...

So you were actually in playing the part in a real life situation?

RW: Yeah, Yeah. Only the bosses there knew that I wasn't really disabled. So I worked there for a while and saw a specialist. And at the end of the day it became easier than playing someone like Khan's character...

Because you can sort of mask yourself?

RW: Yeah, because you can totally become another character, or someone else. As opposed to the intricacies involved with something like Tim.
KC: I was blown away, because we had a 3 week rehearsal period, and at some point in the rehearsal he just came in with this walk, these mannerisms that was just really spot on. And it was just like "Wow", just so detailed and everyone was just like....
RW: Good Acting! [Laughs]

[Laughs] Is it the kind of thing you can just click on and off or you have to work yourself into it?

RW: I can kind of click it on and off now..

A bit of a party trick [Laughs]?

RW: [Laughs] ...Not when you're walking down the street through [Laughs]

Now the flick is set to hit cinemas in the US on July 4. You're up against Transformers and The Simpsons Movie...

RW: Aw, Shit! [Laughs]
KC: [Laughs] It's a different crowd though. Hopefully it will do well, Warner Independent are really confident with it...
RW: Well apparently we've already made our money back. Which is so rare, especially before we've even been released.

So you'll be asking for a bit of a salary rise?

RW: We'll be askin', but we won't be getting! [Laughs]

With all the buzz surrounding the flick, has it given you any extra chances to try and break it in the US?

KC: Well it's definitely, I'd say, opened doors for both of us. Staying grounded and maintaining the passion for what we are doing as actors, and persistence and determination and it's as simple as that. Once the doors are open, it's just a matter of chasing down opportunities.

Before the acting gig took off, what sort of jobs were you both doing on the side to put food on the table?

KC: Dishwashing, tele-sales
RW: I did Gardening with my Dad, I worked in a hospital...

What was the first job that you got?

RW: I was fifteen, and it was a Channel 9 sitcom called Flat Chat with Jean Kitson. We were on after Friends, and I think we got two million viewers our first night, and then every week it just got lower and lower until it got to about 300,000 and then it got canned! [Laughs]

Well it lasted longer than most shows do on Channel Nine these days. I mean they don't even make sitcoms anymore...so maybe it was your fault! What have you got lined up from here?

RW: Khan is actually doing a film with Guy Pierce now...
KC: It's called How To Change In 9 Weeks, it's an Australian film. It's Guy Pierce, Sam Neil and Miranda Otto. Um, Steve Vidler, Jeremy Sims and Rebecca Gibney who's also in Clubland.

So pretty much every Australian that's ever had an acting role...ever...

KC: [Laughs]...Yeah. It's a good cast, it's based around the real life disappearance of a woman called Rachel Barberra in 1999 (a Melbourne girl). It's about the emotions the family go through when they find out she's been kidnapped, and eventually murdered by an Ex-Babysitter five years her senior. So it's one of those kinds of stories.

And you Richard?

RW: I've got a few things lined up. Nothing I can really say just yet as it's not all signed and sealed...
KC: ...It's Playschool [Laughs]
RW: [Laughs] I'm playing one of the Bananas in Pajamas...

CLUBLAND opens in Australia in June 2007 - and in the USA on July 4th

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