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Interview: LACHY HULME
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Bill (Jett) Ramey

EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was conducted before the untimely and tragic death of Steve Irwin.

© William E. Ramey. All rights reserved.

Mr. Hulme -- thanks for your time!

LH: No problem. Thank you. Call me Lachy, by the way.

Lachy it is. Tell me about yourself -- how‘d you get into acting?

LH: It’s what I always wanted to do. In fact, it’s the only thing I’ve ever been able to do (laughs). I got serious about it when I was about 15 or 16, and I’ve been lucky enough to earn a living at it since I was about 19, in Australia. I’ve also written a couple of movies, which was fun. Writing is a great way to put on weight and lose your tan.

Tell us about FOUR JACKS and LET’S GET SKASE.

LH: Well, Four Jacks was my first film. Probably my favorite movie that I’ve done. It’s just a cool, nasty little flick, made for no money on a tight schedule, but a nifty piece of work. And Skase was something that I did right after, with the same director, Matthew George. It sort of put me on the map in Australia, and helped me get things like Matrix, which was nice.

Yeah THE MATRIX -- you did a couple of them, right?

Geez, I love that question. “A couple of ‘Matrix’ films,” as if, “Yeah, we just banged together a couple of ‘Matrix’ films over a weekend or two. Nothin’ to it, y’know?” Ah, yes. (laughs) Yes, I did work on THE MATRIX sequels, and the videogame, which was the bulk of my work. I played a guy called “Sparks,” who is basically the rotten coward of the MATRIX universe. A great role, great fun. The whole thing was just a weird, fascinating experience. It was my first time on a big, big project. Lots of money flying around, but the whole thing felt like an independent movie, simply because everything came down to the Wachowski’s. It was their thing, and nothing got past them. In my case, they did give me a fair amount of freedom, especially since I was off in a corner for a year or so working on the game, so I sort of had my own little dominion. Ultimately, it was just one of those once in a lifetime gigs. An incredible learning curve. You might be a small cog in a big machine, but when that machine rolls over you, you better make sure your cog turns just right.

Lachy Hulme in MACBETH

Dude, MACBETH seems to be getting a lot of buzz here lately. Tell me about that one.

LH: Well, MACBETH [Check out the film's OFFICIAL SITE -- Jett] is also a once in a lifetime gig, but obviously from a different angle. I mean, how many times do you get to do Shakespeare in a feature film? The director is Geoffrey Wright, who’s probably best known for ROMPER STOMPER, the Russell Crowe skinhead flick. That’s one of the great Australian films, and Geoff is one of the great Australian filmmakers. But, ah, y’know, what can I say? Shakespeare scares the shit out of me. It was one of those projects that I knew was coming, but I’d already told my managers not to put me up for it. I just figured, “Here’s a project that I really want to do, really want to be a part of, but I’ll probably blow the audition, so forget it.” But then the composer, John Clifford White, who had worked with Geoff on Romper Stomper and had also done the score for FOUR JACKS, showed it to Geoff and said “Here, this guy should play Macduff,” and a couple of days later, Geoff rang me, and that was it. So, basically, the film is all of Shakespeare’s language, and the exact same plot, but set in the Melbourne underworld where we’ve had a gang war going on now for seven or eight years. Big body count, believe me. I mean, not just in the play, but in Melbourne right now. It’s like fuckin’ Chicago during the days of Al Capone. So, if you like gangster flicks, you’ll like MACBETH. If you liked ROMPER STOMPER, you’ll like MACBETH. And without giving the movie away, if you like teenage schoolgirls having threesomes, you’ll like MACBETH.

You’ve also got BOY TOWN coming, right?

LH: (laughs) Ah, BOY TOWN. What can I say? Just a great opportunity, getting to work with my heroes, my Aussie comedy heroes like Mick Molloy and Bob Franklin and Tony Martin. I mean, I know you guys probably don’t know who those guys are so much, but believe me, it’s kind of like working with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, if you’re an American. It’s about the greatest boy band in the world getting back together, except they’re now a bunch of middle-aged fools. I’m not in the boy band, I play their manager, a kind of Jabba The Hutt meets Lex Luthor sleaze bag. Right up my alley, now that I think about it. I put on 40 pounds for the role, shaved my hairline back, got my hair permed and dyed orange. I look ridiculous. A nice contrast to MACBETH, where I was nice and fit and playing the hero.

Lachy Hulme in BOY TOWN

You also did the CROCIDILE HUNTER movie.

LH: Ha! (laughs) Man, you’ve done your homework. Shit, well, hmm. How do I answer this one? Okay. I had some time off from Matrix, and this thing came up, and the money was great, and it was a great chance to meet Steve and Teri Irwin, who are great people, and there were some great actors in it, so why not, y’know? On the other hand, the thing doesn’t really hang together. It’s a kid’s film, but it doesn’t quite work. And, man, my American accent in that one sucks. We had to re-voice all of our performances because in the test screenings, everyone said we sounded flat, and Steve sounded full of juice, which he usually does. So I just went in and blew it off. Blew my whole accent off. During the shoot, though, I had the handcuffs on me for that one. That’s the best way to put it. So, what can I say? Live and learn, I guess.

Alright dude, you know I’ve got to ask you about this -- What’s the deal with The Joker and how in the hell did you get in the mix for the part?

LH: You guys, that’s how. Your website, man. The first I heard of it, someone rang me to say that they’d heard on the radio that I actually had the part, and this was before BATMAN BEGINS had even come out, so this was early 2005. And on the radio, they were apparently quoting from your site, so there you have it. Of course, I had to explain to my family that I wasn’t playing the part, but from that moment on, the media have been chasing me around asking for a quote, which I couldn’t give. But every other weekend down here, there would be some blurb or column in the papers talking about how I was the “front-runner” or some shit. Thank God Heath got the gig, ‘cause now the press can all fuck off. But the Internet speculation has been extraordinary. Unbelievable!

Now I never reported it, but there was talk that you met with Chris Nolan. True?

LH Never. Although, according to the Internet, not only have I met him, we’re now part owners in a racehorse together.

(laughs) What about Charles Roven?

LH: I’ve met Chuck, but not about Batman. I mean, we did talk about Batman, and certainly talked about all of the rumors about me playing The Joker, but nothing more than that. We talked more about some other projects he’s doing. But interestingly, about 10 minutes after I walked out of my meeting with Chuck, it was all over the Internet that I’d been there. News travels fast in Hollywood, mate. And funnily enough, news travels fast everywhere, because the only time I’ve ever talked about Batman was on radio in Melbourne, on Tony Martin’s show, and I made a few wisecracks about the Batman gig, and suddenly it’s all over the world that I’m in these so-called “secret talks” about playing The Joker. If memory serves, that was your site that picked all of that up. You guys are faster than CNN.

Did you screentest?

LH: No. As far as I know, no one did. No one was asked. Christopher Nolan strikes me as the kind of guy that doesn’t have to test actors anymore, certainly not for roles like The Joker. He knows who he wants, and he gets them.

We know that Heath Ledger is The Joker, but how would you have played him?

LH: However the director wants me to play it, simple as that. (laughs) That’s my job. Obviously you come to work with your own ideas, with your own prep and your research done, and you try to impose some sort of personal vision onto the role you’re playing, whether that be through the costume or the accent or the ticking clock inside whomever you’re playing, or whatever. But even with a role like The Joker, which is open to so much interpretation, you ultimately have to acquiesce to the director, otherwise get out of the way. Acting is not like painting. You don’t get to sit in a corner and create your own special thing. You’re part of a team. You’re servicing a vision, particularly in feature films. That’s what you get paid for.

Is it true that you are a big Batman fan -- like me for instance?

LH: Not as such. And I don’t mean any disrespect to you guys, who all supported me, but I’m not a huge comic book fan, by any stretch. By the way, I’m reliably informed that you guys are nicknamed by the powers that be at Warner Bros. as the “Batman Fundamentalists,” or the “DC Fundamentalists.” (laughs) You guys wield an extraordinary amount of power, believe me. I think I’m living proof of that. We wouldn’t be chatting unless you guys had flexed your muscles.

I gotcha. But it was rumored that you were a huge Bat-fan. I think that the BOF readers loved that about you by the way.

LH: Yeah, that started because of the mucking around on Tony Martin’s show. I think I said I would be claiming Batman comics on my tax return if I got the role, but that was just a stupid attempt at witty repartee on my part. I do like the character. I think he’s the best of all the comic book heroes, and I certainly read some of the comics when I was a kid, so being thought of as a Batman fan is nice company to be in.

OK, with that said, what did you think about BATMAN BEGINS?

LH: Loved it. Brilliant. Different from Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN, but on par with it in terms of an origin story. Great cast, great script, just a great movie. A really well crafted movie. Obviously, with all the Internet speculation about me playing The Joker, I certainly delved very heavily into the Batman world, as my interest was piqued, and so I watched that movie many, many times, on DVD. I also bought a lot of comics, the anthology ones, like The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told and so on. And I’d read Dark Knight Returns years ago, so I went back to that, and Year One. I’m starting to sound like a fan-boy now, aren’t I?

Dude, come on! You‘re NOT a Batman fan -- riiiiiight.

LH: (laughs) But it was more just out of interest as an actor. Actually, going back to what you asked before, about how I might have approached the role of The Joker, I suppose the obvious thing would be to just go back to the original version of the character. That interests me. Everyone raves about what Alan Moore did with The Killing Joke, but ultimately, that version of the character demands you to feel sympathy for the guy, and I don’t believe we should feel anything but fear and disgust for him. For me, the most interesting version is what Bob Kane and Bill Finger did with the first incarnation of the character, which was basically a prototype for the modern-day serial killer, something like what The Zodiac Killer in San Francisco in the 60s and 70s was, a killer who announces his crimes and then commits them in a way that makes no sense, and then just disappears back into the shadows. An unstoppable force, a very dark, scary force. I found that very compelling, that first ever Joker story. At the end of the day, there should be nothing sympathetic about a character like The Joker, and certainly nothing funny about him. I know everybody hearing this or, sorry, reading this will hate me for saying that, but that would be my jumping-off point as an actor. Until the director told me to shut up and do it his way. (laughs) And by the way, I’m not trying to insult The Killing Joke or Alan Moore or anything like that. In fact, I can see why his take on The Joker has inspired such a passionate following, because it’s, y’know, such an intelligent and literate take on the character for the modern reader. But you can’t go past the Bob Kane/Bill Finger version, in my opinion. They nailed him right from the start. And Jerry Robinson, too. Did I mention him?

On my site, the fans have debated the good and bad of the “Burton/Schumacher” Bat-films for years. What did you think of them?

LH: Not much. I mean, there are some cool moments in all of them, with the exception, of course, of Batman & Robin. Good God, what a piece of shit film. You need subtitles to understand what the hell Schwarzenegger is saying! Terrible. Just fucking terrible. And a pity, too. They never made a truly satisfying Batman movie until Nolan came along. I mean, the casting of Christian Bale was just perfect. He also would have made a great James Bond, but carrying the world’s two biggest movie franchises might be too big a task, even for him! (laughs)

The Toronto Film Festival is featuring MACBETH. You heading to it?

LH: Yeah, we head off in a few weeks for that. We’re all doing a lot of press and interviews and photo calls down here at the moment, but I wouldn’t miss Toronto for the world. Interestingly, I did my first movie in Toronto, a film called Men With Guns. I wasn’t in it, but I wrote it. They ran me out of town after that one, so it’s pretty cool to come back with all guns blazing on MACBETH. I’m looking forward to it.

Which projects are you most proud of so far?

LH: Like I said before, probably FOUR JACKS. But also BOY TOWN, to a certain extent, just because I got to work with all of those guys, and also because I changed my appearance so radically for the role, got to do something very different. That’s a dream opportunity for any actor.

Back to The Joker one more time. Man, you had a lot of support from Bat-fans -- including me to be honest. Do you have anything to say to all those guys that had your back?

LH: Absolutely, yes. I just want to say thanks for all the support. A very heartfelt thanks. I mean, these people don’t know me beyond, I’m guessing, things like MATRIX, but they obviously saw in me something that they felt could translate into playing that villain on the big screen, which is just a huge, huge compliment. It was very humbling. Surreal, too! (laughs) Surreal, but very humbling. And thanks to you, too, mate, for all the nice things that you’ve written about me. I was certainly made aware of them, from various friends, and my managers and so forth. Just a great feeling to have all of that support out there. So, yeah, thank you. Thanks.

What do you have coming up next Lachy?

LH: A couple of things. I’ve been offered the lead in a romantic comedy, can you believe it? (laughs) A little different from my usual fare, but it’s a sweet project, so that should be fun. And I’m just starting to do some homework for another thing, a darker thing, which if I told you about, they’d kill me. I mean, I’m not trying to sound too mysterious about it, but y’know, always be mindful to those who write the paychecks. And then there’s Toronto, and all the press junket stuff for MACBETH and BOY TOWN coming up, and all of that stuff can be pretty hard work, believe it or not. After that, I might take a nap.

Great stuff brother! Thanks again and good luck!

"Jett" is the founder and editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM and ON-FILM.NET.

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