– by David Morgan-Brown
John Jarratt and Kaarin Fairfax have been friends with each other for a while, which is what made it easy for them to abuse the hell out of each other (verbally and physically) in this demented new romantic-thriller StalkHer. I talked to the two of them as they do their rounds across Australia, showing the nation how much friendlier they are than their on-screen counterparts.
“I’ve known Kaarin since 1979 when we did The Last Outlaw together, where I played Ned Kelly,” says John. “And so we’ve known each other for many years. She’s very experienced, great actor, done a lot of directing, she’s done a bit of everything, as you do when you’re an Aussie in the entertainment industry. And she was perfect for the role, thankfully she was available, she’d raised her two daughters and was back in the game, so we were lucky to get her and we were a lot better off having her play Emily in StalkHer.”
John explains he wanted to make a comedy-Western three years ago for $6 million, though even this low of a budget was too high, so he went with something simpler. “We needed a good two-hander, set in one place, and that’d be the way to go. Something cinematic and gritty and tough and requires really good acting.”
When asked about their greatest collaboration to date, both actor and actress sounded confident when working with the other. “We’ve got kind of a chemistry, that culmination of knowing what to do as actors and being old mates,” says John. “Neither of us are precious and we can both cut it and we both know we can cut it. So we just went about our job and had the time of our lives because otherwise why would we do it.”
Kaarin agrees, explaining how their strong relationship positively influenced the film. “We’ve known each other for a long time,” she says. “So when you have a trust in someone, often it can go perhaps more deeper more quickly and I think we explored everything to its nth degree in StalkHer. Just turning up and knowing that you’re gonna be with the other actor, we’d rehearsed our stuff the night before so we got on set and then we could really kick butt so to speak.”
Although John was down for directing the film, it was during production that he noticed Kaarin was giving him a hand with co-directing the film, and for good reason. “I just had a physical disability, I was tied to a chair for 90 per cent of the film,” he explains. “Since Kaarin and I know each other pretty well and we know what to do and it’s not unlike a play and Kaarin just started directing me, I didn’t ask her to, I directed her and we worked on it and got to the other end of it and I said “I’m gonna give you a credit for that”. It’s how we work as actors basically.”
Throughout shooting of the production, the duo were not only leading the film with their acting, but moreso leading the film with their directing, an ambitious double act. “You had to keep a check on yourself, you have to make sure you don’t be self-indulgent,” says Kaarin about directing John and herself. “You’ve only got each other there to keep a check and sometimes you’re both really busy in the scene and you don’t really want to have one eye on the outside, we had a two week rehearsal period so we ironed out most of the kinks so we knew that when we got up on the day on set in the morning we can just dive in and we didn’t have to worry too much.”
John seemed entirely confident when it came to directing the film, as he has done it before (more or less). “I’m up on what a director is supposed to do, having worked with plenty of bad directors, I’ve had to direct myself on many things and apart from that I’ve even worked with good ones, so there’s not much I don’t know about it. So, in pre-production and production I was fine, but in editing and post that where’s I was near my means, that’s when I was like a babe in the woods. But having done it, I probably like that as much as any other part of the directing process.”
At the end of the day, John and Kaarin have crafted a romance film – a sick, perverse kind of romance film – but I think StalkHer would make for a great date movie and Kaarin agrees with me. “I think it’s the best date movie you could go to because you’d sit there and go “on a list of ten questions, are you anything like that? On what level do you relate to that character?” You can find out a lot about a person going to take someone out to that film.”
Check out our review of the film here.