Making Ned, Empire (UK), October 2003
typed by Carey
Ned Kelly director Gregor Jordan explains his take on Oz's most feared outlaw.
"Being an Australian, I'd always been aware of Ned Kelly, but when I read Our
Sunshine by Robert Drewe, I realized I knew very little about him. What I liked
about Robert's book was that it took you into Kelly's head as much as possible, and
it used the landscapes as a character, with Kelly, the outlaw, facing death at the
hands of a hundred police that night in 1880. The actual historical events were
secondary to the style and mood of it.
Heath Ledger was my only choice for the lead, really. He was the right age
and the same physical size as Kelly - who was just 25 when he died - and he
even looks like him. He has the same kind of presence that Kelly had, and
he's a big enough star to get the budget we needed. Most importantly, he's
Australian, and if you consider those criteria, there really was no-one
For the role of Joe Byrne, his sidekick, I met with Orlando Bloom a couple
of times, first in L.A. and again as I was doing auditions in London. It was
one of those bizarre things: while he was doing it, I looked at the monitor
and thought, 'Holy Shit! This guy's a movie star!' Afterwards, I showed the
tape to Tim Bevan, one of the film's producers. He said 'Quick- cast him!'
To play Superintendent Hare, Kelly's nemesis, I needed someone who had
gravitas, and Geoffrey Rush certainly has that. We ground his dialogue to
virtually nothing for that reason. He's someone who can say something
without words. Geoffrey loved making this film, partly because we shot in
Melbourne, where he lives, and it was a good opportunity to make a
decent-sized film in his hometown.
Naomi Watts (who heath is dating) plays Julia, Kelly's lover, but she's not
just the token female. Her character is there to display some of the
societal elements of the story that caused Kelly's woes. People might call
it a love story, but it's not. Heath's character is doomed, and it's a
tragic story, if anything. It speaks of what could have been if life had
gone differently. Ned and Julia may not have been well suited to one
another, but she'd caught up in a tragic situation herself too, just as he
is. She's trapped and persecuted- but in a different way.
The film's already out in Australia, and it was well received there- mostly.
But that's because the people there are very divided in their perceptions of
Ned Kelly. Working -class people say he was a hero of the underclass, but
policemen say he was a murderer. The movie created a bit of a storm that
way. Some said it was just an empty Hollywood glamorisation, whereas others
said it was very accurate. The reactions were all over the place.
To be honest, I was mainly interested in the tragic elements of it. Everyone
knows Ned Kelly dies at the end, so there's very little suspense. I was more
interested in looking at his hopes and dreams, taking a more metaphysical
approach to the story telling, as opposed to the conventional
ride-into-town-and-rob-the-bank fashion. I didn't want the ending to be
depressing, I wanted it to be spiritually uplifting. It's part of the
tragedy: people wishing they could be something else, but can't because of
NED KELLY REVIEW:
RELEASED: SEPTEMBER 26
Heath Ledger: Ned Kelly Director: Gregor Jordan
Orlando Bloom: Joe Byrne Screenplay: John M. McDonagh
Naomi Watts: Julia Cook Running time: 110 mins (1 hour/ 50 mins)
Geoffrey Rush: Superintendent Hare Distributor: UIP
IN A NUTSHELL
Australia in the 1870s, and Ned Kelly, son of an Irish Immigrant family, is
victimised by a prejudiced police force. Soon the Kelly's have become a
gang, on the run from the law and robbing banks to survive.
The endless delays inflicted upon Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers might yet
help the Australian director's third movie, which arrives just two months
after his acclaimed anti-military satire. Although this rather truncated
take on the outback outlaw is lesser work, it's still shot through with
enough lyrical touches to confirm Jordan as a talent to watch.
Like Buffalo Soldiers, Ned Kelly takes a dense novel as it's source material
- in this case, Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe - and applies liberal amounts
of voiceover to both stitch together an episodic narrative and provide a
flavour of the book. But Kelly was, of course, more than a book, and Jordan
- perhaps hamstrung by limited budget - elides key episodes, hurries others,
and singularly fails to elucidate the precise relationships of the Kelly
Where he does score big, however, is on atmosphere and authenticity, and
here he's aided by the likeably leads - Ledger and Bloom - who overcome
dodgy beards and wobbly accents to put in spirited performances.
A wannabe Western epic that never quite fits the widescreen, but is quite
lovely around the fringes. A bit like Australia.
THE SUMMER'S UNANSWERED QUESTIONS;
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Q: The pirates aboard the Black Pearl say they drowned Bootstrap Bill, but
they are able to walk underwater without any problems- so how exactly did
Bootstrap Bill manage to drown?
Q: And wouldn't Will's dad come back to life at the bottom of the ocean at
the end of the film, only to drown immediately?
Q: If by stealing one of those golden coins you're damned into being undead,
shouldn't Elizabeth Swann be a zombie, thanks to her theft of the coin
necklace from Will Turner at the start of the movie?
Q: After the success of Pirates, how will Disney ever be able to condense
such rich story and character elements into an 11- minute theme park ride?
Q: If Jack Sparrow is based on Keith Richards, just how long have the
Rolling Stones been going?