Tony Ayres talks Cut Snake

Tony Ayres begins the following interview by commenting on the huge amount of films and TV series he’s worked on in the past few years (“It’s been crazy times – and it continues to be!”), but what I want to know about his latest feature film, Cut Snake, is if anyone was concerned about having that uniquely Australian term as its title. He…

Tony Ayres begins the following interview by commenting on the huge amount of films and TV series he’s worked on in the past few years (“It’s been crazy times – and it continues to be!”), but what I want to know about his latest feature film, Cut Snake, is if anyone was concerned about having that uniquely Australian term as its title. He laughs. “We premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year and the recurring question among the audience was, ‘What does Cut Snake mean?’… We just wanted it for this film as it seemed so appropriate. It’s like ‘mad as a meat axe’, although the title Meat Axe doesn’t have the same resonance.” Ayres also notes that the production of the film, from first drafts of the script to the final cut, was “embarrassingly long… I first encountered the script in 2002 when it was Blake Ayshford’s first… I then saw Blake over the years but didn’t get involved again until 2009, when another director fell off the project and I became involved as I’d always loved the script, especially the relationship drama at the core.” Noting that he was lucky with the casting, Ayres says there was no danger that Sullivan Stapleton would make ex-con Pommie too over-the-top: “I’m in awe of Sullivan’s performance. He gave it his all and he was so committed… He makes that character so compelling, and really we haven’t seen someone like him on screen before.” Alex Russell as ‘Sparra’ is also singled out for praise, and then there’s Jessica De Gouw as Paula, whom Ayres says is “brilliant in a difficult role” and then goes further, explaining, “They all went beyond the call of duty.” He’s also pleased with the film’s mid-70s detail (it’s set in 1974) and soundtrack, and states, “The mistake people make when they do ‘period’ like this is that they make everything ‘70s, which is wrong. The décor and costumes are from all sorts of periods as we live with history… And then there’s David Essex’s Rock On.” A classic song, but was there any concern that it should have been replaced by an Australian track ? “We had a lot of other Australian songs in there… The reality is that a lot of Australian songs have already been used in Australian movies, so there actually aren’t a great deal left.” Ayres is involved in a huge number of productions for the smallscreen, with another series of Glitch a possibility (“We hope!”) and plenty more. “I’m about to work on a series of Barracuda for the ABC [drawn from Christos Tsiolkas’ novel], we’ve got a new show for Channel 7 coming out soon and I’ve just finished The Family Law for SBS, so all of that TV takes up a lot of my time. There are still plenty of films I’d like to do, but I really need to go back into the Batcave for a while to work out which one.” Cut Snake is in cinemas now.    

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