Hitting cinemas this Thursday is the sequel to the surprise Australian hit comedy A Few Best Men, A Few Less Men. Ahead of the film’s release, we caught up with star Xavier Samuel to talk about this film, its non-existent David Lynch version, filming in WA and whether or not he has any beef with Drake over the 2008 Australian film Newcastle. You’ll need to read on to understand what that’s all about…
We’re here to talk about your return to the screen in A Few Less Men… What I was realising, it’s very rare for us to get a sequel to an Australian film, let alone an Australian comedy. It must be nice to kind of be able to go back to familiar territory, it doesn’t always get to happen.
No, that’s right. Yeah, no, it is fun. We had such great time the first film and became really good friends so, yeah, it’s great to get up to all the mischief again.
When you were making the original film, was there any talk that this might be something that would happen again, or was the success of the film such a surprise that it arose organically?
I think we were hoping that it would happen again. You know, Dean Craig who wrote the first film, he wrote the second film, as well, and we always hanging out a lot and kind of cooking up ideas for the saga to continue.
Was there anything that, any ideas that you had, that maybe … Well, maybe never were considered by other people to make it to the screen but you thought it would have been a great idea? Did you have some ideas of where you wanted your character to go?
Well, I’m thankful not to get killed off. That’s always a plus. I mean, we were just sort of, you know, we were thinking about all the different directions it could go in. I think Dean came up with a really clever, sort of fun way, to keep the story in Australia and keep it going.
There is probably really an absurdist version of the film where it turns out you’re in the coffin the whole time?
Sure, yeah, that’s like some sort of a David Lynch film, right there. That could be cool.
It’s the sort of thing that someone who has too much time on their hands could probably re-cut on the Internet for us.
Yeah, possibly, yeah.
Have you seen those? There’s kind of this trend of people like re-cutting … Like they did, I think a David Lynch version of La La Land and they’ve like re-cut trailers and things like that. Have you seen any of those videos?
Yeah, yeah. I think I’ve seen … I’ve never seen a full re-edit, but I think I’ve seen those kind of trailers … You know, where they turn, you know, a murder mystery into a comedy or something. Yeah, it’s pretty funny.
Are there any films that you’ve been involved in, have they done anything like that?
I don’t know, actually. I haven’t seen anything of mine pop up like that.
Well, let’s get the re-cut, the David Lynch re-cut, of A Few Less Men, then.
Yeah, that would be pretty entertaining.
That would be very entertaining. It is such a fun film, it’s bigger, bolder, crazier, it pushes a lot of boundaries, you know. Are there any particular moments that you, on set, were just going “This is ridiculous!” and “I don’t know how this is going to work,” but then just somehow it did? Let alone, probably, the laughter in between takes.
I think pretty much every day was like that, you know. The situations that Dean cooked up are so kind of absurd and ridiculous and hilarious. I guess that’s the fun part of doing gigs like that, they’re not all like that, so it’s … Yeah, I think the biggest challenge for me is just keeping a straight face while the hilarity goes on.
Though it was mostly a familiar cast, you had a few new additions this time, including Shane Jacobson and Ryan Corr, who’s surprisingly funny in the film, actually. What was it like to work with them this time around?
Well, I’ve worked with Shane before, he played my dad in the film called Newcastle, which was one of the first films I did; so it was great to work with him again and he was very funny again. You’re right, there’s so many great actors in this film, Deborah Mailman, as well, and it was just a pleasure each day to work with all these talented, lovely actors.
Was the majority of it filmed in WA?
Yeah, it was all shot in WA and had a great time over there, there’s some really stunning locations that we shot at. It’s nice to see different parts of the world that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Where did you get to go in WA that you hadn’t been before?
I’d shot a film called Drift down south in Margaret River a few years back, so I got to see that part of WA; but we went up to Lancelin and to the Pinnacles, and you know, all sorts of beautiful places. Yeah, it was kind of great.
There’s some beautiful shots in the film, as well, and I think one of the more interesting things filming was you guys having to lug this coffin around. Was that really heavy or did they kind of make that a bit easier for you to carry? Did they fill it with bricks, you know? What were they doing there with the coffin?
There were some scenes, you know, where there was actually a body, you know, which was kind of … Yeah, that was pretty full on. It wasn’t that heavy, after all.
When you say there was a body in it, was it an actor actually in there? Or was it like a mannequin? Do elaborate on that.
Not the whole time, that would be a pretty tough gig, but there are a couple of scenes where he’s in there and we’ve got to kind of lug him around, so when the top comes off and stuff like that … Yeah, we didn’t keep anyone in the coffin, thankfully.
There’s quite a difference between British and Australian humour, and you having to don a British accent in the film.
Yeah, yeah. It’s all very English, the humour, so I think it kind of plays upon that kind of … You know, the fear that English people have that everything Australian is going to kill you, you know, you’re lucky to survive. Yeah, so I think that’s a big part of the comedy.
Was there anything that you learnt about? I mean, you’re spending a lot of time with Kevin (Bishop) and Kris (Marshall), who are British, so did you learn a bit about British humour from them, or kind of had you been raised on British humour anyway, as so many of us are, that it was nothing surprising to you?
They’re just sort of funny guys, anyway, it’s always just a barrel of laughs, really, hanging out with them. I don’t know if I could differentiate between the Aussie and the English humour, it just seems like a … Well, at least it seems like they nailed it together quite well, you know.
To get into the so British accent for the film, was there preparation for that? What was your research?
I just went and lived in London *laughs*… No, I’ve done a few films playing British characters, so it was familiar and obviously not the first time round; but I think also just hanging out with Kris and Kevin it’s sort of a contagious accent, anyway. You know, just a mixture of as much prep as you can do, and then just hanging out with those two, I think helped it all along.
A slightly more proper approach in something like Love and Friendship, though.
Well, for Love and Friendship, you know, it’s … No one has any real recordings of how people spoke back then but there’s a certain, you know, it’s a very well-trodden path. There’s lots of films to look at in reference. I’ve worked with a dialect coach, Joan Washington, and she was terrific, so she sort of showed me the ropes a little bit.
Do you think that there’s a possibility that people in that era actually just spoke terribly and like not as proper as we always assumed that they did because that’s how Shakespeare etc., wrote it?
Possibly yeah, I mean, there’s a few … There’s a fair bit of time between Shakespeare and Austen, but I think there was a sort of German influence on the language, which I think … Which you don’t often hear, but in order to sort of signify your class there was a kind of German emphasis or dialect that kind of crept into the English. So it’s sort of … It’s an interesting question, yeah.
Can you relate at all to the antics in this film? I mean, you’re the responsible one, so to speak, as your character goes. Can you relate, though, to any the sort of antics that you guys got up to in the film, potentially not this one but the last one, either or?
Well, I’ve never been married and I’ve never lugged a dead body across Australia, so there’s no real frame of reference…
I thought everyone had done that!
I just followed the script!
That surprises me, man, I thought everyone had done that once in their lives, isn’t that like a Schoolies experience these days, just lug a body through the desert?
I don’t know what Schoolies you went to.
It was a David Lynch version.
*laughs* Right, right, right…
You’ve been making such a good mix of films over the years, jumping between an international and an Australian, and Australian projects. How important is it to you to be making Australian films and connecting with an Australian audience?
I just really enjoy working in Australia and I think it is important to remain a part of an industry that sort of supported me, and … There’s also lots of great film makers in Australia, and great actors, so I’ve just been lucky enough to be able to work back home.
Looking ahead across the next few months, you’ve got a few projects that are coming out. What can you tell us about them?
Well, Seven Types of Ambiguity, which is a mini-series, drama series, for the ABC which should be coming out pretty soon. That’s a kind of, it’s a drama kind of like a ‘Why I done it,’ you know, about love and obsession. I’m looking forward to that coming out. Then, I did another film called Death and Life of Otto Bloom, which is directed by Cris Jones, and it’s a really inventive kind of love story about a man who experiences time in reverse. Yeah, there’s a few different ones coming out.
That premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival last year, didn’t it?
Yeah, that’s right, yeah.
I’m really looking forward to seeing that one, and it comes out on the 16th of March, so we won’t have long to wait! Now, we spoke at the beginning about Australian films rarely getting sequels, are there any, it could be something that you were involved with, or something that you weren’t, but are there any films, Aussie films, that you really love that you’d love to see kind of hit the big screen again? Or even maybe go the Netflix route and, you know, continue the story in that sort of mini-series capacity?
Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t know, I think that everything that Andrew Dominik’s directed I’d like to see more of. I think a lot of the time the story is already told, isn’t it? You don’t want to exhaust anything. I’m trying to think of any examples of that need sequels, you know, I’m trying to think … yeah.
Is there one in Newcastle up your sleeve?
You never know, that would be a pretty long time in between drinks, you know, but we could probably get the gang back together.
I remember the tag line for that film basically just being YOLO. Something like ‘you only live once forever*’ I think, was the tag line for that film, which I remember kind of just could have been before everyone was using YOLO all the time … It was kind of like ahead of the curve in that.
Yeah, yeah, probably. I think, yeah, we were there … I think that was there before Drake.
Totally. If you ever meet Drake, maybe you already have, but you can go “Look, you know, I don’t want to cause any beef, but, you know, we did it first.”
And if the story of A Few Best Men continues, would you come back as David for a third film?
Yeah, absolutely. I guess we’ll just see how this one goes, and it’s too much fun to not entertain the idea of doing it again.
Is it easier or harder, though, to be playing the responsible one? Would you want to come back and maybe have a couple of screws loose for another incarnation?
Yeah, well, I mean, it’s sort of like David’s role is like herding cattle, he’s very much the straight man trying to keep everything under control; but maybe he could get involved in the antics next time round.
Yes, well, we’ll have to wait and see for that. I really appreciate your time today, and I look forward to seeing The Death and Life of Otto Bloom, and everything else you’ve got coming up next. It’s always a pleasure to see you on the screen.
Thanks so much, yeah. Yeah, great to chat.
A Few Less Men hits Australian cinemas this Thursday, March 9th. You can also catch Xavier in The Death and Life of Otto Bloom, which hits select cinemas on Thursday, March 16th.
*”You’re Only Young Forever Once” was the actual tagline for the film, for those playing at home.