Oranges and Sunshine
The star of films like PROOF, THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, LITTLE FISH, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE WOLFMAN talks about his experiences making ORANGES AND SUNSHINE.
What attracted you to the project?
I got the script with a covering letter saying that Emily was involved and that Jim Loach was directing. The material’s just so moving and beautifully written, so it was something I was instantly grabbed by. Once I’d met Jim I was even more interested; I just thought he was a delightful person, very warm and kind of quiet, but intelligent. I was very excited about the idea of working with Emily, and I also knew that David Wenham was involved, so it was the whole package.
Who is Jack?
Jack just seemed to me to be a man crying out to be accepted and to have his story recognised. He’s a very gentle soul, a lost soul, quietly working to find something in an undemonstrative way. When we meet him he’s still going through a great deal of issues and a lot of pain. He is estranged from his family as well as from his mother and father – he assumes they’re dead. But he’s just linked up with his sister again.
Did you know about the story before you read the script?
I was pretty ignorant of the story really, although I’d seen The Leaving of Liverpool [an Australian television drama about the child migrants] many years before so I suppose I did know something about it. Just not the extent of it – that so many young kids had been sent out. The next step after talking to Jim and committing to doing it was reading Margaret’s book, and then I wanted desperately to meet the man on whom Jack is partially based – someone who’d actually come out and had that experience themselves.
What are the challenges for an actor playing a real-life character?
With any character the challenge is to do as much research and psychological investigative work as possible, in order to try to understand their motivations and complex psychology. Then you have to let go of all of that and just try to exist on the day in the moment. In a way these characters come with added pressure – you’re trying to be faithful to them and their experience and so maybe there’s an added sense of… I don’t know that ‘duty’ is the right word, but trying to do the right thing by a person or by a group of people.
What was the impact of the government apologies while you were filming?
The day I left for the shoot in England Kevin Rudd apologised, and so by the time I landed all the English papers were full of it – which is extraordinary really after such a long time. I was driving along in the afternoon listening to the PM crying; it was incredibly moving and just so tragic. All these people have probably tried to tell their stories many times but no one’s really listened. So for it to suddenly break in that way must have been an incredible vindication of who they were and where they’d been and what happened to them. But at the same time it seemed extraordinary that it should have taken so many years.
How would you describe what Oranges and Sunshine is about?
Well it’s interesting that the title Oranges and Sunshine is something that Jack says. He was asked as a child whether he wanted to go to Australia where he could live in a white house, ride a horse to school and be able to pick oranges off the trees for his breakfast and where the sun shines every day. That was the sort of golden promise that these children were sold and then in the same breath someone said to him, ‘Well you might as well go because your mum’s dead.’ So it was sold as a wonderful world they were going to, a wonderful new life for them and yet at the same time they were told their parents had died. ‘Oranges and Sunshine’? It’s the great promise and the great lie, the great untruth that was told to these innocent children who were damaged for so many, many years and probably irrevocably. And it’s the journey that Margaret takes to try to heal that and give them some sense of who they are and what has happened to them, gain them some sort of recognition. So to me it’s really about abandonment and lies and then being accepted again.