Casting began early on. "I had DANIELLE CORMACK in mind to play Bunnie before I had finished the script," Parker admits. "And Id seen KEVIN SMITH in a television programme and thought he could be perfect for Geoff."
"They kidnapped me very early on in the project!" recalls Cormack. "I hadnt actually seen a final draft script when I first auditioned." Working with Writer/Director Christine Parker and having input into the development of her character was a major draw-card for the actor: "It was something Id never experienced before and Bunnie is a character who develops so thoroughly throughout the story."
"It's not the type of work you are able to enjoy on a regular basis, especially something as layered as this," adds Kevin Smith. "Characters are rarely allowed this level of development. Geoff was so rich and as an actor, I don't often get an opportunity to play such roles outside the theatre. Ive been the generic bad guy in New Zealand so this really allowed me a chance to flex myself. It was my first chance outside theatre to put myself in a stringent environment where I was forced to confront unfamiliar areas."
Smith and Danielle both undertook extended auditions and work-shops with the director. "We brought in other actors to play Cassandra and Tony, but we knew from that first audition that Danielle and Kevin were Bunnie and Geoff," says Parker. "They just smoulder on screen its quite electric."
Developing the characters and the script in this way resulted in strong bonds being formed: "Once I got into the script I discovered its actually very exposing," comments Smith. "The only way to approach such work was if we all had absolute faith in each other. After a couple of weeks rehearsing Danielle and I looked at each other across the room and realised we trusted each other completely."
"Christine has some great strengths," says De Nave. "She works exceptionally well with actors: They trust her to take them to places they never thought they would have the courage to go."
One of the challenges of the roles was to translate the immense love between Bunnie and Geoff to the screen. Comments De Nave: "It was very important that Geoff and Bunnie made us believe that they were passionately in love. Often, you see actors in a love story and its clear that as people they dont really have a connection. It was therefore vital that we found two actors whom you felt were made for each other. Kevin and Danielle are really great together. Youre completely convinced that they love each other and cant keep their hands off each other."
"When your characters in love or they share an intimate experience with someone, it can be quite harrowing at the beginning," admits Cormack. "But I loved working with Kevin because he was so open. He was very relaxed, but at the same time he really appreciated that we had to do these very intimate things together. It could have been a really scary experience but it wasnt at all."
As a result, she developed a strong attachment to the characters. "I got really protective about Geoff, because Bunnie is so in love with him. I was like hes my man! Youre not allowed to touch him!"
Describing the project as "an actors playground", she relished "the opportunity to play a character who could be intensely happy and intensely sad. Portraying the experience of being deeply in love and then losing that, losing all that is dear to you."
Geoff is traumatised as a result of his experiences in Vietnam. The challenge of portraying a life laid bare was a big attraction for the actor and he was both excited and frightened at not being able to fall back on the actors handbook: "You cant get away with, for example, sadness #103. But as an actor you have to put yourself into situations of discomfort. The moment you start to feel safe youre going to wonder what youre doing it for. With this film I felt constantly in peril, which I think is a great sign for the movie."
The twisted lines of time and truth are deeply confused in the head of Bunnie and Geoffs neighbour Tony, played by JOEL TOBECK. In his mind he is responsible for the mayhem that ensues.
"When I first read the script I thought it was really well written" comments Tobeck. "The different scenarios, everyones different version of the story, I found immensely appealing".
Tobeck also has a long association with various members of the cast and crew and has worked extensively with Kevin Smith, Danielle Cormack, Christine Parker and Caterina De Nave. This closeness lead to an ease of communication throughout the course of the project. "Hes a very easy actor to work with," comments De Nave, "hes full of ideas and also willing to try out new approaches."
In the film we see Tony both as a boy and an adult. "Joel has a boyish quality that was really attractive," comments Writer/Director Christine Parker. "He had traits that connected him to the child actor who plays his character as a young boy. At the same time, he can convey a slight edginess thats quite fascinating."
"Tony has a wicked imagination that gets the better of him," says Tobeck. "It puts him into a rather unpleasant situation."
The power of Tonys delusions, sends his sister Cassandra careering, head full of half-truths and unrequited yearnings.
As both femme fatale and innocent, AMBER SAINSBURY saw her character "evolving throughout the script. All I did was lend Cassandra my body and the lines and circumstances, my fellow actors gave me everything else," she says modestly.
Parker and De Nave cast their net wide for an actor to fill the role. From a final short list of two Sainsbury shone out and was hungry for the part. "The whole project was just really compelling and working with Christine was phenomenal. I would have done anything to be involved."
"Its a great story about real people," she continues. "It doesnt need a lot of special effects. It starts at the performance level with the characters and their lives. Thats whats so special about it."
Caterina De Nave recounts the excitement that Sainsbury caused early on in the project. "I remember her first rushes. When Amber appeared everyone literally drew breath. They moved forward in their seats, looked to the screen and were just captivated."
"Amber has this incredible magnetism on screen", agrees Parker, "the camera just loves her. She has an intensity thats really spellbinding."
Having assembled their ideal cast, creating a coherent team was also essential. "I wanted a group of people around me who understood and cared what I was trying to do in the film," says Parker.
Setting a major portion in the 1970s allowed for much freedom of expression. "The 70s are such a goldmine of colour and style", she explains. "But we specifically set out to locate the film in New Zealand in the 70s, because that period was really quite unique here."
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