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Denise Young The Last Ride  March 21, 2017 – 04:18 pm

Hugo Weaving as KevDenise young
australian writer

Last Ride film, starring Hugo Weaving

by Denise Young

About The Last Ride, the film

While the book was set around Broken Hill in NSW, the film's locations are all in South Australia's outback, particularly around the Flinders Ranges and the old town of Quorn where Afghan-led camel trains used to pass, bringing supplies to and from outback stations.

These locations are spectacular for their rocky, mountainous surrounds and give a sense of the mystery and emptiness of the vast landscape, a kind of parallel to the emotional and moral emptiness of Kev, the father in the story.

Kev is played by
Hugo Weaving, and his son, Chook, through whose eyes the story unfolds, is a ten year old actor from Adelaide called Tom Russell. Tom and Hugo have already developed a great rapport, essential in a story in which both appear in almost all scenes. Supporting actors include Anita Hegh as Maryanne, an old girlfriend of Kev's, whom he hopes will give them shelter. Kev and Chook are searching fruitlessly for a sense of belonging, to a place, a culture or a wider family.

The novel was optioned for a film in 2001, and a number of drafts of the screenplay were written by Mac Gudgeon, a Melbourne scriptwriter, before the shooting script was arrived at. The film is being directed by Glendyn Ivin, whose short film 'Cracker Bag' won a Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2003, and the director of photography is Greig Fraser. The co-producers are Nicholas Cole and Antonia Barnard, most recently a producer on 'The Painted Veil'.

Hugo Weaving & Denise Young on setThe film is set to preview at the Adelaide International Film Festival in late February 2009, and there are hopes it may be invited to Cannes in May as the first feature film of a former winner. General release in Australia is expected in late 2009.

On set with Hugo, Tom and Mr Right

By Denise Young

It's no limo that delivers me to Quorn in outback South Australia to visit the set of the movie 'The Last Ride' based on a book with the same title that I wrote. I've got butterflies in my stomach and deep misgivings as I putter up in the gutless pram with an engine that I hired in Adelaide, through the flatness of Spencer Gulf country towards Port Augusta: misgivings about what I'm doing there and how I'll be treated. After all, I've seen 'Adaptation', where the writer Charlie Kaufman is evicted from the set of 'Being John Malkovich' for getting in the cameraman's eyeline. Mac Gudgeon, the scriptwriter who turned my book into the movie currently being shot, told me writers were about as much use on set as spare pricks on a honeymoon.

There's a bigger question as well. 'The Last Ride' is my baby. Strangers are about to turn my baby into another kind of beast altogether. Will I like or hate what I see?

Everything seems good on paper. Mac showed me the first two drafts of the film script, even though he wasn't obliged to under the terms of the contract in which I'd sold him the option, and he encouraged my feedback. I felt that he'd stayed true to the spirit of the book and, above all, that he loved my two main characters, father and son, Kev and Chook, as much as I did. Indeed I thought that as a man he'd found some other more masculine elements in that relationship. However, I haven't seen the final shooting script and don't even know how it ends. The endings that Mac has come up with in the drafts I've seen so far are more dramatic than the one I chose in the book, but I'm prepared to take on trust whatever they arrive at, knowing that film demands a more dramatic climax than literature.

Tom Russell & Mr RightThe director, Glendyn Ivin, and the director of photography, Greg Fraser, are both highly regarded. Producers Nick Cole and Antonia Barnard have steered the film through all the hoops and hoopla with love and terrier-like intensity, snapping at the heels of funding bodies till they got the money to make it.
Nick bought the option to turn my novel into a film six years earlier, before it was published. He'd seen the manuscript courtesy of our shared agent. The option ran initially for three years then was renewed for another three. During that six years Nick moved steadily through the various stages required to get a film funded.

First of all he engaged the Melbourne scriptwriter Mac Gudgeon, author of many TV scripts and the film 'The Delinquents', and the various drafts of the script were then funded by Film Victoria. Another producer came on board, the very experienced Antonia Barnard, one of whose recent productions was 'The Painted Veil'.

Then an up and coming director, Glendyn Ivin, who won a prize at Cannes for his short film 'Cracker Bag' in 2003 and was looking at various ideas for his first feature film, became attached to this project. He told me later that what drew him to it was its exploration of the father/son relationship.

Finally internationally and locally acclaimed actor Hugo Weaving committed. Films need all these alignments of enthusiasm from big and well respected names to attract funding from government and private investors if they're to have a show of attracting even the minimal budgets they need. This film's budget is $4 million.

I checked my stars that morning: Taureans were promised a great day, with exciting events about to unfold. There was a hitch the night before which perhaps signalled a bad omen however. I was staying at a friend's government flat in Port Augusta when we managed to lock ourselves out at 11.30pm on a freezing winter's night in our pyjamas without money or phone, while going to check on something I'd left in the car. The only place open in town was MacDonalds. Its car park was a bleak place, the icy wind whipping round our pyjama clad legs while we tried to persuade the two astonished kids on duty at the takeaway window to lend us a phone and let us ring the only locksmith in town, who eventually woke up, got out of bed and came round to let us in around 12.30 am.

I didn't get a lot of sleep with all that going on and know I'm not looking my best when I hiccup into Quorn looking for Fifth Street. It isn't hard to find. They go in order, in the tiny and very attractive town, with broad streets, old stone houses and an ancient steam train that run on the weekends through the Pichi Richi cut. I see that Fifth Street is blocked off with tape to stop cars entering, and there are the usual large vans and film people bustling purposefully about. There's a crowd of neighbours hovering, waiting for excitment to strike.

Somebody with an armful of costumes is getting out of one of the ubiquitous four wheel drives that power and transport a film's cast and crew when I pull up, so I nervously introduce myself. Her reaction is reassuring: 'Oh how wonderful to meet you. I loved your book!!!' The producers have been kind enough to order a dozen copies of my book for cast and crew to read while they were hanging round on set.


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