Dark side of Ca­ton

Michael Ca­ton has suf­fered like his Packed to the Rafters char­ac­ter, write Erin McWhirter and Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

MICHAEL Ca­ton plays a grand­fa­ther, Ted Tay­lor, who con­fronts de­pres­sion and sui­ci­dal thoughts af­ter the death of his wife, Louise, in Packed to the Rafters.

The lone­li­ness of life without Louise sends him into emo­tional free fall and he takes to wear­ing her night­gown be­cause the scent re­minds him of his de­parted love.

Ca­ton, the man be­hind such mem­o­rable char­ac­ters as su­per op­ti­mist Dar­ryl Ker­ri­gan in The Cas­tle, Dr Wilder in The An­i­mal and Harry Sul­li­van in 1970s TV drama The Sul­li­vans, is only now start­ing to cri­tique his work in rat­ings smash Rafters.

He’s just re­turned to his Bondi home af­ter a six-week Euro­pean hol­i­day with his wife He­len and is study­ing his por­trayal of Ted to work out how ef­fec­tive he’s been in bring­ing depth and au­then­tic­ity to the char­ac­ter.

‘‘I’m still work­ing on him (Ted) and he’s been so in­ter­est­ing to play,’’ Ca­ton says.

‘‘I haven’t seen many eps (episodes) but caught some the other day and said ‘I don’t like what you’re do­ing there, you’re go­ing to have to work on that’ . . . just things you pick up and man­ner­isms you no­tice.

‘‘Some you like and some you don’t. It’s an on­go­ing process and you just can’t af­ford to rest on your lau­rels. But I have to ad­mit I was glad the re­ally big emo­tional stuff was done at the start.’’

In real life Ca­ton has had his own bat­tles with de­pres­sion, or ‘‘the black dog’’ as he calls it.

Ca­ton’s low point came when he went through an act­ing drought in the lead-up to the hit film The Cas­tle. He en­dured times so lean it was hardly worth fil­ing a tax re­turn and he thought his act­ing ca­reer was over.

‘‘It was hard, bad be­fore The Cas­tle came along,’’ Ca­ton has said.

‘‘I had to face a lot of things about my­self. I had to get help. It was the old black dog, de­pres­sion. I had to try to straighten out my life­style.

‘‘Deal­ing with de­pres­sion took about 12 months and it in­volved a lot of hard work, I can tell you. I got around to get­ting pro­fes­sional help for it. I’d had it be­fore and I just had to keep at it, to buckle down and try to beat it.’’

De­spite four decades of act­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Ca­ton, who re­cently ap­peared on stage in Mel­bourne in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, says he hasn’t given the young cast on Packed to the Rafters much ad­vice.

In­stead, he be­lieves they need to feel their way around the in­dus­try as he did.

‘‘You just pass on lit­tle bits and pieces,’’ he says.

‘‘You don’t want to say too much be­cause you’ve been in the sit­u­a­tion your­self and I re­mem­ber when I first came in to do The Sul­li­vans and it was a huge learn­ing curve. I had never done film be­fore and you would see play­backs af­ter your scene and think ‘Oh, God, look what I did there, oh no’.

‘‘You just don’t want to in­ter­fere too much be­cause you can see through the first se­ries every­one is find­ing their feet. But the young peo­ple in that ( Packed to the Rafters) show are fan­tas­tic.’’

Ca­ton isn’t the sort of per­son to court con­tro­versy, but he re­cently hit the head­lines in a bit­ter slang­ing match with US com­edy star Rob Sch­nei­der.

Ten­sions be­tween the two erupted af­ter Ca­ton claimed Sch­nei­der had stolen the cen­tral theme of his movie Strange Bed­fel­lows for friend Adam San­dler’s I Now Pro­nounce You Chuck and Larry.

Strange Bed­fel­lows, which costars Paul Ho­gan, re­volves around two fire­men who pre­tend to be gay to ac­cess ben­e­fits. I Now Pro­nounce You Chuck and Larry has the same premise. Ca­ton had given Sch­nei­der a DVD of his film when they worked to­gether on The An­i­mal.

Sch­nei­der shot back to say that he never watched the DVD and used it as a beer coaster.

Dur­ing a re­cent trip to Aus­tralia to pro­mote new film Big Stan, Sch­nei­der said he had ex­tended Ca­ton an olive branch in the form of a ‘‘nice Christ­mas mes­sage’’ that was ig­nored.

Ca­ton’s ver­sion of events is quite dif­fer­ent.

‘‘The whole story was back to front,’’ Ca­ton says.

‘‘We sent him a Christ­mas card and we got . . . this email back which I didn’t re­ally want to deal with. I thought, ‘No, I’m just go­ing to let this all go’. But at some stage next week there will be a re­ply from me to him in pri­vate.

‘‘Suf­fice to say that Rob’s idea of what hap­pened is quite se­lec­tive.

‘‘I re­gret this whole thing . . . but I’m stick­ing to my guns about what hap­pened.’’

Black mo­ments:

Michael Ca­ton’s low­est point came when he couldn’t find act­ing work. He was ul­ti­mately res­cued by the huge suc­cess of The Cas­tle.

Pic­ture: NORM OORLOFF

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