To hell and back

Steve Le Mar­quand over­came his demons, writes Dar­ren Dev­lyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

STEVE Le Mar­quand has been forg­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as one of our most force­ful and in­tu­itive char­ac­ter ac­tors.

Le Mar­quand, who is in Syd­ney film­ing a role in Un­der­belly: Ra­zor, first made an im­pres­sion in clas­sic 1999 Aussie crime movie Two Hands and has shone in war dra­mas Kokoda, Be­neath Hill 60 and Hol­ly­wood ac­tion flick Ver­ti­cal Limit.

Ar­guably the stand­out role of his film ca­reer, how­ever, has been in the con­fronting and claus­tro­pho­bic Last Train to Freo, in which Le Mar­quand plays a leer­ing ex-con­vict who cre­ates havoc on a late-night sub­ur­ban train.

The film is a nail-bit­ing af­fair. Is Le Mar­quand, billed as ‘‘ The Tall Thug’’, sim­ply a lout who en­joys play­ing mind games with a law stu­dent­pas­sen­ger (Gigi Ed­g­ley), or is he ca­pa­ble of some­thing more sin­is­ter?

This abil­ity to por­tray du­plic­ity makes Le Mar­quand the per­fect can­di­date for his first lead TV role— the crim with a con­science, Tony Pic­colo, in com­edy-crime se­ries Small Time Gang­ster.

Pic­colo’s fam­ily thinks he’s a car­pet cleaner, but when he be­gins to lose his nerve in his se­cret life as a stan­dover man, his two worlds col­lide.

Le Mar­quand is a rev­e­la­tion, but you won’t hear him pump­ing up his own tyres.

True to his un­pre­ten­tious na­ture, he says: ‘‘ It is my first lead role in TV and I looked at who was around me — peo­ple like Bill Hunter, Gary Sweet, Gia Carides and Sacha Hor­ler — and thought, ‘ I have to pull my fin­ger out here’.

‘‘ I put a lot of pres­sure on my­self. That drags you out of the gut­ter to their level.

‘‘ I don’t have the pro­file of any­one in this group. I’m not be­ing overly mod­est. I’m fine to sit at the bot­tom of that pile.

‘‘ If I hadn’t been ner­vous be­fore the start of shoot­ing, I’d have been wor­ried. You don’t want to f---it up.’’

But Le Mar­quand says his life ex­pe­ri­ence was solid prepa­ra­tion for play­ing hard man Pic­colo.

‘‘ In my youth, I did hang out with some guys like my char­ac­ter — blokes who have been in prison,’’ he ex­plains.

Le Mar­quand pulls no punches when de­scrib­ing the course his own life and ca­reer has taken.

He’s had a string of im­pres­sive screen and theatre cred­its, but con­cedes he’s made one ma­jor blun­der in his work­ing life.

Le Mar­quand was once the party guy – the go-to man when any of his mates were look­ing for a fun night on the town.

The hell-rais­ing came to an abrupt end af­ter a drink­ing session with ac­tor Clive Owen.

Le Mar­quand was in Namibia with Owen and An­gelina Jolie for a role in the Martin Camp­bell-di­rected movie Be­yond Borders, but was forced to pull out of the pro­duc­tion af­ter a drink­ing binge re­sulted in a two-week stint in in­ten­sive care.

‘‘ I was a func­tion­ing al­co­holic at the time — I was ba­si­cally killing my­self with booze and hav­ing a pretty good time do­ing it,’’ Le Mar­quand says.

‘‘ I was get­ting pretty soz­zled most nights and week­ends and had no in­ten­tion of stop­ping.

‘‘ So when I got crook in Namibia — I got on the sauce with Clive Owen— the doc­tor said I can never drink again.

‘‘ I was in a cot­tage hos­pi­tal in Namibia when they di­ag­nosed me with se­vere pan­cre­ati­tis. They said, ‘ We bet­ter get him out of here (to a higher stan­dard of med­i­cal care) or he’s go­ing to die’.

‘‘ They got a jet and flew me to Cape Town and I made it there by the skin of my teeth.

‘‘ When I came out of what was os­ten­si­bly a coma and the doc­tor said, ‘ You can never drink again’, it was like a mas­sive weight had been lifted from my shoul­ders. It was a turn­ing point in my life. It forced me to take stock and clean up my act and I’ve not had a drink since.’’

Le Mar­quand has the at­tributes that would ap­peal to US cast­ing agents, but seems happy work­ing in Aus­tralia.

Af­ter com­plet­ing film­ing on Small Time Gang­ster, Le Mar­quand was signed for a role in the much-an­tic­i­pated Un­der­belly: Ra­zor.

Chelsie Pre­ston Cray­ford, a rel­a­tively un­known Kiwi, has scored the lead of Tilly Devine in Ra­zor, which cen­tres on Syd­ney’s ‘‘ bloody and bru­tal’’ ra­zor gangs of the 1920s.

Le Mar­quand plays Whar­ton ‘‘ Syd’’ Thompson, a mem­ber of Syd­ney’s first drug squad. Whar­ton is a staunch cop with old-fash­ioned val­ues and is ev­ery bit as tough as the crims he’s chas­ing.

Un­der­belly: Ra­zor will pre­miere on Nine later this year. Small Time Gang­ster, Movie Ex­tra, Sun­day, 6.30pm

Steve Le Mar­quand has spe­cialised in

play­ing du­plic­i­tous char­ac­ters. Main pic­ture: Manuela Cifra

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