To hell and back
Steve Le Marquand overcame his demons, writes Darren Devlyn
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