Will’s new way of life

Wil­liam Mcinnes is busy again, but he’s do­ing it with­out his beloved part­ner, writes An­drew Fen­ton

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

WIL­LIAM Mcinnes is try­ing his hard­est to be jovial. He cracks jokes, calls me ‘‘ old cock’’ a lot and does a rather neat im­per­son­ation of Ray Win­stone.

But to­day it seems a lit­tle forced — as if he’s go­ing through the mo­tions.

It’s been a try­ing time for the Seachange and Blue Heel­ers ac­tor since he lost his wife, much-loved film­maker Sarah Watt, to can­cer in Novem­ber. As he talks about fac­ing life with­out her, he be­gins to open up.

‘‘ It’s an odd feel­ing of be­ing aban­doned and ma­rooned, but it’s no one’s fault and it’s just a new way of liv­ing your life,’’ he says. ‘‘ That can be ter­ri­bly hard to com­pre­hend, es­pe­cially when it’s sort of public.

‘‘ It’s not that you don’t laugh or you stop hav­ing fun or en­joy­ing life, you just know some­thing’s not quite right. Some­times it’s just too hard and you can’t deal with it and you just feel like jump­ing in a hole.’’

Mcinnes and Watt mar­ried two decades ago when he was an un­em­ployed ac­tor with poor prospects. They had two chil­dren, Clem, now 18, and Stella, 13, and set­tled into a com­fort­able fam­ily life in Footscray, in Melbourne’s western sub­urbs.

It was dur­ing post-pro­duc­tion on Watt’s ac­claimed Look Both Ways, in which Mcinnes starred, that Watt was first di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer. Hav­ing thought she’d beaten the dis­ease, it re­turned as sec­ondary, ter­mi­nal bone can­cer soon af­ter the re­lease of My Year With­out Sex in 2009. Mcinnes is as philo­soph­i­cal as you can be given the cir­cum­stances.

‘‘ There are lots of peo­ple who go through these sorts of things and it’s not any­one’s spe­cial cross to bear,’’ he says. ‘‘ I know one thing — lots of peo­ple bang on about he­roes as the sort of peo­ple who’ve got their por­traits hang­ing in gal­leries, but you know what? When you’re fac­ing a se­ri­ous life-threat­en­ing, or ter­mi­nal ill­ness, those peo­ple are coura­geous be­yond de­scrip­tion.’’

Not long be­fore she died, the cou­ple re­leased a heart­felt book to­gether— her ‘‘ gift’’ he calls it — about their re­la­tion­ship and fam­ily called Worse Things Can Hap­pen At Sea. A few weeks ago it won the In­die award for best non-fic­tion book; an hon­our that touched Mcinnes deeply.

‘‘ I’m not that proud of many of the things I’ve done, but this one is a cracker of a book,’’ he says. ‘‘ I know that it will mean a lot to the kids, and I know from the re­ac­tion I’ve re­ceived it’s meant a lot to a lot of peo­ple. The book has the idea that if you just take stock and count what you do have (rather than what you don’t have) most of the time you re­alise you’re pretty blessed.’’ Although Mcinnes could be for­given for dis­ap­pear­ing from public life, he’s ac­tu­ally busier than ever. He’s fin­ish­ing off his new novel Laugh­ing Clowns, for re­lease in Oc­to­ber and he’s just started shoot­ing an ABC tele­movie called Dan­ger­ous Rem­edy. He plays the head of homi­cide caught up in the cor­rup­tion and deaths sur­round­ing the il­le­gal abor­tion rings that ex­isted in Vic­to­ria in the 1960s.

‘‘ He was a guy who was part of the sys­tem back then, he wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad guy, but just got mixed up in the line be­tween com­pro­mise and cor­rup­tion,’’ he says.

And Mcinnes’s new se­ries Auc­tion Room be­gins on the ABC on April 15.

It was Watt who en­cour­aged him to take the Auc­tion Room host­ing job when it was of­fered last year. ‘‘ Sarah said ‘ yeah, go on it’d be fun’,’’ he says. ‘‘ I think she just wanted me out of the house.’’

The se­ries looks at the hu­man drama and sto­ries sur­round­ing peo­ple com­pelled to sell off their cher­ished pos­ses­sions. Mcinnes calls it ‘‘ en­ter­tain­ment with a brain’’ and the peo­ple fea­tured in­clude ev­ery­one from Elvis im­per­son­ators flog­ging off mem­o­ra­bilia, to peo­ple in high so­ci­ety auc­tion­ing off a life­time’s col­lec­tion of an­tiques.

‘‘ I haven’t seen it yet,’’ he says. ‘‘ But I can as­sure your readers it’s prob­a­bly the most pow­er­ful piece of tele­vi­sion they’re likely to see this year.’’

Mcinnes laughs. ‘‘ It’s like a pleas­ant half hour of tele­vi­sion. It’s one of those shows where you can kick off your shoes, sit back and meet some nice, funny folk.’’ Auc­tion Room, ABC1, April 15, 6pm Busy: Mcinnes has a new show and tele­movie.

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