Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - By VIC­TO­RIA HANNAFORD

Aus­tralian ac­tor Matthew Le Nevez on fame, fa­ther­hood and why he’ll never take his suc­cess for granted.

For Matthew Le Nevez, fame has taken on some un­ex­pected di­men­sions. To many of his fans, he’ll for­ever be Dr Pa­trick Reid from the small-screen hit Off­spring, and at the height of his char­ac­ter’s pop­u­lar­ity, things got just a lit­tle weird.

“Back when Pa­trick died, it was kind of out of con­trol – it was in­sane. I had some­one pro­pose to me, I had some­one ask for my sperm if they ever wanted to have a kid – two peo­ple, actually, on live ra­dio,” he says. “I had some­one tell me their girl­friend broke up with them be­cause they weren’t the ideal boyfriend, like Pa­trick was.”

The recog­ni­tion for that role has en­dured long since Pa­trick was largely writ­ten out of the se­ries in 2013 (he’s made the oc­ca­sional post­hu­mous ap­pear­ance in fan­tasy scenes), and he’s since gar­nered fur­ther crit­i­cal ac­claim for his per­for­mances in small-screen hits Love Child, Parer’s War, Brock and The Ket­ter­ing In­ci­dent.

But rather than rail­ing against the con­nec­tion to one char­ac­ter out of his many and var­ied roles, Le Nevez, 38, says he never takes suc­cess for granted.

“In your ca­reer, you prob­a­bly have more misses than you have hits, so when some­thing works, it’s im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate it be­cause it’s unique and fleet­ing,” he says. “Off­spring has been one of the high­lights; it re­ally gave my ca­reer a shot in the arm.”

That grat­i­tude also ap­plies to the adu­la­tion Le Nevez re­ceives from fans, even if they only view him as Pa­trick. “Off­spring gave [me] the op­por­tu­nity to meet a lot of strangers; I re­ally loved it,” he says. “As a kid, I went up to a very fa­mous foot­ball player and asked for his au­to­graph, and he was re­ally rude to me. It shook me to the core and I cried. To this day, I still can’t stand that foot­ball player.

“It made me re­alise that when you are in the pub­lic eye and some­one comes up to say hello, it takes a de­gree of courage to talk to a stranger. I al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate it – you never know who you might meet. You might be able to help some­one chase their own dream.”

While he’s had a huge amount of lo­cal suc­cess, Le Nevez lives in the States. He moved there eight years ago, and although the ac­tor is ea­ger to keep his pri­vate life out of the spot­light, his love of his part­ner, Michelle Smith, and their two-year-old son, Levi, prompts him to briefly drop his guard.

Speaking to Stel­lar from his home in Cal­i­for­nia, Le Nevez says he’s en­joy­ing down­time with his fam­ily.

“I was away last year for three months, and the year be­fore it was more like nine months,” he says. “I’m cur­rently try­ing to get as much qual­ity time in with [Levi] be­fore he goes off to preschool. It’s very spe­cial, be­ing a dad.”

Le Nevez is con­scious of try­ing to bal­ance his ca­reer and home life, but his ded­i­ca­tion to act­ing is ev­i­dent. He’s prone to “method” prepa­ra­tion, which means un­der­tak­ing ex­ten­sive re­search for each role. Tak­ing on a rac­ing car driver for last year’s Peter Brock minis­eries was par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able be­cause, he ad­mits, he’s a bit of a revhead.

“I have rid­den mo­tor­bikes since I was six years old, and I’ve crashed about five in my life,” he con­fesses. “Don’t get me wrong, when I’ve got my fam­ily in the car, I’m a grandad; a very slow driver. But I loved learn­ing to drive prop­erly – I spent time with a guy who was one of Aus­tralia’s drift cham­pi­ons and he taught me a few things.”

Can he do donuts now? “Oh yeah, ab­so­lutely. De­pends on the car, ba­si­cally,” he says, with a touch of glee.

Other sur­pris­ing de­tails emerge dur­ing Le Nevez’s chat with Stel­lar. Liv­ing in the US as Don­ald Trump came to power has given him in­sight into the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

“I prob­a­bly should tweet less about [Trump] be­cause I don’t think any­one cares about my po­lit­i­cal views,” he says – but he’s actually a po­lit­i­cal vet­eran.

“I grew up in Canberra and my mother was PA to Bob Hawke, so I grew up in the Aus­tralian La­bor Party. My grandad drove a COMCAR [a car ser­vice for politi­cians]; he drove Gough Whit­lam around. I used to go to The Lodge for Christ­mas – I knew Bob’s grand­kids, Keat­ing’s daugh­ters. I grew up in Old Par­lia­ment House, be­fore the new one was built. I re­mem­ber run­ning around the new one be­fore they’d even opened it up.”

Le Nevez says he still keeps a keen eye on Aus­tralian pol­i­tics and cul­ture, and he’s im­mensely proud of his lat­est project, up­com­ing film Aus­tralia Day, which will be re­leased later this year, and features an en­sem­ble cast in­clud­ing Bryan Brown. He plays a po­lice of­fi­cer in a story that un­folds over 12 hours on Aus­tralia Day.

“It’s re­ally rel­e­vant in to­day’s world, where things are chang­ing rapidly po­lit­i­cally, and there’s a lot of un­rest,” he says. “It was a script that I couldn’t stop turn­ing the page. It’s in­ter­est­ing in the way it deals with Aus­tralian race re­la­tions and what it means to be Aus­tralian; what it means to be Aus­tralian on Aus­tralia Day.

“It’s a topic that comes up now ev­ery year and it’s not easy to an­swer – be­ing Aus­tralian means some­thing dif­fer­ent to ev­ery­body. What’s beau­ti­ful about this movie is it re­ally fo­cuses on the dif­fer­ences be­tween us at the start of the film, which is what a lot of pol­i­tics is do­ing in the mod­ern world. Then, by the end, it shows us we’re all the same.”

Le Nevez may soon add an­other role to his cred­its: he’s cur­rently fin­ish­ing a script he hopes will be­come a TV se­ries.

“I’ve had these ideas for 10 years now,” he says. “Friends of mine who are ac­tors have writ­ten stuff and di­rected movies; [ac­tor, writer, direc­tor] Bren­dan Cow­ell is a good mate of mine, I’ve gone on to watch Joel [Edger­ton] do stuff and Da­mon Gameau, who just did That Sugar Film, is a re­ally dear friend.

“They’ve been im­plor­ing me to write for a lit­tle while, so I bit the bul­let and started writ­ing some­thing late last year. Hope­fully a couple of pro­duc­ers I’ve worked with are in­ter­ested in read­ing it and maybe we can start de­vel­op­ing some­thing.

“As an ac­tor you’re al­ways at the mercy of other peo­ple’s sto­ries; it might be nice to actually be able to give back and write some­thing my­self.”



DR DREAMY Matthew Le Nevez with his Off­spring co-star Asher Ked­die.

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