ACTOR MATTHEW LE NEVEZ IS STILL APPROACHED BY OBSESSED OFFSPRING FANS. BUT EVEN WHEN THINGS GET WEIRD, HE TAKES IT IN HIS STRIDE
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.”
“AS A KID I ASKED A FAMOUS FOOTBALLER FOR AN AUTOGRAPH AND HE WAS RUDE”
DR DREAMY Matthew Le Nevez with his Offspring co-star Asher Keddie.