SWING BACK TO THE ’70S
PRISCILLA DIRECTOR STEPHAN ELLIOTT TAKES A TRIP TO A SIMPLER TIME
If you grew up in the 1970s like filmmaker Stephan Elliott, he aims to fill you with a warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia and embarrassment with his new Aussie comedy Swinging Safari.
The director, best known for his ground-breaking film The Adventures of
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, delves into the “lost decade” in this homage to his childhood growing up on the suburban streets and beaches of Dee Why.
“It’s a trip down memory lane,” he says. “I have a Priscilla problem, where people expect a film that will change the world in some way, but this is a flip through mine and everybody else’s photo album (from that era).
“It triggers memories, a lot of laughs and a lot of embarrassment.”
Swinging Safari follows three families during an eventful week in the summer of 1975. When their beach town suddenly hits the spotlight after the body of a 200-ton whale is washed ashore, teens Jeff and Melly think it’s the biggest thing that ever happened in their lives. Meanwhile, their eccentric parents are experimenting with the sexual revolution at a fondue night.
“It’s loosely based on my childhood, but when you make a film about a time and place everybody’s got a story to tell,” Elliott says.
“It was a goldmine of people who felt like they had to purge their dreadful childhoods – dreadful in a funny way. It was a time before political correctness and helicopter parenting when kids ran amok and parents got drunk.”
The film boasts a talented Aussie cast including Guy Pearce, Asher Keddie, Radha Mitchell and Kylie Minogue in her first leading film role in more than a decade.
“Getting to work with Kylie was the icing on the cake,” Elliott says.
“Priscilla was going to be an ode to Kylie but I never got to do it... I had always denied it in interviews but by the time the stage show came around I managed to revert back to the original ideas... that opened a channel between Kylie and I.”
In her role as Kaye Hall, wife to Pearce’s tanned and moustachioed Keith, Minogue enjoyed a great degree of anonymity while filming on the Gold Coast.
“She came on deck knowing she had the pop star persona and I did my absolute best to completely bury it,” Elliott says.
“The first day she saw her costume and wig she almost burst into tears. I said ‘That pop star is gone love’.
“But there was a point where we were shooting in the middle of the Gold Coast and she was just wandering around saying ‘I’ve never had freedom like this’.
“No one blinked because she looked like a dowdy housewife. There were no (requests for) selfies, no autographs. She said it was the greatest vacation from Kylie.”
Nothing was too kitsch for Elliott and his production team who built or made anything they couldn’t source from op shops.
“We looked at what Australia looked like at the time and it wasn’t just kitsch, it was a mess of everything,” he says.
“One thing we have learned is to beg, borrow and steal. I saw the most stunning garden furniture in a house and I just jumped over the fence and threw it over. We returned it of course.”
For a film about a “plotless” decade,
Swinging Safari is anything but boring. “The ’60s was the sexual revolution and then suddenly everything calmed down,” Elliott says.
“People had jobs, money... It was a weird moment where there was a lot of freedom. It was a lost decade where people didn’t know what to do. We were completely plotless.”