A NEW SENSATION
Luke Arnold and Georgina Haig shine as Michael and Paula in INXS: Never Tear Us Apart
ON a semi-darkened set in a Melbourne warehouse, Luke Arnold is channelling late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence.
The resemblance is uncanny. The languid walk, the tousled, ‘I-don’tcare’ hair, leather pants and almost-transparent black, long-sleeved T-shirt are pure rock star.
Georgina Haig skips on to the set, her crocheted yellow mini-dress over bright yellow underwear and cute bunched pig-tails the exact replica of the outfit Paula Yates wore for the infamous 1994 UK Big Breakfast television interview that gave away the pair’s attraction to the world.
The set itself – bed, gaudy side-table and garish cushions – is a painstaking recreation of the one on which Yates conducted flirty interviews and caught stars off guard as her sexy cheekiness lulled them into startling confessions.
Off-set, a laptop computer, paused on footage of the original scene, is checked and re-checked as the actors settle on the bed.
The director calls action. Haig adjusts her leg over Arnold’s and asks “why are you releasing a greatest hits album?”.
“Because we have a lot of hits,” replies Arnold’s Hutchence, touching hand to mouth.
It’s a scene so intimate and seductive that the viewer feels almost like an intruder.
Off-set, an involuntary whisper escapes original INXS band member Kirk Pengilly’s lips.
“This is so eerie,” he marvels, back in 1994, when the scene played out for real.
Finally, the director calls cut, and Arnold and Haig drop the act and return to what they are – in real life – friends who met at WAAPA (West Australian Academy of Performing Arts) and until now had worked together only when they were rehearsing for pilot season in Los Angeles a few years ago.
“I’ve known George (Georgina) since 2006, we’re old friends,” says Arnold.
“For us this was a scene we could have a lot of fun with. There were great interviews between Michael and Paula we could use, and this great playful fun relationship.
“That Big Breakfast interview was something I think viewers felt they shouldn’t be watching, because it was just so intimate. Our challenge was always to make it feel like that.”
The scene was no more or less awkward than any other, says Haig.
“It’s always funny when you get thrown in these situations with someone you know,” she says.
She says a later raunchy sex scene was even less romantic in the making.
“You both kind of know where the furniture is, and it’s perfunctory – so underwear off, then zip, then boob … it’s broken down into this very choreographed process, where you both know what’s happening where,” she laughs.
Haig plays one of Hutchence’s big loves in INXS: Never Tear Us
Apart, an epic that spans more than 20 years of the band’s rise to international fame.
For Arnold, that meant playing not one, but several versions of Hutchence – a feat achieved through endless hours of research and input from original INXS members and management.
“Because we are telling so much of the INXS story there is more than one Michael to portray,” Arnold says. “Movement was the key – finding the way he held himself. His walk is not a strut – there are a lot of elements. Thinking of Michael as a beautiful woman helped. It’s not a masculine energy, but it’s a kind of confident sexual energy.
“I think of him as a man who’s never in a rush.
“He’s never worried about taking up someone else’s time or them taking up his time. He’s in the moment.
“He’ll give himself completely whether it’s a lover, or just someone who’s talking to him or an interviewer.
“He lived life to the limits. His highs were high and his lows were low. I don’t think he spent much time in the middle.
“He was an intellectual and a philosopher in that he was interested in words, but he was very much in his head.
“But because he was friends with all these musicians and he wrote poems fate put him as a front man in a band.
“Turns out he’s one of the best front men that ever walked the earth.”