Wayne Hope, producer, writer & actor, 50
To many you’ll always be Wayne Kerrigan, the older brother doing time for armed robbery in The Castle (1997). What does that film mean to you? It has been an absolute gift. At a Working Dog [production company] reunion last year we all told stories about the general public quoting the film back to us over the years. I was at the lights in St Kilda once and a rough-looking guy wound his car window down and said [deep voice]: “How’s Mum?” I played along: “Good.” Then he said: “How’s Dad?” I thought, “Oh god, we’re going to do the whole scene!” What a deep impression that film made.
You write, produce, act and direct with your wife Robyn Butler in your production company Gristmill (Upper Middle Bogan, Little Lunch). Any pitfalls? I worry that my answer will be so naff and people will be rolling their eyes. But it just works. I absolutely love working with Robyn – and I have done for 20 years. But we have a life outside of work, too.
Such as? We watch telly [laughs]. We also have two daughters, Molly and Emily, who we see a lot of, and extended family…
It’s 10 years since you created the morally ambiguous small-businessman Don Angel for TV. Why revive him for Back in Very Small Business? One thing we wondered was: “Why do people like Don keep prevailing (he now has several staff) and what is it about their personalities that allows them to rise up again?” It was a complete coincidence that another successful businessman called Don emerged in the US…
How do you pitch satire at this time in politics? Robyn and co-writer Gary McCaffrie and I were drawn to the challenge of writing in this “us and them” environment. I find it interesting to examine people you might automatically oppose – you ask: where are they coming from and why do I find it uncomfortable?
You were raised in Wantirna in Melbourne’s outer east. Did you dream about “getting out”? The great thing about suburbia is that you’re not aware of anything else. But once I had a taste for drama in senior high school, everything changed. I enrolled to do commerce at Monash University, then my drama teacher called me about auditions for a theatre company…
How did your mum handle you ditching uni? She came from a big family of Dutch immigrants; financial security was important so she panicked about that. It was only when I met Robyn that she went, “Well, regardless of the career he’s going to be fine.”
Do people expect you to be funny at social events? There is an expectation, but you don’t resent it because lancing tension is like a gut response. Many people in comedy will have been trying to find levity in situations from a young age – in my case, it was my parents’ troubled marriage that made me play the clown. But as you get older you have to stop turning every situation into “boom, tish”; it’s not always appropriate. Listening can be as effective as making a wisecrack.
listening Can Be as effeCtive as Making a WiseCraCk
What do you think your girls have learnt from watching their parents? Molly is an actor and writer and Emily has a beautiful indifference to the industry. But they have both been incredibly influenced by Robyn, at a time when there’s a push for female writers and directors. She’s been at the forefront for 15 years. And they see a balanced relationship between their parents. Oh god, people are really rolling their eyes now! starts on September 5, 9pm on ABC and ABC iview