Shaun Bam­ber basks in the warmth of an af­ter­noon with a com­edy ‘god’.

Waikato Times - Your Weekend (Waikato Times) - - Cover Story -

“Dave or David, I’m easy – either or, you know? As long as you’re not call­ing me c..., then I don’t care.” Whoa. Didn’t take Dave/david Fane long to drop the c-bomb. All I did was ask him what he prefers to be called, an ear­lier Google search sug­gest­ing that both ver­sions of his name are ap­plied in roughly equal pro­por­tions.

We’d only just sat down to en­joy a cou­ple of beers and talk about his new movie Gary of the Pa­cific, in which he stars with man of the mo­ment, The Project co-host Josh Thom­son.

Wear­ing snazzy red spec­ta­cles that con­trast snap­pily with his black zip-up hoodie and shorts en­sem­ble, Fane is more soft-spo­ken in per­son than you might ex­pect – apart from his laugh.

That good old hearty guf­faw is al­most as well known as he is – and makes reg­u­larly loud and long ap­pear­ances through­out our con­ver­sa­tion.

So what to call this 50-year-old “six-foot-two Samoan” then? Star of Sione’s Wed­ding, Bro’town, Out­ra­geous For­tune and more re­cently 800 Words, among many other things. His mother prefers David, un­sur­pris­ingly. Best friend Os­car Kight­ley, fel­low Naked Samoan and long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor in stage, screen and life, calls him “a bit of an un­sung genius”.

“He’s very fear­less as well,” adds Kight­ley. “He’s also more sen­si­tive than he lets on – he feels things, and that’s re­flected in the kind of work that he does.”

Thom­son says he’s “like a god”, in Raro­tonga at least, which is where the two of them spent a month mak­ing Gary of the Pa­cific.

“I don’t know what he’s like here in New Zealand,” ex­plains Thom­son, “but in Raro he’s like a god. He would walk around the is­land and peo­ple would just come out of nowhere.

“I was do­ing a scene with him one morn­ing, and then later he sends us this photo from the ocean of our film set. We were like, ‘What are you do­ing?’ and he was like, ‘Oh, I just ran into some soc­cer team and now I’m hang­ing out with them on their boat, hav­ing a party.’”

Thom­son is full of sto­ries like this about Fane. Once Fane texted the pro­duc­tion crew while fly­ing over­head in a plane – “I ran into some dudes and now they’re fly­ing me around the is­land.”

Or the time a bus drove by just af­ter they’d fin­ished shoot­ing. It went past, stopped, re­versed, picked Fane up – and that was the last any­one saw of him for the rest of the day.

“It was in­cred­i­ble,” mar­vels Thom­son. “He was like an enigma.”

And there really is more than a touch of the enig­matic about Fane.

Raised in a pre-gen­tri­fi­ca­tion Pon­sonby villa, Fane at­tended Auck­land’s St Paul’s Col­lege, even­tu­ally be­com­ing head boy.

An undis­closed in­ci­dent – he doesn’t want his kids to know – later saw him ex­pelled, but Fane still has fond mem­o­ries of his time there.

“You don’t spend time some­where like that and not still have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the place,” he says of the school that made him the good Catholic he is to­day. “There are things I learnt there and friends I made there that are still my friends to­day.

“There was just that one time. I sup­pose it was like – I don’t know, like Icarus fly­ing too close to the sun? You get your wings burnt, you know? But I’m not wor­ried about it, really. I laugh about it.”

Metaphors come eas­ily to Fane, who de­scribes sev­eral col­leagues as “ducks”. (“Ev­ery­thing’s quiet up top, quite breezy and cool, but un­der­neath the wa­ter they’re pad­dling like bug­gery”.) This in­cludes Auck­land writ­ing/pro­duc­ing/di­rect­ing trio Ryan Hutchings, Jar­rod Holt and Nigel Mccul­loch – oth­er­wise known as The Down­low Con­cept – the writ­ers/pro­duc­ers/di­rec­tors of Gary of the Pa­cific, as well as a few Kiwi TV shows you may have heard of, like 7 Days and Hounds.

“It’s like I met the palagi ver­sion of the Naked Samoans, and they’re just as funny,” says Fane.

“What I really liked about them was they’ve got a sense of hu­mour, and they can just laugh at them­selves as well. It takes the se­ri­ous­ness out of the process, keeps peo­ple at ease.”

Even be­fore he knew who The Down­low Con­cept were, turns out Fane was a fan.

“I just learned about who these guys were when I got a call­back,” he ex­plains, re­count­ing his au­di­tion to play ‘Dad’, fa­ther of Gary of the Pa­cific’s tit­u­lar star – a char­ac­ter whose ac­tual name is never re­vealed, much to Fane’s undis­guised de­light.

“I went, ‘Aw wow, you guys make Hounds? Hounds was funny as.’”

And keep­ing the love rolling, Fane also now seems quite smit­ten with his on-screen son, Thom­son.

“He’s got a real sense of kind­ness about him,” he says. “That’s the thing, you can’t teach any­one to be kind – they either have it within their per­son­al­ity, or they don’t.

“And that’s part of the rea­son why when­ever you’re in Josh’s pres­ence there’s a lovely warmth to him and you grav­i­tate to­wards that. You go, ‘Aw yeah, I’ll just sit in this bub­ble for a while and just en­joy my­self.’

“And with The Down­low Con­cept guys, I’ll grav­i­tate to­wards that be­cause that’s a nice bub­ble too. There’s a warmth to them as well.

“And Os­car and all the other Nakeds – the only rea­son we stay to­gether is be­cause we found there’s a warmth that we really ap­pre­ci­ate. I don’t want to sit with win­ter – I just want to sit with warmth, you know?”

We’ve chat­ted for an hour, Fane and I, sip­ping our beers in the mid­day sun. The con­ver­sa­tion has ranged far and wide. From money lenders tar­get­ing Pa­cific Is­landers with their ads: “Course they are! It’s a pro­file. If you know where the rainbow ends in the pot of gold, and it’s these peo­ple, well, you sell the rainbow to them! That’s just life, you know?”

To play­ing pres­i­dent’s grade for the Pon­sonby Rugby Club: “I love play­ing for the Ponies. I don’t know if they like me play­ing for them.

“I start at prop, then I go to num­ber eight, then some­where in the cen­tres, then full­back – and then I’m right off the field. I get to the showers early.”

To show busi­ness: “It’s a rough busi­ness. A lot of peo­ple, all you’ve got to show is your bruises. Bruises, blood­ied egos... and fond mem­o­ries.”

There’s one ques­tion I still haven’t asked him, how­ever – mainly be­cause I just don’t want to.

There was an in­ci­dent a few years back. Fane said a few things he prob­a­bly shouldn’t have at a 2010 ‘Ra­dio Roast’ hosted by The Ra­dio Bureau. It was a pri­vate, un­tele­vised gig, but his re­marks made it into the public arena all the same.

The re­sult­ing s...storm well and truly en­veloped Fane for some time af­ter, and I wanted to know if he ever felt like it hurt his ca­reer?

Mo­men­tar­ily speech­less, Fane lets out a long sigh, a pained ex­pres­sion cross­ing his face.

He doesn’t look an­gry at the fact I’ve brought the topic up, more just dis­ap­pointed, like a fa­ther whose child has crossed a cer­tain line for the first time.

“It’s hard, be­cause you can’t es­cape it,” he says. “Did it have a nega­tive ef­fect [on my ca­reer]? I don’t know about that. But I do know that I learnt a hell of a lot about my­self.”

And that was that. We talk a bit more, but the magic of the af­ter­noon is gone.

Soon, Fane drains his beer, shakes my hand and walks off up the street.

I can’t help but feel a bit for­lorn as I watch him go, bat­tered ma­roon shoul­der bag slung across his back, stop­ping to chat to passersby along the way.

“As long as you’re not call­ing me c..., then I don’t care,” he said at the start of our in­ter­view.

No dan­ger of that here. I just hope he doesn’t feel like call­ing me one.

Josh Thom­son, Dave Fane and Taofi Mose-tu­iloma on the film set.

Dave or David, al­ways a char­ac­ter.

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