Hollywood star Kodi’s home for a working holiday
HOLLYWOOD star Kodi Smit-McPhee left Adelaide when he was three but doesn’t mind a bit that we claim him as one of our own. “I love it, thank you, I love it,” he said on a rare visit home, to make the sci-fi film 2067, about the race to save a planet dying from the catastrophic effects of climate change.
As part of a cast that includes True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten and The Sapphires’ Deborah Mailman, SmitMcPhee will finish filming this week after spending long days at Adelaide Studios and locations around the city, Port Adelaide and in Kuitpo Forest.
But, coming off the prehistoric blockbuster Alpha, the $50 million ice age film about a man bonding with a wolf – a film Smit-McPhee carries almost on his own – he was keen to make a film that would bring him home.
“This is the first time I have spent a week or two here (for a long time) and that was a huge part of why I wanted to do this job, specifically, here in Australia,” he said. “It’s been really beautiful.”
Smit-McPhee left Adelaide for Melbourne with his family in the late 1990s when his father, actor Andy McPhee (Neighbours, Wolf Creek), was getting started in acting.
As a boy, he was cast in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel The Road, with Danish actor Viggo Mortensen (and a script written by Adelaide’s Joe Penhall).
A year later, he was in the vampire movie Let Me In, the US-UK remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In.
After moving to Los Angeles with his father and sister, Neighbours actor Sianoa Smit-McPhee, he was in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Slow West, co-starring with the Oscarnominated Michael Fassbender.
His biggest coup to date is appearing as the blue-faced mutant Nightcrawler in the billion-dollar X-Men franchise, appearing so far in X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool 2, with Dark Phoenix due out next year.
He is in a wildly successful franchise yet he is unrecognisable and walks around freely without being stopped by fans.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Smit-McPhee says. “If ever that was to come, that’s cool but it was never something I got into the industry for.”
Alpha, a compelling story about a man and a wolf, was a tough shoot filmed in freezing conditions and included a scene in which his character, Keda, is trapped under the ice. It was the kind of film, he says, that if his character was going through pain then so was he.
“That ice scene was as real as you get in a fake way,” he said. “It was a 12foot (3.6m) chamber with glass across the whole top and only one little circle that you could pop your head out of, and I had 80 pounds (36kg) of bear furs on me.
“You can imagine trying to act that you’re drowning and kind of freaking out that ‘what if you’re drowning?’.” Smit-McPhee’s bond with the dog, a Czech show dog called Chuck who was partly socialised but only understood French and had to be retrained for the film, evolved during the film and by the end it was real.
Food was a help and, over time, Chuck began to realise that Smit-McPhee might just have a treat for him.
One of Alpha’s producers, Andrew Rona, said later it was only after SmitMcPhee and Chuck filmed an oldfashioned “chemistry test” that they knew the movie would succeed.
“We grew a beautiful relationship between us and it was something I never really thought of until the end, but not a lot of people could get close to him and share the energy that I had in his presence,” Smit-McPhee said.
HOME: Kodi Smit-McPhee in Adelaide Studios where he was filming 2067 and, inset right, with his AFI award in 2007 for Romulus, My Father.