Hol­ly­wood star Kodi’s home for a work­ing hol­i­day

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - PENE­LOPE DEBELLE FILM WRITER

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.

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