GROMMET FINDS HIS DARK SIDE

THE BUSSELTON AC­TOR DIS­COV­ERED IN LOCKIE LEONARD STEPS OUT OF HIS COM­FORT ZONE FOR AN AUSSIE MOVIE THAT TACK­LES RACISM. BY JAY HANNA

The Sunday Times - - GUIDE -

SEAN Keenan may have built his ca­reer play­ing quin­tes­sen­tial Aussie surfer types, but the Busselton na­tive heads down a darker path in the new film Aus­tralia Day. The 25-year-old ac­tor — who was plucked from his pri­mary school class­room to take on the role of wide-eyed grommet Lockie Leonard in the chil­dren se­ries of the same name be­fore star­ring in Pu­berty Blues — says he rel­ished play­ing against type as Dean Pat­ter­son, a young man whose vi­o­lent acts are mo­ti­vated by fear and racial ha­tred.

“Dean is not the type of part I would usu­ally go for or be of­fered, so that re­ally in­ter­ested me,” says Keenan, who is cur­rently re­lax­ing in LA af­ter a day spent scout­ing for agents.

“It was against the grain for me and I rel­ished that chal­lenge of ac­cen­tu­at­ing traits that aren’t re­ally part of my per­son­al­ity, like his ag­gres­sion and the over-bear­ing side of his per­son­al­ity.”

In Aus­tralia Day, Dean, who is the el­dest of three sib­lings, wrong­fully be­lieves his sis­ter has been drugged and sex­u­ally as­saulted by a teenage Per­sian boy on Aus­tralia Day. Rather than re­port the in­ci­dent, Dean de­cides to take mat­ters into his own hands, en­act­ing re­venge in bru­tal fash­ion.

“Dean feels like he needs to dom­i­neer and it drives him fur­ther and fur­ther down a path that ra­tio­nally he should know he shouldn’t go down,” Keenan says.

“It’s a cul­tural fear and it’s a fear for his fam­ily. It’s com­pletely ir­ra­tional, but as things spi­ral he feels like he needs to be even more over­bear­ing rather than pulling things back into line.”

While Keenan en­joyed play­ing a char­ac­ter that was so markedly dif­fer­ent to his pre­vi­ous roles, he ad­mit­ted he felt the need to shake it off at the end of the in­ten­sive four-day shoot.

“I def­i­nitely needed some kind of tonic,” he says. “I went on hol­i­day to Sri Lanka af­ter. It was nice to just wash it all off. I felt I had to bal­ance this guy out be­cause he is at the far end of a spec­trum and he is quite far down that path.

“It wasn’t pleas­ant say­ing some of the lines that I had to say and do­ing some of the things I had to do.”

Aus­tralia Day, which also stars Bryan Brown and Matthew Le Nevez, fea­tures two other in­ter­twined nar­ra­tives in­volv­ing a young In­dige­nous girl who is on the run af­ter flee­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent and 19-year-old Chi­nese woman who is try­ing to es­cape from her em­ploy­ers.

Writ­ten by Stephen Ir­win and di­rected by Kriv Sten­ders (Red Dog) the film, which will have a cin­e­matic re­lease on Thurs­day for one week be­fore screen­ing on Fox­tel on Septem­ber 27, ex­plores top­i­cal is­sues of na­tional iden­tity, cul­tural di­ver­sity and racial ten­sion which have all been brought into the con­ver­sa­tion about our con­tro­ver­sial na­tional hol­i­day.

“I was re­ally in­ter­ested in the kind of dy­nam­ics and so­cial is­sues that it was putting on dis­play,” Keenan says. “It is a pretty poignant time for that con­ver­sa­tion to be en­cour­aged.

“And hope­fully at the end of the day it can al­low for more un­der­stand­ing be­cause this is a pretty volatile time, ev­ery­where.”

Next up the in-de­mand young ac­tor will again team up with Sten­ders and Ir­win for the highly an­tic­i­pated two-part minis­eries

Wake in Fright. Based on the book by Ken­neth Cook, the Chan­nel Ten minis­eries is a reimag­in­ing of the 1971 film, which Martin Scors­ese fa­mously claimed left him speech­less.

Due to screen in Oc­to­ber the out­back hor­ror story fol­lows the rapid down­fall of school teacher John Grant who is at­tempt­ing to make his way back to the city be­fore be­ing em­broiled in a se­ries of dark and dis­turb­ing events in the ru­ral town of Bun­danyabba.

Keenan says he was asked to au­di­tion for the lead role of John Grant, made fa­mous by Gary Bond in the orig­i­nal, the very day he first heard about the film’s ex­is­tence.

“I was work­ing on set and one of our prop guys pulled a DVD copy of Wake In Fright out of the St Vin­nie’s we were shoot­ing in front of. He said to me, ‘Have you heard of Wake In Fright? It’s

the best Aus­tralian movie ever made’. I’d never heard of it, but that af­ter­noon I got home and I had an au­di­tion for Wake In

Fright. So I bor­rowed the DVD and watched it,” he says. “It’s a snap­shot of Aus­tralia that I don’t think any­one else has nailed. It’s so unique, but so Aus­tralian. It’s a priv­i­lege to be able to play some part in that story and I am so happy that we are able to bring back.”

Keenan says he was put through the wringer dur­ing the shoot and not only had to deal with swal­low­ing mouth­fuls of flies, but numer­ous glasses of foul-tast­ing non-al­co­holic beer.

“It was a stren­u­ous shoot,” he says. “I was in ev­ery scene and we were shoot­ing for five weeks straight. It was a marathon. We were out in the desert where they shot Mad Max and the orig­i­nal

Wake In Fright and we were do­ing car chases and dog chases and all sorts of things.

“I’ve had my fair share of run­ning in the desert for a lit­tle while. And I’ve had my taste of flies. And also my taste of fake beer. I think in one take I drank 14 schooners of Schloss­gold (non-al­co­holic beer) and I wouldn’t wish that on any­body.”

Less tax­ing has been his role as back-from-the-dead Char­lie in the ABC’s para­nor­mal drama se­ries Glitch. The se­ries re­cently re­turned to our screens for sea­son two af­ter be­ing picked up by Net­flix and mak­ing waves in the US.

“It was re­ally nice to go back and visit those char­ac­ters again,” Keenan says. “It took that Net­flix en­thu­si­asm from the States to fast track that sec­ond sea­son. And it is great that it’s be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated for what it is, which is a good se­ries with an in­ter­na­tional ap­peal. It shows a side of Aus­tralia that I think is quite dif­fer­ent to what we usu­ally see on our screens — that gothic out­back Aus­tralia.”

Keenan says the buzz around the se­ries has helped open up doors for him in the States.

“They all know about it and they are all wait­ing for sea­son two over here,” he says.

“It puts ev­ery­one on the map. It’s great that there’s plat­forms like that where things can be viewed in­ter­na­tion­ally. This is the next big step in dis­tri­bu­tion.

“It’s great for ac­tors and it’s great for pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors. Hope­fully we should be see­ing a lot more Aus­tralian con­tent and a lot more Aus­tralian films.”

And un­doubt­edly a lot more of Sean Keenan. Aus­tralia Day is in cin­e­mas on Thurs­day and screens on Fox­tel on Sept 27.

Sean Keenan on the set of Aus­tralia Day and, right, Lockie Leonard, Pu­berty Blues and Wake in Fright.

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