ALU: The idea for Kiss or Kill was born in a barn,
BB: Yes. I was out at Broken Hill in a remote shearing
shed, during the making of Backlash, in 1986, and there had been
a camera malfunction. The rest of the crew had gone back to town
and I was in this woolshed with one other crew member. We'd
worked on a "Street to Die" together and I'd known this
fellow I guess quite a long time. We'd become friends. Anyway, he
had been playing with this big bladed Rambo knife. I remember it
was blistering hot, there was a slight wind outside and it was
making a rattle on the galvanised iron roof; he was sitting in
one corner and I was sitting in the other. And he was sharpening
this blade on a stone hypnotically - going, joop … joop
… joop … and it was really quite eerie. Then he stopped
and he looked at me with this very, very steady gaze and he said:
"Bill I could cut your throat, put your body underneath
these floor boards and when the rest of the crew came back, I
could tell them that you'd gone for a walk down by the creek. No
one would ever know…" And he held that gaze - and in
that moment I discovered that in fact I really didn't know this
man. Anyway, he burst out laughing. The moment was forgotten for
him but it stayed with me and that really was the genesis of it,
that in fact somebody I thought I knew, somebody I was good
friends with, could have a side of his personality that I just
could not fathom.
ALU: That insightful, inspiring moment in the woolshed
was tougher to nurture to film than you had anticipated…
BB: I couldn’t get it off my back. I must have
done about 18 or 20 screenplays, over that period of 10 years or
so. In fact, on a number of occasions I could have actually
financed the film and gone into production but I pulled back
because I didn't feel the story was right. In 1993 I finally just
threw it against the wall and I said I can't do it. It's taken
too much out of my life and I was at the point where I would say
to Jennifer (Cluff, his wife), ‘I'm going to do another
draft of "Kiss or Kill" and she would scream "no
don't!" So I dropped it and I started work on "Spider
and Rose" - I really didn't think that I would ever come
back to "Kiss or Kill".
ALU: But you did…
BB: Well, yes … Pierre Rissient (Cannes
film festival’s scout) had been following the thing for some
time, and in early 1996 when he was here, took me out to dinner
urging me to go back to it. I couldn't get the morality right
within myself and Pierre said: "Bill, in this one you must
not think, you must simply write: action, action, action".
So I just sat down and realised that what in fact had been
shackling me on "Kiss or Kill" is that I'd been
intellectualising too much: so I just threw everything away. I
sat down one day and just wrote the script in three weeks, not
referring to anything that I'd written prior.
ALU: The script is a 60 page breakdown and contains
some specific dialogue, but there is a lot of improvisation
required by the actors. In "Kiss or Kill" is that any
more or less than with your other films?
BB: Well "Backlash" was improvised. There
were bits of a "Street to Die" that were improvised,
"Mortgage" and "Malpractice", the two drama
documentaries I did for Film Australia, were improvised. This is
actually a very controlled film. In fact you know to shoot a
picture in the number of days that we had and the value that we
were striving for, you need to be extraordinarily disciplined.
Very rarely do we get to a scene where the actors now have to
talk about what's to be said. All of that has been discussed
beforehand during the rehearsal period and also I've got some
very specific dialogue in the script.
ALU: So there is a large amount of baggage which the
actors bring, adding and flashing out?
BB: Yes that's right. Is it more so than a traditional
script? It probably is and not so much because of the words, but
because of the physical freedom that I'm giving the actors.