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McKENZIE, JACQUI: Deep Blue Sea

THE BOTTOM LINE & PAVLOVA
Big budget or small budget, the bottom line, Deep Blue Sea star Jacqui McKenzie tells ANDREW L. URBAN, is 'the camera and you'; then there is pavlova.

Jacqui McKenzie's mum makes the greatest pavlova in the world, and even though the claim is made by Jacqui without any samples to prove it, I believe her. I believe her partly because she is telling her Deep Blue Sea co-star, Thomas Jane, and partly because I've spoken to her mum and she sounds like the sort of woman who would. (Make the greatest pavlova in the world.) And why would Jacqui lie about such a thing?

"You have to have a lifestyle if you live in LA, otherwise it's deadly"

The topic has arisen because Jane (it's disconcerting to call him that, but calling him Thomas after just one short meeting would seem overly buddy-buddy or pretentious, so Jane it is) has just sliced open a passionfruit for the first time in his life and is tentatively tasting it. Jacqui (I can call her that since we've met many times and have a relaxed relationship) explains the pavlova to Jane and promises his mother will make one for him. I silently hope she'll extend the invitation to me, too, but no luck. Ah well, my clever wife does a mean pavlova, anyway.

Jacqui has poured us all coffee and we're in the socially artificial ambiance of a Sydney hotel suite, sitting in front of a large poster for Deep Blue Sea. Jane is sitting on the two seater, while I sit in an adjacent armchair, and Jacqui squats next to Jane on the floor, in a short sleeved red top, black skirt and strap shoes, looking well groomed with dark brown hair (not her natural colour but it suits her) and as effervescent as ever.

She picks at the elegant little petit fours and Jane dips his into the opened passionfruit.

I really want to chat to Jacqui and we talk about her geographical base: "Oh well, I'm flying back to Los Angeles on Sunday, where I'm based - temporarily," she adds pointedly. Her doctor husband, Bill, will be posted back in Australia next year, so they are enjoying the gypsy life, living at Santa Monica, where Jacqui tries to keep up with Bill on rollerblades, or hires push bikes. "It's great…you have to have a lifestyle if you live in LA, otherwise it's deadly," she says.

She took Jack Thompson for a ride a while ago, when Jack was visiting LA on business.

"I love being part of the team"

We get onto the subject of Deep Blue Sea, and how it compares to working on a small budget film, like Angel Baby or Romper Stomper. "Actually, the work was no different," she says with that lightly borne energy of hers. "No matter how many helicopters there are, when it comes down to it there is the camera and you. I was spooked when I first got the role, as I was afraid I wouldn't have the companionship I need on a shoot, because I'm so into the process itself, not so much the end product. And the reason for that I think is that in Australia our films don't get the exposure, so the process is foremost. But anyway, I love being part of the team and hate being stuck in a corner somewhere."

Making the creature feature was great fun, she says, "and the team was so dedicated and spirited - and quite a few were Australians.* Then there was Renny (Harlin, the Finnish director) who's got this Australian sort of spirit and a great sense of humour. But the work was hard and challenging, and that's always great."

*Australians on the crew included cinematographer Steve Windon ACS, and key grip Mark Ramsey.

Jane pops a question to Jacqui: "Doesn't the character get subdued under all the action in films like this…" Jacqui agrees, but says she tried not to let that happen. "The story," continues Jane, "relies on action, not the words that the actors speak…" Jacqui nods, but persists that she enjoyed the experience, despite her character's dramatic situation.

Jane, it seems, is not just a hunk. Jacqui cleverly points the conversation his way, impressed by his range. "Thomas is a very interesting kettle of fish . . .I've seen him in other things and I was very impressed by his range. He's a diverse actor and does things other than this Bruce Willis type character like in Deep Blue Sea. But he embraced this character as an acting piece and I marvelled at how he stuck by it throughout."

"a new respect for people who work in this area"

Jane lets the compliment sink in with quiet modesty and says he has developed "a new respect for people who work in this area…some of the lines you have to deliver! . . .and the physical side of it. "It's quite tough."

"Oh, he's built his own theatre, too," Jacqui pops in. Apparently it was Jane "and a bunch of guys" who rented an old storefront in rundown East Los Angeles, gutted it and turned it into a theatre. Jacqui is invited to go to one of the regular Wednesday evening readings. "I can't do theatre in the US," she says, "because I don't have a green card…"

"You can work here, Jacqui, 'cause there'll be no money," Jane reassures her. (Jacqui is actually working on a two hander for the stage with co-writer Alma de Groen, who has also written a screenplay in which she wants Jacqui to play the lead. But she does love the stage so she has made a date to go on Wednesday - soon.)

The conversation slips gear and we're back in Deep Blue Sea: Jacqui and Jane are discussing the day to day issues like make up and wardrobe. "They made 10 different wet suits for Thomas," she says, "just to see which fitted and looked best."

"Yeah, and the preparation was excruciating," he says. "They examined every pore, every nostril hair. . .and they had meetings about it all," he says in his low key, almost Australian-laid-back way.

"a perfect example of the Australian can-do attitude"

Jacqui recalls how she took charge of her own make up (partly to pre-empt what may have been an over-zealous approach), "Because I knew what would work on this pale skin of mine....so I just dabbed this body wash on myself and they were all saying" (she slips into American), " oooh, look at your make up, doesn't it look great….who did that? I think I may have trodden on some toes there…" she adds with a cheeky grin. And there in a nutshell was a perfect example of the Australian can-do attitude in filmmaking. That's another thing the Americans can learn, after mastering the pavlova.

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