MATT DAY - AL
"Al is a street wise city boy from a dysfunctional family,
who spent his youth in trouble with the law," says Matt Day
of his character in Kiss or Kill. "He has a short fuse and a
temper he can’t control. Nikki (Frances O’Connor) is
the most important and stable thing in his life - and the way to
normality. They’ve known each other for a decade or
With Kiss or Kill, Matt takes a giant leap forward in his
already blossoming career, playing a serious adult lead role,
after a succession of teenagers beginning with Brice, the goofy
boyfriend in P.J. Hogan’s international hit, Muriel’s
Wedding. Even before Muriel’s Wedding, Matt was in demand
for television, including productions such as A Country Practice,
as well as for stage work with companies like St Martin’s
Youth Theatre, The Playbox Theatre and the Sydney Theatre
Company, where he appeared in Six Degrees of Separation.
He again scored international acclaim in the low budget, high
energy, Love and Other Catastrophes, director Emma Kate
Croghan’s impressive debut feature.
His next role, immediately before shooting Kiss or Kill, was
that of the starry eyed teenager, Ralph, in Doing Time for Patsy
Kline, from writer/director Chris Kennedy.
And as soon as he finished shooting Kiss or Kill, Matt was
preparing for his next film, The Sugar Factory, directed by
"We banked on Matt being able to do something
different," says Jennifer Cluff, creative consultant on the
film. "And that’s proved to be the case."
Working on Kiss or Kill with Bill Bennett has been "the
hardest acting I’ve ever done," says Matt. "And
everything I’ve wanted out of acting. What this has done for
me is build up confidence that your ideas are valid and
worthwhile," he says of Bill’s improvisational method,
"especially in highly charged emotional scenes.
"I turn up knowing what my action is - unplanned. So it
feels much fresher. Spontaneous."
Although extraordinarily challenging, Matt found working with
Bill gratifying. "You get to put a lot more of yourself into
it, and everyone brings so much more to it, reacting in real
ways." Above all, he says, it’s made him a lot more
responsible. "I feel I’ve got to do the best and take
it really seriously…stuff I’ve never done before. Until
now I’d take short cuts and played characters I knew since I
was a kid."
CHRIS HAYWOOD - DET. HUMMER
"There is nothing about it in the script," says Chris
about his character’s name, "so I figured it’s a
nickname, because whenever he’s deep in thought, he hums
…. Beethoven and other pieces out of copyright," he
adds with a laugh. Hummer comes from the major crime squad in the
city, "but I think he’s done an FBI course and was an
educated, well informed detective. After talking to Bill about
him, I made him very black and white, and you only ever see him
in a suit, even in the desert. Of he and his partner Crean,
Hummer’s the quieter, Crean the more flamboyant, but
Haywood, who also acted as the unofficial entertainments
officer for the cast and crew, has a dedication to his work
rarely seen. He not only drove three days in his 4WD from Sydney
to South Australia, he arranged product placements that were both
practical and welcome, persuading Petaluma to provide wines, and
West End to stock the set with beer. Ever thoughtful, he also
arranged for Mt Lofty mineral water to be on hand.
His enthusiasm is partly fuelled by his admiration for Bill
Bennett’s film making skills. "I got a call from my
agent," he recalls, "who said they have a script for me
from Bill. Oh, I said, I don’t even have to read it. For
Bill, I would’ve done it for a walk on part.
"He’s an extraordinary film maker. He’s always
treading new ground."
Chris Haywood is himself extraordinary, his career spanning
more than 20 years, during which he has appeared in over 50 top
rating television series, and close to 30 films, including most
of Paul Cox’s, playing diverse roles. His film credits
include Shine, Muriels’ Wedding, Malcolm, Breaker Morant,
Newsfront, The Removalist and The Cars That Ate Paris.
Chris’ trademark is research: he persuaded the local
police to let him research their records in detail. He wanted to
get inside their interviewing style. He went to great lengths,
often spending hours at a time with local detectives around
Ceduna, to develop his character, "and this was crucial
because it helped me portray a character that is unlike the
stereotypes usually seen on screen," he says.
His list of awards includes the 1995 Silver Logie for his role
in the tv series, The Gates of Janus; AFI Awards for roles in A
Street to Die, Aya, Emerald City, Island, Newsfront and
ANDREW GILBERT - CREAN
"The beauty of this film was that you made it up…when
we started, Bill said I could do good things with this guy, so
something existed in his mind," says Andrew Gilbert of his
role in Kiss or Kill. "I was trusted with this character,
and as we’re a duo, with Chris Haywood’s Hummer, we
defined each other. The story unfolds to him as it does to the
audience, which is how it stays fresh and unpredictable.
I’ve learnt more about the character after each scene - and
that freedom to be in the moment makes you do what’s
required of you."
One of Andrew’s first professional jobs after leaving the
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (1987), was on Bill
Bennett’s film, Mortgage. "We got on well, but it was
exhausting, I remember that. It’s been a benchmark for me
Andrew has played a lot of cops over the past few years,
smaller parts mostly, in tv shows such as Cody, Police Rescue,
Rafferty’s Rules, Water rats, and the feature film Deadly.
"Often the person didn’t come through; but in Kiss or
Kill, the person has really come through," he says beaming
"The whole thing’s been very zen…"
BARRY OTTO - ADLER JONES
"Adler’s a mysterious element in the film," says
Barry Otto about his role in Kiss or Kill, "and although
it’s not a big role, I thought the whole script was really
good, a good thriller with a raw edge. On paper, Adler was an
ambiguous character, which appealed to me. So I didn’t try
to work him out too much, I went with what Bill had given me.
He’s weird and a bit scary at first, then he seems just
weird - and then… strewth!" But the surprise is for
audiences to find out, Barry says.
It is a testament to both Barry’s stature and confidence
as one of Australia’s most respected actors, and to Bill
Bennett’s standing as a film maker that Barry accepted the
role of Adler Jones - not much more than a cameo, yet crucial to
the film’s plotline.
"I’ve known Bill’s work over the years and
admired his docu-dramas, especially Malpractice. When he asked
me, he said he wanted actors who’d make it their
own…and I felt I could give him that something. It
didn’t worry me that it was a small role; I wanted to work
Barry recalls one scene in particular, when "Bill told
the actors to forget the dialogue…you know the actions. So
it suddenly frees it up completely.
MAX CULLEN - STAN
"At the risk of giving the plot away," quips Max Cullen
of his role in Kiss or Kill, "I don’t get kissed."
Max plays Stan, the bizarre motel manager who comes into the
lives of the two young crims on the run when they stop for the
night at his isolated motor inn. As the only guests, he joins
them for a fiery fondue….
"I last worked with Bill Bennett on Spider and
Rose," says Max, "and what I liked about working with
him was rich characters, excellent dialogue, an inspired wardrobe
and production design.
"He allows the actors to contribute creatively; it
becomes a collaboration or a controlled accident where you feel
secure with the director supervising the chaos.
"He’s an action painter and zen master. I worked for
three months on my ad libs," he quips, "researching
caves on the Nullarbor and observing behaviour to the point of
JOHN CLARKE - POSSUM HARRY
"Bill wanted to know if I knew anything about
tracking," says John Clarke of his audition for the role of
Possum Harry in Kiss or Kill. "Yeah, I said, around these
parts…I have a lot of relations around here, and know it
He described Possum Harry as "a cunning old
bastard…he knows what he’s doing. He laughs at modern
police bush techniques and baffles the cops. While they look for
the obvious, Harry picks up the less obvious and effectively
solves the crime. And yet he’s never in a
hurry…he’s a typical black from the bush."
John, of the Adnymathanaha group of Aborigines from the
Northern Flinders Rangers, is Adelaide born, and got into acting
in 1985 by accident. The film The Time Guardian was being shot,
and they were looking for a didgeridoo player; a friend of mine
heard about it, and in I went…"
BARRY LANGRISHE - ZIPPER DOYLE
"Zipper’s used to adulation, being an ex-Carlton
footballer and a bit of a legend," says Barry Langrishe of
his character Zipper Doyle in Kiss or Kill. "He’s a
forceful character who runs a successful gym in Adelaide, does
sponsorships - and likes young boys. I figure that’s
happened later in his life," Barry adds. "I did some
research into it…I don’t think he feels particularly
guilty about it. He justifies it in his own mind, and believes
he’d be misunderstood: he’s angry at the intrusion into
his life when it threatens every aspect of it. So he has to stop
English-born, Barry was a fashion photographer and
photojournalist in London before coming to Australia in 1981, and
changing his course to the theatre. In Sydney he played
Thenardier in Trevor Nunn’s Les Miserables - and did a photo
essay on backstage life. He even worked with Chris Haywood once
before, although never in the same scene, in the dramatisation of
Cyclone Tracy, playing a corrupt Darwin detective.
DON CHAPMAN - LINDSAY KLEIN
"He’s suave, enigmatic, a regular at Royal Commissions
and very much the bent lawyer," says Don Chapman of his role
as Lindsay Klein in Kiss or Kill. "I think his middle name
is Doc - as in the fixer. But if you put it together, it’s
Lindsay D. Klein…get it? His redeeming qualities are his
eloquence - and maybe he loved his mother."
Don’s immediate last role before Kiss or Kill was,
coincidentally, also that of a lawyer, in the Film Australia
production for ABC TV, Sun on the Stubble, one of many tv credits
to his name, ranging from Rafferty’s Rules through
Crimestoppers, where he played a payroll robber, and The Right
Stuff, where he was Minister for Transport.