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ROXBURGH, RICHARD : Doing Time For Patsy Cline

DOING IT WITH RICHARD Award-winning actor Richard Roxburgh has two films due out while his award-winning Blue Murder TV miniseries is about to enjoy a second lease of life on television (everywhere but NSW). Roxburgh spoke to PAUL FISCHER, about acting, love and movies.

Richard Roxburgh has a lot to smile about these days. Two films coming out, another in the works (In the Winter Dark) and to top it off, he's in love with his co-star from Doing Time for Patsy Cline, Miranda Otto, a subject he finds amusing to talk about. "You'd have to be crazy to be going out with another actress, but its fun." The one-time successful theatre actor-turned-movie star is also going through the pleasrable trauma of furnishing a new house. And no, this is not a place in which he intends co-habitating with Miranda. "God no, perish the thought. Though she will spend a bit of time over there," he adds as an afterthought.

On the professional front, Roxburgh is being kept busy, first with Doing Time For Patsy Cline. This bittersweet comedy is about a naive teenager Ralph (Matt Day), with aspirations to become a country singer. His two Aussie parents operate a run-down farm in the middle of nowhere, scrape together enough money for his air ticket to Nashville, but he has to hitch a ride from the outback to the big city to catch the plane. He's picked up by Boyd (Roxburgh), a slick operator driving a stolen Jaguar and apparently involved in drug-running. Ralph is immediately smitten by the beautifully ethereal Patsy (Miranda Otto), who tells him she was named after Patsy Cline. Problems ensue when Ralph and Boyd are arrested for carrying drugs and end up sharing a jail cell, while Ralph dreams of success in Nashville with Patsy by his side. Itís a film that also gently pokes fun at the country music scene, and Boyd gets beaten up after admitting he hates it. The actor is sympathetic. "I'm not a great fan of country music, though I must admit I ended up loving all the country music they used in the film. But this was also a guy railing against petty-minded bureaucrats or small thinkers. There's a lot of his energy that I really admire."

"I think its a classic feel-good film," on Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline was not only screened at all recent Australian film festivals, but also the international Toronto Film Festival in September, and its a film that means a lot to Roxburgh, who hopes audiences will be just as responsive." I think its a classic feel-good film. Itís entertaining in that there are so many genuinely funny moments throughout. And accessing that Australian country music thing is very interesting, because we haven't really treated that world on film before."

"I spent such a long time working in the theatre, so I never really expected movie land,"

Roxburgh admits he's surprised "by the sheer volume of stuff I'm doing" especially given the fact that he comes from a rigid theatre background. "I spent such a long time working in the theatre, so I never really expected movie land," he says laughingly. A graduate of the prestigious Sydney-based National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) Roxburgh admits that while studying acting, a career in the movies was the furthest thing from his mind. "When I was at NIDA none of us really thought about films, because we were undergoing classical training for the theatre. So there was this outdated notion that film was inferior and that theatre was the one true God for all actors." Ironically, it was his disaffection for the theatre that slowly led him to film. "I began to feel that theatre seemed to be appealing to the well-heeled upper class sets, and the experience of playing to these houses felt bland to me. It felt as if we were preaching to the converted, and there wasn't a sense of danger at all about what was happening in the theatre." But his initial foray into film was not the experience he'd hoped for either, having begun to slowly make that awkward transition from the stage to the screen. "At the beginning, the first few small, television experiences I had began to leave a very bad taste in my mouth, because the projects were all crap."

"It was the first time that I had to carry a colossus of a project on my shoulders." on Blue Murder

Then along came television's Blue Murder, which changed the actor's perception about the world of film. "It was the first time that I had to carry a colossus of a project on my shoulders. It was a big stretch and therefore risky, but I had a director who is the greatest television director we have [Michael Jenkins]." The film, which garnered him awards and critical acclaim, is yet to be screened in NSW (for legal reasons), a fact that still remains a disappointment. "I'm sad that Neddie hasn't died yet, which may sound a terrible thing to say, but the fact remains, until that happens, it will remain unseen in NSW." As for his own portrayal of corrupt cop Rogerson, he never set out to meet the guy, nor has he any intention of doing so. "I was told by a reliable source that after he saw Blue Murder, he was heard to remark that I did a better Rogerson than Rogerson."

"To probe it too much is to make another film."

Blue Murder firmly established Roxburgh as a major screen talent, a dynamic and charismatic star in the making, confirmed by work in films as diverse as last years critical hit Children of the Revolution and The Last of the Ryans. For a change of pace, Roxburgh's next big screen outing is the romantic comedy/drama Thank God He Met Lizzie, in which he stars opposite Cate Blanchett and Frances O'Connor. Roxburgh plays Guy, whose life amidst the proverbial dating game ends when he meets the middle-class Lizzie (Blanchett) a doctor. It's love at first sight, and soon the attractive pair are planning a sumptuous wedding. But, in the midst of the celebration, Guy finds his thoughts drawn to Jenny (O'Connor), the more lively, precocious and working-class girl he lived with when he was in his 20s. As the wedding proceeds, flashbacks to the happy times experienced by Guy and Jenny force him to make some startling realisations about the woman he's about to marry. Most critics agree, it's the flashback sequences featuring the extraordinary O'Connor, that are the real soul of the film. "I also concur that the flashbacks are what make the film, because that's what the film's about. The emotional heartland of the piece is in that relationship. But to probe it too much is to make another film." He sees Lizzie as a film about a person looking back and getting flashes, not the whole picture. In fact, though labelled a romantic comedy, Roxburgh sees the film as being more a romantic TRAGEDY, " when Guy contemplates the life he's had and the one he's about to embark on."

"itís a scary process"

Though by now a prolific film performer, Roxburgh still refers to the movie business as a scary animal because of the unknown. "The process doesn't scare me, but what ends up on the screen at the end of it all, because THAT is the great unknown. It is, after all, such a capricious world." Yet it's a world that this actor is still willing to embrace: he and Miranda Otto will tread reluctantly to Hollywood later this year, despite admitting "that itís also a scary process."

Thank God He Met Lizzie is due for national release on November 20, 1997

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Scenes from Thank God He Met Lizzie

With co-star Cate Blanchett

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