COLOSIMO, VINCE: STAR OF THE YEAR 2002
HERO OR HOBO – AND HOT
Voted Star of the Year 2002 by the cinema operators of Australia this week, Vince Colosimo is Australia’s Next Big Thing, following a list of successes on Australian tv and in films like Lantana, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor AFI award. Andrew L. Urban profiles Australia’s hottest new star, who can play a hero or a hobo.
He’s been compared to Robert Mitchum but, really,Vince Colosimo is unique. That’s the point. In showbusiness, talent is terrific, luck is lovely – but unique is unbeatable. He was “quietly thrilled” when his agents rang him in a Melbourne coffee shop with the news of his award. “Recognition is great, especially by the industry; sometimes you don’t make a lot of money in this business, and to be recognised like this is very satisfying.”
Sitting on a Gold Coast hotel balcony on a beautiful spring afternoon, Vince Colosimo is his usual casual self, having a smoke and even taking a mobile call from his agent – a sign of things to come, perhaps. (On the Gold Coast because this is where the annual Movie Convention is held, a gathering of some 700 industry delegates from film distributors to the nation’s cinema operators. Colosimo’s award was presented during the opening spectacular, an Australian Showcase, on Tuesday 13/8/2002.)
"a regular guy with no pretension"
Vince, a tall, masculine guy with the ability to look glamorous or grungy, and to play a hero or a hobo, also has one other valuable element: “he’s a regular guy with no pretensions,” to quote Ray Lawrence, who directed Colosimo in his award winning role as the blue collar husband, Nik, in Lantana. That he plays a seemingly well adjusted husband – not a showy part, after all – and makes it so affecting, deserves extra credit.
Lawrence has an interesting little test for actors he works with: “I try to look at an actor when I’m talking to them and see the difference when they’re acting. With Vince there’s none.”
Lawrence had never seen Colosimo work until he met the actor at the Lantana casting session. “I hadn’t seen Chopper or anything….he was suggested by my casting people. What struck me about him immediately was his truth, his authenticity. No acting. That’s what sold me. All that, plus the glamour, is pretty rare.”
While Lawrence, for one, is not interested in Colosimo’s “glamorous side,” he reckons “that’s what’ll get him to Hollywood. His looks are deceiving, because he’s a very thoughtful actor and he brings interesting choices. A bit like Robert Mitchum….”
Mitchum-esque or not, Colosimo has just come back after spending some time in Los Angeles, where he now has official representation – an essential prerequisite for snaring any work in Hollywood, whether at the big studio end of town or at the ever-fascinating independent end. There is certainly interest in the actor, and it’s only a matter of time before he and a ‘the right project’ get together. And the right project is something you can’t plan for. “I try to, but it’s impossible….” he says.
He was Frank in the comedy hit, The Wog Boy, opposite Nick Giannopoulos, and Neville Bartos in the dramatic and blackly funny portrait of a killer, Chopper, opposite Eric Bana. On television, he’s Anthony ‘Rex’ in The Secret Life of Us, and James in Secret Bridesmaid’s Business. What is not a secret, of course, is that he has the range to not only play all these diverse characters, but to nail them. He is credible and appealing, charismatic on screen and carries a natural power source that is evident both on television and in cinema.
Over the next couple of months, Colosimo will be seen in Walking on Water (opens Sept 26) in The Nugget (opens Oct 17); in the former, he plays Charlie, a quiet, introspective, strong but sensitive gay man who loses a close friend in Tony Ayres’ enjoyable, darkly funny debut feature, and in the latter he plays Dimitri, a small town sleazebag, in Bill Bennett’s comic fable about working class blokes discovering a giant gold nugget.
"A Melbourne boy"
A Melbourne boy to the core - Italian Catholic family, from Carlton - Colosimo recalls how that role came about, after he had heard through his friend Eric Bana, that Bill Bennett was about to make a movie. He’d read the script and was keen to be involved. He even wondered which of the three friends he would be asked to read for.
“I thought I’ll play either one of them…I’ll even play Wookie, the fat guy. I don’t care. Then I got a phone call from Bill, who’d got my mobile number from Eric, at the football. You know, 30,000 people, it’s half time and I’m in a line waiting to get a beer. I don’t usually answer my phone at the footy, but I thought it was somebody wanting to talk about the game. He said ‘Hello Vince, Bill Bennett here’ in that quiet voice of his…and I said Who? ‘Bill Bennett,’ he said, ‘I know you’ve read the script, I was wondering if you’d be interested in playing Dimitri.’ Oh…yeah? Ah Dimitri…er…ah, yeah, that guy that own all the shops…yeah, yeah…I’m interested but look can we talk later on. It’s very hard to hear you here at the football, with two beers in one hand and a mobile in the other hand…So we hooked up later, and luckily my team had won so I was in a good mood and a lot easier to speak to.”
Dimitri owns a couple of take-aways, a jewellery store and the town brothel; “he’s probably a bit crooked but overall a fun energetic character to play.” Colosimo had never worked with Bennett before, but was keen to extend his experiences and to “work with different people…it’s always nice to experience how different people work.”
When Colosimo enrolled as one of the youngest ever taken on at the Victorian College of the Arts, he had already made his first mark in film with an award nomination for Best Actor in 1982, for his lead role in Street Hero; the Sydney Film Critics Circle also voted him Best New Talent in Moving Out in 1983.
“Then I decided at the age of 16 or 17 I would go to college to learn what I was doing….to understand it a bit more. I got through it somehow and came out at the age of 21, and by then, I was getting a lot of different roles, but mainly theatre. And a lot of comedy theatre. I loved all of that. I did a lot of the Wog shows with Nick Giannopoulos and Mary Coustas … and later the film Nick did, The Wog Boy. So a lot of people associated me with comedy … make us laugh. And I don’t mind that, but you do want to expand your range and do different things. So thanks to directors like Andrew Dominic, I got to play Neville Bartos in Chopper, and Ray Lawrence for the role of Nik in Lantana.”
Tall, dark and handsome, Vince Colosimo slips easily into male lead roles, but his natural talent also makes him a solid character actor with considerable power. And then there’s his sexual presence on screen.
“Like Russell Crowe,” says Ray Lawrence, “Vince has a strong maleness, both sexually and in person.” And In Walking on Water, Colosimo sublimates his heterosexuality for a gay character, without being camp but totally credible – as did and was Russell Crowe in The Sum of Us.
“Being an actor is thrilling, interesting and sometimes it’s tedious and boring as well. Overall, it’s been a great lifestyle for me, immensely varied, experiencing different things every day … and playing make believe, delving into another world, it’s fantastic. And I’m starting to play fathers now, that’s interesting…”
He’s getting used to it: in real life he expecting his first child in January 2003, with his partner Jane Hall, whose latest show, Marshall Law, premiered the same night that Vince accepted his Star of the Year Award. “Yeah, it’s really exciting and I can’t wait. I’m having to start thinking about a lifestyle change, I guess…”
Colosimo’s greatest gift is his natural ability: despite his formal studies, what he values most as part of his acting toolkit is life’s experiences. “Less is more is one of my sort of mottos for screen acting,” he says. “And the other thing is I always like to surprise Jane; she knows me better than anyone. If I can surprise her I feel I’ve crossed that line and achieved something as an actor.”
In his daily life, Vince says he has “very normal friends” and likes “just being normal” even if some people find it difficult to accept that. “People ring you up and say ‘sorry for taking up your time…’ – no, you’re right, I wasn’t doing anything actually; it may look like I’m real busy but I’ve got time to talk to you and maybe help you out with something if you need it…”
He has no hobbies and can think of no life other than an actor. Even if (when?) he ever got rich. “I love it so much…I just want to grow as an actor.”
Published August 15, 2002
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...in Walking on Water
The Wog Boy
The Hard Word