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Jimeoin is a stand up comic and scriptwriter who knows the value of fame and fate: he has had lots of first hand experience at both, as well as at anonymity, a subject he tackles in The Extra, his latest film. Andrew L. Urban meets the man who plays the nobody and still gets the girl.

Anonymity is an asset you have to give up if you become famous, which is the irony of The Extra, who begins by chasing fame. Jimeoin seems happy to having fame and anonymity, depending on where he goes, but his fascination for the subject of fame, and the nature of fate are somehow inexorably linked in his view of the world. For starters, he needs anonymity to observe people quietly, he says pulling the hood of his parker over his head, face receding into the shadows. As we’re the only ones in the empty corner of a Sydney restaurant, it’s more by way of explanation than for real. And I get the point; fame is a many sided thing. 

Take the time he went around with Richard Branson of Virgin fame; “They asked me to do some stuff….they’d sponsor my [stand up] tour, but I was especially interested in meeting the guy, because he doesn’t make a big deal about fame. I really got inside his head about it. He came up to Byron Bay for 10 days and he’d phone up, and say let’s get a taxi. I told him I knew people half as famous as him that won’t leave until the hire car pulls up outside! But he has a totally different spin on his fame.”

Branson proved to Jimeoin that there really is no parallel world of the famous, where everything is glossy and bliss; “fame doesn’t take you through a portal to a different world … this is it. And that’s an important part of this film,” as he segues into what went into writing The Extra.

“These are the simple stories … love and those other things we all look for, which are the things we all look for, which are much more important than fame. But fame is good – at a certain level,” he adds. “It’s great for me, I can get into pubs … get girls to talk to you … that’s great…” Of course that’s exactly where the story of The Extra starts. A nonentity (Jimeoin) imagines that he can be noticed and go to parties, get girls, etc, if he became a movie star. He manages eventually and with some difficulty to get a job as an extra on a big budget sequel, but his path to fame is blocked by fate. It’s a melancholy character and Jimeoin delivers a three dimensional character, as does Katherine Slattery as Claudia, the girl who makes him realise it’s not fame he needs but love.

"just go with the flow"

Fate, Jimeoin will tell you, is in evidence everywhere. “I find Eric Bana’s story very funny … and poignant. He had a TV show that Kevin Carlin [director of The Extra] directed it and they had these intricate one hour programs all laid out and really put a lot of work into it. Then they cut them in half hours and then they axed it – and Eric was damaged by that … and broke. And it took Chopper Read to see him for who he was…it took this convicted criminal to see it, and the film world, all these casting agents, never picked it. Then he did that performance [as Chopper] in some dark space within, ‘cause he was going through hell, so from something awful came something brilliant. So I think don’t fight things, just go with the flow, or go with the blow…and see where that takes you.” A blow might seem like that at the time…

Perhaps even more pointedly for Jimeoin, fate was sitting in a Melbourne café one day, in the shape of film distribution executive Alan Finney, a highly regarded veteran of the industry now in charge of Buena Vista International in Australia, but working at Village Roadshow at that time. “I’d just finished the script for The Craic [Jimeoin’s debut feature as a writer, which became a hit movie in 1999] and I walked into this café and couldn’t get a seat. He was sitting at a table and recognised me from stand up, and he said ‘Oh, YOU should think about doing a film. Then he introduced himself and told me what he did and we agreed to meet for lunch on Friday. I’d just finished the screenplay and was thinking about what’s the next stage, where do you go from here. So two days later, he thought we were going to have a chat but I’d brought the script along.”

Alan Finney read it and told Jimeoin the company wanted to do it; “and that was it.” And when it came to the script of The Extra, he had an open door through Macquarie Film [financiers] who had worked on The Craic. You can’t tell Jimeoin there’s no such thing as fate. 

Published April 21, 2005

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