Urban Cinefile
"Every day Id take a deep breath and have what I call a Star Wars moment"  -Ewan McGregor during Star Wars Ep I
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



With his debut film, Wolf Creek, Greg Mclean made it clear he was a feisty filmmaker, so when he took out the script for the crocodile thriller, Rogue, from his bottom drawer, the Weinsteins snapped it up – totally on Mclean’s terms, which included final cut, he tells Andrew L. Urban.

Greg Mclean is a nice guy; he didn’t have to fly over to Los Angeles with a rough cut of his $25 million adventure thriller, Rogue, to show it to Bob and Harvey Weinstein, but he did it anyway. And he warned them that the giant, rogue crocodile that is at the centre of the film, was still a grey blob, waiting for the CGI boys to create it. No problem, said the two movie moguls, we can imagine … we’re experienced … we know the process. But as soon as the lights went up after the screening, the Weinsteins panicked. “They just freaked out; ‘where’s the croc? The whole film depends on the croc…’ The grey animation blob that represented the fearsome croc did not impress them, did not instil that primal fear on which the film’s tension hangs.

No more Mr Nice Guy for Greg Mclean. “I learnt a valuable lesson,” he says, now smiling at the memory as we sip flat whites at a tiny East Sydney café, which celebrates its funky, downtrodden nature with diversity of seating furniture, from plastic chairs to timber backless stools – all seemingly salvaged from a suburban scrap heap. It occurs to me that Mclean is hanging on to his roots as an Aussie filmmaker, for whom $25 million is a big budget film. Well, after $1.8 million for Wolf Creek, it is. A lot went on the croc …

And on the croc’s lair. This is a long, deep cavern, supposedly in the wetlands of the Northern Territory, but in reality a special set built in a studio in Maidstone, Victoria, where a climactic sequence takes place, as the rogue croc guards his human meal, while one of the characters seeks to rescue same human (I’m trying not to give away too much).

"after a while it began to stink, just like a … well, lair"

The 13 week shoot had to be extended by two weeks. “The lair sequence was the worst … it had water that became rank from the heat, and real animal bones, and after a while it began to stink, just like a … well, lair. We were in there for three weeks. But it was a crucial sequence and we had to get it right. It also took 490 visual effects shots to complete…It was very complicated. We literally crawled out of there, exhausted.”

But the result is worth it. First of all, “it’s exactly the film I thought of 10 years ago,” says Mclean. “You unconsciously work at that and I was lucky that I didn’t have to fight anybody to get it done.” And that’s why he didn’t have to show the Weinsteins the rough cut: of the five studios who were offered the script, they were the first to agree to all the terms, including final cut, that Mclean and his producers wanted. “I had a great experience working with them; they never came on set once to check up. They did send a representative once for a few days, who stood there sending text messages back to Los Angeles, but there was no interference whatsoever.”

Four months after showing the Weinsteins the rough cut, Mclean was back with his final cut. “That’s when they got it,” he says. “They just went ‘Wow!”

They weren’t the only ones; Village Roadshow bought a 50% share of the film’s rights from the Weinsteins, and will lead the marketing push with an Australian release (November, 2007). “This will be the test market,” says Mclean, whose experience in tv commercials and graphic design has given him experience to be involved with aspects of the marketing, such as the poster design and cutting the trailer. “Those elements are the audience’s first communication with the movie, and they’re vital,” he says.

"the script in his bottom drawer"

Inspired by monster and horror movies from his childhood, Mclean wrote the first draft in the mid 90s. Not much changed since, except a bit of dialogue polishing. But he couldn’t get the money to make it – not until his debut feature, Wolf Creek, was selected for Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2005, and caused quite a stir with its no holds barred approach to horror – inspired by real outback murders. Wolf Creek introduced Mclean to the film industry, including Hollywood which is always looking for new talent. He had offers and scripts, but finally, he turned to the script in his bottom drawer: Rogue.

On assignment in the Northern Territory, American travel writer Pete (Michael Vartan) joins a small group of tourists on a typical river cruise in salt water crocodile country, operated by tour guide Kate (Radha Mitchell). During a short detour, their boat is almost overturned by a violent jolt from underwater, and they drive the leaking boat aground on a small island, but out of radio contact with base. They soon realize they have stumbled into the territory of a huge, possessive salt water croc, who sets about viciously collecting a harvest of food to store in his cavernous lair, while the survivors search desperately for a way off the island – before high tide and the night close in.

After writing that first draft, Mclean travelled to the Northern Territory – and the first thing he did was take a croc river tour. The boat’s tour guide was a young female … “I thought to myself, gee, I wasn’t bullshitting!”

Published November 8, 2007

Email this article

Greg McLean - on the set of Rogue


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020