REAL MACAW: ON LOCATION
Andrew L. Urban interviews (semi-successfuly) a parrott,
and meets Oscar winning actor Jason Robards, on location in
It’s early afternoon in sunny Brisbane, and I’m
taking notes from a parrot. A glorious bird with blue feathers in
varying hues down his back, running into a glamorous tail almost
a metre long. His chest is a warm golden colour. His real name is
Tango, but I’m on the set of The Real Macaw, in which he
plays the starring role of Mac, the 150 year old macaw who knows
where treasure is buried, on a Pacific island. He knows, because
when he was just a pipsqueak of a parrot, he was the shoulder
holder of a Spanish pirate.
"Amazing how a parrot
can make you feel inadequate." Andrew L. Urban on set of The Real
That also explains the Spanish accent.
"Hellooooo…" he says teasingly. "Hello,
Mac," I reply. Suddenly he squawks: "CUT!" Amazing
how a parrot can make you feel inadequate.
Tango is sitting on the padded arm of Peter Gregg, his
wrangler, and they exchange knowing looks. Peter reaches into a
small jar and scoops out a dab of what looks like watered down
peanut butter paste, and gives it to Tango. His mouth works at
the paste, and voice man Danny Murphy * seizes the opportunity to
give Tango some improvised lip-synching lines.
In the cages inside Peter’s van are three more macaws,
all much younger. Named after the Marx Brothers, Chico, Groucho
and Harpo are also starring as Mac: each aspect of Mac’s
personality is drawn from a different parrot. How sensible is
that!? Many directors wish they could do the same with actors, no
This director, Mario Andreacchio, has no such problems, having
dealt with a whole cast of animals when he made Napoleon, the
all-animal adventure released last year.
"I love this boy,
Jamie, he’s a wonderful actor and a wonderful kid." actor, Jason Robards
This time, he also has kids (Jamie Croft and Petra ) and an
Oscar winning actor - Jason Robards - to deal with. (Two Oscars:
All The Presidents Men and Julia.)
"It’s not a problem," he says, "you just
have to treat each of them for what they are."
Robards, with a salt and pepper beard, turns out to be a warm
and interesting man whose first love is the theatre. He made a
reputation in New York theatre with various roles in Eugene
O’Neill plays (The Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey
Into Night, etc). Over a light lunch in his caravan, we talk
about his long and successful career. Now he’s thinking
about playing King Lear. As for Grandpa, he is enjoying the role,
noting how many grandpas he’s played lately. "Just
talking about this with my wife…I’ve got into the
grandfathers, but they’re all different. Each script brings
other things, and of course it depends who you’re playing
with. I love this boy, Jamie, he’s a wonderful actor and a
Robards like to rehearse if possible, but above all, "I
just read it a lot, just keep reading the bloody thing until you
know it…you KNOW it. You’re very familiar with it. Then
the night before, I study my scenes in detail."
He chomps on his salad as we talk about his long, illustrious
career. "The odd thing is," he says with a slight
pause, "that I find the same mistakes I made when I started.
I anticipate….you’d think the guy’d know this by
now! So I go back and rethink it…"
"Some people think
that making family movies is just froth and
Shooting in Brisbane and Bali, The Real Macaw is a family
adventure - but a comedy first. Robards plays Grandpa, who owns
Mac; Grandpa lives in a grand old house, but is deeply in debt.
The only solution is to sell up and move into a retirement home -
where pets aren’t allowed.
Mac to the rescue! Revealing his long held secret (that he can
really talk) he also reveals that there is buried treasure to be
had. The adventure is off. Jamie Croft plays the 15 year old
grandson, Sam, in whom Mac confides, and Deborra-Lee Furness
plays Beth, Sam’s mother. John waters plays a baddie, Dr
Hagan, and Joe Petruzzi plays Sam’s father, Rick.
Of course, where the treasure had been buried (after Mac and
the pirate escaped his sinking ship) is no longer a remote island
beach; it’s got a five star hotel foyer right above the
adventure and comedy…it’s rare for a script to have
all those elements." producer Margot McDonald
Written by Bruce Hancock and Matthew Perry, the film is
produced by REP and will be released in Australia around
Producer Margot McDonald says the script has "drama,
pathos, adventure and comedy…it’s rare for a script to
have all those elements."
And as Andreacchio says, "It’s a family genre film,
and it’s adventure comedy, but it’s like the best of
stories, it has not only a strong plot line but a strong thematic
line: it’s something I’ve always felt really necessary
in family genre films. Some people think that making family
movies is just froth and bubble, and everyone has a good time and
that’s it. Whereas if you look at the best examples, like ET
or even Raiders, there is a strong thematic line that travels
through the film. In this the plot is this boy goes out in search
for this treasure; metaphorically, it’s actually the search
for that elusive treasure we are all looking for. It raises the
question ‘What is it to be rich?’ This film answers it
by saying that true wealth is to be found in relationships. So we
set up the plot of the story with the pirate treasure and the
bird, but when you look at it the bird becomes like Jiminy
Cricket, partly conscience, partly the character the boy would
like to be like. The bird and Sam are like two character sides of
the same coin."
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