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Variety is what actors like in roles, and playing the quiet farmer Michael in Summer Coda came as a great contrast to his role as Mihali the loud nightclub operator in The Kings of Mykonos, Alex Dimitriades tells Andrew L. Urban.

Alex Dimitriades remembers trying to ignore the sand flies crawling up his trouser legs by the hundreds, so he could concentrate on the scene, a quiet, brooding moment inside the cabin of his work truck, with his co-star Rachael Taylor beside him. The heat was an unbearable 40 degrees outside in the Mildura orange groves and the giant location lights added another 10 degrees to the temperature inside the truck.

As soon as director Richard Gray called CUT!, “we’d literally just burst out of the truck, screaming,” he says itching with the memory as we sit in the comfort of a hotel facing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. “They bite and they stick and they’re immune to every fly spray – I’ve tried them all,” he adds with memories of desperation.

"a romantic drama tinged with melancholy"

A short fight aside, Summer Coda has little of the explosive action that Dimitriades describes off screen. It’s a romantic drama tinged with melancholy about Heidi (Taylor) returning from America for the funeral of her estranged father, and meeting orange farmer Michael (Dimitriades). Both have to struggle through personal demons to make room for a potential relationship.

“She’s a violin playing, snooker ball sinking, kick-ass independent girl … but not as crass as I make her sound,” he says with a laugh. Taylor is “inspirational to watch. She’s focused and intense and ambitious how she approaches her role, which is great. We make so few films, so there are very few roles for strong protagonist females.”

As for his character, Michael, he says he was drawn to it because “it was a chance to display versatility – to play a character that is counter to the comedy role I play in The Kings of Mykonos: Wog Boy 2. This is a softer character and it keeps my life interesting.”

Indeed, his search for versatility continued with the role of Charlie (the Tom Cruise role) in the Ensemble Theatre’s production of Rain Man, directed by Sandra Bates, earlier this year. “We did 120 shows and it was great,” he says. “It’s a great story and of course the stage is a very different medium to cinema. A live, interactive audience . . . I hadn’t seen the film and I didn’t want to see the film so as not to be distracted by Tom’s performance.”

That, wrote Diana Simmonds in Stage Noise, “means he has no idea quite how brilliantly he transcends the narcissistic limitations of Cruise . . .” Daniel Mitchell plays the idiot savant older brother, Raymond (the Dustin Hoffman role).

"an instinctive actor"

Dimitriades describes himself as an instinctive actor; “I had no classical training so I learnt it on the go.” His first acting performance was his audition for The Heartbreak Kid. When he got the role, he “felt a lot of pressure to match all the pros I was working with …”

That pressure is still there, but in a different way. Working with first time director Richard Gray on Summer Coda, Dimitriades was keen to make it a team effort. “He’s a talented young man and has put many years into this. So it was great to be a part of it – I knew as soon as we met that we’d be able to work well together.”

That first meeting was arranged quickly; Dimitriades hadn’t even finished reading the script when he rang his agent and asked for a meeting with Gray. “I liked the mood of the script and how these characters come to meet. The orange grove setting was another factor …so I jumped up and rang my agent … it seemed like a movie I wanted to see.”

First published in the Sun-Herald

Published October 21, 2010

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