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Quentin Tarantino had himself blown up repeatedly – just for fun – during the making of Django Unchained, as John Jarratt tells Andrew L. Urban.

What Quentin Tarantino did for Austrian actor Christoph Waltz’ acting career when he cast him in Inglourious Basterds (2009), Aussie filmmaker Greg McLean did for Australian actor John Jarrett’s when casting him in Wolf Creek (2005). That parallel was consummated when Tarantino cast Jarrett in Django Unchained (2012) – which also stars Waltz (as well as Jamie Foxx, Leonardo diCaprio Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington). 

The connection is crowned by Tarantino’s much publicised admiration for Australian films and for Jarratt as his ‘favourite Aussie actor’. In Django Unchained, Tarantino has cast both his favourite Austrian and Australian actors. Had Tarantino not had to cancel his Australian trip to promote Django Unchained, I could have asked him what he liked so much about these two guys. But Jarrett is here in Sydney ….

… and he is giving me a great impersonation of Tarantino on location, during the scene when he (Tarantino as an Aussie mercenary) gets blown up. Assuming the Tarantino accent and speech mannerism, Jarrett channels the great man, his arms doing as much talking as his mouth after the explosion which spreads dirt and muck everywhere; he was carrying a bag of TNT. Baaaaang! “So you got that OK? Everyone OK with that? Cameras OK? Perfect. Great. So let’s do it again!” Why? Asks Jarrett. Because he loves the process. They blow him up again. Seven times.

"We had a lot of fun but we WORKED!"

“He’s very committed,” says Jarrett. “We had a lot of fun but we WORKED! He takes the work seriously, but not himself. He likes the larrikin thing Aussies have.”

Jarrett plays a redneck, “and I know that character better than he does, so he just left me alone … except after a while he complained I said ‘fuck’ too many times and he had to cut a few out.”

It’s a bit strange sitting in a swank Sydney harbourside hotel room looking at the Opera House with Jarratt with his Mick Taylor look, leaning on the table with his bare right arm – all tattooed, and his face furry with facial hair: “I’m working,” he says simply, by way of explanation. For eight weeks he’s shooting Wolf Creek II, as Mick, the only character from Wolf Creek to have a role this time. And this time, the film is more a road chase than a gut wrenching horror film but he won’t elaborate.

It’s only the most recent of Jarratt’s acting personas. His resume lists some iconic Australian films, including Picnic at Hanging Rock, We of the Never Never, The Odd Angry Shot and All Men Are Liars. Among his television credits he cites his role as Ned Kelly in the mini series, The Last Outlaw as career defining. “I was 27 and the challenge and responsibility of delivering that character for a mini series really improved my acting,” he says.

By way of complete contrast, he was a writer and presenter for Australia’s highest rating Lifestyle program, Better Homes and Gardens, which won the much coveted Logie Award for Best Lifestyle Program for four consecutive years. 

More recently, of course (among other roles). he created the serial killer Mick Taylor for Wolf Creek.

Jarratt had met Tarantino some years ago when the noted American director was visiting Sydney to promote his film, Kill Bill 2 (2005). “We spent a couple of hours over a drink and a meal,” recalls Jarrett, talking about movie making. “He’s across every genre … he remembers everything,” says an impressed Jarratt.

"a redneck Aussie in charge of some prisoners"

In Django Unchained, he plays a redneck Aussie in charge of some prisoners – including Jamie Foxx’s Django – being transferred to a prison. “Originally Tarantino had cast Anthony La Paglia as another Aussie but when the shooting schedule had to be moved, Anthony couldn’t make it, so Tarantino decided to play the role himself.”

Did Jarratt coach him into his Aussie accent? “I helped a bit,” he says modestly.

The film is set in pre Civil War Texas, where a former dentist turned bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), buys the freedom of a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), who can identify his next bounty, a gang of stagecoach robbers and killers. But Django proves such a valuable asset Schultz makes him a free man and trains him as his deputy. Although happy enough with the deal, Django most wants to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who had been separately sold as part of his punishment for trying to escape his owners. The trail eventually leads to the huge plantation estate owned by the ruthless – and heavily protected - Calvin Candie (Leonardo diCaprio). 

"Jarratt’s dance card is likely to fill with offers from American filmmakers"

With Django Unchained, Jarratt’s dance card is likely to fill with offers from American filmmakers who will no doubt want him to reprise his redneck Aussie character. “I don’t care,” he says, “as long as it’s good work I’m happy to do it.” 

Published January 24, 2013

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John Jarratt - in Django Unchained


John Jarratt with Michael Parks as employees of The LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. in Django Unchained

John Jarratt - in Wolf Creek

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