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BOWMAN, ANTONY J.: Paperback Hero

Paperback Hero blends cool romance and the hot Australian outback with a scintillating new screen couple Ė Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan. The film is also set to propel writer/director Antony J. Bowmanís career, as ANDREW L. URBAN discovers.

Even before the world premiere of Paperback Hero in Sydney on March 24, 1999, the film has elicited positive reactions from the industry and media around the world. "The biggest response to it," says its writer and director, Antony J. Bowman, is "always to do with the characters and the actors Ė how real and unsentimental they are."

After a London screening in December 1998 for a select handful of industry guests, Bowman was approached to direct a screen adaptation of Love Ė A Userís Guide; "itís an unusual romantic comedy by UK writer Frederick Raphael (Eyes Wide Shut)."

"the cool romantic charm of its Australian ethos."

Many who have seen Paperback Hero praise its freshness and its engaging story, the terrific performances and the cool romantic charm of its Australian ethos.

As for negative responses, Bowman grins sheepishly: "I wish I could say there had been something negative, just to put it in balance, but people are really getting the fact that itís big Ė in its exposure of Australia, yet itís really intimate."

The world premiere, with stars Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan in attendance, will always stay in Antony J. Bowmanís memory as a major milestone. It comes more than eight years after he first began creating the screenplay, and after several frustrations and setbacks.

What kept him going was a determination to make a romantic comedy but one which he felt was somehow more "truthful" and real. "I was born in Sydney but I lived in the country until I was 13 and I am very aware of the truth you find in country people. Itís like Australians used to be before they were urbanised. I like the idea of a truck driver - which may sound like a clichť, unless heís writing a romance novel. And I like the idea of a strong young woman. So itís a story set in an old fashioned romantic comedy structure but with modern people. And it has some serious twists."

Turning the drawn out process to his advantage, Bowman polished and refined the script endlessly, until "it was one of the best screenplays Iíve read in the past 10 years or so," says producer Lance Reynolds. The characters are all well defined, avoiding the cardboard cutouts that some romantic comedies rely on as the dispensable lover or occasional friend. Bowman wanted full bloodied Australian characters, and that included the women.

"I canít tell you how good they are" on the performances

"It was very important from the start that the female characters are as strong and well defined as the male characters," he says. That was a key reason why Penguin grabbed the novelisation rights.

Bowman raves about his actors: "I canít tell you how good they are Ė theyíve all added so much more to the characters I created, and they have taken them up as their own."

Karvan plays Ruby vale, crop dusting bush chick and long time friend of Jack (Jackman) the truckdriver cum-novelist. Bowmanís wife, Jeanie Drynan (Murielís Wedding), plays Suzie, Rubyís friend, Andrew Gilbert (Kiss or Kill) play the vet engaged to Ruby, and Angie Milliken (Dead Heart) plays publisherís publicist, Ziggy. The incredible Barry Rugless does a notable cameo as Mad Pete, and a dog called Benny plays Jackís buddy, a dog called Lance (the producerís name).

Incidentally, itís also a quite a crew: cinematographer David Burrís camera operator is Richard Merryman, who does all of Kevin Costnerís camera work. Burr, often likened to John Seale for both the quality of his work and his can-do attitude, has already done quite a bit in Hollywood. (During the outback shoot, Burr confessed that he was missing having access to Urban Cinefile; the satellite dish on the roof of the filmís Boomerang Cafť was fake.)

Costume designer is Louise Wakefield, who designed the costumes on Shine, Doing Time for Patsy Cline, and assisted on Babe. Production Designer is Jon Dowding, who has worked on many good looking films, from Mad Max to Diana & Me.

"It was hearing his score for The Truman Show.. that made us approach him" on Burkhard Dallwitz' music

As for Burkhard Dallwitzís music, Bowman says he is "awfully proud of it. It was hearing his score for The Truman Show [for which Dallwitz won a Golden Globe Award] that made us approach him."

Now, finally, Paperback Hero is made; it is engaging, entertaining and invigoratingly Australian, without the clichťs.

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Antony J. Bowman - on set


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