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DAY, MATT : Doing Time For Patsy Cline

Matt Day is one of a new generation of Australian actors on the brink of international success. With two high profile Australian films released within two weeks of each other, things look bright for this other graduate of the Muriel's Wedding school of Aussie cinema. He shared a coffee with PAUL FISCHER.

Matt Day is enjoying the fruits of his labour, though he finds his sudden success bemusing, to say the least. "I see all of this as a natural, organic progression, starting off your doing theatre, then working on television for a few years, then doing small film roles in things like Muriel's Wedding, larger roles in the likes of Love and Other Catastrophes before acquiring the leads. In that regard, I'm no different from a lot of actors who have come through the ranks as I have." Its all in a days work, so to speak.

"I think it's more of a stretch to play the kind of nave character.."

Day is about to show movie audiences his diversity as an actor and bona fide leading man, playing another version of the nave well-intentioned bloke in the quirky Doing Time For Patsy Cline, and a darker soul in the black road movie/thriller Kiss or Kill. It's interesting that it's the latter character, an emotionally-charged, self-obsessed and ultimately paranoid con man, with which the young actor identifies, far more than the sweeter youths of its predecessors. "I feel he's a lot closer to me than a lot of the other characters I've played", Day explains. "I think it's more of a stretch to play the kind of nave character than the guy in Kiss or Kill." However, Day is quick to point out that while Al in Kiss or Kill is the opposite extreme to his country muso in Patsy Cline, he is, after all, an actor. "People often comment that it's good to see me doing something different, but the fact remains, you're an actor, and so it's strange that people are surprised that you can play different characters."

"I think it's a sign of maturity that we can start doing genre movies"

Kiss or Kill revolves around two lovers and con artists (Day and Frances O'Connor) on the run after a mark ends up murdered. The scam is simple: O'Connor seduces her victims, drugs them, and the pair then fleeces them. But this time, their plan goes awry and as they flee, other dead bodies turn up around them, causing each to be suspicious of the other. Kiss or Kill divides audiences, some accusing it of being too much like a mainstream genre film. "I think it's a sign of maturity that we can start doing genre movies instead of trying to shy away from a lot of them. Why not exploit the genres and use them? They exist for a reason." Day is quick to point out that this film has a "vastly different look and feel from what you'd expect." Though Day found it easy to tap into the dark aspects of this character, bringing him to life was still a challenge. "I think doing that degree of drama was more of a challenge. The other films, like Muriel's and Patsy Cline, were comedies and it's all been a lot of fun, all of which I find relatively easy. So when you're doing a drama like Kiss or Kiss, which has so many extreme situations, then it presents more challenges than normal."

"I really hate it," Matt Day on country music

The challenge for Day in Doing Time for Patsy Cline, in which he plays an aspiring teenage country singer en route to Nashville, was to get into the swing of country music. "I really hate it", he admits laughingly. Ironically, he also had to sing it. "It's really simplistic music, so it wasn't hard. I did it in one take, and now it's there for all to hear." As with Kiss or Kill, Day and his co-stars Richard Roxburgh and Miranda Otto were given freedom to experiment. "Because it was my first lead role in a film, I started off sticking to the script, hitting my mark and doing what I was supposed to do. Then I noticed Richard and Miranda having a great old time changing things, so I just started to join in." On Kiss or Kill, "we did a far greater extreme version of that." Director Bill Bennett is very much into improvisation, and Day and O'Connor had a script outline, but came up with a lot of dialogue themselves "which was a tremendous eye-opener."

"it all came naturally to me."

Day recalls that he wanted to be an actor for the most simplistic of reasons: "It was my one way into the movie world." While many with such aspirations might consider directing as a viable career move, "when I was a kid I didn't know what a director did, but I knew what an ACTOR did." Day has had no formal training, and admits "that it all came naturally to me." Acting is all that Day has achieved, professionally, and adds, laughingly,

"I'm the only person in my family not to have gone to uni." Day in fact dropped out of high school to pursue acting. "There's nothing else I want to do." Scoring some success in the theatre, Day went on to do guest parts on such TV shows as A Country Practice, GP and Water Rats. He made an auspicious film debut in the hit Muriel's Wedding, followed by stints in Dating the Enemy and Love and Other Catastrophes. Now he's leading man with both Kiss or Kill and Doing Time for Patsy Cline, not to mention Sugar Factory, which is expected to premiere in the premium showcase, the Sundance Film Festival, in January 1998.

"it's more important to find something interesting here than get lost in the shuffle over there."

Day says that he is "a far more confident actor" than he used to be, and he comes across with greater self-assuredness than his sometimes gawky screen persona might suggest. Now, it's time to possibly break out internationally. "I'm about to sign up with an American agent, but for me, it's more important to find something interesting here than get lost in the shuffle over there." There's no shortage of work for the busy actor, who says that there "are a number of things on the boil that I don't want to talk about just yet." At least he doesn't have to kill for the choice movie parts these days.

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Matt Day: "it's more of a stretch to play the kind of nave character"


ReadPaul Fischer's interview with

With co-stars Richard Roxburgh & Miranda Otto

With co-star Frances O'Connor in Bill Bennett's
Kiss or Kill

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