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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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Andrew L. Urban meets Australian cinematographer, Peter Menzies jnr, and asks why Lara Croft’s nipples don’t show, why Angelina Jolie did her own stunts and what sort of chap is producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who is producing the film Peter is shooting in Australia, Down And Under.

On Angelina Jolie:
To get to spend over six months working with an actress like Angelina Jolie is pretty great. She became Lara … her hair was different, her body shape changed; even though she had the most amazing figure, she became much more athletic and she really worked so hard, it shows. She did 90% or more of her stunts, because she was better at it. Better than the stunt girls. She had a point to prove, that she was Lara and Angie wanted to do things like Lara would do them. We weren’t allowed to use doubles, even for little things like hand inserts; Angie insisted on doing them all herself.

On calling her ‘Angie’:
In the beginning it was Angelina…it takes a few weeks to work up to it. But Simon West, the director, had spent a lot of time with her and he called her Angie so we all sort of picked up on that.

On Lara’s non-existent nipples:
There was some discussion, I think, about that . . .and although I’ve only played the game for about 30 seconds (I drowned Lara!) I don’t remember seeing nipples in the game either. Most of the wardrobe was a lift from the game – we had to keep that pretty true. But there are a few other redeeming features about Angie that make up for that, though!

On an Australian working with a US producer and English director:
The mix worked very well…I met Simon on an English commercial in the mid 90s and we did The General’s daughter together, which was a great experience. We did what we thought was pretty good work on it. And Lara Croft was his next film…so I got called for that.

On Jerry Bruckheimer (producer, Down And Under), who gets a bit of bad press:
Jerry is an old fashioned filmmaker – he knows every piece of wardrobe, he knows what shoes everyone’s wearing, what glasses…he sees everything before we shoot it. He knows every line of dialogue . . . he’s just such a hands on producer. He’s fantastic. He’s not here every day, but he’s on the phone every day, and peps us up and gets us going. Not bad for a man who’s got four films going at once – plus releasing pearl Harbor! He loves filmmaking. I don’t know what time he gets up but it must be pretty early. And he’s never had a flop. He just wants to make it the best you can.

On working on an Australian film:
I would love to. I got to work on this one (Down and Under) with a lot of my old friends from the tv commercial days, and it’s been such a joy being back in tha Australian system. We’ve had a lot of fun. I hope I can score another job at home. (Ed: Peter was camera operator on Crocodile Dundee and CD II.)

How Peter made the jump from being a successful tv commercials director to Hollywood movies – in a single leap:
I’d spent a lot of time going to Los Angeles and foing commercials, meeting people – and got an agent, who I still have, after 12 years, which some people in the US think is strange, but Barbara is great. I met Roger Donaldson, the Australian director, who was looking for a commercial-ish look for his film White Sands (with Willem Dafoe and Mickey Rourke) and he remembered me, and I happened to be around. It gave me a huge break – and it was a leap of faith for him because it was a US$25 million movie, and that was 1991, so it was a big budget…

On Down And Under, a story of two American fish out of water in Australia:
It’s mainly a comedy and it’s about the two boys and the experiences they go through. It’s something different for Jerry Bruckheimer and he’s really enjoying it. He really wanted to make this film – it’s his first association with Castle Rock. It’s still a big Jerry Bruckheimer production, a US$60 million movie!

On working with his cinematographer dad for the first time, on Down And Under:
My Dad’s never worked on a film, he’s only done tv commercials – very successfully, too. We needed a few extra things so I called him. He was our ‘Roo Unit’…’cause he shot the Skippy series, so he knew all about the kangaroo shooting. So we sent him off to shoot kangaroos with red jackets on…he loved it, and he got some amazing footage. He’s loved it, and it’s the first time he’s seen me work. He’s very proud of what I’ve done, film-wise.

On wife, kids and living in Australia:
I’m always based here in Sydney. . . I met my wife in New York, shooting some commercials there (for an Australian director) and she was the producer. We fell in love and had a long distance romance, which doesn’t work often, but it did. She’s gorgeous! I was spending a lot of time in Los Angeles then, and then she visited Sydney and loved it, so when she fell pregnant with our first daughter, she said Sydney’s going to be home.

Published June 28, 2001

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INTERVIEW with Angelina Jolie

Peter Menzies Jnr selected filmography:

White Sands (1992)
Posse (1993)
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
The General’s Daughter (1999)
Disney’s The Kid (2000)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Down And Under (2001)

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