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Eight years after his feature film debut in The Castle, as the film comes out on DVD, Stephen Curry looks back at the experience and at the film (in which plays the pivotal role of Dale), recalling how fate intervened to land him the role, as he recalls to Andrew L. Urban.

Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro were in the midst of a casting discussion for their low budget comedy, The Castle, to consider who to cast in the pivotal role of Dale Kerrigan, while the tv was playing. It was 1997 and Victoria’s Traffic Accident Commission was running a series of television ads with a comedic tone (not one of those grim crashed cars jobs) in which a young chap was teaching his dad to drive. The kid was played by Stephen Curry, who looked about 12, he says, but was in fact 20.

Dale Kerrigan was supposed to be about 15; Sitch and Cilauro took one look at Curry and put in a call. The universe had pushed Stephen Curry into the limelight; it was his first feature film role, and one that led to another seven movies in the following eight years.

The Castle became one of the great success stories of Australian cinema. Not only was it a box office hit at home, it was sold for US$9 million to Miramax in a deal that stands alone in the annals of Australian film exploitation. Shot in just 12 days in Melbourne, the film nevertheless touched a nerve.

"the result of The Castle"

Life is pretty good for the Kerrigans, an (almost) ordinary Australian family living next to the main runway of a busy Australian airport. Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton), is happy living in his modest home with his family - his wife Sal (Anne Tenney) and sons Dale (Stephen Curry) and Steve (Anthony Simcoe). Daughter Tracy (Sophie Lee) has recently left home to be married. Expansion plans for the airport means the adjacent houses, like the Kerrigans’, have to go. But to Darryl, his home is his castle and he hires low rent lawyer Dennis (Tiriel Mora) to defend them. Their problems seem unsurmountable, though, until retired constitutional lawyer (Charles 'Bud' Tingwell) takes an interest in the Kerrigans’ plight, taking their case to the High Court.

Looking back on it, Curry has nothing but fond memories; and a new mortgage. “Most of the work I’ve done since then has been the result of The Castle, either directly in the case of the first few films, or indirectly after that.”

Even with the film now out on DVD, Curry resists watching it. “I’ve seen the film a couple of times, and I may see it again in 10 years or so. But I don’t want to be a wanker sitting at home watching myself,” he says with a dry laugh.

“I’d been a fan of the Working Dog people for some time, and it was my first feature film so I was very excited. I remember it as an amazing, incident free shoot. More so since it was all done in 12 days, which is inconcievable unless you have a crew that’s worked together before, and a bunch of people with a common goal. It’s certainly the most efficient crew I’ve worked with,” says Curry, now a veteran of seven other features.

With his background in amateur theatre and stand up comedy, Curry learnt by working with Rob Sitch on The Castle how to judge the scale of his performance. “In amateur theatre you learn that bigger is better in a performance. Whereas on film, the slightest reaction is enlarged…”

He also enjoyed working on the film because “it has such a beautiful heart to it. Most reviews were positive, but the few negative ones said it makes fun of the working class. But I don’t agree; the Kerrigans are the most functional and loving family I’ve seen on screen outside a Disney movie.”

"I just pretend with conviction"

Curry’s own comedic style is hard to define. “Some people, comic actors, can put into words what they do. Usually they’ve been through training. I believe good comedy comes from truth, so that’s my technique, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I just pretend with conviction.”

Published September 2, 2004

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Stephen Curry


... in the Castle

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