Out now on Blu-ray/DVD is The Hunter, the acclaimed drama starring Willem Dafoe as a mercenary hired by a mysterious biotech company to track down the last Tasmanian tiger.
Also starring Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill, the film received strong reviews in its native Australia and is about to make its American premiere at the forthcoming SXSW festival.
Director Daniel Netthiem answered questions about the making of The Hunter.
When did you first come across Julia Leigh’s novel, and what was it that resonated so deeply that you wanted to adapt it into a film?
I read the book in 2000 and was struck first by the beautiful story, the central character journey, and also by the prospect of shooting in the landscapes she described.
You and Wain Fimeri first took a crack at adapting the novel and then brought in Alice Addison to take over. What did she bring to the adaptation that was missing from your earlier drafts?
It's hard to break down the writing process into specific components. Wain worked on an early draft then moved on to pursue his own directing projects. I continued on a number of drafts on my own then we brought Alice in to take it to the next level. She was involved for about five years before we went into production.
"The ever changing weather, the wet ground, the cold. Sometimes accessibility was an issue. But it was always a pleasure to wake up in the hotel room and look out the window." - Daniel Nettheim
Was Willem Dafoe always on the top of your list to play Martin?
He was on our very first wish list, but we never dreamed we might actually get him. It's helpful to visualize a face during the writing, and his face seemed like a great fit for the story.
Dafoe is known to take his roles very seriously. What was he like to direct when portraying such a detached character?re the shoot.
Willem and I had most of our important dialogue in pre-production when i was finalizing the script. It was important for me to deal with any key character questions he had before the start of the shoot. It made the daily production process much smoother. After that Willem tended to focus on the actions he needed to play on a scene by scene basis, and put his trust in the script to take care of the big picture. So yes, he took the role seriously, but was also a lot of fun to work with.
I’m of the mind that Australia produces the best child actors. What was it like directing young Morgana Davies and Finn Woodcock?
The key here was in the casting process, finding intelligent instinctive kids who were close to the characters they were portraying. On set they had a lot of energy and enthusiasm and were a great diversion from the serious task of movie making.
"Willem tended to focus on the actions he needed to play on a scene by scene basis, and put his trust in the script to take care of the big picture." - Daniel Nettheim
The Tasmanian scenery captured on this film is stunning. What type of challenges was there is filming in such dense bush land?
The ever changing weather, the wet ground, the cold. Sometimes accessibility was an issue. But it was always a pleasure to wake up in the hotel room and look out the window.
The film touches on the raw issue between the loggers and the green activists. Considering the nature of The Hunter and that you were filming on location, could you feel any tension from either side towards the film?
Both sides were fully supportive towards the film and its intentions. Though when we had them together on set the mutual suspicion was palpable.
There have been many reported sightings of the Tasmanian tiger over the years. What is your opinion: an extinct species or still lurking somewhere in the wilderness?
Since working down there, I have been seduced by the belief of many of the locals that it still exists. I'm very open to the idea, although science tells us it's not possible.
The Hunter is about to have its American release at the 2012 SXSW Festival. What kind of reaction are you expecting from this audience of film fans?
I'll be there in a couple of weeks. Let's wait and see. So far the global response has been overwhelmingly positive, so I'm hoping for the same.