Cast Mates: Australian actors in Hollywood and at home
NewSouth Publishing, $34.99 pb, 320 pp
A confession: I was a child actor. Never a child star, although certainly that was the intention. For years I endured the three-hour drive from Canberra to Sydney, preparing for my five-minute meeting with some Surry Hills casting director, whose first question would inevitably be ‘How’s your American accent?’ The zenith of my career was a thirty-second commercial for the orange-flavoured soft drink Mirinda, a merchandising tie-in with the release of Spider-Man 2, shot at Fox Studios on a full-sized replica of a New York subway carriage. On the soundstage next door, Baz Luhrmann was directing Nicole Kidman in their famously extravagant campaign for Chanel No. 5. There we all were: Australians in Australia, pretending to be Americans for America. Even at that early age, I sensed that Australian cinema existed in the long shadow of Hollywood, and that there has always been, as Sam Twyford-Moore expertly describes in his new book, ‘some kind of psychic gangway between Sydney and Los Angeles’.
So I might be uniquely primed to engage with Twyford-Moore’s group bio-history Cast Mates: Australian actors in Hollywood and at home, which I gleefully devoured as though it had been algorithmically concocted specifically for me. In its pages I found a deep resonance with my own artistic ambitions, and profound reflections on the conditions that continue to shape the Australian arts. While Cast Mates may prove too dense or too niche for the casual reader, those on Twyford-Moore’s wavelength will find it superbly researched, fiendishly funny, and achingly astute, as entertaining as any of the cinematic outings it weaves into its exuberant journey.