Basically Like War
WISH YOU WERE HERE, a new Australian drama, follows four friends who set off for a carefree holiday in South-East Asia – but only three come home to Australia. The film is a tense thriller featuring performances from Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price, Teresa Palmer and Antony Starr.
I sat down with director and co-writer Kieran Darcy-Smith, and co-writer and actor Felicity Price – who are also married to each other – to discuss what inspired them to make the film and the process of filming on seemingly idyllic beaches. One might wonder what inspired the duo to make a psychological thriller set in a popular tourist destination.
“A lot of it comes from my particular fascination with that region anyway,” says Kieran. “It was the first place I ever visited overseas. And the thing that attracted me as soon as I got off the aircraft at 25 years of age was that it’s dangerous, it’s hot, it’s full of stories, it’s full of history.”
The process of getting the film off the ground actually happened quite quickly. “I know that I started writing on the 7th of March 2007,” says Felicity, “because I dated the very first treatment. And we had it in the can almost exactly four years later. Then, at the end of five years, we were at Sundance having our opening night in the snow.” Being chosen to open at Sundance was an experience they both call incredible.
When I ask them what filming in Cambodia was like, Kieran laughs. “A walk in the park. No, it was a challenge in the extreme, in every way you can imagine. We had a very, very tight schedule. The gear was antiquated, there were breakdowns, our crew largely couldn’t speak English, we had a predominantly Vietnamese or Cambodian-speaking cast, we had to get interpreters, Felicity and I were both incredibly ill…”
Here Felicity interrupts. “We took our two small children! It was incredibly challenging, but at the same time very exciting. Because, through the camera, there is something exciting and exotic that you’re looking at.”
“Also, we were running off adrenaline,” Kieran says. “It was basically like going into war. We had severe dysentery and I had a crazy oriental flu – we were sick as dogs. I fell into a sewer, on the very first day, up to my neck! But it was exhilarating, and I’d do it all again. We got out alive, and with great material.”
Felicity concludes the interview: “We were half dead behind the camera – but what was on-screen looked amazing.” You can take their word for it – Wish You Were Here is visually stunning and well worth it. Even worth dysentery, perhaps.
Wish You Were Here opens in cinemas around Australia Thursday April 26. Catch it in Canberra at Dendy Cinema.