From the unconventional filming process to being revered at the Venice Film Festival, actor Nicholas Hope talks about what it was like being the eponymous character in the Australian cult classic, Bad Boy Bubby.
Bad Boy Bubby was filmed in quite an unconventional way, with 32 cinematographers. What was that experience like compared to other films and TV shows you’ve worked on?
At the time, [Bad Boy Bubby] was the first feature film I’d been in. I’d been in a couple of short films but I had no reference point and my training was in theatre. So that was the norm. That’s what I expected. So when I went onto the next film set, it was a surprise that there was only one [cinematographer]. That was easy to get used to, but in Bad Boy Bubby, I was the lead. If the camera wasn’t looking at me, it was my point of view. I was part of it. I sometimes helped guide the camera through the steps I was taking. It was very hands-on ““ it was almost like I was cellularly there. And that, of course, doesn’t happen in anything else. I’ve never had that since. Everything else is a lot more regimented in comparison. It would be great to have that kind of thing more, but it’s virtually impossible.
The movie has some pretty heavy themes. The film’s director, Rolf de Heer (Ten Canoes, The Tracker), has said that the reason he chose not to have Bubby played by a child actor was to avoid traumatising them during the filming process.Â Was there ever a time you felt like the filming process was traumatising or even just uncomfortable?
The film was great fun to be in and to do. I don’t think I have ever had such a good time in my life. But there were two things which were confronting: it is fairly confronting to strip off in front of a bunch of people and be the only one who is stripped off while everyone is there, just hanging around. But you get used to it pretty quickly because no one is reacting ““ it doesn’t even matter. The other thing is that I was brought up Catholic ““ my mother, especially, was very religious. Whilst I personally hold the views that the film holds in terms of religion and Catholicism, it was actually pretty confronting to walk down the street shouting “fuck you, God!”
You say that you agree with the views of the film. Did being Bubby teach you anything about the world or about yourself? Or did it just enhance ideas you already had?
It enhanced ideas that were already forming. I read the script and just understood it. That happens rarely, I think, that you get a script and read it and think “I don’t actually have to do any work here. I know this. I know it. I know every moment of this. I know exactly what’s going through that guy’s mind.” It felt kind of symbiotic.
In other interviews, you’ve mentioned that playing Bubby typecasted you in various ways. Is that still the case now?
Â It seems to have dissipated a little now, but I was a lot of priests when I was in England ““ because Bubby spends all that time with the priest’s collar. I lived in Norway for a little while and I was always just “The Bad Guy”. And here, for quite a while, I was “The Crazy”.
Outside of being typecast for a while, what do you think the film did for your career trajectory as an actor?
I was working in children’s theatre, going around playing at schools. It was a steady job. Then I moved city, from Adelaide to Sydney, and no one in theatre in Sydney knew who I was so that avenue stopped and then film took over ““ in a sporadic way, which is the way it is for most people. So [Bad Boy Bubby] changed my career from theatre to film. It catapulted me into a level of being considered for roles which I never would have been considered for otherwise. It also thinned things out, I suppose, because the category I was in was fairly narrow.
What was your favourite moment in the film, or of the filming process or experience in general?
Favourite moments during filming were the band scenes ““ playing in the band. I did play locally in bands in Adelaide but I wasn’t the singer. I always wanted to be the singer, but I’m not a very good singer. But you’ve got to do it! Everybody out there, they were paid to be extras. Paid and told and directed to cheer and have a great time, but I still believed it was for me. Haha! Consciously, I knew it wasn’t but you just can’t help responding like “oh, yeah! Gosh!” It was great. That was really good. That would be my favourite section of filming. Venice would probably be my favourite moment [in general] because it was just totally unexpected. I had no expectations for Venice and so it was quite crazy.
You were applauded after the Bad Boy Bubby screening at the Venice Film Festival. What was that like?
That whole Venice screening was momentous. We were walking towards an interview that had been set up for us and there was this massive crowd there. We’d heard that ““ I forgot who it was ““ that someone else was coming in that day and [Rolf and I] just both assumed that [the crowd] was there for them. Then someone turned around and shouted “Bubby!” and they all started streaming towards us. We couldn’t get through the crowd. People were asking us to sign autographs, wanting photos with us, and so on. That had never happened to me before and it really hasn’t happened since. It was amazing. There was a moment [in Venice] where I was catching the ferry back to the hotel with Rolf, and all the people on the ferry stood up and starting clapping. It was really beautiful. It’s lovely when it happens and I suppose very few people get that possibility. You really do get caught up in believing you are special. It’s devastating when that stops.
The newly-released Blu-ray version of ‘Bad Boy Bubby’, boasting an array of special features (commentaries, interviews, short film and more), is now available on Umbrella Entertainment’s official website.
‘Bad Boy Bubby’ is also now streaming on Netflix – right HERE.