John Jarratt on Bringing Wolf Creek to TV

John Jarratt, Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek franchise, talks bringing his character to TV to and the differences from the films.

Normally if Mick Taylor says, “G’day, mate,” you should start running immediately, but when it’s the real John Jarratt, an authentic Aussie greeting is an honor. Jarratt was in Los Angeles for the Television Critics Association panel for Wolf Creek, the TV series, airing on Pop. We got to speak with him after the panel, outside of his red plaid shirt, sporting a beard for his next movie, Boar.

Two Wolf Creek movies have built up the legend of Mick Taylor, the outback hunter who brutally savages any kids he finds on his land. In the series, he murders an American family, but one girl (Lucy Fry) gets away. Over the course of six episodes, she comes after Mick. Wolf Creek premieres Friday, October 14 at 10PM on Pop.

With six episodes of the series, were you worried that the more we see Mick the less scary he might become?

Well, you don’t see that much of him. He’s being chased so he pops up. Like in Wolf Creek 1, I was the monster in the cage who doesn’t get let out until about halfway through the film. Wolf Creek 2 I’m in every frame because it’s about me chasing people all over the place. But this one’s about a young woman who’s after revenge, so she’s trying to track him down. You see me as we go along. I’m there, I’m always there but not so much that you get sick of the sight of me.

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After Wolf Creek 2 was it important to you that Mick not be in every scene?

No, it’s like if I was playing James Bond, you wouldn’t go, “Hey, can I be in a few less scenes?” Because people would be pissed off, wouldn’t they? It’s kind of like that because they expect to see me. So no, I didn’t expect to be seen less.

Do we actually see Mick on the run, out of his element?

I’m not going to tell you, but Mick’s scared of nothing or nobody. He’s unfazable, I’ll tell you that much.

By now, when you put on the costume, does that make you feel like Mick again?

Yeah, I put on the outfit, the Super Mick outfit as we call it. It helps me fall into the Mick character.

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Did you have any idea when you did the first Wolf Creek that if it became successful, you’d be wearing that a lot?

Not until it came out and people really took to it. Then I thought, “Well, we’ll be making another one.” And Greg said, “We’ll be making another one” because the Weinsteins paid $8 million for it. When I read it, I thought if this is done well, it could do all right. It could be fairly successful. I didn’t realize he was going to explode it off the screen because he was pretty green at the time.

And it’s the same shirt, the same hat he always wears.

Yeah, I think that’s a little bit of cinematic poetry, poetic cinema or however you put it. Cinematically, you see the outfit and you know who it is.

Has it become a problem being recognized as Mick Taylor?

Well, in Australia I get recognized as John Jarratt most of the time because I’ve been around for 43 years down there. I’m pretty well known so I’m very used to being stared at for many, many years since Picnic at Hanging Rock. Actually, I like going to a foreign country and not be stared at. That’s kind of nice.

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The style of each movie and the show have been so different. Wolf Creek was gritty and raw, Wolf Creek 2 more composed and epic. Have you noticed a difference each time you filmed?

Yeah, we’ve done that purposely because you can’t win with sequels. If it was too much the same, they’d say, “It was just like the last one.” If you make it different, they say, “It’s nothing like the last one.” You always get a critic. You’ll never win with a sequel. It’s a good sequel. That sequel did two things that are not supposed to happen. Number one, getting a horror film into the Venice Film Festival. Number two, a sequel of a horror film. Film festivals usually put on first time films. So it was a good sequel and we try to make it fresh and different. The series is fresh and different. It’s a different take. The trick is to find some theme within what it is to make it interesting and not repetitive.

Was the experience of filming in different styles different work for you?

No, because Mick doesn’t suddenly become an elaborate human being. Mick’s got the same arms, same legs, same voice, same makeup. He’s exactly the same character no matter what they’re doing with the camera.

Greg told us there could be two different screenplays that could be Wolf Creek 3. Have you read both of them?

No, he’s talked to me about them. He won’t let me read them until we get close and then Greg and I workshop the crap out of them and make them work. He’s told me a couple of the themes and I’ve told him what I think of the themes. We pretty well collaborate all the time.

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Is there anything Mick does that even you can’t believe, like head on a stick?

If I can’t believe it, that’s part of working with Greg. If I don’t believe it, I won’t do it. We’ll change things to make it work. The first thing I do when I read a script is look for holes, and then you feel them. I’ll give you a good for instance. In Wolf Creek 2, the screenplay, I smash my truck. Then this guy continues on in a jeep and goes straight onto a highway and goes up the road. Not too long afterwards I’m behind him in a truck. That’d be impossible so we had to fix that. There’s no way he could’ve run all the way to the highway, flagged down a truck, got in it and caught up with the jeep. Things like that.

Now I forget the movie, but how did you fix it?

He took the dead girl out of the car and gave her a burial and then went back to the road. By that time, Mick had [gotten a new truck.] If I don’t think it works, or Greg doesn’t think it works, we’ll fix it. By the way, head on a stick is an infamous serial killer called Ivan Milat. That’s one of the things he used to do to his victims. So it’s not inconceivable.

Oh sure. I meant more morally, is there anything that Mick does, even as the serial killer, does anything shock you?

Oh, only when I look back and I think, “Oh my God, I just did that in a scene. I chopped some guy’s head off.” When I actually act the part, the real guy’s laying down with his head on with his real arm beside his rubber head. So when I’m doing it, even though I’ve got to get into that scene, sometimes it’s draining when I get into a really heavy scene and do dreadful things, because I’ve got to get into that zone. At the end of it I’m a little bit, “Whoa, I just did that and had to go there.” Overall, it’s not real. Sometimes I look back and think, “Oh my God, I actually did that scene.” It looks so real so when you see it back it’s kind of confronting.

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What did you think of the opening scene of Wolf Creek the series when he meets the family?

I think it was very clever. Number one, of course we knew all the horror fans would be sitting there like hawks rubbing their hands together, could hardly wait to say, “What a p***y version of Wolf Creek this is. What a heap of sh*t.” So we had to make sure that didn’t happen. This is as full on as anything Mick’s ever done. So they’re happy and the genre is still intact. Then it very cleverly goes into the title sequence and we go from horror to psycho thriller. Every time Mick turns up, you go back into a little bit of horror so everyone’s well fed.

At this point is it great suspense when we know who Mick is but this unsuspecting family thinks he’s some kind stranger?

Well, there’s not much I can do about that. It’s the same as you know Superman’s going to fly. We all know. There’s nothing you can do about it but that’s what they want.

Was the tension of that scene fun to see how long you could keep it going for?

I loved the way it was written. It’s just sort of out of nowhere, when you least expect it, the carnage starts.

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Are you hoping to continue the series and the movies at the same time?

That’s what we intend to do. It’s looking pretty much like we’ll do a second series. We’ll probably do that first and then we want to make another movie. We’ve got a great idea for another movie.

Do you think you’d alternate between a season and a movie and another season and another movie?

Oh, who knows? I’m 64. I’ll be doing it on one of those motor scooters that old people ride around in with spotlights on them.

Do you have to keep in really good shape to play Mick?

I do. That’s one good thing. I’m 64 so I’ve got to be very fit.

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Are you really good with the rifle now?

I’ve always been good with a rifle. I’m from Central Queensland. I’m from the bush, the outback. I come from that so I’ve shot kangaroos. I know what to do.