Andrew S Gilbert

August 25th, 2005 Film, Personalities, Xpress

Some people, like Graeme Blundell or Bruce Spence, just keep popping up in Australian performing arts.

Whether it’s a TV commercial for Strepsils, the lovable gyro pilot from Mad Max or bit parts in the Star Wars saga (both Spence and Blundell had one in Episode III, Blundell’s scene as Padme’s father in Episode II was cut), from stage roles to TV guest appearances, the acting landscape is comprised of a host of familiar faces, even if they’re one of the ones that make us go ‘oh, what’s his name again, he was in that thing with that guy”

Andrew S Gilbert is one of those. His googly eyes and corkscrew locks have given weight to projects from TV’s Cody and Round the Twist to film roles in Oscar & Lucinda, Idiot Box, Dirty Deeds, Kiss or Kill, The Dish and Ned Kelly.

And this month he lends support to a project where the script is the star, one that’s already wowed critics across the country, Look Both Ways. Gilbert plays Phil, the newspaper editor boss of the more important characters of Nick and Andy.

While Nick, his main emotional sounding board Meryl (Justine Clarke) and the lesser characters all try to figure out what life’s all about, Phil struggles with his own minor demons, and to Gilbert, they’re the same for everyone — including the audience.

‘We’ve figured out it’s about conquering fear,’ Gilbert says while he and star William McInnes are facing the press in Perth. ‘From there, you could go anywhere. Fear is still the basic destructive force in people’s lives. It forms a barrier between other people and what you want to achieve in your life. Until you conquer fear, life’s not really going to happen to you.

Look Both Ways’ genesis was a process of evolution. Writer/director Sarah Watt has said she started out writing a romantic comedy, but the sadness, fear and tragedy the characters find themselves mired in deflected the story of on some strange tangents.

Gilbert says he saw the black humour in the script, but thinks the dark side of it was well handled. ‘When you get the bad news that opens the film, it sets some kind of tone,’ he thinks. ‘Because of the nature of the stuff in the movie, you have to engage early — it doesn’t give you much room to not be involved, but as soon as you are it sort of lets you off the hook because it’s not about that. It’s not about being sick, it’s about getting news and how you deal with that news.

‘It’s actually quite light. I’ve only seen it three times and the third time was at a film festival with 800 other people and I was laughing out loud. There were bits when I finally got the joke, because they’re very subtle.’

Friends with the writer/director and star McInnes from way back, Gilbert reckons he ‘just got it’ when he read the script, and dismisses claims it’s the new Lantana, the name already bandied about in discussion of Look Both Ways.

‘Very different film,’ he says without hesitation. ‘I don’t think it needs to be compared to anything, it’s a very original film. Lantana was in a lot of ways a thriller, a bit of a whodunit.

‘I can see how people make the comparison because of the intertwining strands of it, but there’s been quite a few films that have used that. The interesting thing about this film is that there’s no thriller aspect to it, you’re actually asking yourself; why is this film so interesting? There’s no ticking clock about something fantastic that’s going to happen.’

So after so much experience, will Gilbert be the next Eric Bana or Russell Crowe?

‘I’m not terribly ambitious,’ he smiles when asked if he’s going to be the next big Aussie export to Hollywood. ‘You’ve got to be very driven and very focused, and if you’re not, you fall behind because there’s a lot of people who are. They make it a full time job and they’re chasing it the whole time, often to the detriment of their lives.

The chances I’ve had to work on films with bigger budgets have been really wonderful because as you get a bit more experienced, you appreciate what technology and decent cameras and big setups can do to capture your performance. A lot of the time in Australian films you get a couple of takes and you’ve got to move on.’

Moving on seems to have been Gilbert’s career ethos, always on the move from one distinctive project to the next. As long as he sticks to his way of working, and with so many big budget Hollywood films still being made down under, who knows where he’ll appear next?

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