Elliot reaps His Crop

August 29th, 2004 Film, Personalities, The West Australian

For someone whose whole life reads like a novel, it’s only fitting a movie was the next project on George Elliot’s slate.

Speaking to the NASCAR racing driver, novelist, former bouncer and club owner and now script writer and film producer, you realise after awhile who he reminds you of.

What with the setting of Sydney’s Kings Cross during the early 80s, the nightclub strip, the burgeoning party drug scene and a larrakin who left school at 14 and lives for adventure, you almost think you’re talking to Les Norton, the hero of Robert G Barrett’s bestselling Kelly Club series.

And like all inspiring success stories, Elliot didn’t let a little thing like a lack of writing experience stand in his way. He’d always planned to write and make a feature film (his first two attempts instead turned into successful novels), so the first question — naturally — is whether he always wanted to be a writer.

‘No, not really,’ Elliot says on the line from Sydney, ‘I’d only ever written a note to the butcher before that. I left school at 14 so I really had no education and no idea how to do it. It was just something I decided to do.’

While the story would make many aspiring authors seethe with jealousy, Elliot took it all in his stride, fulfilling a two book deal and turning down an offer for the third, determined to make it into a movie. The fruit of that labour is The Crop, which Elliot wrote, produced, and stars in.

So is acting the ultimate job in such a colourful career? Although the acting bug has caught the 52 year old, he admits to being taken aback by the intensity.

‘I guess I took the acting thing a little tongue in cheek to start with because I thought ‘it’s only acting’,’ Elliot says, ‘but believe me, it’s a lot more difficult than it looks. I now have a huge respect for actors and what they do with their craft.

‘I spent a few months having acting lessons and learning all about it, but I think with any process of education where you go through a learning curve, there comes a time when you take all the technical aspects of what you learned and then you have to really let go, loosen up and have fun with it. About six weeks before we started filming I was wondering how I was going to do it, but when I relaxed and just enjoyed myself it all came together.’

It helps if relaxing and having fun with life is in your genes, something that seems to have helped Elliot through his many professions.

It’s also a skill that no doubt saw him through the seedy world depicted in The Crop, where random breath testing was first introduced and punters flocked to drugs to avoid getting caught by the booze bus. Elliot must have a wealth of stories from those days, and it’s this spirit he tries to bring to The Crop.

‘Living the lifestyle I’ve lived, there’s a wealth of information out there,’ he thinks. ‘I set out to make a good yarn, and if people leave the cinema feeling better than they came in, that’s all I ask. You don’t even get that when you go to the doctor’s most of the time.

‘I’m sure we’ll get our critics and they’ll really slam it but I didn’t write it for the critics and I didn’t write it for other people in the industry, I wrote it for people who want enjoy a good night out.’

So what else is there to do after a life of racing car driving, successful novel writing and surviving one of Australia’s most iconic periods of history? ‘I’m sure there is something, but it hasn’t come to me yet,’ Elliot laughs. ‘I like a challenge and I think what keeps me going is that sense of achievement — the point we’re at right now where we’ve really achieved it.’

And for now, the plan is to use the hoped-for success of The Crop as a springboard into a self-sufficient film career.

‘I really do want to make Final Custody [Elliot’s first novel] because I think it’ll make an excellent movie, but I’ll never to compromise it, so I hope The Crop does well enough to give us a base to work from and help me gather a few people around who have the confidence in me to get Final Custody made.

‘I’d like to keep acting. I’ve really enjoyed this project and the people I’ve had around me. I love motor racing too but I’ve been in it for a long time, and if I have to choose between the two I’d choose acting because every day’s a new adventure.’

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