Sitting across from Matt Nable on the set of the new Australian crime film, 1%, it was easy to imagine him as his character. The custom gang patch, the inked tattoos and the half shaven head with latex scars, all lend a sense of authenticity to the terrifying image of the ex-con outlaw motorcycle club leader that he’s playing. “It’s easier to get into it [the role] when you see yourself in the mirror, I don’t get around like this normally,” Nable says.
His quietly spoken voice, almost drowned out by the rumble of the Harley echoing off the industrial shed where they are filming, acts as a counterpoint to the image. Although the protagonist Nable is playing is written by him, his thoughtful pausing shows how different Knuck is to his creator. “I always thought that would be the role I’d play. It’s a stretch, he’s nothing like me in many respects,” Nable reassures. “I enjoy that, there’s nothing like stretching your legs as an actor.”
That difference is what interests him in a role, playing something he hasn’t done before. From police (East West 101) to criminals (Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms), supervillians (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow) to soldiers (Hacksaw Ridge), Nable certainly has played a breadth of roles. He finds either side of the law fine to play. “I have a certain physicality that lends itself to playing either a really good or a real bad guy – not often in the middle. That’s fine. One of the problems for actors is that casting directors don’t know where to put them. I’m lucky.”
This time around it is certainly the criminal. The president of a bikie gang (the titular 1%, The Copperheads) recently out of prison and looking to take back the reigns of power from his heir apparent (Ryan Corr). “He’s a very conflicted man. Doesn’t know what he wants, doesn’t know what he is. He’s a vain, insecure, narcissistic sort of fella. Not a particularly nice human being, but I don’t need to like him, I just need to understand him – a very damaged and confused person.”
Which is an interesting way for Nable to describe his own creation. Nable started to write 1% years ago, not initially centring the script around outlaw motorcycle clubs. However, as it evolved from themes of family, brotherhood and a struggle for power, it took on a Shakespearean bent, albeit cloaked in denim and motorcycle leathers. “Any time you’re put in a situation where there’s a hierarchy, your tendency is to lean towards Shakespearean conflict. There’s certainly those elements there, for sure.”
1% is in cinemas from October 18, 2018.