“Heath knew that I had done a few stints as Santa in my misspent youth,” admits Steve Le Marquand. “I think I told him a couple of stories about it, which he must have just stored away. Because he wrote the character with me in mind, I think a few of those stories might have found their way into the script.”
The script is Christmess, the fourth time that writer/director Heath Davis has collaborated with Le Marquand, following Broke, Book Week and Locusts.
“Heath is the most collaborative director I’ve ever worked with by a long shot; there’s lots of input into the character, the script, the casting, you feel like you’re a part of it and that you’re putting more on the table, other than just your acting,” says Le Marquand.
The actor also admires Davis’s independent spirit. “I love that Heath has just gone, ‘Stuff it, we’re not even going to talk to the funding bodies, let’s just write the film and make the movie we want to make without having to crawl on our hands and knees…’ Going for government funding is a weird way to run an artistic pursuit…
“Now, if you’ve got a good product, you can take it to post and say, ‘Well, here’s our film. How about we get some money for post?’ Which I think Heath has done successfully in the past. But he doesn’t sit around and talk about it, he just goes, ‘Right, I’m going to write a script and we’re going to make it’. And then all of a sudden, you’re in there shooting. He’s so driven and ambitious.”
Steve Le Marquand is equally driven and ambitious when it comes to his craft, however becoming a big movie star is another matter nowadays.
“My career is kind of littered with a whole bunch of hard luck stories,” he admits. “I’ve had three leads. There was [TV show] Small Time Gangster, there was Last Train to Freo, and there was Broke. All of which I thought were pretty good and all of which I thought I turned in an okay job. But no one ever saw them. There’s no point doing three great jobs if no bastard ever sees it, and that’s been the problem.
“But having said that, I’m a bit of a hippie, and that’s the way it’s meant to be, so I’m happy where I am. I’ve always been nervous about becoming the next Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe or Joel Edgerton because I’m mates with those guys and I’ve seen the way they live their lives, and I couldn’t do that. I like to be able to walk into a pub and order a beer and not be swamped by people.
“It means the family’s first. That’s all my decisions about which jobs I do and don’t do. Pip’s [Grandison, his wife] in the business too of course, so we’ve got to negotiate who’s going to do what, and it’s made it a lot easier because you get your ego out of it. Once you say, ‘Well, fuck it. This is where I am and I’m happy with that’, then it actually makes life a lot easier because it takes all the stress and worry out of it.
“When you’re starting out, acting is all about the ego. And then I think you can go one way or the other. You can burn a lot of energy trying to bend the universe to your will. It never actually works. What you’re dealt is what you get, and once you surrender to that I think it makes life a bit easier.”
Appropriately enough, Christmess is about a washed-up actor trying to get his life back on track, forced to take a gig as a shopping mall Santa during the festive season. Also starring Susan Prior and muso Hannah Joy (lead singer of indie power pop outfit Middle Kids), Le Marquand considers the role a departure from his usual characters. “Most of them are thugs,” he admits. “But this guy is an actor, so he’s a bit softer even though he’s a bit rough around the edges. But yeah, I’ll have to approach it in a slightly different way this time.”
Like all great Christmas films, Christmess deals with family. So, what’s the Le Marquand Christmas get together like?
“Well, look, I’ve got a sister who is fairly high up the food chain with News Corp. So, a couple of times the conversation has steered around to Uncle Rupert, and it’s ended in tears, and so we’ve got a blanket rule, we don’t talk about Rupert Murdoch at Christmas because it always ends in tears. So we keep it all nice and light and simple. We always have pretty good family get togethers. We seem to get out of it unscathed most years.”