Talking Movies: Bernard Fanning

August 21, 2016
On the release of his new album, Civil Dusk, we revisit our chat with Aussie music hero, Bernard Fanning.

Do you have any favourite actors that you particularly like? “I really love Catherine Keener. I think she’s a fuckin’ awesome actress. I love Pacino and De Niro – they’re kind of the classic dudes for our generation. I’m not a film buff by any stretch but I do love movies. But I actually find that these days I’m more disappointed by movies as opposed to being really, really exited by them. Take The Village, for instance. My girlfriend and I like scary movies and we were like, ‘Let’s go and see that! It’s going to be awesome!’ And I thought it was really weak, considering how good The Sixth Sense was. I thought, ‘Man, that guy’s really choked!’”

Do you get to see many movies when you’re on the road? “We go and see movies when we’re overseas and when we’re on the road, it just depends on how much time we’ve got. There’s also a situation where you spend a lot of time together on the road and I’m not really one to go to movies by myself. I’ve only been to one movie by myself and that was The Man From Snowy River. I was about eleven and I was only given $7 to go to town and have one game of pinball and a movie and then come home. All of my mates were supposed to come and see The Man From Snowy River but they all changed their minds and decided to go and see First Blood again and I’d already seen it. I knew that I wasn’t going to get that $7 again so I decided to see The Man From Snowy River – I had to go by myself but it was fuckin’ awesome.”

Do you have a favourite cinema? “We go to the Eldorado in Indooroopilly, which has been there since I was a kid. I saw Superman there. It’s not a megaplex or anything, but it’s been redone. I think it’s got five or six cinemas now, but there used to be just the one. I think I saw Star Wars there too.”

Do you buy many DVDs? “I bought Raging Bull the other day, and I’ve bought a few music ones like The Last Waltz too. I love what a little nerd Scorsese is, just sitting there with his weirdo ’70s beard and his squeaky little voice – it’s pretty amazing that someone like him has had such a big impact on film culture. If only more movie makers gave as much of a shit as he does in doing something that’s of artistic value. I mean, The Day After Tomorrow…”

It’s just not the same, is it? “I’ve got a friend up from Melbourne, and we were talking about that movie and he said it’s got great effects. But it’s gotten to the point now where that doesn’t even rate a mention, because every film has great effects these days! It’s like saying that an album has great production – but if the songs are shit, who cares how good it sounds?”

Bernard Fanning performing at the launch of Civil Dusk

Bernard Fanning performing at the launch of Civil Dusk

Are there any particular Aussie films that you really like? “I’ve seen Gallipoli twenty times, and probably like everyone, that music still brings tears to my eyes. I’m serious! I really loved Two Hands. I thought that movie was really superb, really cleverly written and put together and really well acted. I thought Ned Kelly was good. I think it didn’t quite get there though…it got too much into the romance.”

Did you enjoy your appearance in the film? “Yeah, kind of…through my closed eyes! I’ve only seen it once actually. It was a great experience. It was a fantastic thing to do, to go and see how the sets are constructed, and to dress up like some dude from the 1870s.”
Would you like to do a soundtrack for a whole film? “That would be an awesome challenge. It’s not something that you can just do and immediately be good at though. If you look at Neil Young’s soundtrack for Dead Man, that is a really original way to approach a film score. It’s a rock musician working within the limitations of what he can do but it’s still really artistic and superbly done. The temptation of course is that if you’re going to do a soundtrack for a film then you immediately whip out the strings and go for it.”

That was a beautiful song that you played in Ned Kelly…you found it, is that right? “’Moreton Bay’ is an amazing song. It’s a traditional tune written by a convict. I was in Dublin with my partner, and she’s been a student for ages – she’s got about fifty million degrees! – and she’s a really good researcher too. She came with me to this Irish folk music archive and we just went looking through stuff from this era because we didn’t want to be singing a song that was written in 1920, so we were looking for something pre-1865. She just found this song ‘Moreton Bay’, which we thought was great. When we looked into it further we realised that Ned Kelly had quoted from that song in his Jerilderie Letter, which was awesome because it was just an extra little bonus because he was in this bar hearing this band playing this song in the film.”

If someone offered you a more substantial role, would you do it if the project was right? “Possibly, but I would ask the casting agent to have their fuckin’ head examined if they wanted me to be involved in any kind of role at all because it would turn it into a box office stinker in a flash! After that Ned Kelly thing, my mates were calling me a ‘slashy’, you know? From Zoolander – an actor slash musician.”

Civil Dusk is available now. For more on Bernard Fanning, head to the official site. This article was first published in 2004.

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