Film

A Deep Dive Inside The New ‘Wolf Creek’ Mini-Series With John Jarratt And Lucy Fry

"It keeps the horror fans happy so they can’t say we pussied out." Jesus, John.

Mick is back. The outback serial killer with the laugh like a deranged Frenchman and a disdain for authority and international tourists alike has returned in a new six-part mini-series premiering today on Stan. The show is a gamble. It’s one of the first works of original programming from an Australian streaming service (beating Netflix to the punch). It’s also a risk for the films’ creator/series scriptwriter Greg McLean. The success of Wolf Creek in 2005 and Wolf Creek 2 in 2013 could have been easily forgotten if the show was a dud. Nobody wants to milk a beloved franchise and turn it into a laughing stock.

Thankfully, we had a sneak peek at the show and it looks like a hit! The new dynamic which comes as Mick Taylor is the one being hunted has done wonders to shake up what could have been a tired, extended retread. Ahead of its release, we interviewed stars John Jarratt and Lucy Fry about how all this came to be, their experiences in the outback, and what makes Mick such a compelling character.

Junkee: What was it like making this as a TV series as opposed to the movies? Did you think it would work?

John Jarratt: When Greg rang me, I couldn’t imagine it to be honest. He said, ‘I think I want to do a six-part TV series and I’ve got people interested. Are you interested?’ and I said ‘I dunno, it’s getting a big gratuitous, isn’t it?’

I told him I wanted to see the good ideas he said he had, so they sent me the script and I had to eat my words because it was really good. For me, you only need three things to make a good film or TV show and that’s the script, and the script, and the script. And then Lucy came on board, who’s great as you know. I wasn’t sure a 23-year-old could cut it, physically and mentally. It’s a hell of a role she has to play. So that was a grand relief.

Was there a different atmosphere on set knowing it was going to TV instead of cinemas?

JJ: No, no. There’s not a lot of difference between shooting a movie and shooting television. It’s the same thing, you know. You’ve got to do all the same things, they shout action and you go. It’s brilliantly shot, it looks like a feature.

One of the best things about it is the visuals since Australian TV can often look…

JJ: Zzzzzzzzz [Jarratt either pretends to snooze or casually electrocutes something for kicks]. I think this is a huge step forward for Australian TV.

Lucy Fry: It’s almost like six short feature films!

John, you’ve obviously worked with Greg a few times and now Lucy, you’ve also worked with him twice on this and [upcoming horror movie] The Darkness. How have you found it, while knowing his impressive reputation in the horror genre?

LF: Greg’s a legend. He’s so clear and so specific and he just brings this energy on set that’s so bright, fun, and focused. Especially since he deals with such dark material, he’s really good at making you feel safe and he knows exactly how each scene is going to be. I felt free because of that.

It’s exciting knowing he can piece every minor detail together perfectly and seamlessly to create the suspense and create the tone and the horror and the thrill. Working with him is so much fun. It’s almost like a Halloween party where it feels bright and exciting, but what you’re dealing with this really dark stuff.

And you’re now officially one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon!

LF: Yeah, I am! Thanks to Greg.

And as someone who is… 23?

LF: Just turned 24!

Young people are definitely more into streaming — how do you feel about being a part of this big move?

LF: I think everyone’s just enjoying that access to really good TV online. Wolf Creek is going to raise the bar for what you have access to because it’s just shot so beautifully and it’s of such a high quality that it’s going to feel like watching a feature film.

Do you want people to binge watch it? Do you think it works well watched that way?

LF: I think they will.

JJ: I think everyone who’s seen the first episode says ‘I want to keep watching’.

I know I did.

JJ: There was this one woman who hates horror and her husband convinced her to come to our screening in Melbourne at SuperNova. She turned up and I said I’d tell her when to close her eyes because she was really freaked out about it. But at the end of it she says, ‘I gotta see the rest!’

LF: That happened to my mum as well. My mum’s really scared of horror, but by the end of the first episode she wanted to see the next one even though she was covering her eyes at the gory bits.

Well, it’s only really the first 15 minutes that are typical of horror.

JJ: It keeps the horror fans happy so they can’t say we pussied out [Ed note: ew].

You’ve made these Wolf Creek projects and, going back to the ‘70s, you were in Picnic at Hanging Rock — why do you think there’s this morbid fascination with the Australian landscape as a site of danger?

JJ: Well, it’s the outback — have you been out there?

I haven’t.

JJ: The outback is kind of like the ocean. You know how the ocean is beautiful and magnificent, but also mysterious and dangerous? You just want to go in there, but then you think ‘Shit! I could get eaten by a shark’. Well, Mick’s the white pointer.

Have you been to Hanging Rock?

That one I’ve been to, yes.

JJ: Then you know what I mean. There are certain places on the planet that have that quality and the outback is certainly one of them.

What was it like filming in the outback while making a series about how scary the outback is?

LF: I actually find the outback kind of comforting. As a kid I used to go out there a lot so I felt safer when we went out to places like the Flinders Ranges. It put me at ease, which helped me go through the really intense, traumatic events that Eve [her character] goes through. I sort of felt held by that landscape.

Seeing it from Eve’s point of view… At the beginning it’s something she doesn’t know and it’s terrifying, but by the end she becomes one of those pieces of the outback and is a part of that mysterious landscape. In the end I was really connected to that. I don’t know if I put that very well.

JJ: You put that extremely well.

And how has it been going from comedy in something like Now Add Honey to this which is obviously a very different scale altogether?

LF: It was a real treat! Now Add Honey was really fun and it’s really great to play comedy, but as an actor you’re always hungry for those roles where you get to really explore an extreme situation and all the icky parts of a person’s mind. In everyday life we live in such a safe sphere and then to get to explore a character who’s lost her whole family to thinking about killing a person… It’s really fun to go to a place that you would never normally go in your life.

So why do you think this character of Mick has become a bit of a calling card of Australian horror?

JJ: Because he’s likeable. If he wasn’t a serial killer he’d be a good bloke. He’s funny. He’s like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. He’s funny as hell, but doing these awful things. He’s like Paul Hogan, only we’ve added psychopath to his traits.

LF: He’s such a quintessential Australian guy — you want to love him, and then he’s killing people. You really invest in him and you want him to win and then you realise you want him to win and feel really terrible and conflicted.

Lastly, we don’t want to spoil anything, but do we think there’s more Wolf Creek stories in the future?

JJ: Well, you can think what you like.

Touché.

Wolf Creek is streaming on Stan now.

Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.