by GREG KING
Xavier Samuel reunites with co-stars Kris Marshall and Kevin Bishop for this sequel to the Aussie comedy A Few Best Men. This sequel sends our three friends on an unusual road journey in which they encounter some eccentric characters and learn about loyalty and friendship. The film was directed by Mark Lamprell and shot on location in Western Australian. Greg spoke to Xavier about the film and reuniting with his co-stars.
“We had such a great time on the first film that I was just excited to be involved again,” enthuses the very busy Australian actor Xavier Samuel about working on his latest film the low brow comedy, A Few Less Men, which is the sequel to 2011’s comedy A Few Best Men.
The last time I spoke to Samuel he was promoting Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman’s gentle, articulate and witty Georgian era romantic comedy loosely based on a little-known novella written by Jane Austen. Since then he has appeared in a couple of quirky Australian comedies – Spin Out, which was set against the backdrop of a ute muster and a bachelor and spinster ball in rural Victoria, and A Few Less Men. Both films represent something of a change of pace for the 33-year-old actor who has juggled a career that boasts some big budget Hollywood features like the Twilight saga, where he played the villainous vampire Riley Biers, and the WWII drama Fury, starring Brad Pitt, with lower budget local productions like Bait and Adore.
Here he reprises his role of the straight-laced David Locking, who got married in the first film following a wild buck’s night party with his three best friends. This sequel takes up straight after the first film, with Luke dead after accidentally falling off a cliff. David and his best friends Tom (Kris Marshall, from the tv series Death In Paradise, etc) and the bumbling Graham (Kevin Bishop) have to return the body to London for the funeral. But a series of misadventures see the boys stranded in the middle of the Western Australian desert with a corpse on their hands. This is a road journey in which the boys encounter a number of eccentric locals – including a cross-dressing Mungus (Shane Jacobson) with whom they share a tea party and play dress up – and also learn a few lessons about loyalty and friendship.
Samuel was keen to work on the film, and was particularly thrilled to be working with Marshall and Bishop again. “It was great to work with Kris and Kevin again,” he enthuses. “They are some of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We spent a lot of time just hanging out off the set as well, just getting to know each other. I think that helps when you’re good friends in real life as well. That translates onto the screen.”
The film will remind many of the wonderful British comedy Death At A Funeral, especially as there is a corpse here that suffers a number of indignities as well. Not surprisingly, as this film’s writer Dean Craig also wrote that film. I also thought there was a touch of the 80s comedy Weekend At Bernie’s about the material as well. There is a lot of physical slapstick humour in the film, agrees Samuel. “You never really know what you’re in for with a film like this,” he adds. “There are so many absurd situations that they all get into, I don’t know how you prepare for it really.”
A Few Less Men has been directed by Mark Lamprell (My Mother Frank, Goddess, etc), who has replaced original director Stephan Elliott. This is only Lamprell’s second feature film in a decade, and he brings a different sensibility to the material. “Mark’s a great referee,” elaborates Samuel. “He knows what’s funny and what’s not, so I felt in really safe hands. But you’re right, he has a different sensibility to Stephan. I think he really brought out the best in us, and I have a lot of admiration for him. I think he’s a really intelligent filmmaker and a great guy.”
As with the first film, David is sort of the moral compass in a lot of ways, most of his role seems to be “herding cats”, as Samuel puts it. He is the straight man, trying not to let things get too out of hand. He’s the guy in the group just trying to hold it all together.
A Few Less Men was shot mostly in Western Australia, where they filmed in 40-degree heat and some harsh conditions. The shoot took about five weeks, but wasn’t as arduous as it sounds, according to Samuel. “It wasn’t too bad, we were well looked after I guess. But the best part was getting to see these parts of WA, we went up to the Pinnacles and we were lucky enough to film up there and the bright desert sands. It’s just a great feeling when you get to see parts of Australia that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise.”
The first film saw Samuel appear opposite Olivia Newton-John in a rare film appearance. The sequel features a great line up of cameos from the likes of Jacobson, Lynette Curran, Darren Gilshenan, and an almost unrecogniseable Ryan Corr, who plays a foul mouthed English gangster. Working in those couple of scenes with Jacobson was hilarious, Samuel continues. “I could barely keep a straight face. But he is such a brilliant actor and a very, very funny man. There’s a lot of great actors in this one, they’re all such great Australian talent. I think it’s Dean’s writing, he’s such a terrific writer and always gives us such funny material, and actors always want to work on good material that’s exciting. I think that was one of the factors. I think the only scenes that make the film are the ones in which we’re not laughing. Everyday we were just trying to keep it together.”
Would Samuel be open to a third film if there was one? “We’ll see what happens,” he says. “I’d love to get back together with everyone and let the saga continue. It’s too much fun not to.”
In the meantime, Samuel has a very busy slate which will see him occupy our screens for a while yet. Next up is Bad Blood, a psychological thriller directed by David Pulbrook (best known as a director on classic television shows such as Homicide and Division 4, etc). Bad Blood sees Samuel play a writer whose past comes back to haunt him. He has also worked with director Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Driving Miss Daisy) on the upcoming Mr. Church, starring Eddie Murphy. And there is the seven-part ABC television series Seven Parts Of Ambiguity, in which he stars opposite Hugo Weaving. “It’s the first time I’ve done a tv show or spent that much time with a character, but it was a good opportunity to delve a little deeper into the material and spend more time with the story, which is not something you get to do on a feature film.”
And due to hit our screens later this year is The Death And Life Of Otto Bloom, the film which opened the Melbourne International Film Festival last year. “Chris Jones is such a brilliant mind and a really inventive story teller and that was a really exciting film to be part of.”
A Few Less Men hits cinemas on March 9.
You can listen to the interview in full here.