‘Wish You Were Here’ kicks off Australian Film Fest
Kieran Darcy-Smith discusses first feature about the aftermath of a Southeast Asian vacation turned ugly.
Kieran Darcy-Smith Photo: Lisa Tomasetti
Kieran Darcy-Smith’s feature film debut, which is the opening attraction at this
year’s AICE Australia Film Festival, is called Wish You Were Here, and the
director is clearly happy to be presenting his film in Israel.
always been interested in this area,” says Darcy-Smith, having a late breakfast
of black coffee and cigarettes on the steps of the Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem
the morning after the screening of his film at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. The
film opens the Australia Film Festival tonight at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and
on July 2 at the Haifa Cinematheque. “There’s so much religious iconography,
there’s this weight of history here, I’ve always loved places like
Darcy-Smith then launches into a story about a knockdown, drag-out
fight he observed while wandering around the Old City on his own.
guys were fighting over bread, like someone had taken bread and hadn’t paid for
it. But it got very ugly. It was one of the most violent confrontations I’ve
ever witnessed. I was afraid someone would really get hurt,” he
Trips to the Old City are rarely that action-packed, but it’s
fitting somehow that Darcy-Smith happened to witness this scene, since Wish You
Were Here is a psychological thriller that starts out when two couples from
Sydney go on a vacation together at a beach resort in Cambodia.
which opened the International Feature Competition at Sundance this year, is set
in a “risky, evocative place. I’ve always been attracted to dangerous places,”
Southeast Asia is often a vacation destination for Australians,
since “it’s the closest place we can go.” He remembers his first trip abroad, to
Thailand when he was 25, “and I stepped off the plane and was in Bangkok on a
Monday morning and there was a sense of adventure. The light and the sounds and
smells were so different, it was so busy, it was madness, it just kind of
smashes you in the face.”
Wish You Were Here is about the contrast
between the orderly, middle-class life of one of the couples in Sydney, and the
exoticism and danger they experience on their Cambodian vacation.
based on the true story of an Australian tourist who disappeared while traveling
in Thailand 30 years ago and has never been heard from again.”
Darcy-Smith wanted to go behind the headlines. He and his wife, actress Felicity
Price, who stars in the film, co-wrote it together over a period of several
“We wanted to examine the life of a couple, from our generation,
who has grown up now and has responsibilities. It’s a contemporary portrait of
Gen X grown up,” he says.
There’s an element of emotional autobiography
in the material, clearly, as Darcy- Smith describes his own journey, from
musician to a working actor and eventually to a screenwriter and director. He’s
appeared in nearly 40 films and television shows, many of them action films such
as the 2010 shark-munches-tourists flick, The Reef.
“I started writing
short pieces, monologues for acting classes and I realized I wanted to write a
script,” he says.
“I’m lucky I keep myself alive on acting,” he says, but
he and Price never let go of the dream of writing a film that would actually get
made. He realized that in the film world, a “good screenplay was the best
commodity.” So they put their energy into writing a film that had an exotic
backdrop which would make it appealing to audiences and investors.
the success of Wish You Were Here in Sundance and Australia, Darcy-Smith and
Price are moving their entire family to Los Angeles, where Darcy-Smith is set to
start shooting Memorial Day, another original screenplay.
“It’s a crime
drama, set in 1991, with two brothers, and it’s set among the surfing community
and the outlaw motorcycle riders,” he says. His drama school pal, Joel Edgerton,
who stars opposite Price in Wish You Were Here, will surely see Darcy-Smith in
Los Angeles. Edgerton snagged the coveted role of Tom Buchanan in the upcoming
Great Gatsby remake, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and was directed by fellow
Australian, Baz Lurhmann.
Price probably won’t act in Memorial Day, which
will have a mostly male cast, but working together wasn’t a problem for the
“It was ideal, there was absolutely no conflict,” says
Darcy-Smith. “She trusted me implicitly, because she knew I would never let
anything in that wasn’t real.”
For more details on the Australia Film
Festival, go to the website at http://aice.com.au/affwelcome.php