Exclusive: behind the scenes interview from ‘The Water Diviner’

Simon Hedger recently did a Q&A with Paul, an extra from the movie by Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner.

How did you find out about The Water Diviner?

A casting agent rang my place of work to advertise a vacancy looking for local extras. I was away at the time and upon my return a colleague advised that she sent her husband’s details through and he was successful in gaining a role. She suggested I sent through my details. At first I wasn’t keen as I had never thought of myself in this industry and would need to organise leave at work
as I am employed Full Time. The chance to see how the movie industry works and having someone like Russell Crowe involved was too hard to refuse the opportunity. I sent an email through with my photo and was advised if I could grow a beard and were willing to go to Burra, Quorn and Port Augusta I would be in. I let the casting agent know that this would be not be a problem for me and was advised I would be required for 7 days.

Have acted before taking the role?

No I haven’t and even at school I did not do drama lessons etc

What is Russell Crowe like?

It was amazing to see the man work. On the first scene I was in with him he went around and had a quick handshake and introduction with all the new extras. This was a good ploy by him as there were many star struck people in the room and this gesture allowed people to get on with the job. From the time I had on set I would say Russell is a very driven and motivated individual looking for perfection in what he does. He could be really serious with what he wants and what he expects but would also find a way to lighten the mood and throw a joke In the mix. He demonstrated to me a real ability to manage people and get the best from them. The respect I now have for people in this industry is huge. The time and effort they put in is enormous. Russell would have been working from 7am to at least 10pm every day and this is only the time that I was aware of, no doubt his day was actually quite longer.

Due to the demands on his time any discussions I had with him were purely about what he required me to do in the film. I found him
very precise about what he expected, but also very respectful.

On 2 occasions when I was involved in the film he put an end of week show on to show his appreciation for cast and crew. These shows were fully catered.

What was your best experience on the film?

I have a few occasions which stood out.

Seeing professional actors do their work was fantastic.

Meeting new people and professionals in their fields.

The breakfast and lunch provided by caterer Reza Mokhtar was sensational

Being taught to use firearms by professional armourers

Learning how to pretend to die

Being cut down by a sword from Robert Mammone’s character

Singing a song in Turkish pretending to be drunk is a Turkish tea room scene with 30 odd other extras and actors.

What made you go for the audition?

I didn’t have an audition as such. All that was required was a photo to show I looked of Turkish appearance and could grow a beard.

Have you seen the film yet?

No – but am really looking forward to seeing it. From the trailers and what I know about the story line it sounds like a great film.

IMG_2081What did you think of the period costumes, was the costumes comfortable?

The costumes were great. Again this was a unique experience for me to see how costumes are aged and made to suit the individuals. We
also had to have a make-up sessions each day and the make-up artists used photos of the previous day to make sure our looks were consistent.

We were working between Quorn and Port Augusta for 4 days where the temperature was close to 40c every day. In our Turkish soldier
uniforms we were very hot and sweaty. These were very tiring days and during this time I realised how hard the cast and crew of the film industry work and the conditions they work in.

A highlight for me was the top I wore had a label on the inside. On this label it stated “Actor – Heath Ledger, Character Ned Kelly”. I was wearing the same top Heath Ledger had worn.

What did you think of the other members of the cast and crew?

Everybody was a professional in their field and it was amazing to see how it all comes together. There would be hundreds of people working on the film on any given day. To see the camera crew, art department, costumes, assistant directors do their thing was great to witness. There were some crew whom may not have been able to give you much time due to their work demands. There was also other extras whom pushed the limits and tried to constantly have conversations with these very busy people making their jobs quite hard.

I will mention a few of the memorable crew for me.

Cinematography was done by Andrew Lesnie who has won an Oscar for his work on The Lord of The Rings – The Fellowship of the Rings.
Andrew was very friendly and great to watch work.

Chris Webb who is First Assistant Director and Zev Elftheriou whom was Stunt Coordinator both gave me lots of direction on set and were easy to approach with questions and clarification

The two Turkish Actors Yilmaz Erdogan and Cem Yilmaz were both very funny men. These guys were very quick witted and were great to chat with when the time was appropriate. In my opinion both assisted Russell keep good morale on the set and it was fantastic to have played a very small part alongside these guys.

Is it true that 4 or 5 of your friends from a local sports team are in the movie (Don’t mention the team)?

I have seven friends whom were also part of the movie from Clare, South Australia. Four of us are involved with a local sports club so I’m sure that will be a bit of a laugh for some of the other guys when the movie is released.

I understand your character got shot in the movie, did it hurt?

I actually got cut down with a sword from behind. During this scene I am shooting a rifle out of a train when the train is boarded by the enemy. Rob Mammone’s character kills be from behind.

The sword itself didn’t hurt as it was plastic. I did have to ask him to hit me hard so I could feel it and dis at the correct time. What did hurt was the falling into the side of the train carriage as I was dying. The stunt guys dressed me up in padding underneath my costume for this but I still managed to get bruised up. The other thing to watch out as you die is you don’t hit anyone with your rifle as you drop it.