Manny Lewis

Making the film

Carl, Anthony and Martin talked about who would be ideal for key cast and crew roles,.

Anthony and Carl had Roy Billing in their heads as the ideal ‘Lyle’ early on in the process. Anthony says of Carl and Roy: “There’s just something about the shape of their heads, the way they look at the world, the way they talk that seemed like a match to me. They’re both introverted, but also very funny men. I think in a previous life they may have been father and child.”

Roy recalls: “This gig was an actor’s dream. My agent rang up and said ‘They want you for a role in this film, Manny Lewis,’

‘Oh, okay. Who’s in it?,’

‘Carl Barron. He wants to have coffee with you,’ I met with Carl and he said they wrote it for me. He said, ‘Do you want to do it?’,

‘Of course!’ I said.”

The key role of Maria involved a more complex search for ‘the one’. Martin and Anthony looked at a large range of actresses on initial recorded auditions.

“We were looking at tests day after day after day,” says Martin, “and eventually narrowed it down to five or six candidates. Then Carl came in and read with them. You could tell immediately whether or not the spark was there. In the end, Carl decided who it was that he thought could be his Juliet.”

The role went to the talented, Leeanna Walsman, known for tackling diverse and complex roles in film, television and theatre.

Queensland based Damien Garvey was someone the team had in mind to play the role of JIMMY, Manny’s manager and only constant friend through the story. He flew to Sydney to meet with Carl, and came on board.

Once on set, Anthony and Carl faced the complex and sometimes fraught challenge of turning a co-written script into a film, in which they’d play the roles, respectively, of director and star. An additional complexity was that the character Manny Lewis is firmly based on Carl, yet had to exist in his own right.

Anthony Mir says: “As a director, you sometimes have to challenge your own writing. As we were both always on set, I’d say to Carl, ‘I know we wrote this but if we change it, we can film it easier, and it may work better for the character and for the story,’ so we were able to maneuver character and story on the day, which is an invaluable position to be in.”

“Sometimes he’d say, ‘I don’t think I’d really say it like that,’ at other times I had to convince him, and that was a great process. He’s a lot more open to suggestions than I thought he would be, given he’s worked by himself for so long. Even though he’d have doubts at times that he wouldn’t ‘walk that way’, or wouldn’t ‘talk that way’, we’d find a balance so it would work well onscreen, in context for the character and story.”

For Carl, the transition from performing onstage to on set was disorienting at first.

“The first scene we shot was me walking over a bridge and I thought, ‘Easy,’ but something happened to my body. I started to walk like a puppet, and I realised that as soon as you put a camera in front of someone, they play to it. It got easier, but there was a lot of think about.”

Both Carl and Anthony found making the film a dream job in terms of working with a friend who is also great at what they do. Anthony says: “What I find with a lot of comics is that they play themselves really well – they come with all their dimensions, and if you can tap into who they are as a person, it’s magic.”

The team decided to shoot anamorphic to make the most of the settings, and to give a real theatrical experience to the film’s audiences. Producer Martin Fabinyi says “We shot the film in Sydney, which is not a cheap town to make movies in, but the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour are very much a part of the story – Sydney is another character in the story.”

The setting and tone was a drawcard for Production Designer David McKay – who saw the opportunity to show Sydney in a light it hasn’t often been seen in before on film.

The iconic State Theatre is a key location in the film – Carl did 13 sell-out concerts there on his last tour, and its visual beauty, its rich reds and golds, translate perfectly to film.