Sunday, July 23, 2006

Article - Nicholas Hope.

Don't you want me Bubby?

July 21, 2006 (Metro, Sydney Morning Herald)

Nicholas Hope is over Bad Boy Bubby. Too bad his fans aren't. Benito Di Fonzo reports.

Nicholas Hope is often cast as an anxious eccentric, be it Bad Boy Bubby, a priest in Hal Hartley's Henry Fool or his latest role as a strange Australian sailor in Norway. However, it's a surprisingly calm and erudite Englishman who enters the kitsch Randwick cafe, albeit with a large bandage on his finger and a cut on his lip from rehearsals.

"There's a section in the show where I become a snowflake, and the chair collapsed," he says.

The Colour of Panic is his one-man exploration of a dichotomous existence between Australia and Norway.

His script won an award in Norway.

"I thought I'd write a show to give myself some work," Hope says. "[It's about] that feeling of being alone, just not having a place that was mine and feeling panicked. I didn't know what the heck was happening because I was moving between countries all the time.

"It was an interesting feeling, just like having moved [to Whyalla, South Australia] when I was six, that little petulant child came out and I just wanted to blame everybody for how I felt."

Hope explored his angry inner child in his memoir, Brushing the Tip of Fame.

"[That] was more about being on the edge of celebrity and the effect that has on someone who is basically a petulant child. My genetic code is English - it's a little gauche to be overly proud - but the petulance came from expectations and the realisation Hollywood wasn't knocking on my door."

Hope won an AFI for his lead role in Bad Boy Bubby, but received little work immediately afterward, even missing out on a role in Se7en to Kevin Spacey. He did however get flown to many film festivals, the juxtaposition of poverty and the jetset life emphasised when he arrived at Centrelink in a limousine.

"I said [to Village Roadshow], 'I'm sorry, I've got to put in my dole form otherwise I won't have any money,' and they said, 'That's OK, we'll pick you up, take you to the dole office and then zoom you to the interviews.'

"It was a limousine they picked me up in, it had champagne and I had a glass. I ran past everybody in the queue saying, 'I'm really sorry, I've got to get to an interview,' and everybody turns around and the chauffeur waves."

Did he enjoy that? "Yes, I loved it."

At a festival in Norway he fell in love, eventually moving to the "social democratic paradise" of Oslo. The resulting culture shock informs The Colour of Panic. What colour is panic?

"Grey with flashes of red. The grey comes from that first winter in Norway. The sun comes up about 10 and goes down about three, everything is grey and claustrophobic. The red's the Australian desert."

Hopes says the dislocation between Norway and former home Whyalla was something he was able to use theatrically: "It's the ultimate panic attack."

However, Hope keeps his cool when encountering weird Bubby fans, such as the Norwegian who'd seen it 13 times.

"A band was playing, and I said, 'Look that's really lovely, that's great, but I'd just like to listen to the band if that's OK.' He grabbed me and threw me up against the wall and started screaming, 'F--- you, God! F--- you, God!' Then the bouncers came.

"Here, having a quiet drink with my brother in a pub, someone comes over and starts jabbering about Bubby. Then he decides he's insulting me so he says 'sorry', grabs a pepper shaker and pours the entire contents in his mouth, then splutters and coughs all over our table and into our beers saying, 'Sorry, sorry'.

"He believed he'd insulted me because he didn't know my name. He started shouting, 'Everybody, this is Bad Boy Bubby, do you know his name?' It's not like being an A-list star where people say 'you're Mel Gibson' or 'you're Al Pacino' - they say, 'You're Bad Boy Bubby'."

If panic is grey, what does it smell like?

"It smells like burnt dust, and reverse-cycle airconditioning."

Like Centrelink?


Suddenly I feel like some champers.


Wednesday to July 30, Opera House.

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