August 30, 2001
Australian David Wenham
Happy as a Cinematic Gypsy
VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Forget the Hollywood blockbuster. Australian actor David Wenham is happy to travel the world as a "cinematic gypsy" in search of quirky roles that stretch him.
And 2001 could just be the year of the big international breakthrough for the 35-year-old Sydneysider, who flew into Venice for the premiere of an offbeat Balkan Western called "Dust," in which he plays the lead alongside "Shakespeare in Love" star Joseph Fiennes.
Combine that with roles in the musical "Moulin Rouge" and in "Lord of the Rings" and his might just be the face plastered on billboards around the world in future.
But Hollywood is not the Holy Grail for this thoughtful actor who got his start in Australian theater and television.
"In terms of some of the blockbusters that are made purely as a money-making exercise with no concern for any artistic direction -- that doesn't appeal at all. That is a very cynical exercise," he told reporters Thursday.
"I like something that is just not fodder for the screen. To be involved in disposable entertainment -- that is just not for me," he said. "If that means I lead a very frugal existence and don't earn much money, then so be it. But at least I will be very happy.
"I don't have an axe to grind against Hollywood. It is valid. Where I live in Sydney we have the biggest sound studio outside of Hollywood and that is good. It gives a lot of work.
"But there is always concern about Hollywood's dominance of world entertainment. The danger is that our industry in Australia doesn't become homogenized and that we still make our own films and tell our own stories with our own voices. There is room for all of that," he said.
Australia developed its own distinctive film industry in the 1970s and captured a worldwide audience, but Wenham complained that nowadays the begrudger reigns supreme.
"We have a chip on our shoulder back home, we have 'tall poppy syndrome.' It is strange. We are very hard on ourselves. Australian cinema is critically more appreciated outside our country than at home," he said.
Wenhan, currently lining up a film in London followed by a play in Melbourne, said, "Europe and Asia seem to interest me a little bit more than America."
But he readily agrees that "Hollywood does dominate. It is a huge beast and the rest of the world does struggle, but it is a fight worth persevering with."