This is Paul Eenhoorn

The Aussie actor talks about his role in This Is Martin Bonner.

by Amber Wilkinson

<b>Richmond Arquette and Paul Eenhoorn in This Is Martin Bonner</b>
Richmond Arquette and Paul Eenhoorn in This Is Martin Bonner

This Is Martin Bonner has its international premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this week. Chad Hartigan's thoughtful and gentle American indie features two beautifully pitched central performances from Paul Eenhoorn as Martin and Richmond Arquette as Travis, the ex-con whom he ends up befriending. And so, who is Paul Eenhoorn? I tried to find out when I caught up with him after the film had just had its premiere out in Sundance. Born in Indonesia, growing up in Sydney, Australia - an accent he sports with style - and now living in Seattle, Eenhoorn has certainly had an eventful life.

"I was singing long before [I acted]," he says "I started at 17, singing and dancing. We did a weekly variety show. I did that for three and a half years."

And when he says he was singing, he means it.

"I had a No14 called My Kind of Music, it was recorded in 1972," he says. He also recorded a song called Genevieve with band Kopyrite in the late Sixties, which Hartigan puts to good use in the film in a scene where we see Martin Bonner dancing alone to its music. Paul tells me it was a tricky scene to shoot in that somehow it was closer than usual to home but he's a man who likes it when film finds truth.

"The reality of the film is good," he says. "I like to watch a film and not know there's an actor there."

And after all that moving about, he was able to bring personal experience to the role of Bonner.

"I've moved from Melbourne to Perth, Perth to Sydney, Sydney to Seattle, I've been there," he says. "It's really hard acclimatising and it's more difficult if you're moving from one culture to another - even Australia to America, it's still a culture shock. Even moving from one state to another and not having any ground that's familiar to you either socially or physically is really hard. So it was not unusual to me. It wasn't difficult to find that."

<b>Paul as Martin Bonner</b>
Paul as Martin Bonner

He says he was pleased to be able to use his own accent in the film, adding that although he can do an American accent perfectly well "in the shower" he would probably need a dialect coach if he was to use it in a film.

"I met my wife in Sydney then came to Seattle," he says. "I had to modify my accent so that people would understand me. You ask for some milk and people look at you and go, 'What did he say?' I can see it in their eyes. When I say, Paul, you know what that means but 80 per cent of Americans think I'm saying 'coal'.

"If you're doing something, you're sitting here talking to me and you're probably thinking from time to time, 'Did I park my car in a one hour spot or a two-hour spot. That's what an actor should be doing. They shouldn't be thinking about their accent, they shouldn't be thinking about... They should be thinking about what normal people think about, such as is the bath tap running? It's kind of a distraction You really need to be working with the person you're with. Your thought processes. The camera knows if you're lying but it doesn't know what you're thinking. It just knows you're thinking. So you can actually distract yourself out of thinking about what you're bloody doing and instead transfer that to thinking about something and then the camera will see that you're processing information. It can't see the information but it knows you're processing. The camera sees more than anyone realises."

He goes on to explain further: "I once did a scene. It's in Warrior's End [a medieval epic from 2009] and it's called the 'blue scene', they love it. They're losing light, it's late at night and I was asked a question and I looked down and it's a powerful scene. And some time later, I said to the director, 'Do you know what I was thinking?' He said, 'No, what were you thinking, because it looks so good?' And I said, 'I was thinking, what the hell is the next line?' There are tricks but you are just processing like any normal human being."

Eenhoorn may be coming late to lead roles but he's busy right now.

<b>Paul in This Is Martin Bonner - 'It's a complete piece and doesn't rely on any tricks at all'</b>
Paul in This Is Martin Bonner - 'It's a complete piece and doesn't rely on any tricks at all'

"I have two features in the can, I'm lead in both," he says "One is a bad suicidal cop, so it's a political thriller but it's going to DVD - it was shot on iPhones. It's a really good film, the iPhones seem to lend a coldness to the palette of the film. It's called the Dead Men. It's quite violent but what's really scary about it is it doesn't glorify violence. It achieves making you sick and shocked at violence. The other one's called The Delicate Art Of Birdwatching. It's kind of like a Martin Bonner style thing. He loses his wife and sooner or later he rings a male escort to take him out on the town and show him how to find women and all that sort of thing, and they form a bond. It's like Travis in Martin Bonner, except it's glitzy, it's all nightclubs and women with very little on. There might be a sex scene but not with me - I'm just this naive professor who misses his wife."

And for all his talk of glitz and tricks, he says the important thing is just to get things right.

"With Martin Bonner, you've got a complete piece, you've got an interesting director, an interesting DP [Sean McElwee] and interesting soundtrack with Keegan DeWitt and interesting performances. It's a complete piece and doesn't rely on any tricks at all. It was a great opportunity to shoot this with Chad and to be here. It's what I love and it's what I do well."

This Is Martin Bonner plays EIFF at Cineworld 12 on June 26 at 8.45pm; and Cineworld 5 on June 30 at 1pm. Visit the EIFF site for tickets. For more information about the film, visit the official site

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