Young people head out into a desolate place. There they are preyed upon by a stranger who kills them off one by one. It’s not a new idea, but Wolf Creek reinvented it to spectacular effect, largely thanks to the casting of seasoned Aussie actor John Jarrett in the villain role. We got the chance to speak to him as Wolf Creek 2 geared up for its US and VOD release.
“I knew there was going to be a sequel almost from the get go,” said John, who was closely involved in the development of both films. He spoke with an easy charm that would be more reassuring if his character didn’t do likewise just before switching into psychopath mode, and he seemed quite aware of the unease this inspires in some people, recalling his amusement at the look on one journalist’s face when he slipped into character and threatened to beat him up (the journalist did get the joke later).
It can’t be quite what he expected when he began his screen career opposite Barry Humphries in The Great MacArthy, or starred in the legendary Picnic At Hanging Rock, a film he remembers with great enthusiasm. “I made that when I was only 22. I thought, wow, this is filmmaking! You know, working with Peter Weir and all that. At the time we had no idea we were making this brilliant picture, you know? We were just a bunch of babies. I mean, the DOP was about 30 and we were all just a bunch of kids.”
John Jarrett as Mick Taylor
Since then he’s taken on a huge variety of roles. I asked him how the character of Mick changed between the two Wolf Creek films and if it was a challenge expanding the role to bring in aspects of real life serial killers in the second one.
“Oh, that was the same in the first one,” he assures me. “There were elements of Ivan Milat and Bradley John Murdoch. The only thing that’s different is that we know who the villain is this time so Mick can’t suddenly surprise us. In the first one the monster’s in the cage until halfway through the film and then he comes roaring out, but obviously we couldn’t do that this time, so he’s there from the start and instead of 50 minutes you get 90 minutes of mayhem. It’s much more of a road film, I think.”
I noted that some critics have said they felt the tone changed quite distinctly and that there’s more comedy in the second one, but John dismissed this. “I think it’s always really funny. The first one is full of gags. I just think it’s because he’s the central character the second one is much more full on.”
The other characters in the films seem out of their depth even before Mick comes along. I asked John if he saw the character as a metaphor, on some levels, for the dangers of the outback.
“Yeah,” he said, “people do take it for granted a lot. It’s just like the ocean--people go out there and they’re not capable of handling it. People do die out there. They go out with no provisions and they don’t need some maniac to get them in trouble. Just don’t take it for granted. You don’t need Mick Taylor to kill you in the outback.”
Living in central Queensland himself, it’s not something he’s had to deal with much in his own life. “But I have met some shady characters,” he noted. “I’ve never been confronted by myself but I know other people who have.”
Alongside working on Wolf Creek 2, John has made his directorial début with a film called StalkHer, which will be released later this year. I asked what it was like to direct for the first time.
“It was intense,” he said. “The character I played is onscreen all the time and it’s very dialogue driven so it was a tough one to have for my directorial début. I thought it was going to be an easy one but it was a lot tougher than I expected.” Editing on the film is ongoing and he explained that he was fitting interviews into breaks. He’s also working on two more films, including a comedy western called Passing Wind. So with all this happening, will we see more of Mick?
“That depends,” said John with a laugh that made it clear he’d love to play the character again. “It depends on you guys. You go out there and watch the film and buy DVDs, and we’ll make more.”