The American-born screenwriter Everett De Roche, who moved to Melbourne in 1968, passed away last week from cancer at 67. De Roche was instrumental in leading the movement of exploitation Australian cinema – subsequently coined Ozploitation – in the ‘70s and ‘80s, penning the scripts to some of its best-known and most entertaining movies including Long Weekend, Road Games (pictured), Patrick and Razorback, the latter two of which won him AFI award nominations for best screenplay.
“Everett led the charge in working with and supporting producers who looked to the international marketplace and the mainstream as their primary audience, in addition to the domestic specialty market,” says Australian producer Antony I. Ginnane, who worked with De Roche on the original Patrick, Harlequin and the sprawling 1981 New Zealand-set action adventure, Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr.
“Having grown up in the States, he had a far more developed awareness of the key drivers in populist genre cinema than most Australian screenwriters of the time, who largely came from an arts background and were steeped in the new nationalism,” Ginnane continues. “But it was instinctive. There were no writer’s texts or script gurus to hold one’s hand or shed a guiding light in those early days. His four greatest screenplays – Long Weekend, Razorback, Patrick and Road Games – and the movies made from them, have stood the test of time and attracted intense cult like devotion worldwide over the years.”
“I will miss Everett a lot,” laments veteran filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith, who directed the 1986 family adventure The Quest (aka Frog Dreaming), based on De Roche’s screenplay. “The fact that [the film] is still well regarded 30 years later is a tribute to the quality of his storytelling. Rarely does the writer get the spotlight he deserves. Everett had a quiet magnetism and a quick mind. He was fun to work with, full of clever ideas for genre hybrids.” “He knew genre, loved genre and engaged in robust collaboration with his producers and directors during the development and production processes,” adds Ginnane. “Most of all, he managed over and over to deftly blend suspense and humour. He was and will continue to be an inspiration to those who came after – and who still have to fight the same battles day by day for a place in the funding sun with our art house friends.”
In the 1990s, De Roche returned to television, where he had first began his career in the early ‘70s, to write episodes for popular Australian shows like The Flying Doctors, Blue Heelers and Stingers. In 2008, De Roche’s career came full circle when he wrote the script for the remake of Colin Eggleston’s 'nature fights back’ cult classic Long Weekend, the original of which marked his screenwriting debut. The film once again concerned a careless camping suburban couple that battle nature in a remote beach, though notably some additional scenes and characters were added for the update. The film didn’t receive a wide Australian release and was subsequently released in the US as Nature’s Grave.
De Roche’s final film as screenwriter was the 2009 Sahara-set horror mystery, Nine Miles Down, directed by Lebanese-born filmmaker Anthony Waller. “It was the most intense, fulfilling and productive experience one could hope to have had that enabled me to get into the creative workings of such a brilliant mind,” says Waller. “Even though it took another 11 years and many more drafts before the movie hit the screens, Everett's indelible mark will remain on our project for eternity. His life-endorsing wit, creative flair and intelligence has certainly left an indelible mark on me, and it is with great sadness that I learn of his passing.”
De Roche leaves behind a wife, six daughters and several grandchildren.