Australian comedy-horror film is shaping up as an auspicious debut for the Cairnes brothers.
16 Jul 2012 - 12:34 PM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2014 - 12:24 PM

Actors are sometimes the worst judges of scripts, as evidenced by the number of times they talk up films that turn out to be critical or commercial duds. Yet Damon Herriman appears genuinely enthusiastic when he talks about his experience in shooting 100 Bloody Acres, the comedy-horror movie which has its world premiere at next month's Melbourne International Film Festival.

The feature debut of Melbourne-based writers-directors, brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes, it focuses on brothers Reg (Herriman) and Lindsay (Angus Sampson), who run an organic fertiliser business in the Outback. Reg offers a ride to three young people from the city whose car has broken down en route to a music festival, but his intentions are not entirely honourable.

“I had an amazing time on that film. It's one of the best scripts I've ever read,” Herriman told SBS Movies. “Reg was a lovely character to play. He's not as bright as he'd like to be and his judgment leaves a little to be desired, but he does mean well. He just wants to do the right thing. But his brother is running the show and Reg doesn't like to upset the apple cart.”

The festival blurb hails the film as being as “hysterically funny as it is horrifyingly gruesome”. Herriman, who spends on average six months a year in the US with a recurring role in the TV series Justified and in films such as J. Edgar, hasn't seen the movie and will attend the MIFF premiere, acknowledging, “It will be a nerve-wracking experience to say the least.”

The actor, whose other credits include The Square, Candy, the US series Breaking Bad and Wilfred and ABC-TV comedy Laid, returns to the US next month for a few more days on Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger, which stars Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and Helena Bonham-Carter.

He plays one of the Cavendish gang, wearing a disguise that's so elaborate he spends nearly four hours in make-up each day. “It's the biggest set I've been on in my life, just hundreds of people everywhere,” he said. “And I get to ride horses and shoot guns, which is pretty fun.”

Cyan Films' Julie Ryan and Kate Croser, who produced 100 Bloody Acres, first met the Cairnes brothers at the Australian Film Commission's IndiVision Project Lab in 2008. “I just loved the script,” Ryan tells SBS Movies. “The brothers kept developing it, it won first place in the horror section of the Slamdance screenwriting competition, and I kind of stalked them until we agreed to work together.”

The film was funded by Screen Australia, South Australian Film Corporation, Film Victoria and the MIFF Premiere Fund. The cast includes Anna McGahan (who received the Heath Ledger Scholarship from the Australians in Film organisation in Los Angeles last month), Oliver Ackland, Jamie Kristian, John Jarratt and Chrissie Page.

Australian distributor Hopscotch hasn't set a release date yet. International sales, which are being handled by The Works International, may get a boost if the film is selected for the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Ryan, who was one of the producers on Red Dog, is collaborating with the Cairnes brothers on their next project, a crime comedy entitled They Shoot Hostages Don't They? which will be pitched to potential co-financiers at the MIFF 37ºSouth Market.

Next up for Ryan is Tracks, based on the true story of Robyn Davidson's camel trek from Alice Springs to the west coast in 1977, accompanied by a canine companion and a National Geographic photographer. Mia Wasikowska stars, John Curran is directing, Ryan is co-producing with The King's Speech producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, and shooting is due to start in October/November.