Thursday, October 21, 2004


David Wenham, who played Faramir in "Lord of the Rings," is shown at left, in a scene from "Gettin' Square."

HIFF judge arrives still
exhilarated from "Molokai"
and "Rings" projects

David Wenham is just a few hours off the lengthy flight from Sydney but sounds remarkably fresh and especially excited about his visit to Molokai the next day.

David Wenham

"Gettin' Square": The actor introduces the film 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Hawaii Theatre.

Acting Seminar: Wenham discusses his craft 6 p.m. next Thursday, Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts. Free tickets available at box office.

Film Festival

Opening night: Maggie Cheung will introduce her film "Clean" at 8 tonight at the Hawaii Theatre. Tickets are $15.

Details: HIFF runs through Oct. 31. Tickets are $8. Check the Web site hiff.org for a schedule, or call 528-4433.

"I can't wait, I really cannot wait," says Wenham, a judge for the Hawaii International Film Festival. "Living at Kalaupapa for the four or so months doing 'Molokai: The Story of Father Damien' really is one of the most profound experiences of my professional and personal life."

That's saying something, considering the actor's role as Faramir in two of the most popular and profitable films of all time: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003) and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (2002), as well as "Moulin Rouge."

"Of course, that work was incredible because it was a literary masterpiece, and Peter Jackson is one of the greatest directors around," Wenham said.

"Will I ever be involved in something like that again? I seriously doubt it. I put my 'Lord' experience in a special category."

Wenham shifts the chat back to Molokai: "I leaped into the Kalaupapa community with a passion. The best part was getting to talk story with the leprosy patients and make friends. I will always treasure that and feel privileged."

Wenham portrayed Damien in "Molokai," released in 1999. The film also starred Kris Kristofferson, Peter O'Toole and Derek Jacobi.

It's not hard to understand that while the actor has had his share of blockbusters, his creative heart yearns to do independent films.

"'Lord' was all good for me and certainly helped me in getting other work," he said, including this year's "Van Helsing."

Wenham begins work in Queensland on the independent drama "The Proposition" after HIFF. The film is directed by John Hillcoat and also stars John Hurt, Guy Pearce and Emily Watson. Wenham's character is an English gentleman who "happens to be the nastiest man in the film."

"I do a lot of off-the-rails type films," he says. "I am not driven by the dollar, but by projects which stimulate me ... invite me to be completely involved. I need a character to fascinate and intrigue me."

His own favorite -- "Lord" aside -- is a very low-budget film he did in 1998 called "The Boys."

"It dealt with a very tough subject, three brothers who raped and murdered a girl in Australia. The film explored the hows and whys these crimes occur.

"There was no physical violence in the film; it was all psychological. The really great thing is that it offered no solutions, and it made the audience talk about it. If Hollywood made this film, you would see the event."

Wenham's all-time favorite film offers a clue to what he enjoys on screen. It's another indie, "Drifting Clouds." "Nothing really happens for about two hours, then one significant thing occurs at the end which I found very moving to watch."

Wenham, who used to call bingo in Sydney's Marrickville Town Hall, was an insurance clerk before he turned to acting. He rejects any star moniker, despite winning last year's 2003 Australian Film Institute Award for best actor for his comic turn as Johnny Spitieri in "Gettin' Square," to be shown at the Hawaii Theatre at 8 p.m. Tuesday in its U.S. premiere.

"I lead a pretty normal life, so I don't have to take giant steps to stay grounded," he says. "I'm just an actor who's been in some very successful movies. The concept of a star is something I have a hard time defining."

Wenham insists he's a modest guy, despite being voted Australia's sexiest man alive. "That tag came after I was in a short-lived TV series and my character caught the national attention," he says, laughing. "Do I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror admiringly? Absolutely, I say, tongue in cheek.

"Here's a little secret. I was cast in 'The Lord of the Rings' because I resembled my on-screen brother, Sean Bean. We both have big noses."

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