Daniel Nettheim The Hunter DVD Interview
Question: What originally inspired you to take on a film about the Tasmanian Tiger?
Daniel Nettheim: I was originally inspired by the novel of The Hunter which is a beautifully written piece of literature and it had a great central story that I was attracted to with the loner character who is on a journey, in a remote wilderness. I thought the story of the Tasmanian Tiger and what happened to it was dramatically so rich.
The Hunter, the novel, contains great characters and wonderful landscapes - there was a lot that appealed to me.
Question: Do you believe in the possibility of the Tasmania Tiger?
Daniel Nettheim: Before I started the project no, I didn't really believe in the existence of Tasmania Tigers at all. I was aware of the Tasmania Tiger, like everyone in Australia and I was interested that every year in the newspaper there is a reported sighting but I was dubious that no one had ever managed to get a photograph of the Tasmania Tiger.
With the time that we spent in Tasmania, six to seven weeks during the shoot and a lot of time before hand we met so many people who had claimed to see the Tasmania Tiger and had very genuine and sincere stories to tell and I was won over. Science tells us that it's not possible that the Tasmania Tiger is still out there but part of me wants to believe that it is.
Question: Why do you think Australians are still fascinated by the existence of the Tasmanian Tiger?
Daniel Nettheim: Partly it gives us, collectively, the possibility for redemption because what the first colonial settlers in Australia did to the Tasmania Tiger was pretty brutal, they mercifully hunted the Tasmania Tiger down for a bounty. The last Tasmania Tiger died out in 1936 and it was only in that time that we as a nation were starting to develop an environmental consciousness. I think that in the last dying years of the Tasmania Tiger people began to be concerned about its possible extinction and focus on what they could do to save it, although it was really too late, it had passed the critical mass as the only ones left were kept in captivity.
It is pretty horrible what happened to the Tasmania Tiger and I think the idea, the fantasy that it is still out there and alive means that we could do it better next time, we could look after it better and we could shake ourselves of the sins of the past.
Question: How long did you stay in the Tasmanian wilderness, filming The Hunter?
Daniel Nettheim: Out of seven weeks in Tasmania we spent five weeks in one town that was Deloraine and then a total of two weeks was spent travelling on a day to day basis to different remote locations to shoot landscapes. It was about ten days, or more, that we spent in the Tasmanian wilderness.
Question: Can you talk about the difficulties associated with filming in the Tasmanian wildness?
Daniel Nettheim: Yes (laughing)! The main one, which is not a surprise, is that you are totally at the mercy of the weather. Making a film is so much about trying to control all of the elements but the weather is one thing you cannot control. We had to decided, creatively, early on that we had to embrace whatever was happening; if it was raining we had to be prepared to shoot in the rain and if it was snowy, windy or whatever we had to try and make the weather fit in with the story. Even at script stage we were treating the script in such a way that the weather could be pretty variable.
Question: How did you go about filming the animals seen in The Hunter?
Daniel Nettheim: Interestingly the Tasmania Devils that you see in the film are filmed at a wildlife sanctuary in Tasmania where they keep the Tasmania Devils, at the centre they are trying to protect the Tasmania Devils from the horrible disease that is affecting the population. At the wildlife sanctuary there was a landscape there that looked pretty much like natural bushland so we were able to shoot the Tasmania Devils there.
The Wallabies that you see throughout the film, likewise, we filmed at a reservation centre where there were some pretty tame animals; we filmed the Wallabies against a green screen background and then we keyed them into the location that we wanted them to be.
We had the services of somebody who was a trained Meat and Livestock handler in Tasmania and for scenes involving dead animals she would bring us something she had in the deep freeze often they were road kill. There is a certain amount of culling that goes on, although I didn't ask too much about where the dead animals came from! It is suffice to say that no animals were harmed in the making of The Hunter.
Question: Can you talk about how you incorporated the old footage of the last Tasmania Tiger, into The Hunter?
Daniel Nettheim: The footage is quite well known footage that I had certainly seen in documentaries before and you can see it on YouTube - it is pretty easy to find on the internet, there is approximately 18 minutes of footage of existing Tasmania Tigers, in the world. However it's either owned by the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra or the Hobart Museum. We had to apply to both bodies to get the rights to use this footage and when they sent us a copy on a disc the resolution wasn't really good enough to blow it up to the size that we needed to, for the film. We had a new scan done, from the original existing 60m print and we created a new high resolution copy. The images shown have never been seen projected at that size and that quality, before now.
I was amazed because the footage was a little scratched and we could have digitally cleaned it up but that archival quality to it was quite beautiful and we wanted to keep that.
Question: How was it working with Willem Dafoe?
Daniel Nettheim: In any case when you're casting a film you want to find the best actor for the role and in the case of the character played by Willem Dafoe, he was always scripted as an outsider and we wanted to look for a non-Australian actor so he could clearly be a foreigner in the landscape. For that reason we thought we could go international and think about which actors we'd most like to work with and who we think would be really cool in the role. For various reasons including his physicality, his age, his talent and his experience Willem Dafoe had always been high on our list. Early on I had never entertained the hope that'd we'd be able to get Willem Dafoe or someone like him but we had a dream wish list and you can imagine my surprise when we got the script to Willem Dafoe's management and we got a message back to say he was interested and wanted to meet with me.
Question: What about the casting of the two younger cast members?
Daniel Nettheim: Most of the hard work was done in the casting because I know from experience that you don't get a lot of time on set to work extensively with any one actor and I had to cast kids that I knew were going to be able to deliver on the day, without losing too much time. By the time the kids got their part they'd pretty much read and auditioned all the scenes they were going to have to do in the film.
Both kids were very natural, smart and they both had a lot of natural qualities that were similar to the characters in the script. When children are at that age they don't really have training or experience and you can only really fall back on their natural abilities. It was quite an extensive search to find Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock.
We did have an drama coach that worked with the kids, on set to make sure that they were fresh, that they knew the dialogue and they didn't have too many distractions when they came on to do a scene and that was incredibly helpful from my perspective.
Question: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Daniel Nettheim: It was probably due to my love of film, as a kid. I started off doing photography and camera work but I realised it was a solitary occupation and I really liked to work with a large group of creative people. I suppose that in directing film and television you get to direct with a lot of creative people, in all departments and that stimulates me. I enjoy the challenges of storytelling in that medium and I like the collaboration.
Question: What is next for you?
Daniel Nettheim: I direct a lot of television drama, locally and I will certainly be doing more of that. I haven't decided what my next film (laughing) will be; The Hunter took ten years to get off the ground. Filmmaking is a long process and you really have to love the project, have a connection to it and definitely have a lot of patience.
The Hunter DVD
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Running Time: 101 minutes
Academy Award® nominee Willem Dafoe (Spider Man, Platoon) stars as Martin David, a globe-trotting mercenary hired by a mysterious biotech company to track down the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger - rumoured to be alive and well deep within the Tasmanian wilderness.
Under the wing of Jack Mindy (Sam Neill, The Piano), Martin lodges at the home of Lucy (Frances O'Connor, AI: Artificial Intelligence), who is grief-stricken after the disappearance of her activist husband, Jarrah, and struggling to care for her two children, Sass and Bike. As Martin embarks upon his clandestine mountain search for the elusive creature, he finds himself unexpectedly drawn to the troubled family and trying to resolve the mysteries hidden within the treacherous landscape.
Recently nominated for 14 Samsung AACTA Awards (formerly the AFI Awards), The Hunter is a powerful psychological drama based on Julia Leigh's acclaimed novel of the same name and set against the dramatic beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness. The Hunter was released to critical acclaim in October, 2011, and has grossed over $1 million at the Australian box office.
- Audio Commentary with director Daniel Nettheim and producer Vincent Sheehan
- The Making of The Hunter
- The Soundtrack
- Portrait Galleries
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary
- TOM Study Guide