Do you ever wonder how actors feel when they see their significant other in a sex scene on screen? “True History of the Kelly Gang” director Justin Kurzel not only had to watch — he had to direct his wife Essie Davis in a scene with Charlie Hunnam.
“I have the privilege of being married to the director,” Davis told TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Charlie’s first day on set, and my second day on set, [Kurzel was like], ‘Okay, Essie, can you kneel down and Charlie can you stand there?’ I was like, ‘Hi, Charlie!'”
Kurzel added: “That was more confronting than I thought, actually, directing a scene of my wife giving fellatio to Charlie. Especially because we had just met as well, and we were still getting to know each other… and I’m sitting there and watching it on the split, I thought, wow, that is really affecting me, not in a good or bad way, it’s just, sort of, you know…”
“True History of the Kelly Gang” is about the story of outlaw and bush-ranger Ned Kelly and his family, and how Kelly fled from authorities with his “gang” during the 1970s. It is based on Peter Carey’s novel, and Shaun Grant wrote the script. George MacKay stars as the outlaw, while Davis plays his mother, and Hunnam plays a sergeant who often visits the family’s home.
“[Ned Kelly is] a notorious figure in Australia,” Kurzel said when asked why he wanted to tell this particular story, adding that Kelly was so “mythical in Australia and there was an idea there and a kind of voice that I thought I hadn’t heard and seen before that spoke to our identity as Australians, but also this notion about what is truth and whether your own history can be stolen from you.”
MacKay was attracted to the project for two reasons: The idea of family as a focal point “amidst a Justin Kurzel film.”
Hunnam agreed: “Initially, it was about the desire to work with Justin and when I read the script, I thought this was a fun challenge to make what could be played traditionally as an arch-villainous type of role… it would be nice to get really deeply inside his head and see if we could find some redeeming qualities or at least the truth of why he was behaving the way he was. Justin was clearly thinking the same thing.”
And his time on set was different for Hunnam than the other projects he’s worked on.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever showed up to a set and felt like I was just there to play and have fun,” he explained. “It was such a small role, it didn’t feel like there were any stakes — there are never any stakes — because it’s really just about you coming and trying to find some truth and reveal your heart.”
“True History of the Kelly Gang” was acquired by IFC Films at the festival and the distributor plans to release the drama in 2020.
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