Terry Norris and Benedict Hardie in ‘Judy & Punch.’

After portraying a succession of dastardly or less than noble characters in films and TV series, Benedict Hardie welcomed the chance to play someone with at least a few redeeming qualities in Judy & Punch.

In Mirrah Foulkes’ brutal, dark re-interpretation of the puppet play which opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday via Madman Entertainment, he plays Constable Derrick.

The lone cop in the wryly-named inland town of Seaside, Derrick struggles to maintain law and order as Damon Herriman’s narcissistic Punch causes mayhem after his much-abused wife Judy (Mia Wasikowska) vanishes.

“It was such a pleasure to make that film,” he tells IF. “The script was like nothing any of us has read. Derrick becomes an emotional touchstone for the audience as an outsider looking at this mad world.

“He’s a quiet, meek and gentle soul who hopes for the better angels of our nature to win out in the end. Mirrah was so much fun to work with on set. She’s very open and collaborative and has boundless energy.”

It was his sixth shared credit with Herriman since they first appeared with Foulkes in Brendan Cowell’s 2013 ABC telemovie The Outlaw Michael Howe, the saga of 19th century former convict turned bushranger

In some ways Derrick is not unlike Trooper Leslie, the character he plays in Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife the Legend of Molly Johnson, which is shooting in the Snowy Mountains, produced by Oombarra Productions’ Bain Stewart and Bunya Productions’ David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn and Greer Simpkin.

Set in 1893, the Aussie Western follows Purcell as the heavily pregnant Molly Johnson who, with her children, struggles to survive hunger and the wild elements. She forms a bond with Yadaka (Rob Collins), a runaway Aboriginal who helps her with the birth and burial of her stillborn baby.

When Sergeant Nate Clintoff (Sam Reid) learns that Molly’s drover husband is missing he sends Leslie to investigate, triggering a chain of brutal events. Leslie is a bookish, quiet, bespectacled guy who inconveniently dislikes riding horses.

“Leah has written a very dark, violent and gritty script but she puts in moments of comedy, which Trooper Leslie is a part of,” says Hardie, who played Leslie and two other characters in the Belvoir St Theatre production of Purcell’s play in 2016.

“I helped Leah develop the script of the play the year before we went into rehearsals. The story is very close to my heart and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

He can’t reveal much about his cameo in Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, the Universal Pictures horror/thriller which was shot in Sydney as a co-production between Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions and Goalpost Pictures.

His character Marc runs a big firm of architects where naïve Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) applies for a job after her abusive ex-boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) commits suicide.

Adrian leaves Cecilia $5 million in his will provided she is found to be mentally sound. At first she fears Adrian’s ghost is haunting her but her sister (Harriet Dyer) and neighbours don’t believe her. It was his second collaboration with Whannell following Upgrade.

“I think the film will thrill people who love Leigh’s work but also surprise people, maybe even some of his critics,” he says. “It’s psychologically a very sophisticated and socially relevant film which still has all the fun, twists, action and scary parts of a Leigh Whannell film.”

‘The Luminaries’

Herriman and Hardie play border control officers in The Commons, Playmaker Media’s thriller set in the near future created by Shelley Birse and commissioned by Stan. Joanne Froggatt, Rupert Penry-Jones, Ryan Corr and David Lyons head the cast of the show set partially in a processing centre for refugees from the hinterland who seek the sanctuary of Sydney.

“It’s funny to plug into a character like that in this current climate in Australia and to look at the acolytes of Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison, try to understand what makes them tick and try to play them believably on screen,” he says.

Directed by Jeffrey Walker, Rowan Woods and Jennifer Leacey, the series will premiere on Stan on Christmas Day.

Cast as a victim rather than a villain, he plays Alistair Lauderback in The Luminaries, a 6-part drama commissioned by BBC Two and TVNZ, directed by Claire McCarthy and produced by Working Title Television and Southern Light Films.

Set during the 1860s gold rush in New Zealand’s South Island and adapted and reinvented by Eleanor Catton from her 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, the series stars Eve Hewson as young adventurer Anna Wetherell.

Lauderback is a wealthy, powerful and ambitious Englishman who aspires to become a political leader and is having an affair with brothel madam Lydia Wells (Eva Green).

Lydia and her lover Francis Carver (Martin Csokas) blackmail and swindle him out of a ship. At the same time Lauderback is trying to conceal the fact he has a destitute bastard brother named Crosbie Wells (Ewen Leslie).

The Luminaries is a fantastic tale where there really aren’t any good or bad guys. Everyone is conflicted or comprised in some way,” he says.

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