Richard Roxburgh in Sue Brooks' Looking for Grace
Richard Roxburgh is gearing up for a busy year.
There's his starring role in the new Australian feature film Looking for Grace, directed by Sue Brooks (Japanese Story), opening on January 26, as well as a new season of Rake airing in February.
If things pan out, there's also Babyteeth, Roxburgh's next film as a director – the actor's first foray behind the lens since 2007's Romulus, My Father.
Roxburgh describes Looking for Grace, the fragmented story of parents (Roxburgh and Radha Mitchell) trying to track down their runaway daughter (Odessa Young), as one of "these little independent films [that] are such an important part of the whole diagram of our industry".
Roxburgh's also coming off a film that's at the other end of the local filmmaking spectrum (and one that has provoked grumbling in some quarters) – Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge.
Roxburgh plays the small role of Colonel Stelzer in the film, which insiders say is being positioned for an end of year awards-season release, and describes the experience as "an absolute ball".
"I did one day, just for the fun of it, really, because I think [Gibson's] great. And I did think he was great", Roxburgh said.
"I think he's quite an incredible man, with an incredible brain. A ridiculous brain. And a fervent creative drive which I find really exciting. Frankly, from my point of view, the more actors are involved in the creation of stuff, the more exciting it becomes."
Actors having agency as storytellers is clearly on Roxburgh's mind.
He singles out Jungle/Stan's No Activity as a particularly inspiring example.
"I think the advent of shows like No Activity is a really terrific thing. What really excites me about that is that it's actor-heavy. It's a show that's largely improvised. You get some really great, really smart, really funny actors to do the work and [they] can come up with something like that. Which is not to say that there's not a really strong directorial hand".
Roxburgh points to Brooks, who "has an incredibly relaxed on-set style, which is particularly great in terms of letting play happen", as a model for how he wants to approach his next directorial outing.
An adaptation of Rita Kalnejais' play about a teenage girl dying of cancer who falls in love, Babyteeth is being produced by Alex White and Katherine Slattery and executive produced by Jan Chapman.
"That's very much an ensemble piece. That's the way I'm thinking of it: as an actor's ensemble. I was reluctant to do it, but I've cast myself in it and the main reason for doing [that] – apart from it being a quick fix – is that it's about embedding myself in an ensemble. So I'm right in there and there's a lot at stake, and I like the feeling of that."
Roxburgh, who has never particularly enjoyed rehearsing prior to shoots ("I've never quite understood why we were there"), is looking forward to finding it on the floor.
"The hurly-burly of all the stuff I've done on Rake over time has developed that feeling anyway, and it's a feeling I understand. I'm really looking forward to that. We've been doing a lot of work on the script and I'm very happy with where that is now."
Looking for Grace opens on Australia Day, January 26, around the country.