Ryan Corr regains his light touch in ‘Ladies in Black’


Ryan Corr and Rachael Taylor in ‘Ladies in Black.’ (Photo: Ben King)

Ryan Corr played a lot of comedic roles earlier in his career before telling his agent, “I don’t want to play the clown all the time.”

Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black enabled the actor to show his comedy chops after a raft of dramatic roles in such movies as Stephen McCallum’s upcoming 1%, Mary Magdalene, Hacksaw Ridge, Holding the Man and TV shows Cleverman, Wanted and Love Child.

He plays Rudi, a debonair, cultured immigrant with a dark past from Hungary who is keen to date Australian women and sets his sights on department store worker Fay (Rachael Taylor) in the 1959-set comedy/drama which opens on Thursday.

Rudi has a lot of amusing lines but there is an edge to the character: Beresford wants audiences to question Rudi’s intentions and whether he is trustworthy until late in the narrative.

“I felt that unless Rudi came across as having a lot of charm, the whole film was going to collapse. It was crucial to get someone who could do it that way, and he does do it,” the director said.

Adapted by Beresford and producer Sue Milliken from the late Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel ‘The Women in Black’, the plot follows Angourie Rice as Lisa, a shy 16-year-old who takes a holiday job in a big Sydney department store. Lisa meets a group of women known as the ‘ladies in black’ and becomes a catalyst for changes in their lives.

Corr admits his first stab at a Hungarian accent was terrible: He was asked one Thursday to audition for casting director Christine King the next morning and only had time to watch a few YouTube videos. “Fortunately the audition is more about the spirit of the person you are trying to convey rather than the dialect,” he tells IF.

After getting the part he spent two weeks with a dialect coach in Los Angeles and he got more tips during the shoot from Hungarians who played extras in a party scene.

Corr describes Taylor as a powerhouse who is “incredibly sweet and exceptionally talented.” In turn she says: “He’s so engaging and such a beautiful listener. His personality bleeds onto the screen and he made my job very easy.”

He responded to Beresford as a classic, highly organised and trusting director, a contrast in styles with Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene, in which he played Joseph opposite Rooney Mara’s Mary and Joaquin Phoenix’s Jesus.

“Garth is very organic,” he says. “Before we started shooting in Sicily we spent two weeks together sharing personal stories including difficult parts of our lives.”

The Biblical saga produced by See-Saw Films flopped but Corr says the chance to work with Davis, Mara and Phoenix “supersedes” the box office results.

Currently he is working with Jacki Weaver, Bryan Brown, Phoebe Tonkin, Daniel Henshall and Sam Reid in Bloom, a supernatural romance/mystery scripted by Glen Dolman and produced by Playmaker Media for Stan.

John Curran and Mat King are directing the series which follows residents in a country town, the survivors of a devastating flood, who discover a plant which seems to restore their youth.

Corr plays Sam, a murderous 65-year-old who is reborn in his 20s and doubles down on the bad things he’s done. Rod Mullinar plays the older Sam.

He’s thrilled to work with Weaver, describing her as “utterly herself, softly spoken, a cool customer with an exceptional body of work.”

Icon will launch 1% on October 18. Corr plays Paddo, who ran a violent motorcycle gang while its leader Knuck (Matt Nable) is in jail. Trouble erupts when Paddo’s younger brother, the developmentally disabled Skink (Josh McConville), gets caught stealing a heroin stash from a rival gang.

“Miscommunication breeds chaos,” Corr says. “It’s a very brutal film about toxic masculinity.”