Toby Wallace with Markella Kavenagh in Stan Original series ‘Romper Stomper’ (Photo: Ben King).
Toby Wallace was around 16 years old when he first saw Geoffrey Wright’s movie Romper Stomper, which was released in 1992, three years before he was born.
Wallace loved the film, so the actor was excited when Wright asked him to audition for the Romper Stomper series commissioned by Stan.
The writer-director championed Wallace for the role of Kane, the estranged son of Jacqueline McKenzie’s Gabe, after seeing him in Nick Verso’s horror/thriller Boys in the Trees.
The day before the final audition Wallace was surprised to get a call from Wright.
“He told me he thought I had a lot of energy which I was holding back as an actor,” Wallace tells IF. “He wanted to give me permission to go there, which was awesome.”
The six-part crime drama/political thriller produced by Roadshow Rough Diamond’s John Edwards and Dan Edwards follows Kane as he infiltrates Patriot Blue, a far-right, anti-Islam group led by Blake (Lachy Hulme).
That group clashes with a gang of anti-fascists led by university student activist/anarchist Petra (Lily Sullivan). David Wenham is Jago, a right-wing shock jock and other cast includes Dan Wyllie and John Brumpton (who both appeared in the original film), Sophie Lowe and Nicole Chamoun.
Wright, who shared the directing duties with Daina Reid and James Napier Robertson, cast Russell Crowe as Hando, the violent Nazi skinhead who was one of Gabe’s lovers, in the 1992 movie.
At the outset Wright made it clear that Toby should not be viewed as the next Russell Crowe, reasoning there is only one Crowe and the characters of Hando and Kane are very different, 25 years apart.
Dan Edwards says of Toby’s casting: “It is hard when you are looking at young men that age because there are a couple of stand-outs who are such terrific actors they get almost every role. The others around them have fewer credits. Geoff had an eye on Toby very early on and that was backed up quickly by James Napier. The more we saw of him the better he got.”
John Edwards concurs: “Toby is a young star. As Geoff said, he is not the next Russell, he is his own man.”
Wallace describes the character of Kane, a white supremacist, as “very meticulous, specific, planned-out and organised, which is frightening in its own way.”
During the shoot he got a lot of tips and advice from Hulme, whom he regards as a mentor. He also relished the chance to collaborate with McKenzie, observing, “She was insane to work with because she so in the moment all the time, so prepared.
“When she came on set she said some of this dialogue is not exactly to the point of what we should do. We should write down the main points of what the scene is about and improvise the rest. So we went for it and it was heaps of fun. It’s so much easier to act when you have someone like Jacqui in front of you offering so many choices.”
Scripted by Wright, Robertson, author/poet/rapper Omar Musa and journalist Malcolm Knox, the Stan Original series will premiere on the streaming platform on New Year’s Day.
Wallace made his professional debut aged 13 in Kriv Stenders’ Lucky Country. Among his film credits are Galore, Cockleshell, a segment Tim Winton’s The Turning and Return to Nim’s Island.
He played the young Michael Hutchence in the Seven Network miniseries Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS.
Next week he starts shooting an Australian feature, title under wraps, saying only: “I think it will be a really special project.”
Check back tomorrow for an interview with Lily Sullivan on ‘Romper Stomper’ and ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.