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submitted by BBC, Great Britain on 07.11.2007

There are 82 remaining fragments of the mechanism that contain a total of 30 gears. The largest piece contains 27 of the gears.

By Jonathan Fildes

Science and technology reporter, BBC News

The Antikythera Mechanism was explored in an episode of Unearthing Mysteries on BBC Radio 4, on 12 December, 2006.


The delicate workings at the heart of a 2,000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists.

The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles.

Using advanced imaging techniques, an Anglo-Greek team probed the remaining fragments of the complex geared device.

The results, published in the journal Nature, show it could have been used to predict solar and lunar eclipses.

The elaborate arrangement of bronze gears may also have displayed planetary information.

"This is as important for technology as the Acropolis is for architecture," said Professor John Seiradakis of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and one of the team. "It is a unique device."

However, not all experts agree with the team's interpretation of the mechanism.

Technical complexity

The remains of the device were first discovered in 1902 when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed a heavily corroded gear wheel amongst artefacts recovered by sponge divers from a sunken Roman cargo ship.

A further 81 fragments have since been found containing a total of 30 hand-cut bronze gears. The largest fragment has 27 cogs.

Researchers believe these would have been housed in a rectangular wooden frame with two doors, covered in instructions for its use. The complete calculator would have been driven by a hand crank.

Although its origins are uncertain, the new studies of the inscriptions suggest it would have been constructed around 100-150 BC, long before such devices appear in other parts of the world.

Writing in Nature, the team says that the mechanism was "technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards".

Although much of it is now lost, particularly from the front, what remains has given a century's worth of researchers a tantalising glimpse into the world of ancient Greek astronomy.

One of the most comprehensive studies was done by British science historian Derek Solla Price, who advanced the theory that the device was used to calculate and display celestial information.

When you see it your jaw just drops and you think, 'bloody hell that's clever'

Mike Edmunds
Cardiff University

This would have been important for timing agricultural and religious festivals. Some researchers now also believe that it could have been used for teaching or navigation.

Although Solla Price's work did much to push forward the state of knowledge about the device's functions, his interpretation of the mechanics is now largely dismissed.

A reinterpretation of the fragments by Michael Wright of Imperial College London between 2002 and 2005, for example, developed an entirely different assembly for the gears.

The new work builds on this legacy.

Eclipse function

Using bespoke non-invasive imaging systems, such as three-dimensional X-ray microfocus computed tomography, the team was able to take detailed pictures of the device and uncover new information.

The major structure they describe, like earlier studies, had a single, centrally placed dial on the front plate that showed the Greek zodiac and an Egyptian calendar on concentric scales.

On the back, two further dials displayed information about the timing of lunar cycles and eclipse patterns. Previously, the idea that the mechanism could predict eclipses had only been a hypothesis.

Other aspects are less certain, such as the exact number of cogs that would have been in the complete device. The new research suggests 37 gears could have been used.

However, what is left gives an insight into the complexity of the information the mechanism could display.

For example, the Moon sometimes moves slightly faster in the sky than at others because of the satellite's elliptic orbit.

To overcome this, the designer of the calculator used a "pin-and-slot" mechanism to connect two gear-wheels that introduced the necessary variations.

"When you see it your jaw just drops and you think: 'bloody hell, that's clever'. It's a brilliant technical design," said Professor Mike Edmunds.

Planetary display

The team was also able to decipher more of the text on the mechanism, doubling the amount of text that can now be read.

Combined with analysis of the dials, the inscriptions hint at the possibility that the Antikythera Mechanism could have also displayed planetary motions.

"Inscriptions mention the word 'Venus' and the word 'stationary' which would tend to suggest that it was looking at retrogressions of planets," said Professor Edmunds.

"In my own view, it probably displayed Venus and Mercury, but some people suggest it may display many other planets."

One of those people is Michael Wright. His reconstruction of the device, with 72 gears, suggests it may have been an orrery that displayed the motions of the five known planets of the time.

"There is a feature on the front plate that could have made provision for a bearing with a spindle, that carried motion up to a mechanism used to model the planets of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as well," he told the BBC News website.

"That's how I see it and my reconstruction shows it works well."

Intriguingly, Mr Wright also believes the device was not a one-off.

"The designer and maker of the device knew what they wanted to achieve and they did it expertly; they made no mistakes," he said.

"To do this, it can't have been very far from their everyday stock work."

IMAGING TECHNIQUES

1.Three dimensional X-ray microfocus computed tomography: Developed by X-Tek Systems and similar to medical CAT scans, it allowed 3D images of the fragments to be reconstructed. Crucial for reading text hidden by centuries of corrosion.
2.Digital optical imaging using polynomial texture mapping: Developed by Hewlett Packard, a new method for increasing the photorealism of surface textures in digital pictures. Revealed faint surface details.
3.Digitised conventional film photography: High-quality images allowed the fragments to be studied without being handled.

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submitted by Author House on 19.10.2007

The Gift of Mystical Insight

Author: Emmanuel J. Karavousanos

When Published: 2007

Publisher: AuthorHouse

http://www.authorhouse.com/

Available: Emmanuel J Karavousanos & AuthorHouse

Description: Paperback

Published by New York Kytherian-American, Emmanuel J. Karavousanos

Tel: 718-470-0941

Email Emmanuel here


New Book Presents Analysis of the Obvious as Key to Attaining Ultimate Reality

BELLEROSE, N.Y. – In his new book, The Gift of Mystical Insight: The Secret Unlocked. The Logic Revealed (published by AuthorHouse), Emmanuel J. Karavousanos reveals the basis, the evidence and the logic of why mystical experiences occur.

Filled with the author’s insights, wisdom and anecdotes, along with quotations from great minds throughout history, The Gift of Mystical Insight emphasizes thinking critically about the things that seem to need the least thought. The book opens with a quote from Alfred North Whitehead: “Familiar things happen and mankind does not bother about them. It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” Karavousanos returns to this theme again and again with quotes from intellectual giants such as Aldous Huxley, Hegel, Heraclitus, Kahlil Gibran, George Bernard Shaw and others.

“There is now an unshakeable foundation constructed from the words of prominent people that convincingly demonstrate the importance of analyzing familiar things, obvious things, and things already known to us,” Karavousanos writes. “Here is the impetus to reach for the mystical experience and to discover the gift of ultimate reality.”

Karavousanos argues that faith must be shifted from the heavens to the mundane to understand the mystical, a paradox that finds a parallel in the nature of mind. “Unknowingly, we focus on anything and everything that comes our way,” he writes. “The paradox of the mind is recognized in the realization that we cannot learn unless we focus, and we cannot have peace of mind and freedom of thought when we do focus.”

Written in short chapters, The Gift of Mystical Insight covers topics such as the divine as a state of mind rather than a god in heaven, wisdom as part of the soul, “the moving present,” self-esteem, feeling and being one with the universe, and the true nature of being human. Perhaps most importantly, Karavousanos solves the conflict between science and religion and identifies their nexus.

After working for 33 years as an investigator, Emmanuel Karavousanos retired in 1990 and devoted himself to his first love, investigating the problem of consciousness. Although a layman, he has been invited to speak at several conferences, discussing topics such as how each leg of the Holy Trinity is an accepted modern day aspect of consciousness, how and why science and religion are both necessary and indispensable elements for the attainment of the mystical state, and how and why the gift of insight is the science and religion nexus.

AuthorHouse is the premier publishing house for emerging authors and new voices in literature.

AuthorHouse Promotional Services Department,

telephone: 888-728-8467 or

Email AuthorHouse, here

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Hugh Gilchrist on 11.10.2007

Life in Australia. I ZOI EN AFSTRALIA. Η ΖΩΗ ΕΝ AΥΣTΡAΛΙA. Front Cover.

Author: Sponsored by Ioannis D. Kominos (John D. Comino) and largely written by Georgios Kentavros and the brothers Kosmas and Emmanouil Andronikos
When Published: 1916
Publisher: Australia Press
Available: Out of Print. Rare.
Description: Hard cover, 310 pages.

The history of the publication of the book.

From,

Hugh Gilchrist's Australians and Greeks. Volume II. The Middle Years
Chapter XIV
Guides for the Greeks

pages 253-257.

Between 1915 and 1939 three Greek books were published in Australia. All had a similar purpose: to guide Australia’s Greeks and promote their welfare. What they also did was to raise comparisons between aspects of the Greek and the Australian way of life, as then lived.

I Zoi en Afstralia

I Zoi en Afstralia - Life in Australia—which appeared in 1916, was sponsored by Ioannis D. Kominos (John D. Comino) and largely written by Georgios Kentavros and the brothers Kosmas and Emmanouil Andronikos, Sydney merchants and leaders of the Greek Orthodox Community
Sub-titled “An Encyclopaedic Book, with many Artistic Pictures, Biographical Notes on Prominent Citizens, Interesting Statistics, a full Commercial Guide, etc, etc”, it also recorded exemplary instances of successful Greek enterprise in Aus­tralia. Its aim, as stated by Kentavros, was “to provide useful information about Australia and the Greek community there, both for those already living in Australia and for those who come here in the future.” He firmly denied, however, any intention to stimulate migration, saying: “Not for one minute did we have that in mind, nor have we told a single untruth which might lead people to regard us as advocates of emigration.”

A hard-cover book of 310 pages, I Zoi in Afstralia was published in Sydney by the Australia Press. Its setting and printing, however, were done in Melbourne by the Australian Printing and Publishing Company Limited, which, directed by Efstra­tios Venlis, was printing Australia’s first Greek newspaper, Afstralia. Ten thousand copies were printed, of which the majority were to be donated to various official bodies concerned with Greek welfare at home and abroad. Today it is one of Australia’s rarest books.

I Zoi en Afstralia provided facts, figures and photographs of many aspects of Australian life: history, population, constitution, government, industry, transport, and communications with Europe. It outlined—very sketchily—the history of Greek settlement in Australia, especially in New South Wales, and of the activities of the Greek Orthodox Church and its Sydney and Melbourne Communities. Practical information was offered on Australian immigration policy, labour laws and business practices, and on the functions of the Greek Consulates. Some 215 brief biographies followed, in most cases adorned with photographs, of Greeks who had succeeded in Australia—most of them as shop-keepers in New South Wales—and who were praised for their industry, philanthropy and philhellenism.

Compilation of the book, Kentavros declared, had been no easy task; nor had its compilers received as much co-operation from their compatriots as they had hoped. Many of our compatriots refused or disregarded our requests for information—and efforts to identify every Greek in Australia had fallen far short of success. When attempts to elicit replies to letters proved largely futile the authors had visited Greeks wherever they could be found—a slow and costly process; a tour of New South Wales had cost about £1,500.
When the text was nearing completion, Kentavros wrote, “serious difficulties occurred, due to jealousy, indifference and misunderstanding”, and the outbreak of war in 1914 had created “insurmountable obstacles.

“For 14 months we laboured to produce this very difficult and expensive public­ation, and achieved what many thought impossible: the production of the first book in Australia, about Australia, in the Greek language.”
For its completion he gave credit to the patriotic faith and strong will of John D. Comino, and to the help provided by four Brisbane Greeks: Christos Frylingos, Emmanouil Meimarakis, Theodoros Kominos and Ioannis Mavrokefalos (John Black), and by TM. Mantzaris in Newcastle and Konstantinos Argyropoulos (Fisher) in Parkes, and also Greeks in up-country New South Wales, “without whose enthusias­tic subscriptions the book would never have published”. (Its price was not re­corded.) In a diplomatically-worded reference to the host country Kentavros added:
“On the whole, the laws of Australia, which are to be found in no other country, and the excellent results of their enforcement, have greatly contributed to our venture”; and no official obstacles had been placed in its way while Australia was at war.

The Andronicus brothers seem to have provided most of the book’s factual information, to which Kentavros added an account of his tour in 1914 of the New South Wales north coast. Greeks in other Australian states received scant mention, and were clearly beyond the authors’ financial resources. Despite its shortcomings, however, the authors felt that they had produced a work which Greek communities everywhere would value.
I Zoi en Afstralia's moral tone was lofty and its message specific: work, honesty, philanthropy, compliance with Australia’s laws, and devotion to the Hellenic father­land. Its biographical sketches were strenuously complimentary, although Kentavros disclaimed any intention to publicise individuals, saying the aim was to tell the truth about those who had created something good by honesty, industry and efficiency— and “to prod those who think that success comes through a philosophy of ‘easy come, easy go’, or who offer the excuses that the present is not a propitious time for achievement, or that Australians dislike foreigners, or that wages are too low and costs too high, or that nothing can be done unless one is supported”.

Writing of Australian immigration policy, the authors stated that persons with a knowledge of farming were preferred, but that anyone free from contagious disease and able to work was allowed entry except “people of Oriental origin” (Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Africans), criminals deported from other countries during the last five years, depraved or mentally retarded persons, persons considered to be a danger to public security, and a few other categories; migrants might be subjected to a language examination, but that was “very rare and confined to certain types of case”; anyone entering Australia without official permission, however, risked six months imprisonment and a fine. Intending migrants were told that if they applied to the Australian High Commission in London they could expect an answer within 15 days, whereas an enquiry addressed to Australia would not be answered within less than three months.

Advice on nationality was also offered, including a warning by Consul Maniakis that Australian nationality acquired by a Greek had absolutely no effect in Greece, and that a Greek who had not complied with his national obligations before leaving Greece would be prosecuted on his return there; indeed, that the only way to divest oneself of Greek nationality was to have it annulled by royal decree. Nor would a Greek be entitled to consular help unless he had paid his annual “residence fee” of eight shillings to the Consulate.

I Zoi en Afstralia conceded that a Greek could change his name in Australia without formality, but declared that it was better to do so officially and to announce it in the press. Many Greeks in Australia, it went on, had changed their name, but this was not advisable, because it could arouse suspicion, and could also create difficulties on return to Greece. “It is certainly true that long, unintelligible and not easily pronounced Greek names are an obstacle in foreign countries, especially in the British Dominions and among business people; but it is better to leave one’s name as it is, or at the most alter it slightly to make it sound more English, rather than replace it by something quite different.”

Among other practical counsel the authors recommended solicitors Harold I Morgan in Sydney, Eustace Flanagan (of Pavey, Wilson and Cohen) in Melbourne, and O’Shea and O’Shea in Brisbane, as legal advisers; and, for medical attention, Dr Howard Bullock and Dr Ramsay Sharp in Sydney and Dr Constantine Kyria­zopoulos in Melbourne.
“Indispensable guidance” was also given on how a Greek should behave in Australia. Many Greeks, it was stated, flattered themselves that they were superior to Australians in their level of civilization and in their commercial astuteness. On the contrary, I Zoi en Afstralia asserted, the Australians—with the few exceptions to be found in all countries—were superior to the civilized peoples of Europe. Greek migrants were therefore advised to preserve their own customs, but also to familiar­ise themselves with those of the host country. “Shouting, banging the table, gesticu­lating, rudeness, going about in gangs in the streets, and dirty attire” were things which aroused Australian dislike of foreigners, the authors warned, adding that this was not due to xenophobia. “The Australian, wherever he may be, eats, dresses, sleeps and walks with care and circumspection, and always prefaces his conversation with ‘Please’ and ends it with ‘Thank you’.”

Every Greek was urged to do his duty not only to himself and his family but also to his neighbour in trouble, to Greece, and to the Church, and to pursue the highest Christian ideals. Some had apparently fallen below this standard, for the authors added: “The worst aspect of all—not just for our compatriots in Australia now but for those who may come in future—is that some individuals—probably only a few— after working honestly for years and having made their money, evade their obliga­tions to other businessmen who have behaved honourably towards them, and think it clever to abscond from Australia, persuading themselves that they will never return.” On such persons, they warned, “the heavy axe of justice will inexorably fall, condemning them to six years jail and payment of all debts and costs."

Contrasted with such delinquents were those who had voluntarily returned to Greece to fight in the recent wars against Turkey and Bulgaria. On them I Zoi en Afstralia bestowed the highest praise, listing 23 by name and recalling that many had paid their own passages home to enlist, at great financial sacrifice; and somewhat acidly the authors noted that, although Greek law imposed imprisonment for eva­sion of the call-up, the Greek Government had made no proper arrangements to help men to return to Greece.
I Zoi en Afstralia's account of the discovery of Australia was imaginative, referring to “an ancient Chaldaean legend about a great continent to the south of India”, and to rumours brought back by soldiers of Alexander the Great, and to mention of Australia by the ancient geographers Aimilianos, Manilios and Ptolemy, and alleged Arab visits before the Dutch and Portuguese.

On firmer ground was Kentavros’s account of his ten day tour of northern New South Wales. Armed with a suitcase and a rug, he took the train to Taree and by various means reached Murwillumbah, calling on Greeks in the region’s towns, and travelling up the Manning River in the motor-launch Ariadne, operated as a ferry service by a member of the Comino family. A hired car and driver took him to Wauchope, Port Macquarie, Kempsey and other towns. He travelled by train to Casino and in a wildly driven buggy from Kyogle to Byron Bay, and ended his journey with a stormy voyage in a small steamer from Lismore to Sydney. Despite bumpy roads and occasional punctures, he found the scenery beautiful and his compatriots hospitable, and he was impressed by the region’s dairying and oyster-culture. Every Australian farmer is his own master, he declared, and he fears neither domination nor theft nor loss.

“A future edition”, Kentavros hoped, would show Australia’s Greeks “demon­strating the same intense love of their native land, as well as higher levels of commercial and social success”. And Charles (Kosmas) Andronicus, regretting that lack of space had precluded mention of many interesting aspects of Australian life, declared his intention to remedy this in the next edition. None eventuated, but I Zoi en Afstralia retains a unique place in the history of Greek settlement.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Australian Financial Review on 21.09.2007

George Miller. Filmography.

From the May 2007, Australian Financial Review Magazine article.


Entire Australian Financial Review Magazine article

George Miller. Notable Kytherian


George Miller’s Filmography

2006
Happy Feet
producer/director/writer

1998
Babe: Pig in the City
producer/director/writer
Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer (TV)
producer
The Clean Machine (TV)
producer

1997
White Fellas Dreaming
producer/director/writer

1995
Babe
producer/writer
Video Fool for Love
producer

1992
Lorenzo’s Oil
producer/director/writer

1991
Flirting
producer

1989
Bangkok Hilton (TV)
miniseries, producer
Dead Calm
producer/second unit director

1988
The Dirtwater Dynasty (TV)
miniseries, producer

1987
The Year My Voice Broke
producer Vietnam (TV)
miniseries, producer
The Riddle of the Stinson (TV)
producer
The Witches of Eastwick
director
Tausend Augen
(Thousand Eyes)
actor

1985
Mad Max Beyond
Thunderdome
producer/director/writer

1984
Bodyline (TV)
miniseries, producer
The Cowra Breakout (TV)
miniseries, producer

1983
Twilight Zone: The Movie
(segment four)
director
The Dismissal (TV)
miniseries, executive producer/
director/writer

1981
Mad Max 2
director/writer/additional
editor

1980
The Chain Reaction
associate producer
1979
Mad Max
director/writer

1971
Violence in the Cinema, Part 1
director/writer

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Australian Financial Review on 21.09.2007

George Miller. Films $1 billion man.

by Brook Turner

The Australian Financial Review Magazine May 2007
Front cover, pp. 26-38.

Curious George


To his friends he's the innocent Mumble. To his crew he's Lovelace, the Arctic witch-doctor, while the man himself thinks he's probably closer to Mad Max. Australia's king of the screen, George Miller, has drawn on aspects of all his heroes in his journey from Chinchilla to the pinnacle of the international game.

It's a hot Wednesday morning in February, the day after Sydney has migrated as one to see the Queen Mary and the QE2 outscale the harbour foreshore. Along the way, many have trawled past an old theatre down a side street in Kings Cross. It’s an easy building to miss; an art deco picture palace painted the colour of the sky, like a bluescreen. Inside, another leviathan is passing through town, almost unnoticed. But within days, filmmaker George Miller will dwarf even the big ships.

The following Saturday, Miller takes out the Oscar for his all-dancing, all-singing penguin musical Happy Feet. After two decades, the old croc hunter Mick Dundee is finally knocked from his perch as the top-grossing Australian film ever. Even pre-Oscar, Village Roadshow managing director Graham Burke predicts the film, which has taken more than $460 million in cinemas, will do a billion dollars before it’s finished, DVD and TV included. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair’s pre-Oscar special hits the street, its cover a chorus line of tuxedoed leading men and, on the gatefold, some rather bemused-looking penguins — the only guys who get lucky on the night.

As Miller sits in the stifling Metro Theatre, fiddling with the bits of sticky tape that replaced cigarettes 15 years ago, the coup seems anything but assured. The smart money is on the Disney/Pixar hit Cars, which beat Happy Feet (HF) to the Golden Globe. “The bookies have Cars winning, so I’m going in with fairly low expectations,” Miller says. “I’m definitely not going to be disappointed if we don’t win.”

That apparent equanimity belies just how much has been riding on HF. Miller’s last film, 1998’s Babe: Pig in The City, did comparatively poor business, just $US69 million ($85 million) as against the original Babe’s $US254 million. The filmmaker’s relationship with Hollywood, too, has often been fraught, largely because of an almost pathological determination to do things his way.

“He tried Hollywood; he went there and made The Witches Of Eastwick [1987], which he found the most galling experience,” says fellow director Phillip Noyce. “George is a single-minded creator, an auteur. He doesn’t like people telling him what to do. Others of us who are maybe not as exacting were able to work within that system. George decided he would create his own Hollywood in Australia, exploiting the Hollywood machine for its ability to sell and distribute movies, but retaining absolute creative control and business control.”

With HF, Miller has, as usual, started from scratch, telling an entirely new story in an entirely new way over a $US100 million, four-year production, despite the fact that neither the director nor Sydney effects house Animal Logic (AL) had made an animated feature before. To realise the film’s CGI (computer-generated imagery) ambitions, AL’s staff swelled from 150 to 550 at one point, redefining the possibilities of the medium and challenging America’s CCI supremacy.

The budget, too, grew “significantly”, says AL director Greg Smith. “Every time we would go back to [financiers and distributors, Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures, and say we need a bit more, because the film did grow over its life, they had confidence in George’s vision, and they had confidence in our ability to execute it and so they kept saying yes, OK, we’re still with you’.”

Along the way, what started as a smaller film became a linchpin of Warner’s schedule, defending its honour in a signal year for animated features, and an era — as David Mamet noted in his recent book on the movie business, Bambi vs. Godzilla (Random House, 2007) — in which “studios bet their all upon the big-tent franchise film. It is increasingly difficult to market the non-quantifiable film, as the franchise model continues its advance toward total control of the studio’s budget and, thus, of the market,” Mamet noted. HF was both sui generis and a ‘tent-pole’ production; the need to match or better Babe’s almost fluky success was intense. “They put a lot more pressure on HF to deliver,” Miller confirms. “It’s a very tough business out there. It’s a huge gamble, for everybody, and for the studios it’s a big roll of the dice on the strength of the screenplay and filmmakers.

“The studio game is the toughest there is, aside from politics,” Miller continues. “They’re booking theatres
— 18,000 around the world — and they have to slot into their dates almost a year ahead. You’ve got advertising, promotion departments, toy makers, publishers with all that lead time ... people are seeing the movie in rough form and they’ve got to decide ‘how much do we put into the promotion of this film?’, ‘do we believe George Miller when he says he can deliver a film that is going to work with the public?’ It’s an act of faith for a studio. And it’s much more than a $100 million decision prints and advertising can double that, though a good proportion is shared by promotional partners.”

At stake is not only the film and studio’s fortunes, but also where exactly Miller gets to play in the increasingly high-stakes game that is mainstream cinema. “I think a lot was riding on HF,” says old friend Lynda Obst, the woman behind Sleepless in Seattle, The Fisher King and Contact, and author of the ‘surviving Hollywood’ bestseller, Hello, He Lied (Little, Brown, 1996). “George does work in such an uncompromising way, and so much on his own terms, that he had to show that his terms worked; he had to show that he was the king of the market, as we all knew he was.”

Another observer is blunter: “The support of Warner Bros to George over the years has been extraordinary ... and they were there again on HF, but it wasn’t going to happen again if this didn’t work.”

In the end, Miller does it again. Rolls the dice and breaks the house, as he’s done consistently, from Mad Max at the end of the seventies, through the rash of acclaimed, high-rating miniseries that Kennedy Miller produced in the eighties, to the phenomenon that an unassuming pig flick called Babe became in the nineties. On Oscar night he treads the boards with Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas, the company in which it seems he will only become further entrenched. For, as The APR Magazine hears after the February meeting, Miller is talking to US monolith Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
— home to everyone from Brad Pitt and George Clooney to, it transpires, the new global player Animal Logic. When it comes to Hollywood power, CAA has the game sewn up — so much so that the satirical film site Defamer habitually pictures it as a ‘Death Star’ bent on movie-world hegemony.

At 62, after more than 30 years in the business, a director who has always kept Hollywood at arm’s length — living in Australia, dropping into LA when he needed to, some say to his detriment — looks to have finally come in from the cold. All the way into the Tinseltown mothership. As one observer puts it: “To the extent that George worked less than he should have — I think CAA will really help him. They’ll help him negotiate with real leverage and, when he’s not there, get his way.”

As Miller himself tells it, there’s much more to his CAA move than dumb ambition, however. Sure he’s been talking to the agency, he confirms back in Sydney a month later, specifically his old friend, CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd, a super-heavyweight even among Hollywood heavyweights. But not because he wants — or needs — the muscle. He and Kennedy Miller (KM) partner Doug Mitchell can “go to the heads of studios directly”, he points Out. What he wants help navigating isn’t Hollywood power. It’s 21st century storytelling.

“It’s really about trying to understand what’s happening to the world out there, because it’s moving too rapidly and everyone’s stuck in a kind of old-school way of thinking,” Miller says. “On the one hand, it’s fragmenting into lots and lots of forms of media: everything from movies you can make on your phone to stuff you can almost self-distribute on the net to big blockbuster movies.

“And there’s a huge influence on world cinema from Asia, and, at the moment, Latin America. I’m very interested in anime [Japanese animation]; I’m very interested in the way that the storytelling of games and the storytelling of cinema are converging. There’s a constant interplay between narrative and the zeitgeist, in terms of both your own culture and of the global monoculture.”

In other words, the CAA deal isn’t about the tuxedoed giant who loomed across our TV screens from LA on Oscar night so much as Sydney George, local filmmaker and Tropfest patron. Still in his signature ‘chilli-shirt’. Still trying to figure out how to tell tales that seize the popular imagination; that chime with the times. “The nicest thing anyone has said to me — and this was someone in Hollywood I’d never expect it to come from — was that I was more interested in wisdom than power,” Miller says. “I’m driven by my curiosity; people don’t believe me but it’s true. I’m just trying to understand how to tell a good story on film. I’ve never thought in terms of career, if I had I would’ve been working in Hollywood and I would have made a lot more movies.

You can see his point. For a man whose hits have made fortunes — for years, The Guinness Book Of Records listed Mad Max as the world’s most profitable film — Miller seems uninterested in the trappings. Sydney’s always been his base. And while he splits his time there between the record-setting $3.75 million Whale Beach house he bought from Nick Whitlam in 1996 and an equally salubrious waterfrontage at Watsons Bay, both are said to be considerably more discreet than many of their neighbours.

As for the man himself, he wears one of two pairs of boots and seven identical chilli-emblazoned chef’s shirts every day. “It’s simpler,” he says. “I make so many decisions, particularly on animation, why should I have to think what I’m going to wear?” Film may have provided a very good living, but “if I’d really wanted to make money, I would certainly have put this energy into something else,” he says.

“I would be better off working in Hollywood, where you can line up film after film. There’s certain A-list directors doing one film a year or so ... whereas I’ve made very few. Because I like conceiving ideas, and writing and producing them, I like to get the story right. That’s why we try to stay as independent as possible, then you have a chance to control something of your own destiny.”

The marathon that was HF has allowed him to ‘download’ into screenplay form three of the stories always competing for attention in his head. At the February meeting, he’s fresh from talking to the studios about how they might roll out. One is Mad Max 4, titled Fury Road, which was set to go before HF until the US dollar’s post-Iraq collapse took with it the film’s budget and star, Mel Gibson. Fury Road will now re-emerge as a different kind of sequel, with a different kind of Max. There’s also a smaller, more intimate project he won’t discuss but will probably make next. An HF sequel is likely, as is greater involvement in the latest narrative form, games.

As he enters his seventh decade, Miller’s curiosity and appetite for filmmaking are undiminished. “In fact, they’ve only grown,” he says. “There’s many more stories I want to make than I have time to. And I’m realising it’s harder to make a successful film; the playing field itself is moving. We can barely grasp hold of it.” In fact, the movie business is shifting so fast that it’s gone from a traditional flat-field game, such as hockey, to one vast game of Quidditch, played in multiple dimensions, he says. And therein lies a dilemma, both for George Miller and Australia.

Technology means films can be made anywhere, as HF has again proved. But Australia has failed to keep pace in ways that are more profound. If film is our collective dreaming, as Miller said in his 1997 history of Australian cinema, we now find ourselves asleep and dreamless. “I tried so hard in this country to make local films ... but we are too small a nation in terms of our population and narrative history,” says the man who, as Kennedy Miller, mined those stories throughout the 1980s. “There are isolated pockets of brilliance, but it’s so difficult to sustain that; there’s just not the critical mass of people thinking rigorously enough, really trying to understand what cultural evolution is.”

It’s something Miller has long lamented. “I feel like I’m having this conversation with myself,” he says. “My kids know more about America because of The Simpsons, than they do about Australian culture — and I’m a cultural worker.” Australia’s ever-swelling creative diaspora is the result. “It’s not only our actors. Most of our top cinematographers have left and I’m watching it happen with CCI; all this great talent leaving for Hong Kong, Singapore, London, the US, Canada,” he says.

To stem the tide, Miller says, Australian governments of all persuasions need to be much cannier, not just about upping the tax rebate for film production to make us competitive internationally, but more generally about co-ordinating efforts to harness, and husband, local talent. “The Btacks government understands it because Victorians do,” says Miller, who estimates the production of HF injected $130 million into the NSW economy.

“I think a whole succession of South Australian govern­ments have, because Adelaide is a city dependent on the arts
But NSW and the federal government really haven’t paid much attention. There aren’t any votes in it. Bob Carr pretended he was some kind of patron of the arts — he was anything but. There was the rhetoric, but very little was done.

“People talk about film culture or moving-image culture. I’m talking about culture at large,” he says. “If you talk about film culture you’ve got to talk about moving-image culture and all digital media, and if you talk about digital media, you’ve got to talk about the national culture in every form. And if you talk about the national culture you’ve got to really try to figure out the world culture and where it is at the time. Unless you can contextualise all of that, you’re not in the game.

“That’s the reason why we’ve hooked up with Bryan Lourd and CAA, so that Doug and I can get into hardcore discussions about the state of the world,” Miller says.
“There are few people I can really have that conversation with here. And if you don’t, how can your work have any coherence. You’re going to end up very bewildered. And that’s what’s happening; there are a lot of people walking around very bewildered about what’s happening to — not just film culture — what’s happening to our culture at large.”

George Miller might have been born to make movies. Only the camera was ever missing. Not that that was immediately apparent, least of all to the kid himself. It was Phillip Noyce who first taught him to use an old wind-up Rolex at a 1970 students’ union workshop. Miller had won a place with a one-minute short. Noyce, five years younger, was his tutor. “All I could see was a film genius,” Noyce says. “I thought, well, I taught him how to load a movie camera, but I think that’s all I’m going to teach this bloke.

“He was the equivalent of a child who could already speak Latin, in terms of his film fluidity and vocabulary,” says Noyce. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole career. We gave the students one roll of film, two minutes and 45 seconds long, and they had to shoot a meeting, a chase, a confrontation and a resolution ... George came back with a primer of film grammar which absolutely had that puzzle in perfect place without any editing required. It was a movie, a finished movie, but completely constructed in the camera.

“He’s very instinctive but all of his decisions are guided by an astute, acute intelligence. Whereas most mortals might look at a problem from five different points of view, George has the capacity to look at it from 55.”

Graham Burke, who through Village Roadshow became the first investor in the Mad Max goldmine, a $25,000 investment that yielded a 1,500 per cent return, calls Miller “a genius; one of the guys who every so often gets a direct line to god. What George did with Mad Max was take Hollywood and action to a new level, as he’s done with [CCI in] Happy Feet,” Burke says. “It took Hollywood years to catch up with the visual style that George created in action. Lethal Weapon 1 was the first film that mirrored the quality that George had taken it to.”

“He’s not like anyone else at all in any country,” agrees Lynda Obst, speaking from LA. “He has a unique background and a unique vision and a unique way of working. Now what is that uniqueness? Well, for one thing, it’s self-invented. He doesn’t subscribe to any sort of theory of development or any school of development or any classical narrative technique, which can sometimes frustrate writers, because he has nothing at all conventional or circumscribed in what he is looking for.

“When we do development here, there’s a sort of conventional three-act narrative that we have imprinted inour brains like ducks and we cleave all of our ideas into that. Eventually George gets there but he doesn’t start there. And he does that in every aspect of production, whether he’s reinventing animation, or he’s reinventing characters ... he has to learn everything from scratch.”

With his non-identical twin John, and younger brothers Bill and Chris, Miller grew up in the small rural town of Chinchilla on the edge of the Darling Downs, about 300 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. His grandfather had anglicised the family name, Miliotis, well before George’s father Dimitri (Jim) emigrated to Australia from the rugged Greek island of Kythera. “The moment I landed there for the first time in 1989, in the middle of summer, it unlocked a great mystery for me,” Miller recalls. “I had no idea why my father, who left at the age of nine and never saw his mother again, felt so at home in this loamy, flat, dry place but there, on this Greek island was the same burnt grass, the same sound of the cicadas, the same intensity of light.”

It’s tempting to trace Miller’s intense feeling for landscape — the apocalyptic deserts of Mad Max (MM), HF’s glacial tundra — to Chinchilla. Certainly the local film screen dominated his childhood. The worlds he improvised with his brothers and the local kids as part of what he calls “an invisible apprenticeship in play”, also sound like early versions of what he would later create on film, from MM2’s cubby-like desert outpost to Thunderdome’s Bartertown.

“That was the big advantage of growing up in rural Queensland, without television,” Miller says. “We’d go to the Saturday matinee; it was a window to the outside world, and it would affect our whole week of play. I do not remember doing any homework. It was just out in the bush, on our bikes, on our horses, doing stuff with our hands. If we watched a serial or a movie about knights or gladiators, we’d make swords; we’d turn bin lids into shields, paint emblems on them. We’d dress up our horses and we’d be knights or cowboys and indians. There were the tree houses and the forts and everybody was involved, all the kids in town.”

The communal make-believe of movie sets, Miller constantly at their centre — he’s never had much use for a trailer
— suddenly seems inevitable. As does buddying up with CAA in the new, ever more global game. “Throughout my childhood, Sunday lunch was a dinner table of 20, 30 people, with kids from all over the countryside running around, spending the whole day together. My father reproduced the life he had as a kid in Greece. It’s rather like a film crew, really. You all run away to the circus together and you’re all intensely bonded, often on a distant location.”

Miller’s has always been a familial, often fraternal, enterprise. His first one-minute short was made with brother Chris. And it was at the Noyce workshop, after he and his twin John’s paths had diverged in their clinical years at medical school, that Miller met his MM partner fellow film fanatic Byron Kennedy, who became “like a brother”. Brother Bill, a lawyer by training, has co-produced everything from the Babe films to HF (a title he came up with). George Miller’s HF co-writers and co-directors included long-term collaborators John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman.

Miller’s wife of 12 years, Margaret Sixel is also his film-editing partner. The couple have two sons. (Miller also has a daughter, Augusta, currently studying at NIDA, with his former wife, actress Sandy Gore). A tall, natural beauty, as un-Hollywood as her husband, the South African-born Sixel is “very influential in a low-key way”, says one friend of the couple. In fact, her husband credits Sixel with turning Babe around, declaring an early cut too episodic and lacking in narrative tension, and suggesting the linking devices of chapter headings and singing mice. Doug Mitchell, an accountant by training who came to KM 24 years ago as Kennedy’s protégée, has been so central to its fortunes since Kennedy’s death that Miller plans to change the company name to Kennedy Miller Mitchell.

As Miller says: “You can’t run a country, you can’t run a business, you can’t run anything alone ... I’m very at ease collaborating; I think it’s because I had a twin brother with whom I spent every day for 24 years, so I’m very used to that dance that happens between individuals.” Others say the intense personal and professional bond Miller enjoyed with Kennedy — they founded KM together in 1983, just months before Kennedy’s tragic death in a helicopter accident — has been harder to replicate. After all, Miller has left the company name unchanged, until now. “Byron was his perfect partner,” Noyce says. “George has been the ultimate right brain, intuitive thinker, and Byron was left and right brain, and together they were the perfect filmmaking combination.”

“Knowing George and loving George you get to hear wonderful stories about Byron Kennedy, and how perfect it was when their partnership began,” says Lynda Obst, who collaborated intensively with Miller on Contact, flying in for three months at a time she calls “the most fascinating 18 months of my life”. “I think there was a half missing for a really long time that [Margaret] has filled to some extent, but that is still unfilled to another extent.”

From Chinchilla, George ended up at Sydney Boys High, around the same time as NSW Chief Justice James Spigelman, Nick Whitlam and Rene Rivkin. But even as he was fulfilling the second-generation-immigrant professional dream, something was missing. As a child he’d always drawn, made things. “There was a whole other part of me, that so-called creative side, that went almost unrecognised,” Miller says of his childhood. But his mother’s cousin was the sculptor Andrew Mayson, a legendary art teacher at Sydney’s Cranbrook School. “Andy was the only member of my extended family who gave me any encouragement in the arts,” Miller says. “And then I encountered that second generation of European Jewish families who went to Sydney High. They just instinctively put store by the arts.”

Miller has Mayson’s ceaselessly creative hands, the same hands that form endless sticky-tape origami as he sits talking in the old Metro Theatre. It helps him think, he says, as the paraphernalia of smoking used to. “I’m driven,” he says of the creative process. “I must say, I still get this incredible — erotic’s not the right word, but it’s almost an erotic feeling of creativity, that endorphin high.”

Miller’s first big eureka moment came when he attended a lecture by the maverick American thinker and polymath Buckminster Fuller at university in the late sixties. “I’ve often been asked to talk about what a medical education meant to my filmmaking,” Miller says. “Probably the two most valuable hours I spent were in an architecture lecture listening to Bucky Fuller. There I was, a medical student who heard the word ‘synergy’ for the first time ... suddenly I thought ‘oh my god, the sum is greater than the parts’. I’d sensed that, but the idea had never consciously come into my mind ... I really set about trying to be a ‘comprehensivist’, as Fuller called them. I found myself going to the theatre, painting a lot, watching movies endlessly. And of course what’s more comprehensive than filmmaking ... everything becomes part of your purview.

“The campuses are dead now,” he adds as an aside. “Once they were great hotbeds of Australian culture. I think the govern­ment’s afraid that they’re hotbeds of political movements.”

Miller’s second great epiphany came when he heard the American writer Joseph Campbell speak on a rainy night in Santa Monica after he had made MM. Campbell’s thesis — that all religions and myths are basically one endlessly shifting and evolving hero’s journey — became Miller’s; an influence shared with the likes of Lucas and Spielberg. Indeed, Miller has worked in such a variety of genres — from MM’s R-rated action through miniseries as diverse as Bodyline, Vietnam and The Dismissal, to the passionately personal story of Lorenzo‘s Oil and the family-friendly Babe and HF — that it is hard to remember they’re all one body of work, let alone that Miller’s is always essentially a Campbellesque hero’s journey; that Max and Mumble — or Nick Nolte’s Augusto Odone in Lorenzo's Oil for that matter — all share the same blue-eyed gaze.

“They are the agents of change,” Miller says of the clear-sighted outsiders who are always battling deadly ortho­doxies in his films. “They’re the agents of evolution really, and it’s always been like that in our narratives — not just fictional stories, but those of our scientific, artistic, religious and political heroes. Any effective change basically follows the same pattern.”

And all, in a sense, are Miller. To Graham Burke, Mumble is Miller, from his “engaging freshness” to his “lovely innocent naïve quality”. Miller jokes that the HF crew thought he was more like the penguin nation’s shameless shaman Lovelace, the Arctic’s very own wizard of Oz. As for himself, “I like to think I’m Mad Max,” he laughs, quickly adding: “Not really.”

There is quite a bit of Max in George Miller though. “You need to be a creative warrior to make films,” he says at one point, and his career, from student filmmaker to the pinnacle of Hollywood, has been its own kind of hero’s journey. In person, he is surprisingly boyish, genial, unassuming, albeit with that ease particular to very successful individuals. He throws himself into the lengthy portrait shoot for this magazine, patiently taking direction to dance, to re-enact Oscar night, bend down to talk to an invisible penguin who’ll be superimposed later — “Oh God, I feel like an actor,” he moans — even giving a second lengthy interview on the hop.

He’s quite without ‘side’, as the English say. Perhaps as a result, he can also be hard to read. There’s a reticence, almost a Cheshire Cat quality, that may just be that childlike quality on which all who know him agree. “He seems to still have an innocence about him,” actress Nicole Kidman says, echoing Obst and Burke. Miller himself speaks of being “like a mirror . “Behind the camera, you’re an observer,” he says by way of explaining why it makes him self-conscious to talk about himself. “For the actor, I have to be a coach and provide an objective response to their work ... be a true mirror, as it were."

Everyone also agrees that Miller is singularly tenacious in pursuit of his story, and that seems to include the story of who he is, what he does, and why. Babe director Chris Noonan sparked headlines after he claimed in an interview with The AFR’s Michaela Boland in December that Miller had stolen the credit for the film’s success. “It was like your guru has told you that you are no good and that is really disconcerting,” Noonan, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, subsequently told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I regard George as one of the great Australian filmmakers and I don’t want to talk about our relationship. It’s a bad time to go there; it was a mistake to say it.”

“Chris said something that is defamatory: that I took his name off the credits on internet sites, which is just absolutely untrue,” Miller says, his first words on the controversy. “You know, I’m sorry but I really have a lot more to do with my life than worry about that.” The episode clearly still rankles, however, and he wants to set the record straight. “The Year My Voice Broke (TYMVB) was unquestionably John Duigan’s vision and Dead Calm was Phillip Noyce’s,” Miller says of two earlier films he produced. “But when it comes to Babe, the vision was handed to Chris on a plate.”

Miller’s battle for his version of the film of Carl Sagan’s novel Contact forms a whole subplot in Obst’s Hello, He Lied. The film finally emerged in 1997 under another director after Miller refused to agree to a release date until the studio agreed to his changes to the screenplay it had already green-lighted. Warner Bros called his bluff. “Oh is he tough!” Obst exclaims. “I mean he has incredible softness as well, but he’s fierce in his vision and he’s fierce and uncompromising in how he wants to work. He can’t be charmed ... I mean he loves to be charmed, he loves to be wooed but, at the end of the day, he’s going to do exactly what he wants.”

“Film is tough,” points out Foxtel CEO Kim Williams, who has known Miller for 20 years. “Making a film is the toughest thing you can do in creative life, and it’s not for the faint­hearted and you’ve got to have a will of iron, and you’ve got to be extraordinarily stubborn and you’ve got to be incredibly assertive and you’ve got to be confident even when you’re full of doubt, and you’ve got to fight ... it’s horrendously speculative and you’ve got to work so hard to protect your vision. And he does all those things.”

It was The Witches of Eastwick in general, and Jack Nicholson in particular, that forged that toughness. “It was an extreme version of Old Hollywood,” Miller says of the film, which he made after the three Mad Max films in the mid-eighties, the only time he’s directed from another’s script. “I ended up working with the highly dysfunctional producers who were deal makers but weren’t filmmakers, namely Cuber-Peters, Jon Peters in particular. The shocking thing behind any dysfunction in Hollywood is that you not only get rewarded for bad behaviour, you get punished for good behaviour. If you are polite, it’s seen as a weakness and if you make a commonsense suggestion to cut costs you are suddenly negotiable on everything.”

The director and his satanic leading man, on the other hand, “really bonded”, Miller says. “He’s one of the cleverest guys I’ve ever met, a true sage; I learnt more from him than from anyone else. And he just kept on saying ‘look George, you’re too nice, make them think you’re crazy’ ... and I started enjoying the bad behaviour. The more tantrums you threw, the more people paid attention. But after a while, I remember one old-timer said to me: ‘Be careful, because I worked on all the last three or four Sam Peckinpah movies — after a while it’s about getting back at them; it’s not about getting the movie made’.”

Instead, Miller returned to Australia and the Metro Theatre, which Kim Williams’s father, Greater Union boss David Williams, a film buff, had helped KM secure. He didn’t direct again until Lorenzo’s Oil five years later. The Metro is a building steeped in cinema history: Ginger Rogers danced there, Peter Finch played there, as did the original production of Hair. But many more layers have been added over the past quarter of a century. Parts of The Dismissal, The Cowra Breakout, Vietnam, Bangkok Hilton, and Babe were shot there. Miller worked there with Obst and Sagan on Contact. And it was in an old video alcove of the main theatre that John Duigan handed him the one perfectly formed script he’d ever read, the coming-of-age masterpiece The Year My Voice Broke.

Mel Gibson shot part of MM3 at the Metro and Kidman screen-tested first for Vietnam and then Dead Calm, the film that helped break her internationally. Like Michelle Pfeiffer, whom he cast in Witches against much more high-powered actresses, Kidman’s natural facility in front of the camera immediately impressed, as has her subsequent creative adventurousness. Miller compares her with Pfeiffer who, despite her technical prowess, “underachieved because she was just, creatively, completely conservative,” he says.

“Whereas Nicole takes my breath away because, unlike most of those people, she’s creatively incredibly daring, so she’s growing in her ability. Success often means the opposite.” That admiration is mutual. “He has always supported me and encouraged me,” Kidman says. “He is one of the primary reasons I went to America and was able to have a career internationally, and I think coming from a young girl to where I am now ... you never forget that.”

When Miller speaks to The AFR Magazine in February, KM’s Metro is empty, between projects, with few of its core staff of 12 to 15 in evidence. Miller says he’s kept the operation as lean as possible since moving out of television. “It’s very deliberate, because if you run too big a machine, you’ve just got to keep the machine fed,” he says. “It gives us the flexibility; we’re not forced to do anything. We’re not doing it because we have to.” To Obst, such independence has been the key not only to Miller’s success, but to that of “all the great Australian directors” who also just happen to be, she says, Hollywood’s best filmmakers. “I think they have a tremendous advantage. Hollywood wants them, so they can have Hollywood on their terms and, at the same time, they’re not of Hollywood so they can maintain their integrity.”

While KM may have scaled back in the ninties, there is no doubt it has been one of the few truly successful artist-as-busimsessman-run production companies. "George and Byron were always very astute businessmen,” Noyce says. When the rest of us started making hasically state-sponsored features in the 1970's, George and Byron did the most unusual thing of financing Mad Max [produced for just $350,000] 100 per cent from privàte investors, when noone else could find one, less than the usual 50% ownership. The company belongs to a utopian, and- rarely so suceessful tradition; founded on MM’s success much as Francis Ford Coppola founded American Zoetrope on the back of The Godfather in the early seventies and George Lucas Lucasfilm after Star Wars at the end of the decade.

But where Zoetrope petered out, and Lucasfilm turned into an expensive party to which no one came, as Peter Biskind wrote in Easy Riders/Raging Bulls (Bloomsbury), KM has gone from strength to strength. “George [Miller’sl idea was that they would establish something like....Zoetrope,” Noyce explains. "Coppola had the idea that they would reinvigorate the concept of the artist-as-businessman by taking a number of writers and directors onto salary. George and Byron took the same idea and decided that, initially, they’d create a stable of directors and writers who would be on salary and work within the comfort zone of a studio and that they would initially embark on revolutionising the face of Australian television.” It was the era of 10BA*. [*Australian Government taxation concessions at or beyond 100%, which attracted considerable funds for film investment in Australia in the 70's & 80's]. Miller takes up the story: “Rupert Murdoch bought Channel Ten and he did something that HBO has done in recent years, which basically transformed television,” Miller says. “He said ‘I want drama. I don’t care what it is, provided it's really bold’, and we said ‘well we’re not that interested in doing television but if we were we’d have to have no interference’.”

"There was nothing shallow about the way they approached the work on any level,” says Noyce, who co-directed The Dismissal and The Cowra Breakout. ‘Thev reached outside the film industry into theatre and brought in George Ogilvie who was a great theatre director, and he began to stage a series of workshops for actors, writers and directors which explored the nature of storytelling. And then the miniseries became a further investigation into storytelling, because they were making 10-hour miniseries, not to be screened one hour a week, but 10 hours in one week. It was absolutely unheard of....... what a commitment you’re asking from an audience, to turn up all night for four nights in a row to watch one story."

It was event storytelling.in a medium - television - that Miller helped redefine in Australia. In other words, that same synchronicity of medium, story and zeitgeist that he is still chasing with CAA something so novel, with such an attendant sense of occasion, that it captures people as the Queen Mary and QE2 have just done when he speaks to The APR Magazine. “I just know that every film you do has to have something that distinguishes it, lets it stand out,” he says. With Happy Feet; it was a revolution in CGI; with Max it was a new kind of road movie; and with Babe it was the cutting edge animatronics that finally allowed him to film Dick King-Smith's novel a decade after he read it.

As Murdoch moved on from Channel Ten in 1987, Alan Bond bought Channel Nine. "Sam Chisholm [then at Nine], called us and said, 'we don't do drama well; you guys do drama successfully. Do you want to take ours over?'.....Then Kerry Packer bought Channel Nine back and didn't like the agreement. Basically he wanted creative autonomy and he wanted to influence the way we worked too much." KM took [the 1990 agreement] to court, becoming one of the few to best Packer when an appeal was dismissed on their $8.1 million suit in 1994. By then Miller was playing a new game but, along the way, KM had helped hothouse generations of Australian talent, from Kidman and Gibson to Noyce, Duigan and Noonan to cinematographers Dean Semmler (Apocalypto), Don McAlpine (The Chronicles of Narnia, Moulin Rouge) and John Seale (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Talented Mr Ripley).

It's a roll-call that lends a singular weight to his concern about Australia's growing creative diaspora. It also points up his extraordinary versatility. Even if HF had tanked, there's no doubt he would have had several further Hollywood lives as a producer and director in another of the genre's he has mastered. “The extraordinary thing about George is how many filmmakers he started and how he has affected Australian culture,” says Obst. And yet ar the same time to he able to make great American and international movies as well. I really think you can only compare him to Steven Spielberg or George Lucas....He's one of the patriarchs of this generation of breakthrough Australian filmakers."

Kim Williams adds a local, historical perspective. “I think George is in that pantheon of great Australian filmmakers which stretches from Raymond Longford and Ken G. Hall and particularly Charles Chauvel.” Which begs the question Miller himself raises in speaking of the difficulty of making Australian films in Australia. In the l980s he helped refine our identity, telling this country its own story through a string of historic miniseries, even making that achingly Australian bildungsroman, The Year My Voice Broke. But, says Phillip Noyce, “George hasn’t made his quintessential Australian film statement personally. As a producer he has, working through other directors and storytellers, but it will be interesting to see if he feels compelled to make a uniquely Australian film with an Australian setting.”


QUOTES

“What George did with Mad Max was take Hollywood and action to a new level, as he’s done with [CGI in] Happy Feet. It took Hollywood years to catch up with the visual style.” Graham Burke.“

I’m realising it’s harder to make a successful film; the playing field itself is moving. We can barely grasp hold of it.” George Miller.


“He has incredible softness, but he’s fierce in his vision and he’s uncompromising in how he wants to work. At the end of the day, he’s going to do exactly what he wants. Lynda Obst


You can only compare him to Steven Spielberg or George Lucas...He's one of the patriarchsof this generation of breakthrough Australian Filmaker." Lynda Obst.


George Miller’s Filmography


2006
Happy Feet
producer/director/writer

1998
Babe: Pig in the City
producer/director/writer
Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer (TV)
producer
The Clean Machine (TV)
producer

1997
White Fellas Dreaming
producer/director/writer

1995
Babe
producer/writer
Video Fool for Love
producer

1992
Lorenzo’s Oil
producer/director/writer

1991
Flirting
producer

1989
Bangkok Hilton (TV)
miniseries, producer
Dead Calm
producer/second unit director

1988
The Dirtwater Dynasty (TV)
miniseries, producer

1987
The Year My Voice Broke
producer Vietnam (TV)
miniseries, producer
The Riddle of the Stinson (TV)
producer
The Witches of Eastwick
director
Tausend Augen
(Thousand Eyes)
actor

1985
Mad Max Beyond
Thunderdome
producer/director/writer

1984
Bodyline (TV)
miniseries, producer
The Cowra Breakout (TV)
miniseries, producer

1983
Twilight Zone: The Movie
(segment four)
director
The Dismissal (TV)
miniseries, executive producer/
director/writer

1981
Mad Max 2
director/writer/additional
editor

1980
The Chain Reaction
associate producer
1979
Mad Max
director/writer

1971
Violence in the Cinema, Part 1
director/writer

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Australian Financial Review on 21.09.2007

George Miller. Front Cover. Australian Financial Review Magazine. May 2007.

by Brook Turner

The Australian Financial Review Magazine May 2007
Front cover, pp. 26-38.

Curious George


To his friends he's the innocent Mumble. To his crew he's Lovelace, the Arctic witch-doctor, while the man himself thinks he's probably closer to Mad Max. Australia's king of the screen, George Miller, has drawn on aspects of all his heroes in his journey from Chinchilla to the pinnacle of the international game.

It's a hot Wednesday morning in February, the day after Sydney has migrated as one to see the Queen Mary and the QE2 outscale the harbour foreshore. Along the way, many have trawled past an old theatre down a side street in Kings Cross. It’s an easy building to miss; an art deco picture palace painted the colour of the sky, like a bluescreen. Inside, another leviathan is passing through town, almost unnoticed. But within days, filmmaker George Miller will dwarf even the big ships.

The following Saturday, Miller takes out the Oscar for his all-dancing, all-singing penguin musical Happy Feet. After two decades, the old croc hunter Mick Dundee is finally knocked from his perch as the top-grossing Australian film ever. Even pre-Oscar, Village Roadshow managing director Graham Burke predicts the film, which has taken more than $460 million in cinemas, will do a billion dollars before it’s finished, DVD and TV included. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair’s pre-Oscar special hits the street, its cover a chorus line of tuxedoed leading men and, on the gatefold, some rather bemused-looking penguins — the only guys who get lucky on the night.

As Miller sits in the stifling Metro Theatre, fiddling with the bits of sticky tape that replaced cigarettes 15 years ago, the coup seems anything but assured. The smart money is on the Disney/Pixar hit Cars, which beat Happy Feet (HF) to the Golden Globe. “The bookies have Cars winning, so I’m going in with fairly low expectations,” Miller says. “I’m definitely not going to be disappointed if we don’t win.”

That apparent equanimity belies just how much has been riding on HF. Miller’s last film, 1998’s Babe: Pig in The City, did comparatively poor business, just $US69 million ($85 million) as against the original Babe’s $US254 million. The filmmaker’s relationship with Hollywood, too, has often been fraught, largely because of an almost pathological determination to do things his way.

“He tried Hollywood; he went there and made The Witches Of Eastwick [1987], which he found the most galling experience,” says fellow director Phillip Noyce. “George is a single-minded creator, an auteur. He doesn’t like people telling him what to do. Others of us who are maybe not as exacting were able to work within that system. George decided he would create his own Hollywood in Australia, exploiting the Hollywood machine for its ability to sell and distribute movies, but retaining absolute creative control and business control.”

With HF, Miller has, as usual, started from scratch, telling an entirely new story in an entirely new way over a $US100 million, four-year production, despite the fact that neither the director nor Sydney effects house Animal Logic (AL) had made an animated feature before. To realise the film’s CGI (computer-generated imagery) ambitions, AL’s staff swelled from 150 to 550 at one point, redefining the possibilities of the medium and challenging America’s CCI supremacy.

The budget, too, grew “significantly”, says AL director Greg Smith. “Every time we would go back to [financiers and distributors, Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures, and say we need a bit more, because the film did grow over its life, they had confidence in George’s vision, and they had confidence in our ability to execute it and so they kept saying yes, OK, we’re still with you’.”

Along the way, what started as a smaller film became a linchpin of Warner’s schedule, defending its honour in a signal year for animated features, and an era — as David Mamet noted in his recent book on the movie business, Bambi vs. Godzilla (Random House, 2007) — in which “studios bet their all upon the big-tent franchise film. It is increasingly difficult to market the non-quantifiable film, as the franchise model continues its advance toward total control of the studio’s budget and, thus, of the market,” Mamet noted. HF was both sui generis and a ‘tent-pole’ production; the need to match or better Babe’s almost fluky success was intense. “They put a lot more pressure on HF to deliver,” Miller confirms. “It’s a very tough business out there. It’s a huge gamble, for everybody, and for the studios it’s a big roll of the dice on the strength of the screenplay and filmmakers.

“The studio game is the toughest there is, aside from politics,” Miller continues. “They’re booking theatres
— 18,000 around the world — and they have to slot into their dates almost a year ahead. You’ve got advertising, promotion departments, toy makers, publishers with all that lead time ... people are seeing the movie in rough form and they’ve got to decide ‘how much do we put into the promotion of this film?’, ‘do we believe George Miller when he says he can deliver a film that is going to work with the public?’ It’s an act of faith for a studio. And it’s much more than a $100 million decision prints and advertising can double that, though a good proportion is shared by promotional partners.”

At stake is not only the film and studio’s fortunes, but also where exactly Miller gets to play in the increasingly high-stakes game that is mainstream cinema. “I think a lot was riding on HF,” says old friend Lynda Obst, the woman behind Sleepless in Seattle, The Fisher King and Contact, and author of the ‘surviving Hollywood’ bestseller, Hello, He Lied (Little, Brown, 1996). “George does work in such an uncompromising way, and so much on his own terms, that he had to show that his terms worked; he had to show that he was the king of the market, as we all knew he was.”

Another observer is blunter: “The support of Warner Bros to George over the years has been extraordinary ... and they were there again on HF, but it wasn’t going to happen again if this didn’t work.”

In the end, Miller does it again. Rolls the dice and breaks the house, as he’s done consistently, from Mad Max at the end of the seventies, through the rash of acclaimed, high-rating miniseries that Kennedy Miller produced in the eighties, to the phenomenon that an unassuming pig flick called Babe became in the nineties. On Oscar night he treads the boards with Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas, the company in which it seems he will only become further entrenched. For, as The APR Magazine hears after the February meeting, Miller is talking to US monolith Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
— home to everyone from Brad Pitt and George Clooney to, it transpires, the new global player Animal Logic. When it comes to Hollywood power, CAA has the game sewn up — so much so that the satirical film site Defamer habitually pictures it as a ‘Death Star’ bent on movie-world hegemony.

At 62, after more than 30 years in the business, a director who has always kept Hollywood at arm’s length — living in Australia, dropping into LA when he needed to, some say to his detriment — looks to have finally come in from the cold. All the way into the Tinseltown mothership. As one observer puts it: “To the extent that George worked less than he should have — I think CAA will really help him. They’ll help him negotiate with real leverage and, when he’s not there, get his way.”

As Miller himself tells it, there’s much more to his CAA move than dumb ambition, however. Sure he’s been talking to the agency, he confirms back in Sydney a month later, specifically his old friend, CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd, a super-heavyweight even among Hollywood heavyweights. But not because he wants — or needs — the muscle. He and Kennedy Miller (KM) partner Doug Mitchell can “go to the heads of studios directly”, he points Out. What he wants help navigating isn’t Hollywood power. It’s 21st century storytelling.

“It’s really about trying to understand what’s happening to the world out there, because it’s moving too rapidly and everyone’s stuck in a kind of old-school way of thinking,” Miller says. “On the one hand, it’s fragmenting into lots and lots of forms of media: everything from movies you can make on your phone to stuff you can almost self-distribute on the net to big blockbuster movies.

“And there’s a huge influence on world cinema from Asia, and, at the moment, Latin America. I’m very interested in anime [Japanese animation]; I’m very interested in the way that the storytelling of games and the storytelling of cinema are converging. There’s a constant interplay between narrative and the zeitgeist, in terms of both your own culture and of the global monoculture.”

In other words, the CAA deal isn’t about the tuxedoed giant who loomed across our TV screens from LA on Oscar night so much as Sydney George, local filmmaker and Tropfest patron. Still in his signature ‘chilli-shirt’. Still trying to figure out how to tell tales that seize the popular imagination; that chime with the times. “The nicest thing anyone has said to me — and this was someone in Hollywood I’d never expect it to come from — was that I was more interested in wisdom than power,” Miller says. “I’m driven by my curiosity; people don’t believe me but it’s true. I’m just trying to understand how to tell a good story on film. I’ve never thought in terms of career, if I had I would’ve been working in Hollywood and I would have made a lot more movies.

You can see his point. For a man whose hits have made fortunes — for years, The Guinness Book Of Records listed Mad Max as the world’s most profitable film — Miller seems uninterested in the trappings. Sydney’s always been his base. And while he splits his time there between the record-setting $3.75 million Whale Beach house he bought from Nick Whitlam in 1996 and an equally salubrious waterfrontage at Watsons Bay, both are said to be considerably more discreet than many of their neighbours.

As for the man himself, he wears one of two pairs of boots and seven identical chilli-emblazoned chef’s shirts every day. “It’s simpler,” he says. “I make so many decisions, particularly on animation, why should I have to think what I’m going to wear?” Film may have provided a very good living, but “if I’d really wanted to make money, I would certainly have put this energy into something else,” he says.

“I would be better off working in Hollywood, where you can line up film after film. There’s certain A-list directors doing one film a year or so ... whereas I’ve made very few. Because I like conceiving ideas, and writing and producing them, I like to get the story right. That’s why we try to stay as independent as possible, then you have a chance to control something of your own destiny.”

The marathon that was HF has allowed him to ‘download’ into screenplay form three of the stories always competing for attention in his head. At the February meeting, he’s fresh from talking to the studios about how they might roll out. One is Mad Max 4, titled Fury Road, which was set to go before HF until the US dollar’s post-Iraq collapse took with it the film’s budget and star, Mel Gibson. Fury Road will now re-emerge as a different kind of sequel, with a different kind of Max. There’s also a smaller, more intimate project he won’t discuss but will probably make next. An HF sequel is likely, as is greater involvement in the latest narrative form, games.

As he enters his seventh decade, Miller’s curiosity and appetite for filmmaking are undiminished. “In fact, they’ve only grown,” he says. “There’s many more stories I want to make than I have time to. And I’m realising it’s harder to make a successful film; the playing field itself is moving. We can barely grasp hold of it.” In fact, the movie business is shifting so fast that it’s gone from a traditional flat-field game, such as hockey, to one vast game of Quidditch, played in multiple dimensions, he says. And therein lies a dilemma, both for George Miller and Australia.

Technology means films can be made anywhere, as HF has again proved. But Australia has failed to keep pace in ways that are more profound. If film is our collective dreaming, as Miller said in his 1997 history of Australian cinema, we now find ourselves asleep and dreamless. “I tried so hard in this country to make local films ... but we are too small a nation in terms of our population and narrative history,” says the man who, as Kennedy Miller, mined those stories throughout the 1980s. “There are isolated pockets of brilliance, but it’s so difficult to sustain that; there’s just not the critical mass of people thinking rigorously enough, really trying to understand what cultural evolution is.”

It’s something Miller has long lamented. “I feel like I’m having this conversation with myself,” he says. “My kids know more about America because of The Simpsons, than they do about Australian culture — and I’m a cultural worker.” Australia’s ever-swelling creative diaspora is the result. “It’s not only our actors. Most of our top cinematographers have left and I’m watching it happen with CCI; all this great talent leaving for Hong Kong, Singapore, London, the US, Canada,” he says.

To stem the tide, Miller says, Australian governments of all persuasions need to be much cannier, not just about upping the tax rebate for film production to make us competitive internationally, but more generally about co-ordinating efforts to harness, and husband, local talent. “The Btacks government understands it because Victorians do,” says Miller, who estimates the production of HF injected $130 million into the NSW economy.

“I think a whole succession of South Australian govern­ments have, because Adelaide is a city dependent on the arts
But NSW and the federal government really haven’t paid much attention. There aren’t any votes in it. Bob Carr pretended he was some kind of patron of the arts — he was anything but. There was the rhetoric, but very little was done.

“People talk about film culture or moving-image culture. I’m talking about culture at large,” he says. “If you talk about film culture you’ve got to talk about moving-image culture and all digital media, and if you talk about digital media, you’ve got to talk about the national culture in every form. And if you talk about the national culture you’ve got to really try to figure out the world culture and where it is at the time. Unless you can contextualise all of that, you’re not in the game.

“That’s the reason why we’ve hooked up with Bryan Lourd and CAA, so that Doug and I can get into hardcore discussions about the state of the world,” Miller says.
“There are few people I can really have that conversation with here. And if you don’t, how can your work have any coherence. You’re going to end up very bewildered. And that’s what’s happening; there are a lot of people walking around very bewildered about what’s happening to — not just film culture — what’s happening to our culture at large.”

George Miller might have been born to make movies. Only the camera was ever missing. Not that that was immediately apparent, least of all to the kid himself. It was Phillip Noyce who first taught him to use an old wind-up Rolex at a 1970 students’ union workshop. Miller had won a place with a one-minute short. Noyce, five years younger, was his tutor. “All I could see was a film genius,” Noyce says. “I thought, well, I taught him how to load a movie camera, but I think that’s all I’m going to teach this bloke.

“He was the equivalent of a child who could already speak Latin, in terms of his film fluidity and vocabulary,” says Noyce. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole career. We gave the students one roll of film, two minutes and 45 seconds long, and they had to shoot a meeting, a chase, a confrontation and a resolution ... George came back with a primer of film grammar which absolutely had that puzzle in perfect place without any editing required. It was a movie, a finished movie, but completely constructed in the camera.

“He’s very instinctive but all of his decisions are guided by an astute, acute intelligence. Whereas most mortals might look at a problem from five different points of view, George has the capacity to look at it from 55.”

Graham Burke, who through Village Roadshow became the first investor in the Mad Max goldmine, a $25,000 investment that yielded a 1,500 per cent return, calls Miller “a genius; one of the guys who every so often gets a direct line to god. What George did with Mad Max was take Hollywood and action to a new level, as he’s done with [CCI in] Happy Feet,” Burke says. “It took Hollywood years to catch up with the visual style that George created in action. Lethal Weapon 1 was the first film that mirrored the quality that George had taken it to.”

“He’s not like anyone else at all in any country,” agrees Lynda Obst, speaking from LA. “He has a unique background and a unique vision and a unique way of working. Now what is that uniqueness? Well, for one thing, it’s self-invented. He doesn’t subscribe to any sort of theory of development or any school of development or any classical narrative technique, which can sometimes frustrate writers, because he has nothing at all conventional or circumscribed in what he is looking for.

“When we do development here, there’s a sort of conventional three-act narrative that we have imprinted inour brains like ducks and we cleave all of our ideas into that. Eventually George gets there but he doesn’t start there. And he does that in every aspect of production, whether he’s reinventing animation, or he’s reinventing characters ... he has to learn everything from scratch.”

With his non-identical twin John, and younger brothers Bill and Chris, Miller grew up in the small rural town of Chinchilla on the edge of the Darling Downs, about 300 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. His grandfather had anglicised the family name, Miliotis, well before George’s father Dimitri (Jim) emigrated to Australia from the rugged Greek island of Kythera. “The moment I landed there for the first time in 1989, in the middle of summer, it unlocked a great mystery for me,” Miller recalls. “I had no idea why my father, who left at the age of nine and never saw his mother again, felt so at home in this loamy, flat, dry place but there, on this Greek island was the same burnt grass, the same sound of the cicadas, the same intensity of light.”

It’s tempting to trace Miller’s intense feeling for landscape — the apocalyptic deserts of Mad Max (MM), HF’s glacial tundra — to Chinchilla. Certainly the local film screen dominated his childhood. The worlds he improvised with his brothers and the local kids as part of what he calls “an invisible apprenticeship in play”, also sound like early versions of what he would later create on film, from MM2’s cubby-like desert outpost to Thunderdome’s Bartertown.

“That was the big advantage of growing up in rural Queensland, without television,” Miller says. “We’d go to the Saturday matinee; it was a window to the outside world, and it would affect our whole week of play. I do not remember doing any homework. It was just out in the bush, on our bikes, on our horses, doing stuff with our hands. If we watched a serial or a movie about knights or gladiators, we’d make swords; we’d turn bin lids into shields, paint emblems on them. We’d dress up our horses and we’d be knights or cowboys and indians. There were the tree houses and the forts and everybody was involved, all the kids in town.”

The communal make-believe of movie sets, Miller constantly at their centre — he’s never had much use for a trailer
— suddenly seems inevitable. As does buddying up with CAA in the new, ever more global game. “Throughout my childhood, Sunday lunch was a dinner table of 20, 30 people, with kids from all over the countryside running around, spending the whole day together. My father reproduced the life he had as a kid in Greece. It’s rather like a film crew, really. You all run away to the circus together and you’re all intensely bonded, often on a distant location.”

Miller’s has always been a familial, often fraternal, enterprise. His first one-minute short was made with brother Chris. And it was at the Noyce workshop, after he and his twin John’s paths had diverged in their clinical years at medical school, that Miller met his MM partner fellow film fanatic Byron Kennedy, who became “like a brother”. Brother Bill, a lawyer by training, has co-produced everything from the Babe films to HF (a title he came up with). George Miller’s HF co-writers and co-directors included long-term collaborators John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman.

Miller’s wife of 12 years, Margaret Sixel is also his film-editing partner. The couple have two sons. (Miller also has a daughter, Augusta, currently studying at NIDA, with his former wife, actress Sandy Gore). A tall, natural beauty, as un-Hollywood as her husband, the South African-born Sixel is “very influential in a low-key way”, says one friend of the couple. In fact, her husband credits Sixel with turning Babe around, declaring an early cut too episodic and lacking in narrative tension, and suggesting the linking devices of chapter headings and singing mice. Doug Mitchell, an accountant by training who came to KM 24 years ago as Kennedy’s protégée, has been so central to its fortunes since Kennedy’s death that Miller plans to change the company name to Kennedy Miller Mitchell.

As Miller says: “You can’t run a country, you can’t run a business, you can’t run anything alone ... I’m very at ease collaborating; I think it’s because I had a twin brother with whom I spent every day for 24 years, so I’m very used to that dance that happens between individuals.” Others say the intense personal and professional bond Miller enjoyed with Kennedy — they founded KM together in 1983, just months before Kennedy’s tragic death in a helicopter accident — has been harder to replicate. After all, Miller has left the company name unchanged, until now. “Byron was his perfect partner,” Noyce says. “George has been the ultimate right brain, intuitive thinker, and Byron was left and right brain, and together they were the perfect filmmaking combination.”

“Knowing George and loving George you get to hear wonderful stories about Byron Kennedy, and how perfect it was when their partnership began,” says Lynda Obst, who collaborated intensively with Miller on Contact, flying in for three months at a time she calls “the most fascinating 18 months of my life”. “I think there was a half missing for a really long time that [Margaret] has filled to some extent, but that is still unfilled to another extent.”

From Chinchilla, George ended up at Sydney Boys High, around the same time as NSW Chief Justice James Spigelman, Nick Whitlam and Rene Rivkin. But even as he was fulfilling the second-generation-immigrant professional dream, something was missing. As a child he’d always drawn, made things. “There was a whole other part of me, that so-called creative side, that went almost unrecognised,” Miller says of his childhood. But his mother’s cousin was the sculptor Andrew Mayson, a legendary art teacher at Sydney’s Cranbrook School. “Andy was the only member of my extended family who gave me any encouragement in the arts,” Miller says. “And then I encountered that second generation of European Jewish families who went to Sydney High. They just instinctively put store by the arts.”

Miller has Mayson’s ceaselessly creative hands, the same hands that form endless sticky-tape origami as he sits talking in the old Metro Theatre. It helps him think, he says, as the paraphernalia of smoking used to. “I’m driven,” he says of the creative process. “I must say, I still get this incredible — erotic’s not the right word, but it’s almost an erotic feeling of creativity, that endorphin high.”

Miller’s first big eureka moment came when he attended a lecture by the maverick American thinker and polymath Buckminster Fuller at university in the late sixties. “I’ve often been asked to talk about what a medical education meant to my filmmaking,” Miller says. “Probably the two most valuable hours I spent were in an architecture lecture listening to Bucky Fuller. There I was, a medical student who heard the word ‘synergy’ for the first time ... suddenly I thought ‘oh my god, the sum is greater than the parts’. I’d sensed that, but the idea had never consciously come into my mind ... I really set about trying to be a ‘comprehensivist’, as Fuller called them. I found myself going to the theatre, painting a lot, watching movies endlessly. And of course what’s more comprehensive than filmmaking ... everything becomes part of your purview.

“The campuses are dead now,” he adds as an aside. “Once they were great hotbeds of Australian culture. I think the govern­ment’s afraid that they’re hotbeds of political movements.”

Miller’s second great epiphany came when he heard the American writer Joseph Campbell speak on a rainy night in Santa Monica after he had made MM. Campbell’s thesis — that all religions and myths are basically one endlessly shifting and evolving hero’s journey — became Miller’s; an influence shared with the likes of Lucas and Spielberg. Indeed, Miller has worked in such a variety of genres — from MM’s R-rated action through miniseries as diverse as Bodyline, Vietnam and The Dismissal, to the passionately personal story of Lorenzo‘s Oil and the family-friendly Babe and HF — that it is hard to remember they’re all one body of work, let alone that Miller’s is always essentially a Campbellesque hero’s journey; that Max and Mumble — or Nick Nolte’s Augusto Odone in Lorenzo's Oil for that matter — all share the same blue-eyed gaze.

“They are the agents of change,” Miller says of the clear-sighted outsiders who are always battling deadly ortho­doxies in his films. “They’re the agents of evolution really, and it’s always been like that in our narratives — not just fictional stories, but those of our scientific, artistic, religious and political heroes. Any effective change basically follows the same pattern.”

And all, in a sense, are Miller. To Graham Burke, Mumble is Miller, from his “engaging freshness” to his “lovely innocent naïve quality”. Miller jokes that the HF crew thought he was more like the penguin nation’s shameless shaman Lovelace, the Arctic’s very own wizard of Oz. As for himself, “I like to think I’m Mad Max,” he laughs, quickly adding: “Not really.”

There is quite a bit of Max in George Miller though. “You need to be a creative warrior to make films,” he says at one point, and his career, from student filmmaker to the pinnacle of Hollywood, has been its own kind of hero’s journey. In person, he is surprisingly boyish, genial, unassuming, albeit with that ease particular to very successful individuals. He throws himself into the lengthy portrait shoot for this magazine, patiently taking direction to dance, to re-enact Oscar night, bend down to talk to an invisible penguin who’ll be superimposed later — “Oh God, I feel like an actor,” he moans — even giving a second lengthy interview on the hop.

He’s quite without ‘side’, as the English say. Perhaps as a result, he can also be hard to read. There’s a reticence, almost a Cheshire Cat quality, that may just be that childlike quality on which all who know him agree. “He seems to still have an innocence about him,” actress Nicole Kidman says, echoing Obst and Burke. Miller himself speaks of being “like a mirror . “Behind the camera, you’re an observer,” he says by way of explaining why it makes him self-conscious to talk about himself. “For the actor, I have to be a coach and provide an objective response to their work ... be a true mirror, as it were."

Everyone also agrees that Miller is singularly tenacious in pursuit of his story, and that seems to include the story of who he is, what he does, and why. Babe director Chris Noonan sparked headlines after he claimed in an interview with The AFR’s Michaela Boland in December that Miller had stolen the credit for the film’s success. “It was like your guru has told you that you are no good and that is really disconcerting,” Noonan, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, subsequently told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I regard George as one of the great Australian filmmakers and I don’t want to talk about our relationship. It’s a bad time to go there; it was a mistake to say it.”

“Chris said something that is defamatory: that I took his name off the credits on internet sites, which is just absolutely untrue,” Miller says, his first words on the controversy. “You know, I’m sorry but I really have a lot more to do with my life than worry about that.” The episode clearly still rankles, however, and he wants to set the record straight. “The Year My Voice Broke (TYMVB) was unquestionably John Duigan’s vision and Dead Calm was Phillip Noyce’s,” Miller says of two earlier films he produced. “But when it comes to Babe, the vision was handed to Chris on a plate.”

Miller’s battle for his version of the film of Carl Sagan’s novel Contact forms a whole subplot in Obst’s Hello, He Lied. The film finally emerged in 1997 under another director after Miller refused to agree to a release date until the studio agreed to his changes to the screenplay it had already green-lighted. Warner Bros called his bluff. “Oh is he tough!” Obst exclaims. “I mean he has incredible softness as well, but he’s fierce in his vision and he’s fierce and uncompromising in how he wants to work. He can’t be charmed ... I mean he loves to be charmed, he loves to be wooed but, at the end of the day, he’s going to do exactly what he wants.”

“Film is tough,” points out Foxtel CEO Kim Williams, who has known Miller for 20 years. “Making a film is the toughest thing you can do in creative life, and it’s not for the faint­hearted and you’ve got to have a will of iron, and you’ve got to be extraordinarily stubborn and you’ve got to be incredibly assertive and you’ve got to be confident even when you’re full of doubt, and you’ve got to fight ... it’s horrendously speculative and you’ve got to work so hard to protect your vision. And he does all those things.”

It was The Witches of Eastwick in general, and Jack Nicholson in particular, that forged that toughness. “It was an extreme version of Old Hollywood,” Miller says of the film, which he made after the three Mad Max films in the mid-eighties, the only time he’s directed from another’s script. “I ended up working with the highly dysfunctional producers who were deal makers but weren’t filmmakers, namely Cuber-Peters, Jon Peters in particular. The shocking thing behind any dysfunction in Hollywood is that you not only get rewarded for bad behaviour, you get punished for good behaviour. If you are polite, it’s seen as a weakness and if you make a commonsense suggestion to cut costs you are suddenly negotiable on everything.”

The director and his satanic leading man, on the other hand, “really bonded”, Miller says. “He’s one of the cleverest guys I’ve ever met, a true sage; I learnt more from him than from anyone else. And he just kept on saying ‘look George, you’re too nice, make them think you’re crazy’ ... and I started enjoying the bad behaviour. The more tantrums you threw, the more people paid attention. But after a while, I remember one old-timer said to me: ‘Be careful, because I worked on all the last three or four Sam Peckinpah movies — after a while it’s about getting back at them; it’s not about getting the movie made’.”

Instead, Miller returned to Australia and the Metro Theatre, which Kim Williams’s father, Greater Union boss David Williams, a film buff, had helped KM secure. He didn’t direct again until Lorenzo’s Oil five years later. The Metro is a building steeped in cinema history: Ginger Rogers danced there, Peter Finch played there, as did the original production of Hair. But many more layers have been added over the past quarter of a century. Parts of The Dismissal, The Cowra Breakout, Vietnam, Bangkok Hilton, and Babe were shot there. Miller worked there with Obst and Sagan on Contact. And it was in an old video alcove of the main theatre that John Duigan handed him the one perfectly formed script he’d ever read, the coming-of-age masterpiece The Year My Voice Broke.

Mel Gibson shot part of MM3 at the Metro and Kidman screen-tested first for Vietnam and then Dead Calm, the film that helped break her internationally. Like Michelle Pfeiffer, whom he cast in Witches against much more high-powered actresses, Kidman’s natural facility in front of the camera immediately impressed, as has her subsequent creative adventurousness. Miller compares her with Pfeiffer who, despite her technical prowess, “underachieved because she was just, creatively, completely conservative,” he says.

“Whereas Nicole takes my breath away because, unlike most of those people, she’s creatively incredibly daring, so she’s growing in her ability. Success often means the opposite.” That admiration is mutual. “He has always supported me and encouraged me,” Kidman says. “He is one of the primary reasons I went to America and was able to have a career internationally, and I think coming from a young girl to where I am now ... you never forget that.”

When Miller speaks to The AFR Magazine in February, KM’s Metro is empty, between projects, with few of its core staff of 12 to 15 in evidence. Miller says he’s kept the operation as lean as possible since moving out of television. “It’s very deliberate, because if you run too big a machine, you’ve just got to keep the machine fed,” he says. “It gives us the flexibility; we’re not forced to do anything. We’re not doing it because we have to.” To Obst, such independence has been the key not only to Miller’s success, but to that of “all the great Australian directors” who also just happen to be, she says, Hollywood’s best filmmakers. “I think they have a tremendous advantage. Hollywood wants them, so they can have Hollywood on their terms and, at the same time, they’re not of Hollywood so they can maintain their integrity.”

While KM may have scaled back in the ninties, there is no doubt it has been one of the few truly successful artist-as-busimsessman-run production companies. "George and Byron were always very astute businessmen,” Noyce says. When the rest of us started making hasically state-sponsored features in the 1970's, George and Byron did the most unusual thing of financing Mad Max [produced for just $350,000] 100 per cent from privàte investors, when noone else could find one, less than the usual 50% ownership. The company belongs to a utopian, and- rarely so suceessful tradition; founded on MM’s success much as Francis Ford Coppola founded American Zoetrope on the back of The Godfather in the early seventies and George Lucas Lucasfilm after Star Wars at the end of the decade.

But where Zoetrope petered out, and Lucasfilm turned into an expensive party to which no one came, as Peter Biskind wrote in Easy Riders/Raging Bulls (Bloomsbury), KM has gone from strength to strength. “George [Miller’sl idea was that they would establish something like....Zoetrope,” Noyce explains. "Coppola had the idea that they would reinvigorate the concept of the artist-as-businessman by taking a number of writers and directors onto salary. George and Byron took the same idea and decided that, initially, they’d create a stable of directors and writers who would be on salary and work within the comfort zone of a studio and that they would initially embark on revolutionising the face of Australian television.” It was the era of 10BA*. [*Australian Government taxation concessions at or beyond 100%, which attracted considerable funds for film investment in Australia in the 70's & 80's]. Miller takes up the story: “Rupert Murdoch bought Channel Ten and he did something that HBO has done in recent years, which basically transformed television,” Miller says. “He said ‘I want drama. I don’t care what it is, provided it's really bold’, and we said ‘well we’re not that interested in doing television but if we were we’d have to have no interference’.”

"There was nothing shallow about the way they approached the work on any level,” says Noyce, who co-directed The Dismissal and The Cowra Breakout. ‘Thev reached outside the film industry into theatre and brought in George Ogilvie who was a great theatre director, and he began to stage a series of workshops for actors, writers and directors which explored the nature of storytelling. And then the miniseries became a further investigation into storytelling, because they were making 10-hour miniseries, not to be screened one hour a week, but 10 hours in one week. It was absolutely unheard of....... what a commitment you’re asking from an audience, to turn up all night for four nights in a row to watch one story."

It was event storytelling.in a medium - television - that Miller helped redefine in Australia. In other words, that same synchronicity of medium, story and zeitgeist that he is still chasing with CAA something so novel, with such an attendant sense of occasion, that it captures people as the Queen Mary and QE2 have just done when he speaks to The APR Magazine. “I just know that every film you do has to have something that distinguishes it, lets it stand out,” he says. With Happy Feet; it was a revolution in CGI; with Max it was a new kind of road movie; and with Babe it was the cutting edge animatronics that finally allowed him to film Dick King-Smith's novel a decade after he read it.

As Murdoch moved on from Channel Ten in 1987, Alan Bond bought Channel Nine. "Sam Chisholm [then at Nine], called us and said, 'we don't do drama well; you guys do drama successfully. Do you want to take ours over?'.....Then Kerry Packer bought Channel Nine back and didn't like the agreement. Basically he wanted creative autonomy and he wanted to influence the way we worked too much." KM took [the 1990 agreement] to court, becoming one of the few to best Packer when an appeal was dismissed on their $8.1 million suit in 1994. By then Miller was playing a new game but, along the way, KM had helped hothouse generations of Australian talent, from Kidman and Gibson to Noyce, Duigan and Noonan to cinematographers Dean Semmler (Apocalypto), Don McAlpine (The Chronicles of Narnia, Moulin Rouge) and John Seale (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Talented Mr Ripley).

It's a roll-call that lends a singular weight to his concern about Australia's growing creative diaspora. It also points up his extraordinary versatility. Even if HF had tanked, there's no doubt he would have had several further Hollywood lives as a producer and director in another of the genre's he has mastered. “The extraordinary thing about George is how many filmmakers he started and how he has affected Australian culture,” says Obst. And yet ar the same time to he able to make great American and international movies as well. I really think you can only compare him to Steven Spielberg or George Lucas....He's one of the patriarchs of this generation of breakthrough Australian filmakers."

Kim Williams adds a local, historical perspective. “I think George is in that pantheon of great Australian filmmakers which stretches from Raymond Longford and Ken G. Hall and particularly Charles Chauvel.” Which begs the question Miller himself raises in speaking of the difficulty of making Australian films in Australia. In the l980s he helped refine our identity, telling this country its own story through a string of historic miniseries, even making that achingly Australian bildungsroman, The Year My Voice Broke. But, says Phillip Noyce, “George hasn’t made his quintessential Australian film statement personally. As a producer he has, working through other directors and storytellers, but it will be interesting to see if he feels compelled to make a uniquely Australian film with an Australian setting.”


QUOTES

“What George did with Mad Max was take Hollywood and action to a new level, as he’s done with [CGI in] Happy Feet. It took Hollywood years to catch up with the visual style.” Graham Burke.“

I’m realising it’s harder to make a successful film; the playing field itself is moving. We can barely grasp hold of it.” George Miller.


“He has incredible softness, but he’s fierce in his vision and he’s uncompromising in how he wants to work. At the end of the day, he’s going to do exactly what he wants. Lynda Obst


You can only compare him to Steven Spielberg or George Lucas...He's one of the patriarchsof this generation of breakthrough Australian Filmaker." Lynda Obst.


George Miller’s Filmography


2006
Happy Feet
producer/director/writer

1998
Babe: Pig in the City
producer/director/writer
Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer (TV)
producer
The Clean Machine (TV)
producer

1997
White Fellas Dreaming
producer/director/writer

1995
Babe
producer/writer
Video Fool for Love
producer

1992
Lorenzo’s Oil
producer/director/writer

1991
Flirting
producer

1989
Bangkok Hilton (TV)
miniseries, producer
Dead Calm
producer/second unit director

1988
The Dirtwater Dynasty (TV)
miniseries, producer

1987
The Year My Voice Broke
producer Vietnam (TV)
miniseries, producer
The Riddle of the Stinson (TV)
producer
The Witches of Eastwick
director
Tausend Augen
(Thousand Eyes)
actor

1985
Mad Max Beyond
Thunderdome
producer/director/writer

1984
Bodyline (TV)
miniseries, producer
The Cowra Breakout (TV)
miniseries, producer

1983
Twilight Zone: The Movie
(segment four)
director
The Dismissal (TV)
miniseries, executive producer/
director/writer

1981
Mad Max 2
director/writer/additional
editor

1980
The Chain Reaction
associate producer
1979
Mad Max
director/writer

1971
Violence in the Cinema, Part 1
director/writer

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 18.03.2010

Angelika Pentsi. Researcher. Berlin Germany.

Angelika, in Brisbane, at the Queensland launch of www.kythera-family.net. April 15th, 2007

Angelika is a true Philokytherian.

She is currently researching her M.A. (Masters of Arts) thesis.

Her research is centred on Kytherians' involvement with www.kythera-family.net

In April, 2007, she travelled to Australia, and interviewed numerous Kytherians in both Brisbane & Sydney.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Herald Sun, Melbourne on 28.02.2007

All-night party for Miller.

Miller George and furry friend pose with the Oscar for best animated feature film for Happy Feet

Peta Hellard

Los Angeles


Aussie director George Miller described his Oscar win as the biggest party of his life.

The Sydney film-maker, whose penguin extravaganza Happy Feet won Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, did not get any sleep after a night of celebrating before hitting the media circuit yesterday.
"I'm still running on an adrenalin high -- it's all still a blur," Miller said.

"It was a really great night, certainly one of the best parties of my life.

The Oscar-toting Miller was a guest of honour at several glamorous post-ceremony parties.

The 61-year-old and wife Margaret rubbed shoulders with Hollywood's biggest names at the Governor's Ball, the Vanity Fair party and chart star Prince's bash at the Roosevelt Hotel.

"I talked to some people I really admire, like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep," Miller said.

"And Jack Nicholson, who I have worked with before, was really happy about the win.

"We went to the Vanity Fair party where we bumped into all these Australians -- Anthony LaPaglia, Gia Carides, Hugh Jackman, Deborra-lee Furness, Nicole (Kidman) and Naomi (Watts).

"I realised I'd be in trouble if I had too many drinks so I paced myself and only had three or four glasses of wine.

"By the time we got back to the hotel at 4am the phones just didn't stop ringing -- we've been up all night."

There was no chance for rest yesterday, with the in-demand director running between media commitments and last-minute meetings with studios before he flies back to Australia.

On getting back to Sydney, Miller plans to give the Oscar to his 86-year-old mother, Angela, in the northern suburbs.

"I have got this superstition that whenever I get an award I give it away to a loved one," he said.

"So this heavy little guy is going to mum, who's been such a good mum."

Miller said one of his three children was yet to find out dad had won Oscar gold as he was away on school camp.

The former doctor, who raised money to make his 1979 classic Mad Max working as an emergency room locum, said he never intended to be a film-maker.

"I got interested in making films but never thought there was a real career to be had," he said.

"In Australia in the '70s, there was no real film industry where you could make a living from it."

During the interview on Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard, passers-by literally stopped their cars in the busy street on seeing the gold statuette, with the affable director happily handing it to excited strangers to hold.

Miller said while he was overwhelmed at winning the major accolade, he had not become teary.

"I honestly don't take them (awards) that seriously," he said.

"The times I do cry and get really nervous is when the film comes out, because you've worked so hard and you never know if it's going to be successful or not.

"It's important to remember awards are the . . . icing on the cake.

"Everyone in the movie industry works so hard, so after all the hard work it's good to party."

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Adelaide Advertiser on 27.02.2007

Happy Feet steps up.

George Miller at the Oscars. Oscar & Penguin in hand.

February 26, 2007


There was joy for George Miller but disappointment for fellow Aussie Cate Blanchett at today's Academy Award ceremony. And, as expected, Britain's Helen Mirren took the Best Actress Oscar.
Miller's Happy Feet won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at today's Academy Award ceremony.

The news wasn't so good for fellow Australian Cate Blanchett , who failed to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the 79th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Mirren was honoured for her acclaimed turn as Queen Elizabeth II in the movie The Queen.

It was the first Oscar for Mirren, 61, who had already won more than 20 other major awards for her sympathetic portrayal of an out-of-touch monarch in the days after the sudden death in 1997 of Princess Diana.

Miller's dancing and singing penguin musical, Happy Feet beat overwhelming favourite Cars.
"Oh gosh," a surprised Miller said as he collected his award.
It is a monumental victory for the Australian film industry and 61-year-old Miller, who had been nominated for Oscars three times before but never won.
Happy Feet was made at Sydney's Fox Studios with a largely Australian crew of more than 500 and used the voices of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Steve Irwin and other Hollywood stars, including Robin Williams and Elijah Wood.
Animal Logic, the Australian special effects house based at Fox Studios, built an animation studio from scratch to make Happy Feet.

Bookmakers did not believe Happy Feet could beat Cars, the blockbuster made by San Francisco-based, Disney-owned animation house Pixar, which had won two of the previous three Oscars for The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.
The other animated feature film nominee was Sony's Monster House. The bookmakers' would have been far happier with Hudson's win in the best supporting actress category - she was their red hot favourite.

Blanchett was not given much chance of winning the Academy Award, although earlier in the night Hudson's Dreamgirls' co-star Eddie Murphy was snubbed for best supporting actor.

It signalled Academy voters may not be fans of the Motown-era musical and raised the prospect of a Blanchett upset.

Murphy was a runaway favourite, but Little Miss Sunshine's Alan Arkin took the Oscar.

Chicago-born Hudson scooped all of the lead-up awards for her role in Dreamgirls, including the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA prizes.

Today's Oscar caps an astonishing rise for 25-year-old Hudson.

Dreamgirls was her first major acting role and her previous claim to fame was being a failed contestant on U.S. reality TV show American Idol.

Melbourne-born Blanchett, 37, was nominated for the British drama, Notes on a Scandal, in which she played a school teacher who has an affair with a 15-year-old student.

It was the third Oscar nomination of Blanchett's career, after 1999's best actress nomination for Elizabeth and her 2005 best supporting actress win for The Aviator.

The other best supporting nominees today were Adriana Barraza (Babel), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine).

Australia's other nominees, Peter Templeman and Stuart Parkyn, however, did not win the short live action film Oscar.
Earlier, Mexican film Pan's Labyrinth was the first film honoured at the 79th Acacdemy Awards in Hollywood. Labyrinth took the award for best art direction.

Guillermo Del Toro's film about a little girl who escapes the horrors of fascist Spain by inventing an imaginary world is nominated for six Oscars, and is favored to win the best foreign-language film award.

The award for a Mexican film fit well with host Ellen DeGeneres's opening comments about the Oscars' global reach.
"This is the most international Oscars ever, and that's a huge deal,'' said DeGeneres, noting the presence of a record number of nominees from Mexico and the best actress nomination of Spain's Penelope Cruz.

"I think there are even a few Americans -I'm talking about the seat-fillers," DeGeneres quipped.
Eddie Murphy's hopes of an Oscar were dashed when Alan Arkin won the supporting-actor Academy Award on Sunday for his role as a foul-mouthed grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine, which also starred Australia's Toni Collette.

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,21287888-5007700,00.html

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Religious Consciousness on 16.02.2007

Icon of Christ. Wall on stairway,

Greek Orthodox Monastery of Panagia Gorgoepikoos,
Cnr Cox and Rollins Rds,
Lovely Banks,
Geelong, 3221.
Victoria,

P.O. Box 219
Corio. 3214.
Victoria.
Australia.

(03) 52761221
Fax: (03) 5276 1074

The Monastery is situated approximately one hour, by car or public transport, from Melbourne, in the beautiful seaside city of Geelong.

Geelong is the gateway to one of Australia's environmental treasures - The Great Ocean Road.

If you go the very large and attractive Information Centre in Geelong, and look due North, the Monastery lies 3 blocks away, on the hill.

To create privacy for the monastery, the direct route, Cox Road, the road running outside the Monastery, has recently been "closed off". This initiative was instigated by Mother Kallistheni.

The view back to the ocean from the high hill is magnificent.

Initially the Monastery stood on 17 acres of land, but subsequent land purchases, have extended the size to 20 acres.

It is a very substantial property holding.

The name Panagia Gorgoepikoos is pronounced -
"war-yo-epiko-os".

Gorgoepikoos literally translates to "the all-hearing."

The Feast Days for the Monastery are

2 January, St Seraphim of Saraov

1 October, Panagia Gorgoepikoos


Programme of the Monastery

Pilgrims can visit the monastery daily (except Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), and are able to attend the services chanted by the sisters.

"Pilgrims" are encouraged. The following testimony from Noura Cheded, at

http://www.stnicholas.org.au/Contact/Feb2003.htm

is typical of the responses of many "pilgrims":

"I spent...5 days at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Gorgoepikoos, a Greek Orthodox Monastery for ladies in Geelong. On arrival I participated in an English Liturgy held at the Monastery. I enjoyed my stay with Mother Kallisthene and the sisters immensely. I had the opportunity to meet other Christian ladies who were staying at the monastery at the same time. We discussed our life in Christ and in the world, we prayed together, talked about books we’ve read, and worked together. It was truly a joy to meet them.

In such a busy world, a monastery is a great place to be able to relax and spend time to reflect, read and pray. Also not to forget to mention the invaluable spiritual advice you receive by talking with Mother Kallistheni and the sisters. I recommend a visit by ALL".

MONDAY CLOSED Open 2pm Public & School Holidays

TUESDAY 9:00am-5:00pm 9:00am Divine Liturgy

WEDNESDAY CLOSED

THURSDAY 9:00am-5:00pm 3:00Pm Vespers

FRIDAY CLOSED

SATURDAY 9:00am-5:00pm 3:00Pm Paraklesis

SUNDAY 2:00am-5:00pm 3:00Pm Paraklesis

The DIVINE LITURGY in the English Language is celebrated at the Monastery on Saturday Mornings once a Month

8:00am -9:00am - Matins (Greek/English)

9:00 am - 10:00am - Divine Liturgy (English)

The Dates for 2007 are:

20 January 3 February 10th March
21 April 12 May 16 June
14 July 11 August 15 September
13 October 10 November 8 December

Refreshments are provided after the Divine Liturgy

Religious Items

Various Religious items are available for sale.

Some are handmade by the Mother and the three Sisters who have taken "orders" at the Monastery -

Sister Makrina
Sister Nikodimi
Sister Natalia

These include Greek, English and Children's books, Icons, incence, charcoal, pottery, prayer ropes, crosses, bonbonieres, stefana, lambades, ladopana, keyrings, agiasmos bottles, savana, etc....

Covered eating areas and picnic grounds are available.

(No barbecues or alcohol are permitted)

Servants of God...servants of (Wo)Man

The Mother and her 3 Sisters take a very "hands on" approach to the maintenance of the property. They perform tasks that most men could not perform.

Most importantly they involve themselves in social justice issues, such as providing support for parishioners in Melbourne & Victoria, who live in poverty, are homeless, who have been abused, or been subjected to violence. They take on the "too hard" cases; often neglected by established agencies.

They perform these tasks with purpose, devotion & equanimity.

Mother Kallistheni's attitude is always -"can do".

Mother Kallistheni is a woman of presence, and gravitas.

Establishing the Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Panagia Gorgeopikoos was established by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in May 1993.

Although you will never hear this from Mother Kallistheni herself: much of the initial seed capital for the Monastery derived from the Zantis family of Goulburn - in particular Mother Kallistheni's (deceased) father Angelo Zantis, and Mother Kallistheni herself.

A Karavas & Kytherian religious tradition continues

Mother Kallistheni's great-grandfather, "Papa Vangelli" was for 4 decades, the village priest in Karavas, Kythera.

Edited version of Father Evangelos Crithary the priest of Karavas and his wife Stamatia (nee Panaretos)

Pappa Vagelli as he was known was priest, (as well as the schoolmaster) in Karavas for four decades.
Most Karavites (and Kytherians from surrounding villages, such as Ayia Anastasia, Broggi, Petrouni, Plattia Ammos, and many more) aged between 100 and 60 - living in Australia, and the USA, would have been christened by Papa Vagelli - including almost all Karavites who attend the annual Karavitiko Symposium, in Sydney, Australia, on the Feast Day of Ayios Haralambos.

Learn more about the Karavitiko, and its history and iconography

Pappa Vangelli, and presvia Stamatia, are the great-grandparents of Mother Kallistheni - Geelong.

We witness, therefore, the completion of a religious cycle.

Pappa Vagelli and Stamatia had 8 children.
Peter (Warialda)
Harry (Doctor, Greece)
Theothoros
Georgitsa
Maria
Kanella
Kalomira
Louisa (married Protopsaltis - affectionately known by many as "Theia Louisa" - even by non-relatives - and a patron for many decades of the Karavtiko Symposium).
Kalomira married Sarandos Zantiotis (from the "Vouno" (Panagia Thespina)). (Parachoukli "Sarandakos".)
Sarandos & Kalomira had 4 children
George (deceased), wife Effie (nee, Souris), lives Mullimbimby
Angelo, (deceased), (Jeweller, Goulburn, NSW) (who married Nina Souris, from Armidale)

Angelo Zantis, Obituary

Jim (deceased),
Maria (married John Nikoforides (Forides, Canberra.))

Angelo and Nina had three children
Sheridan (Sarandos), Jeweller, Bondi Junction
Corrine (Kalomira) [Mother Kallistheni]
Peter, Jeweller, Goulburn

This genealogy explains the relationship between Pappa Vagelli and Mother Kallistheni.

Hence, a religious tradition continues.

It could be argued that Mother Kallestheni, as a Greek Orthodox Abbess - is the highest status Greek WOMAN officer of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia; and one of the highest status Greek WOMAN officers of the Greek Orthodox Church in the World.

Panagia Gorgoepikoos Church in Plaka, Athens

This Church is not related to the Monastery in Geelong, which bears the same name. However Kytherians, particularly those living in Athens & Pireaus, as well as diaspora Kytherians who visit Greece, may be aware of this iconic church.

The Panagia Gorgoepikoos Church in Plaka is not particularly attractive, but it is one of Athen's ancient treasures. From the 1100's this church has stood here as a beacon to those practicing the Orthodox faith. In the interwoven past of Athens, there was a temple on this spot named Isis-Eileithyia (Isis being an Egyptian goddess; ideas traveled through trade contact). The church has its own hidden treasure, as all historic sites do. The marble murals you will notice upon entering are more than decoration. At least one of the murals was commissioned hundreds of years before the birth of Christ and shows elements of Greek's old pagan culture.

This article has been written to introduce Kytherians in Sydney & NSW, other parts of Australia, and around the world, to the superb Greek Orthodox Monastery in Geelong Victoria, and to its Kytherian Mother Superior, or Abbess - Mother Kallistheni.

It has also been written to encourage Kytherians from around the world to "make the pilgrimage" to Geelong.

In 19th & 20th century Kythera, Kytherians who had spent some time in the Middle east were often given the parachoukli "hatzithes" - indicating that they had "undertaken the haj".

Will we devise another 21st century parachoukli for those Kytherians who make the "pilgrimage to Panagia Gorgoepikoos?"
c

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 16.02.2007

George Miller holds the Award for Animated Feature Film for Happy Feet at BAFTA.

by, Maev Kennedy

February 13, 2007

The toe-tapping penguin film Happy Feet has picked up an award at the British version of the Oscars, but whether that has improved its chances of securing a Hollywood gold statue remains to be seen.
George Miller's film edged out Cars and Flushed Away to take the Bafta for animated feature, but the awards have only a patchy record of predicting who will pick up Academy Awards.

Helen Mirren, on the other hand, is an Oscar favourite after picking up another best actress award for her role in The Queen, which also won best film.
The movie's success continues to astonish even those involved. "We always thought it was a small film. Obviously it's a pretty parochial film in some ways," Mirren said. "But we had a clue when it was chosen by the critics in Venice that it would have a broader appeal."

On a cool, bright evening, the stars marched along one of the longest red carpets ever seen. For the first time the ceremony had an air of Hollywood gloss, having moved to the crimson plush of London's Royal Opera House.
Surrounding streets were closed, and with memories of the disastrous recent occasion when rain caused the red carpet to erupt into white foam, the last stretch was protected by a huge canopy.

The triumph for best actress and best film were the least surprising results of the night - the bookmakers stopped taking money on Mirren on Friday - but the awards were not the British clean sweep predicted by some. The James Bond movie Casino Royale failed to shake or stir, picking up just one of the nine nominations it received - winning the sound quality category. Its willowy new-style Bond-girl, Eva Green, took the hotly contested rising star award, the only one voted for by the public.

American Forest Whitaker took best actor for his mesmerising performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
The Spanish movie Pan's Labyrinth took best foreign language film, and the prizes for the extraordinary costumes and best make-up and hair, despite all the barnacles and octopus masks of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, nominated in the same category. Pan's Labyrinth's three prizes made it one of the night's biggest winners; The Last King of Scotland also took three.

The British director Paul Greengrass took best director for United 93, the documentary-style no-stars film about the passengers' struggle to take control of one of the hijacked planes on September 11, 2001. The film also took the editing award.

One of the most surprising losers - and there was an instant buzz of gossip about what this meant for its chances at the Oscars - was the hit Notes on a Scandal, based on Zoe Heller's bestselling novel, which was nominated in several categories, including for Judi Dench as best actress.
Another surprise was the success of a small American film about a dysfunctional family, Little Miss Sunshine, which won the best supporting actor for Alan Arkin, who plays a drug-addled grandfather, and the best original screenplay.

American Idol's Jennifer Hudson took best supporting actress for Dreamgirls, edging out Toni Collette for Little Miss Sunshine.

Guardian News & Media


BAFTA Home page

http://www.bafta.org/site/jsp/index.jsp


BAFTA Background

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), is a British organisation that hosts annual awards shows for film, television, children's film and television, and interactive media. Since 1948, selected films have been awarded with the BAFTA award for Best Film at an annual ceremony.

Until 1968, two Best Film awards were given each year: Best British Film and Best Film from any Source (for non-British films). It was possible for British films to be nominated in both categories and, occasionally, to win both awards. Beginning in 1969, these awards were replaced with the single 'Best Film' award, and British films were longer distinguished.

Until 1981, the award was given to the director.[1] From 1981 to 1985, it was given solely to the producers, and then in 1986 it was shared between the Director and Producer. In 1998, it was once again given to only the producers.

There have been two ties for the award: in 1962, Ballad of a Solider tied with The Hustler for Best Film from any Source, and in 1996, when Sense and Sensibility tied with The Usual Suspects for Best Film.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAFTA_Award_for_Best_Film

More background

This year's Orange British Academy Film Awards were held on Sunday, February 11, 2007, at the Royal Opera House in London. The awards were sponsored for the tenth year running by Orange and were broadcast on BBC America in the U.S. BBC presenter Jonathan Ross hosted the event for the first time.

This year marked the 60th anniversary of the BAFTAs, cementing their position within the awards calendar as the largest globally recognized international film awards ceremony outside of the United States. The BAFTAs has steadfastly remained an international rather than a purely British showcase.

The BAFTAs are awarded by the British Academy of Film & Television Arts. As one of the organization's principal functions, BAFTA works to identify and reward excellence in the artforms of the moving image. It achieves this objective by bestowing awards on those practitioners who have excelled in their chosen field of expertise.

http://www.darkhorizons.com/news07/070212a.php


BAFTA winners

Year 2006


February 12, 2007

The Queen clinched best film and Helen Mirren best actress for her portrayal of the monarch at the BAFTA British film awards today, while The Last King of Scotland scooped three awards.

Following are the winners on the night:

Best film - The Queen

Best British film - The Last King of Scotland

Best director - Paul Greengrass (United 93)

Original screenplay - Little Miss Sunshine

Adapted Screenplay - The Last King of Scotland

Foreign language film - Pan's Labyrinth

Animated feature film - Happy Feet

Best actor - Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)

Best actress - Helen Mirren (The Queen)

Best supporting actor - Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Best supporting actress - Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)

Best music - Babel

Cinematography - Children of Men

Editing - United 93

Production design - Children of Men

Costume design - Pan's Labyrinth

Sound - Casino Royale

Visual effects - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Make up & hair - Pan's Labyrinth

Short animation - Guy 101

Short film - Do Not Erase

Rising star (voted for by the public) - Eva Green

British debut director/writer/producer - Andrea Arnold (Red Road)

Reuters

Photos > Working Life

submitted by SUN HERALD on 01.01.2007

Dancing penguins top box office in festive season

Top dollar....Happy Feet.

Christine Sams, Entertainment Reporter

The Sun-Herald, Sydney

December 31, 2006

HAPPY Feet is the coolest film of the holiday season, raking in more than $4.4 million in box office takings since its opening on Boxing Day.

The animated film, directed by George Miller and featuring the voices of stars including Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (with Elijah Wood in the main role), has attracted huge holiday crowds at NSW cinemas.

But the loveable story about penguins in Antarctica will have to maintain a mighty momentum to conquer the popularity of James Bond film Casino Royale.

Despite the onslaught of fresh Boxing Day arrivals, including Ben Stiller's A Night At The Museum and the romantic comedy The Holiday - starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet - Casino Royale maintained the No. 2 position in box office takings last week. The film, starring Daniel Craig, has earned more than $575 million globally in three weeks.

But it is the animated penguins that have made their mark on the big screen since the opening of Happy Feet on Tuesday.

"Crowds have been growing steadily since Boxing Day," said a spokeswoman at Greater Union, Campbelltown.

Stiller's film - which centres on the story of museum displays coming to life at night - came in at No. 3 with nearly $2.3 million in takings last week.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 14.12.2006

George Miller's Happy Feet. A review. From Variety Magazine

Mumble dances up a storm in 'Happy Feet.

New U.S. Release

Happy Feet
(Animated)

By TODD MCCARTHY


http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117932092.html?categoryID=31&cs=1

A Warner Bros. release presented in association with Village Roadshow Pictures of a Kennedy Miller production in association with Animal Logic Film. Produced by Doug Mitchell, George Miller, Bill Miller. Executive producers, Zareh Nalbandian, Graham Burke, Edward Jones, Dana Goldberg, Bruce Berman. Directed by George Miller. Co-directors, Judy Morris, Warren Coleman. Screenplay, Miller, John Collee, Morris, Coleman. (Technicolor, widescreen); editors, Margaret Sixel, Christian Gazal; music, John Powell; music supervisor, Christine Woodruff; production designer, Mark Sexton; supervising art director, David Nelson; art director, Simon Whiteley; animation director, Daniel Jeannette; layout and

Mumble - Elijah Wood
Ramon/Lovelace - Robin Williams
Gloria - Brittany Murphy
Memphis - Hugh Jackman
Norma Jean - Nicole Kidman
Noah the Elder - Hugo Weaving
Boss Skua - Anthony LaPaglia
Baby Mumble - E.G. Daily
Miss Viola - Magda Szubanski
Mrs. Astrakhan - Miriam Margolyes
Trev - Steve Irwin

Viewers weary of the increasing similarity of most animated films have a tonic at hand in "Happy Feet." Likely to be affectionately dubbed "March of the Penguins: The Musical," George Miller's long-in-the-works dive into full-blown computer animation drapes a relatively conventional story, about a young penguin's struggles over being "different," in striking visuals, invigorating songs and lively characterizations. Although the film might prove a bit too different for a minority of parents, general reaction is likely figures to be one of jaw-dropping amazement, sparking merry B.O. through the holidays and further abundance in home entertainment incarnations. Extensive simultaneous Imax engagements will be particularly popular.
There is no mistaking "Happy Feet" as anything but the work of a real filmmaker; in terms of composition, camera movement and editing, the pic is conceived as a "real" movie, and emerges as one of the very best directed animated films on record. Not surprisingly from the force behind the "Babe" movies, the attention to detail is phenomenal, the humor ample.

But the story is inescapably serious on both personal and societal levels. While countless moppet-targeted films have taught the lesson that the oddball shall prevail and that everyone is gifted in a particular way, looming over everything here is the specter of aliens -- human beings, that is -- who leave ominous traces of their comings and goings on the icy wastes of Antarctica and impinge upon the penguins' supply of fish. The environmental themes are familiar, but Miller superbly manifests the threat in a manner both tactile and hauntingly poetic.

Fine while up and flying, pic has trouble with both takeoff and landing. Intro of emperor penguin society consists of a virtual assault of mostly soulful R&B tunes. Initial seg, in fact, reps a recapitulation of "March of the Penguins," as the moms lay eggs, hand them off to the dads and head off for distant feeding waters while the males face the bitter, months-long night of incubation.

Conformity reigns as this community's highest value, with strict compliance enforced by wizened elders, wonderfully craggy figures who look like they were chiseled by Rodin. It's expected emperor penguins will have beautiful voices. Newborn tyke Mumble can't put two notes together, but the little bugger sure can dance; he's born tapping, with speed and moves the equal of tapmaster Savion Glover, who provided the motion-capture terpsing for the furry bird.

Mumble's mom (voiced by Nicole Kidman) doesn't mind her son's eccentricity, but his dad (Hugh Jackman) complains that "it just ain't penguin." Despite the great song-and-dance potential exhibited by Mumble (voiced after infancy by Elijah Wood) and his dazzlingly voiced pal Gloria (Brittany Murphy), Mumble is eventually exiled by the high priest (Hugo Weaving).

And so begin Mumble's wanderings, riddled with unknown dangers. In the first and most child-frightening of three big-action set pieces, each more dazzling than the last, Mumble is attacked by an unusually toothsome seal, only to be taken under the wing of a bunch of small, Mexican-accented penguins fronted by Ramon (Robin Williams).

Mumble is embraced as "Big Guy," and begins to see there's more to the world than the rigid realm of Emperor Land. In another fantastic action scene, Mumble and his five buddies go careening like so many live toboggans down a vast run of slopes and bowls and cliffs at breathtaking speed until they are caught up short by the sight of an alien visitation.

The band of wayfarers enlarges again with the addition of rockhopper penguin Lovelace (Williams again, in soulful mode), a self-styled guru. The odyssey briefly reunites Mumble, who retains his immature gray feathers throughout, with Gloria and his emperor brethren. But with food in diminished supply, Mumble sets out for the Forbidden Shore, where elephant seals (including one voiced by the late Steve Irwin) warn him he'll encounter the dreaded annihilator aliens. He also crosses paths with two killer whales in a scene of eye-popping choreographed action.

Mumble's close encounter with Earth's dominators and the detritus of their activities, powerfully imagined from the bird's point of view, proves thoroughly sobering; following logically, pic would end on a quite dire note. Given this impossibility, Miller and fellow screenwriters John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman contrive a way to deliver a relatively upbeat ending, one that doesn't completely dismiss the peril but still seems concocted.

While having been nimbly edited for momentum and flow, "Happy Feet" employs long takes and the moving "camera" considerably more than do most animated films. Result is a film of heightened elegance and precision as well as a strong sense of space; the widescreen frame can barely contain the vast landscapes, as well as a bulging cast of happy-footed "extras" that would have turned Busby Berkeley green with envy. Pic reps the most ambitious and successful use of the motion-capture technique to date.

Musical elements, overseen by composer John Powell, are extraordinarily diverse in style. At times, the familiarity of song selections proves tiresome and overbearing. At others, however, freshness of the covers and novelty of the contexts are genuinely funny, among them a Spanish-lingo version of "My Way," an ironic rendering of "Leader of the Pack" and some Beach Boys-backed surfing unlike anyone in Malibu has ever done.

A Babel's brew of accents comprise the spirited voicings, with Williams doing fine double-duty in focused funny mode. End credits, which contain more than 1,000 names, may be the longest on record.

camera director, David Peers; supervising sound editor/designer (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Wayne Pashley; visual effects, Animal Logic; additional animation, Rhythm & Hues Studio, Giant Killer Robots in association with Animal Logic Film; choreographer and principal performer, Kelley Abbey; dancer and choreographer for Mumble, Savion Glover; line producer, Martin Wood; associate producers, Philip Hearnshaw, Hael Kobayashi, Michael Twigg, Matt Ferro; additional camera, Andrew Lesnie; casting, Kristy Carlson. Reviewed at Warner Bros. studios, Burbank, Oct. 30, 2006. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 108 MIN.
Voices:

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 14.12.2006

Mad George Dons His Happy Feet

Mumbo with the five adélie penguin amigos

EXCLUSIVE George Miller/Happy Feet

Interview by Paul Fischer at the Toronto Film Festival

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.


http://www.filmmonthly.com/Profiles/Articles/GeorgeMiller/GeorgeMiller.html

It might be hard to believe that some 30 years after he broke cinematic ground with Mad Max, George Miller would come up with an expensive family part CGI and part stop motion movie about penguins. The Australian director who still calls Australia home, laughs. “I think you’re right, I could never have imagined having done something like this,” Dr Miller says from his Los Angeles hotel room. “I just really follow my nose in these things. I don’t make many films, and I’m driven by curiosity more than anything else.” Miller, who originally set out to be a doctor, says it’s that constant sense of curiosity that “lead me in to film in the first place, curiosity about process and more importantly curiosity as to why and how we tell each other stories. The one thing I find extraordinary is that I’m still able to make films in this new digital age, which I think is the most significant advance in cinema since the invention of sound, but I could have never imagined this.”
Since bursting on the Australian movie scene with 1979’s Mad Max, Miller has directed about a dozen films and produced slightly more, from the remaining Mad Max films, to the diverse likes of The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil and the Babe films. Miller has no regrets about his limited choices, and asked why he makes so few films, he says it’s because his real passion is writing. “Most of the films I come up with are original screenplays.” Miller was actually ready to make the fourth Mad Max film before turning his attention to the Antarctic and Happy Feet. Mad Max IV was to star the original Max, Mel Gibson, and was Miller’s latest original screenplay. “We were about three months off shooting when the Iraqi war came and the American dollar collapsed against the Australian dollar so we lost our budget. Also, we couldn’t get the container ships out because of security and stuff.” Max was put on hold, but Miller’s writing was tested differently. “I never imagined I’d get into animation, CG and a dancing film. To some degree we’re pushing the limit of the technology, trying to advance it in some ways and doing those things are slightly pioneering, all of which takes time.”

Miller’s fascination with the world of the Emperor Penguin harks back to his days shooting Mad Max, he recalls, when one of the film’s second unit cameramen told Miller stories of shooting footage of Antarctica. “It always stuck in my mind and then the next big step was when I saw a documentary done by the BBC called “Life in the Freezer” and I suddenly saw the natural history of Emperor Penguins and it completely blew me away. I thought here's an amazing story written by nature and then I saw that they sing to each other to imprint on each other and mate. I thought that everyone has a song, one of the characters can’t sing but he can dance and before I knew it, I was in the middle of a musical.”

Happy Feet is indeed set in the great nation of Emperor Penguins, deep in Antarctica, where you’re nobody unless you can sing--which is unfortunate for Mumble, who is the worst singer in the world. He is born dancing to his own tune--tap dancing. Though Mumble’s mum, Norma Jean, thinks this little habit is cute, his dad, Memphis, says it “just ain’t penguin.” Besides, they both know that, without a Heart song, Mumble may never find true love. As fate would have it, his one friend, Gloria, happens to be the best singer around. Mumble and Gloria have a connection from the moment they hatch, but she struggles with his strange “hippity- hoppity” ways. Mumble is just too different--especially for Noah the Elder, the stern leader of Emperor Land, who ultimately casts him out of the community. Away from home for the first time, Mumble meets a posse of decidedly un-Emperor-like penguins--the Adelie Amigos. Led by Ramon, the Adelies instantly embrace Mumble’s cool dance moves and invite him to party with them. In Adelie Land, Mumble seeks the counsel of Lovelace the Guru, a crazy-feathered Rockhopper penguin who will answer any of life’s questions for the price of a pebble. Together with Lovelace and the Amigos, Mumble sets out across vast landscapes and, after some epic encounters, proves that by being true to yourself, you can make all the difference in the world.

A film that takes CG technology to a new level, Miller says that by the time he was ready to make Happy Feet, the technology would be available – unlike Babe.” With babe, I remember reading the book ten years before we made the movie and I knew we had to wait to make that movie. But in this case Andrew Lesley, who shot the Babes, also shot Lord of the Rings and he’d come back to Sydney from time to time and be telling me what they were doing. So I went over a couple of time and visited everyone at WETA and saw what they were doing and the moment I saw what they were doing with Golem I realised with the motion capture advancing, we could do this and so in other words the technology was already there for this film it was just a question of adapting it. We pushed the technology along the way, went for the photo real look given that the world was already so spectacular. So the technology was there but it took two years to develop the pipeline before we actually started making the movie.”

Miller’s challenge was to marry a variety of technologies to bring the story of Mumble to the big screen. “When we started to do Mumble, he had six million feathers on him. We didn’t think we could compute that many and I didn’t think we could go in for close ups, but as the film developed everything got Improved and I started going in for close-ups until we could get in very close to his face. Everyone went to penguin school studying the motion and anatomy of penguins.”

Being a George Miller film, there is more to Happy Feet than a funny, animated, musical comedy. Miller wanted to remind us that the penguins face a tough future, and his environmental message is a sharp, thematic facet of the film. “It’s a natural part of telling the story of the penguins. As you know Antarctica is an incredibly delicate place, a little bit like Australia and a desert really, there’s no rain it’s very harsh, so you can’t tell the story of the penguins in Antarctica without realising how we’re impacting it. I think it confronts all of us and I really couldn’t help it. Written in the ice of Antarctica is every single volcano from Pompeii, Vesuvius to Krakatoa to catastrophes like Chernobyl and all of that naturally impacted the story with out even trying.”

After devoting the last several years to Happy Feet, it is not surprising that Miller will take some time off to spend with his family and recharge his batteries, before working on what he describes “as a much smaller film.” That will be followed by the long awaited Mad Max IV, but without Mel Gibson. ”Though I think there will be another Mad Max; the time has gone where Mel can be in it. I think the last opportunity was about four years ago and you know the character’s lean and hungry. He was twenty one when he first played Mad Max and he’s now in his fifties. Also I think he’s much more interested in what’s happening behind camera than in front. It needs a lean and hungry actor and he’s not into acting so much anymore and I think he just loves producing, writing and directing. But I think if fates allow there will be another Mad Max though it is certainly two films away for me, but the time’s gone when Mel can run around the wasteland anymore.”

For Dr Miller, it seems that Max fans can rejoice knowing that the cult character he helped create three decades ago remains alive and well in the director’s seasoned imagination.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia on 14.12.2006

Happy Feet. Comprehensive Overview.

Maurice, Baby Gloria and Memphis look on as Mumbo's egg hatches

Happy Feet


Happy Feet is a 2006 Australian-produced computer-animated comedy-drama film, directed by George Miller. Released in the U.S. on November 17, 2006, it was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures. It is the first animated feature film produced by Kennedy Miller in association with Animal Logic. The film is dedicated to Steve Irwin.

The film was simultaneously released in both conventional theatres and in IMAX 2D format.[1] The studio has hinted that a future IMAX 3D release was still a possibility.[2]

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Maurice, Baby Gloria and Memphis look on as Mumbo's egg hatchesSet in an Antarctic emperor penguin colony, the film establishes that every penguin must sing a unique song (a "Heart Song") to attract a soul mate. This is based in fact, since emperor couples court each other and recognize one another by their unique calls. One particular couple, Norma Jean and Memphis, pair up and produce an egg. The egg is left in Memphis' care while Norma Jean and the other females leave to fish for several weeks. All is well until, due to Memphis dropping the egg in the freezing Antarctic temperatures (but then quickly retrieving it), the resulting chick - the film's protagonist, Mumbo - is born completely incapable of singing. However, Mumbo has an astute talent for tap dancing.

This ability is frowned upon by the colony's elders, who do not tolerate deviance of any kind. As a result, Mumbo is quietly ostracized throughout his childhood, with only his parents and his friend Gloria to turn to. Mumbo then grows to a young adult, still half-covered in fluffy baby down. Through a series of mishaps, the young penguin finds himself far from the Emperor Nation and within the carefree colony of the adélies - penguins small in stature, but fiercely loyal to those they call friends.

Mumbo's joy at finding acceptance for his difference is cut short when strange "alien encounters"occur. A skua boasts of having been given the band on his leg by alien abductors, whereas a long-frozen excavation tractor falls from a glacier before Mumbo's astonished eyes. Driven by curiosity, he sets out to find answers. Finding his way back to Emperor Nation, Mumbo's incidental dancing display causes him to be marked as the cause of the food shortage the colony is facing, and he is exiled once and for all. Mumbo vows to find the real cause of the famine, and travels across vast territories with his adélie friends. By happenstance, the birds finally come face to face with a legion of huge trawlers, all laden with fish caught around the Antarctic coast. Mumbo follows after them fearlessly, leaving his friends behind to preserve his legacy.

Mumbo with the five adélie penguin amigosMumbo eventually ends up in a penguin exhibit at a marine park, and fervently tries to communicate with the "aliens" who surround him. When his pleas fail, Mumbo nearly succumbs to madness after months of confinement in the sterile glass prison. When a child taps on the glass wall one day, Mumbo is woken from his stupor and dances in response, whereupon the astounded humans finally pay attention. He is released to the sea with a tracking device, and leads the "aliens" home to his native colony. If anything is to be done, however, Mumbo must first convince the colony, and overcome the ruling power of the pious elders, to deliver a message of distress to the curious humans...

Relations to other films

Many sequences and plot devices in the film are similar to those in the Antarctic documentary La Marche de l'empereur (March of the Penguins), released in 2005, because they both follow the natural history of the penguins' lives. Despite the similarities, both films were in production before details of either were announced. Happy Feet was partially inspired by earlier documentaries such as the BBC's Life in the Freezer.[3]
When Mumbo is found by the "aliens," he is transported to a zoo, which is a direct embodiment of the embryo at the end sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A magellanic penguin that talks to Mumbo speaks with a voice similar to Douglas Rain, the voice of HAL, the villain of 2001 asking for emotions from Mumbo, whom the penguin calls Dave, 2001's protagonist. The clearest pastiche is the shot sequence that zooms out from the center of Mumbo/Dave's eye to the overhead shot of the zoo, region, planet, and finally, universe, symbolic of Mumbo's isolated, conquered state.

The idea of dancing penguins has a precursor in the classic Walt Disney film, Mary Poppins. In the film's celebrated animated sequence, Bert has an extended dance sequence with a group of penguin waiters, albeit in a soft shoe style.
Several sequences of the movie are very similiar in both premise and execution to scenes in Don Bluth's 1995 animated film The Pebble and the Penguin - where a misfit penguin must compete with a villainous rival for the affections of one female. The idea of penguins courting with pebbles was also based on adélies, who build nests of pebbles to attract mates.
Plot similarity to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in that both stories feature a bird who is ostracized by his elders for his persistent recourse to an atypical skill, only to learn something that will benefit his people forever.

Main Voice Cast

Actor Role
Elijah Wood Mumbo
Brittany Murphy Gloria
Hugh Jackman Memphis
Nicole Kidman Norma Jean
Hugo Weaving Noah the Elder
Robin Williams Ramón & Lovelace
Johnny Sanchez III Lombardo
Carlos Alazraqui Néstor
Lombardo Boyar Raul
Jeff Garcia Rinaldo
Magda Szubanski Miss Viola
Miriam Margolyes Mrs. Astrakhan
E.G. Daily Baby Mumbo
Alyssa Shafer Baby Gloria
Anthony LaPaglia Boss Skua

The film also features vocal cameo appearances by Steve Irwin, Chrissie Hynde and Fat Joe.

Savion Glover provided tap-dancing for Mumbo for the film with the use of motion capture.[4][5]

Characters

Main characters


Mumbo "Happy Feet": The protagonist of the movie, Mumbo is different from his fellow Emperor Penguins in appearance as well as in demeanor. Probably because of an accident when he was an egg, Mumbo was born late in the season. He also grows pin feathers in much later than the other young penguins, causing him to be mockingly referred to as "the fuzzball." He also has a grey patch of feathers on his chest that resembles a bow-tie, and the rest of his body resembling a dancer's tuxedo. The most peculiar difference is that Mumbo cannot sing, and therefore he cannot find his "heart song" in order to obtain a mate in the conventional way. Instead, Mumbo uses his "happy feet" to tap dance emotions he would otherwise share in song. Mumbo is ultimately blamed for the disappearance of the fish, the penguins' dietary source, because of his dancing and is exiled. Despite this, he is determined to seek the "aliens" (humans), who he believes to be the true cause of the food depletion, in order to clear his name and save the colony.

Gloria: With the exception of his parents and the amigos, Gloria is the only one that appreciates Mumbo. Knowing him from when he was an egg, she often protects Mumbo from mocking peers. Like most of the young male penguins, Mumbo is infatuated with Gloria, who is one of the most talented singers in his generation.

Ramón: An Adelie Penguin and the leader of the misfit amigos, Ramón and the others befriend Mumbo and help him on his journey to the Forbidden Shore in his search for the "aliens." Ramón also proves himself a talented singer and attempts to help Mumbo to woo Gloria with a Spanish rendition of "My Way."

Memphis: Mumbo's father, and an obvious tribute (or caricature depending on interpretation) of Elvis Presley. An unfortunate event happens while Mumbo is still an egg and Norma Jean, his mate, goes off to fish; Memphis accidentally drops the egg and it rolls down a hill into the dark, blustery night. Although Memphis quickly retrieves the egg and tries to convince himself that no harm was done, it is alluded to that this slip is responsible for Mumbo's strange and non-penguin behavior. Memphis never fully forgives himself for this early mistake.

Norma Jean: Mumbo's mother, a caricature of Marilyn Monroe, is highly protective of her son. Despite his differences, she emotionally supports him while others doubt him. She has a distinctive patch of dark feathers on her chest, reminiscent of the beauty mark on Marilyn Monroe's face.

Noah the Elder: Noah is the oldest, and allegedly wisest, penguin within the emperor colony, and is an acute stickler for tradition. Accompanied by several contemporaries which form a "council" of sorts, Noah is the wizened leader of the colony, and he does not tolerate deviance in any form. When the tone deaf Mumbo expresses himself through dance instead of song, this is frowned upon as "unruly nonsense" by Noah, and he eventually scapegoats Mumbo as the cause of the recent, and ongoing, shortage of fish. When Mumbo refuses to "repent," Noah exiles him from the colony.

Lovelace: A Rockhopper Penguin and self-proclaimed oracle of the Adelie Penguin colony, he charges other penguins pebbles in exchange for prophecies. Lovelace aids Mumbo in his quest to find the "aliens." He also serves as the narrator of the film. For much of his screen time, Lovelace is shown with a "mystical item" around his neck; this is the plastic six-pack ring from around cans of soda or tuna, and is a heart-wrenching reminder that pollution is a very serious threat, not just to penguins, but to all wildlife.

Minor characters

Lombardo, Néstor, Raul, & Rinaldo: Referred to "The Amigos," these adélie penguins (including Ramón) admire Mumbo's dancing as a way to impress the chicas and take him in as a friend and equal. They acccompany Mumbo on his journey to the Forbidden Shore, and keep the legacy of their friend alive long after he leaves to pursue the "aliens." Raul is an adept hip-hop talent, leading the rapping interjection in Gloria's performance of "Boogie Wonderland." Néstor also demonstrates his vocal clarity when he sings a lamentuous rendition of "Leader of the Pack" for Mumbo upon his exile.

The Elders: A group of older penguins that serve as Noah's council, as well as his zealous watchdogs. Implicitly agreeing with everything Noah says, the Elders mark Mumbo as a "bad egg" from the start.

Seymour: Seymour is the same age as Mumbo and Gloria. He raps the lines "Don't push me 'coz I am close to the edge. I'm trying not to lose my head," a popular excerpt from the Grandmaster Flash single "The Message", in their music class. Later, he and Gloria teach music to young penguins, with Seymour teaching rythmn.

Ratings

This film was rated PG by the MPAA for some mild peril and rude humor. In the UK, the film was rated U for "mild danger".

While the film is stamped as a "children's movie", director George Miller has given the movie much more depth as far as serious themes, as he did with his earlier Babe films. The film deals with issues such as pollution and over-fishing.

Soundtrack

Happy Feet is a jukebox musical (much like the film Moulin Rouge!, which also features Nicole Kidman). Jukebox musicals are known for their use of previously-recorded songs, which are modified to suit the setting, plot, or emotional state of the character(s).

Original score

The instrumental score for Happy Feet was composed by John Powell, a film musician who is popularly used for contemporary action and comedy films, like X-Men: The Last Stand and Robots. A compilation album of Powell's expansive original score will be released on December 19, 2006. [6]

Soundtrack album

"Song of the Heart" - Prince
"Hit Me Up" – Gia Farrell
"Tell Me Something Good" - Pink (originally by Rufus)
"Somebody to Love" - Brittany Murphy
"I Wish" - Fantasia Barrino / Patti LaBelle / Yolanda Adams
"Jump N' Move" - Brand New Heavies
"Do It Again" - The Beach Boys
"The Joker" / "Everything I Own" - Jason Mraz / Chrissie Hynde
"My Way" - Robin Williams
"Kiss" / "Heartbreak Hotel" - Nicole Kidman / Hugh Jackman
"Boogie Wonderland" - Brittany Murphy
"Golden Slumbers" / "The End" - k.d. lang
"The Story of Mumbo Happy Feet" – John Powell

Film songs not on album

"If You Leave Me Now" originally by Chicago
"I'll Make Love to You" originally by Boyz II Men
Original version of "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder
"Shake Your Bon-Bon" originally by Ricky Martin
"The Message" by Grandmaster Flash
New cover version of "The Message" by Fat Joe
"Leader of the Pack" originally by The Shangri-Las
"In My Room" by The Beach Boys
"Hello" by Lionel Richie
"Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5
"Let's Talk About Sex" by Salt-n-Pepa

Music featured in trailers

Teaser trailer: "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder.
First theatrical trailer: "Jump 'n Move" by The Brand New Heavies featuring Jamal-ski.[7]
Second theatrical trailer: Spanish version of "My Way" by Robin Williams.
Third theatrical trailer: Snippets of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" can be heard; a young male emperor chick performs "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, five adélie penguins sing an a cappella cover of Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now", and the female emperor penguin, Gloria, sings Queen's "Somebody to Love."

Video games

Main article: Happy Feet (video game)
A video game based on the film was developed by A2M and published by Midway Games. It will be released for the following platforms: PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, GBA, NDS, and Wii. [8] Screenshots and demo clips of the various versions of the Happy Feet game can be seen at the official website, HappyFeet-Game.com.

Reception

Box Office


The film opened at number one in the United States on it first weekend of release (November 17-19) - grossing $41.6M, and narrowly beating Casino Royale for the top spot. It remained number one for the Thanksgiving weekend, making $51.6 million over the five-day period. In total, the film was the top grosser for three weeks, a 2006 box office feat matched only by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. As of December 10, 2006, the film has grossed $140 million in the U.S. and over $42 million worldwide. The film has been released in about 25 international territories as of December 8, 2006. [9][10]

Critical reviews

Happy Feet has received better than average reviews from film critics, and received a 77% "fresh" approval in the Rotten Tomatoes movie review aggregate site.

Kirk Honeycutt said that Happy Feet "astonishes," it has brilliant choreography and orchestration, and is entertaining for younger viewers. Honeycutt also said that, "[George] Miller boldly reaches for spiritual themes," and "happily, it all works." [11]

While Gene Seymour described Happy Feet as "a rich, absorbing story that isn't content to dazzle you with effects, but rouse your spirits." Seymour adds "nothing prepares you for its sweeping visual design and its conceptual energy." [12]

Moreover, Lou Lumenick praised Happy Feet for its "stunning visuals," calling the film "inspired" and "uplifting." Lumenick further added that "It's Dumbo meets Footloose," and "Happy Feet is not only the year's best animated movie, it's one of the year's best movies, period. Go." [13]

Ebert & Roeper gave it two thumbs up. A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert's temporary replacement, is quoted as saying "Happy Feet was made with enough skill, and enough heart, to get a thumbs up from me." Richard Roeper agreed, saying "I think kids will love it, because penguins are cute."[14]

Jordan Harper of The Village Voice was quoted as saying "If anything could tempt an adult to go see a dancing-penguin movie, it's the phrase 'from the guy who brought you Babe.' That movie got everything right about talking animals, but alas, George Miller does not live up to his earlier work here. Even the wee ones may start to notice something's amiss when the movie's theme goes from "be yourself" to 'we must regulate the overfishing of the Antarctic oceans.' No, for real."[15]

Along those same lines was columnist Robert W. Butler who stated "[Happy Feet] piles lots of contemporary issues on what should be a simple children’s fable and becomes an overlong, emotionally muted and tiresome epic."[16]

Moreover, Michael Medved (film critic and nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host) gave Happy Feet one and a half stars (out of four) calling it "..painfully unpleasant to watch..". Medved added that "..frightening elements [in the film] will terrify young viewers.." and that "..there's nothing happy about Happy Feet."[17]

References

http://www.imax.com/ImaxWeb/filmDetail.do?type=comingSoon&movieID=code__.__30

http://www.vfxworld.com/sa=adv&code=3631a5a1&atype=news&id=17882

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19990883-16947,00.html

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=118897

http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=0&id=38150

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000KHYOK0

http://www.soundtrack.net/trailers/?cid=H&id=1740
http://www.midway.com/rxpage/Game_HappyFeet.html

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=happyfeet.htm

http://www.imdb.com/chart/

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film/reviews/article_display.jsp?&rid=8229

http://www.newsday.com/features/printedition/ny-etmov24977684nov17,0,3326485.story

http://www.nypost.com/seven/11172006/entertainment/movies/ice_ice__baby__movies_lou_lumenick.htm
http://tvplex.go.com/buenavista/ebertandroeper/061120.html

http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0646,harper,75042,20.html

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/entertainment/16028762.htm
http://images.michaelmedved.com/images/pdf/happyfeet.doc

External links

Happy FeetOfficial website


http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/

Happy Feet at the Internet Movie Database

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366548/

Happy Feet at Rotten Tomatoes

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/happy_feet/

Happy Feet at Metacritic

http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/happyfeet

Happy Feet reviewed

http://www.hungarianbookstore.com/review_Happy_Feet.htm

Happy Feet at HappyFeet.cc

http://www.happyfeet.cc/

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to Happy Feet:

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Happy_Feet

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 14.12.2006

'Irwin a class act', says (Kytherian) George Miller.

By Sarrah Le Marquand

December 12, 2006. p. 7.

Daily Telegraph, Sydney
.

The man who catapulted Mel Gibson to fame and has worked with everyone from Jack Nicholson to Robin Williams said Steve Irwin had the potential to be one of our greatest actors.

Just a month before he died, Irwin flew to Sydney to record a role in the animated penguin blockbuster Happy Feet, directed by George Miller.

The Crocodile Hunter had originally provided the voice of an albatross, a scene which was not used when Miller decided it was too repetitive. Eager to ensure Irwin featured in the final product, Miller asked him to sign on for another role – as an elephant seal which speaks with a broad Australian accent.

"Like everything he did, he just put his heart and soul into it – I'll never forget that day," Miller said yesterday. "He could have been a really great actor. Not that his personality was acting – he was always the same – but he knew how to turn himself into another character. Once he got into it I could work with him just like I would with Hugh Jackman or Jack Nicholson or Hugo Weaving."

Having travelled to Antarctica, Irwin was particularly passionate about the environmental message in Happy Feet.

"He thought the film was very important because it was about conservation," Miller said. "He was the genuine article. It wasn't just a pose, he was fiercely for the planet and all its creatures."

"I like to say Australia died the day he died because he was a truly authentic Australian, unlike anyone we've seen since Chips Rafferty."

Happy Feet - which opens here on Boxing Day – has made more than $US130 million ($A166 million) since opening in the US last month.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 14.12.2006

George Miller's movie Happy Feet raises the consciousness of Australians about the lives of penguins in Sydney.

Happy Feet in Harbour.

Daily Telegraph. Tuesday December 12th. page 11.


Between raising chicks, avoiding predators and finding food, a city penguin's lot can be hectic.

But Sydney's penguins also have their share of fun, and their leisure time is a lot like that of many Sydneysiders – sunbaking on beaches in North Harbour or body surfing waves.

Once the sun starts to set though it's back to the business of bringing food home to the family.

Manly's little penguins, also known as fairy penguins, reside in Australia's only mainland colony, where they breed from about June to February.

During this time, their routine involves getting up before the sun and heading into the water to hunt.

First check is generally around Spit Bridge. Top tucker includes small baitfish like anchovies, pilchards, or squid. If they are breeding, only one of the parents leaves the nest.

"They take it in turns," Manly little penguin recovery team leader Tania Duratovic said.

If they have no luck in North or Middle Harbour, they usually headed towards the Opera House for lunch.

Along the way, she said they might stop at beaches to sunbake – warming up after being chilled by the water. Beaches are also a safe haven from the their main predators, sharks.

Even though about 80 penguins are in the Manly colony, they are usually found swimming and hunting by themselves or in small groups.

In breeding periods, they are not likely to travel more than 6km from the nest but on an average day would swim about 15km.

"Travelling at a leisurely pace they will do 5km/h but they can get up to 8.5km/h," Ms Duratovic said. An Olympic level 50m freestyle swimmer hits only about 8km/h.

Around sunset they return to the colony where they sit in large numbers about 100m off the beach.

"They call out to their mates on land to see if it's safe for them to come ashore and go straight into the burrows and feed the chicks," she said.

When the chicks are fed, the parents take time out for themselves when they groom each other. But they never go far from their nests.

The penguins usually swim in the Harbour but have been spotted as far away as Pearl Beach on the Central Coast, inland to Hunters Hill and south to Bondi in breeding season.

Most dive down to only 5m while hunting around Sydney but they can dive up to 30m. The deepest recorded dive was 65m at Victoria's Phillip Island.

"Surprisingly it's easier for them to swim under the surface than on the surface," Ms Duratovic said.

Between March and May when they are not breeding they can travel up 100km a day.

A Department of Environment and Conservation tagged penguin was recorded travelling from Manly to Phillip Island, Victoria, while another swam 1402km to Granite Island in South Australia.

They start to moult in January when they gorge themselves to double in size – to 2kg.

"By the end of it they look pretty appalling with old feathers hanging off them," Ms Duratovic said.

"We get reports from people thinking they are sick."

Ms Duratovic said a penguin's life maybe filled with routine but they are an adventurous and determined bird.


Frolic....it's not all fun as penguins spend a long day getting the food for their chicks.

Endless hunt for food

4.3Oam:
During breeding season, Manly’s penguin colony wakes up before first light, fluffing their feathers and preening to make sure their oil which waterproofs them is spread evenly. Only one penguin of each breeding pair leaves in search of food

During the day: Feeding time. Penguins start hunting, searching for schools of small baiffish like whitebait and pilchards. They will often pick off fish from the edges of “baitballs” —tightly packed baitfish rounded up by larger predatory fish. They hunt from the Spit Bridge in Middle Harbour to the main Harbour, from the Bridge to North Head, or open ocean

Hunting can be hard work and in the day they may stop at nearby beaches for a nap, or to evade predators like sharks. Before returning to their nests they feed again to bring food to their families

7:30pm: In twilight they come back as a group, floating off the shore and “talking” to their mates. After about an hour they call to penguins ashore to see if it’s safe to come back in

8.3Opm-10.3Opm: They come ashore and begin feeding their young with regurgitated fish and squid. Then the pairs leave their young and head out for some quiet time, when they groom each other to re-affirm their breeding bonds

Midnight: Bed time

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Kytherian Cinema Review on 14.12.2006

International Man of Myths.

From Mad Max to Happy Feet, George Miller tells one never-ending story

By SCOTT FOUNDAS

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

LA Weekly. Film + TV


If it seems odd that the man responsible for introducing moviegoers to the postapocalyptic soldier of fortune called Mad Max should more recently have turned his attention to two films about a sheepherding pig and one about a tap-dancing emperor penguin, surely it is no more anomalous than the case of the emergency-room doctor who decided to forsake the operating theater for the cinema. Besides, ask Dr. George Miller today and he’ll say that all of his movies are one and the same, whether they focus on human society or the animal kingdom, and whether they unfold against the sands of the Australian outback, the suburbs of Washington, D.C., or the ice shelves of the Antarctic. “I honestly see no difference between the essential elemental story of, let’s say, The Road Warrior, Lorenzo’s Oil and Babe,” Miller told me earlier this month during a visit to L.A. to promote his latest film, the animated musical Happy Feet.

That story, Miller says, is the archetypal hero’s journey — the one canonized by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces and a source of inspiration to storytellers from Homer to Tolkien to George Lucas — in which a reluctant warrior leaves home and embarks on a quest that is less about the journey’s end than about the gaining of personal wisdom. In Happy Feet, that hero is Mumble, a bright and well-adjusted penguin pup save for his inability to express himself musically through the emperors’ trademark “heartsong.” Whenever he opens his mouth to sing, it’s like an excerpt from the American Idol blooper reel, and, to make matters worse, he can’t stop his lower extremities from breaking into spontaneous displays of rhythmic footwork. So, the ostracized Mumble sets forth into the great white world, forging the kind of unlikely interspecies alliances (with Adélie penguins, elephant seals and even humans) that will come as no surprise to audiences familiar with Miller’s last picture, Babe: Pig in the City, the most remarkable sequence of which saw the titular swine risk his own life to save the drowning pit bull who, only moments earlier, was in hot pursuit of a pork dinner.

But young Mumble’s odyssey is not without darkness and despair, up to and including his incarceration in a zoo, where he suffers the effects of institutionalization and begins to question his own sanity. For as any good Campbell scholar knows, no hero’s journey is complete without some time logged in the belly of the beast. “I wanted to push him to the limit, to that point where he fell into despair,” Miller says. “Even though Mumble is an outsider, he’s essentially optimistic and has a really strong sense of himself. He falters a few times, but he picks himself up pretty quickly, and it’s really not until we get to the end of the movie that he’s basically reduced to his essential self. I find that really interesting.”

Interesting, yes, but an uncertain recipe for box-office success at a time when the most popular family pictures offer an essentially nonthreatening view of the world. When Babe: Pig in the City fell well short of its predecessor’s $250 million worldwide gross, many claimed that the film — which began with the near death of the kindly Farmer Hoggett and continued on through a surreal cityscape that suggested a children’s film made by Luis Buñuel — was too nightmarish and eccentric for mass consumption. With Happy Feet’s $42 million opening weekend portending a far brighter future, Miller is doubtless breathing a sigh of relief, though he says he long ago learned not to measure his worth in terms of box-office numbers.

“Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was the first Mad Max, in that we had a very tough time making it and a very low budget,” he recalls. “I had no idea that filmmaking was so tough. I thought if you planned it well and you shot it as best you could, everything would be okay. But we ran out of money and I basically had to cut the film myself, and I was confronted with all my mistakes, day after day after day. I couldn’t figure out why something was or wasn’t working, and I honestly thought we’d lost all the money of our friends and investors. I thought the film would never be seen anywhere. I thought it was a mess. So, I’d already confronted failure. But to have it turn around and become so that Mad Max is now playing on cable TV somewhere in the world, it’s like that quote by Hunter Thompson about falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids.”

Though the setting is hardly out of the ordinary — the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in the throes of yet another Hollywood press junket — the chance to talk to Miller about his work is. Happy Feet, which was four years in the making (yes, its conception predates March of the Penguins), is only Miller’s seventh theatrical feature in the 27 years since Mad Max. Stanley Kubrick, by comparison, managed to turn out 10 features in his first quarter-century behind the camera. “I’ve asked myself this question,” Miller says of his long intervals between projects. “Part of it is that I don’t see myself as a filmmaker, I really don’t. I’m led mainly by my curiosity, and the thing I’m the most curious about is the writing, and the telling of the story, which begins with the writing. So, virtually every film I’ve done has been from an original screenplay, and it takes a while to write them, to get to the point where you’re ready to shoot them.”

Unlike a fair number of his countrymen, Miller has also remained steadfastly committed to making films in his native Australia, on his own terms and far from the prying eyes of Hollywood. His one foray into studio filmmaking — the 1987 adaptation of John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick — he readily describes as the worst creative experience of his career. “The time that I spent in Hollywood — it was kind of old-school Hollywood, where I found myself rewarded for bad behavior and punished for good behavior,” he says. “It brought out the worst in me. I didn’t like myself. Actually, I can see why it happens, why people start bullying, getting vengeful. I can see why actors who cop so much shit on the way up can turn into real assholes. The most graceful of them [like Witches star Jack Nicholson, without whose support Miller says he would have quit the project] don’t need to. It’s the other ones who are really insecure. So, you know, that’s the reason I’ve stayed in Australia.”

Miller, who was born George Miliotis to Greek-immigrant parents in Brisbane and spent his childhood in the farm town of Chinchilla, Queensland, fell under the spell of movies at an early age, especially silent films — “pure cinema,” as Miller calls them — and their emphasis on visual storytelling. (To wit, there is perhaps 15 or 20 minutes of dialogue in the entirety of The Road Warrior, which also features some of cinema’s most lyrical action sequences.) He was already making shorts (many of them in concert with his creative partner, the late Byron Kennedy) from the time he was in medical school, one of which, the parody educational film Violence in the Cinema Part 1, created a small scandal during its premiere at the 1971 Sydney Film Festival and offered early evidence of how those hours spent in the trauma ward had left Miller with a keen understanding of our simultaneous attraction and revulsion to human carnage.

“I was seeing people in extremis, in the aftermath of all kinds of violence,” he says. “And one thing I noticed is that what we do with the new brain, the cerebral cortex, is quite different from what we do with our reptilian brain. What we say and what we do are quite different. I’m baffled by the fact that the United States basically swept the Nobel Prizes this year, and yet at the same time there’s this descent into a very dark period [brought on] by your leaders. That’s why I was very interested in violence, because I was very conflicted myself about it, this conflict between the early brain and the late brain. You’ve got to see the two working in harmony. You’ve got to find a way to reconcile them.”

So perhaps the time is only fitting for a fourth chapter in the Mad Max series, a movie Miller had hoped to direct prior to making Happy Feet and to which he now plans to return, albeit without the participation of former Max star Mel Gibson (who passed on the project the first time around in order to direct The Passion of the Christ). “I never thought there would be a story,” Miller says. “Then, about 10 years ago, I was walking across the street and a story flashed into my mind and I pushed it away — I said, ‘No, I’m never going to make another Mad Max film.’ Then, six years ago, I was traveling from Los Angeles to Sydney, and as I sat on the plane, suddenly the movie started to play in my head. I got about two-thirds of the way through the story, and I thought, ‘Holy cow!’ Somehow, in that unconscious mind, you’re working this stuff through.”

As to the specifics, Miller won’t say much except that, like its predecessors, Mad Max 4 will unfold against a future devastated by oil wars and the depletion of natural resources — a future, Miller admits, that seems less of a fantasy now than it did back in 1979. In the meantime, he’s also managed to “download” onto paper three other screenplays that had been “banging around” in his head, which suggests that, with Happy Feet now behind him, one of contemporary cinema’s special visionaries may be poised to enter the most prolific period of his career. “It’s just a question of having a good rest now,” he says with a smile, “and then getting back to work.”

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Herald Sun, Melbourne on 14.12.2006

The Happy Feet soundtrack.

From the soundtrack of Kytherian-Australian film producer and director, George Miller (Miliotis)

Happy Feet's rockin' soundtrack features some of Hollywood's biggest names, but also some of music's biggest names.

On it, you'll find ditties belted out by the likes of Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Robin Williams, as well as Pink, Prince and The Beach Boys.

Herald-Sun, December 10, 2006.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 02.12.2006

Bond shaken up by.....penguins

Sydney Morning Herald.

November 20, 2006

FILM


While villains such as Goldfinger and Blofeld failed to get the better of James Bond, a group of cartoon penguins has succeeded ... in an unusually tight race at the weekend box office in North America.

The animated tale Happy Feet earned $US42.3 million ($55 million) during its first three days of release across the United States and Canada, while the latest James Bond movie Casino Royale pulled in $US40.6 million, studios estimated on Sunday.

The data was provided by the films' respective studios, Time Warner's Warner Bros and Sony's Columbia Pictures. Some other studios, using their own calculations, said the margin was considerably narrower and that Bond could win when final data is released on Monday. Columbia agreed that the difference could be slimmer, but conceded the fight to Happy Feet.

The cartoon, revolving around singing and dancing emperor penguins, was directed by Australian filmmaker George Miller, the producer of the Babe and Mad Max films. Warner Bros split the costs equally on the $US100 million project with Australian entertainment company Village Roadshow, and the two will share any profits.

The film features the voices of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Robin Williams and the late Steve Irwin.

Some box office prognosticators had predicted Happy Feet could reach the $US50 million range, but Warner Bros distribution president Dan Fellman said the $US40 million threshold was "the magic number for us".

With the Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday, the studio expects family moviegoers to sustain ticket sales.

Casino Royale, the first outing of Daniel Craig as the suave superspy, also earned $US42.2 million outside the United States and Canada. The biggest markets were Britain ($US25.6 million) and Russia ($US3.7 million).

The domestic opening was down considerably from the $US47 million bow of the previous Bond film, 2002's Die Another Day, which ended up with $US161 million.

But Columbia said the opening compared favourably with Pierce Brosnan's 007 debut GoldenEye, which started with $US26.2 million in 1995 and finished with $US106 million. (Sales are not adjusted for ticket price inflation.)

After two weeks at No. 1, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan fell to No. 3 with $US14.4 million.

The mock documentary, starring British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as a cluelessly offensive, oversexed TV reporter from Central Asia, has earned $US90.5 million to date.