The best men behaving badly
It’s The Hangover meets Death at a Funeral and the most outrageous Australian film of 2012. Meet the lads from A Few Best Men.
Although he has played the straight man to a psychopathic prom queen (The Loved Ones) and a vengeful vampire (Twilight: Eclipse), Sydney actor Xavier Samuel still had his doubts about being a fall guy for three crazy Brits.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” says Samuel of his performance as a naive groom in A Few Best Men, the raucous new comedy from Stephan Elliott, director of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Samuel plays Englishman David who, after meeting an Aussie beauty (Laura Brent) on a beach in Asia, impulsively travels half-way across the world to marry her in Sydney.
Mayhem knocks the nuptials thanks to David’s groomsmen (played by real-life Brits Kevin Bishop and Kris Marshall and Australian Tim Draxl).
“It was impossible to keep a straight face,” admits Samuel.
“The hardest part of doing that film was not laughing. It would have been a fatal error to try to compete with their level of humour. Kevin and Kris seem to have an inbuilt detector that knows what’s funny.
“And in order for them to do so, I have to be straight.”
Samuel’s touchstone was Mark Wahlberg’s performance in The Fighter.
“The only reason Christian Bale is able to be so eccentric is because Wahlberg played it so straight,” Samuel says. “It’s such a generous performance from him.”
Still, as the 28-year-old points out, playing the garden variety romantic lead does come with an out clause: “If the film’s not funny, it’s not my fault!”
The character is Samuel’s second Brit in as many films - he played the Earl of Southampton in the Shakespearean thriller Anonymous. He does admit to feeling a bit treacherous at the ease with which he has adopted the accent.
“I was flattered because the other boys are actually British and they forgot I was an Aussie after a while,” Samuel says.
The Flinders University-trained actor has two more films coming this year - Drift, a surf film set in the ’70s in Western Australia, and Gold Coast-shot creature feature Bait 3D.
Later this month he starts work on The Grandmothers, based on a novel by Doris Lessing, about friends who fall for each other’s sons. The erotic drama, which also stars Naomi Watts, Robin Wright and James Frecheville, will be shot just outside Sydney.
A Few Best Men is Samuel’s first comedy and his first bona-fide romantic lead.
“I guess I have got to that stage now,” he says. “When I initially spoke to Stephan about it I said, ‘I am too young for this’.
“But a lot of people get married early. I guess this is a turning point for me - he’s a young man who is serious about life as opposed to a young guy who is still discovering things.”
Not that he intends to tie the knot in real life any time soon.
“You have got to meet the right person, right?” he says. “It’s kind of silly to talk about marriage in a premeditated way if you haven’t met someone you are madly in love with.”
After A Few Best Men, however, he can rule out any kind of ostentatious celebration.
“After the scene in which Mia and I are introduced to the wedding guests, I said to Stephan, ‘I am never getting married. This is so terrifying!’. You are on show.”
For now, Samuel is happy to be living in a shared house in Sydney’s inner-west with his NIDA-graduate brother, Benedict, who is an actor, writer and director. The pair recently made a short film, Sanctuary, together.
Are they looking to join the ranks of other successful fraternal filmmakers such as the Coens, Afflecks and Edgertons?
“We sit in the kitchen and talk about what kind of stories we’d like to tell and maybe we’ll get to do that, who knows?”