Forget Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman. Australia's new cinematic hero is Kenny Smyth, the lovable overall-wearing worker at a portable toilet company created by Shane and Clayton Jacobson, actor and director respectively of the biggest Australian box-office draw in three years. The hilarious and heart-warming Kenny, which gives new meaning to the term Down Under, screens Saturday (February 10) as part of OzFlix.
Did you know from the start that you wanted to make a quasi-documentary?
Clayton: "Yeah. Because of Splashdown [the portable toilet company], we got amazing access to all these real events and could plant Shane in with the actual Splashdown crew over a period of two years. There was this strict structure, plus the opportunity to 'go with the flow' if something exciting happened."
The mock documentary format reminds me a bit of Borat. Anyone suing you?
Clayton: "We were upfront with everyone. They knew how they were going to be represented."
Shane: "Those who are compromised or in semi-embarrassing situations are actors. Everyone else is celebrated."
Shane, do you show up as Kenny at events?
Shane: "Sometimes, but we don't want to wear him out. Every now and then Kenny says he needs to go spend some time in the bush with his son. And he doesn't always answer his mobile."
Clayton: "Lots of people think Kenny is a real person. The other day, somebody handed a resumé to Shane when he was playing Kenny."
Clayton: "People keep asking for Kenny: Number Two. But I think you can kill the charm of the original. We do have an idea for a TV show in which Kenny does a toilet tour of the world. He'll meet the grounds crew, work with the toilets and then go back to their homes for a meal. He'd be a beautiful host to celebrate some of these underclasses and show people their lives."
Why are so many Aussie actors making it big in Hollywood?
Clayton: "We don't have a star system in Australia. It's probably got something to do with the tall poppy syndrome."
Were you concerned that Kenny was too Australian?
Clayton: "There's a feeling back home that in order for an Australian film to do well it has to be homogenized and become in a weird way 'less Australian.' We're hoping that Kenny can be embraced in other places to work against that notion."
There's talk that you're going to be doing a porta-potty event in Toronto with Olivia Newton-John.
Shane: "This is the first I've heard of it, but I love the idea."
Clayton: "And it seems appropriate, since her last name is John."
Additional Audio Clips
On the film's success
On their dad's appearance in the film