It seems like a long time ago that Ben Prendergast was looking to be a software entrepreneur. The Australian native always had a passion for acting, but the notion of pursuing such a career in Australia is so uncommon, he never felt like it was truly a possibility. Having dreamed of being an actor since he was only a child, it always seemed like just that: a dream. However, when embarking on his technology career, Prendergast decided that he had to pursue his passion, and one day, after landing a role on an NBC television pilot, he decided to turn his dream into a reality. Since that time, he has never looked back, crafting an extraordinary career.
Now, Prendergast is an industry leader in Australia, and seeks to make a difference through his work. With Prendergast as the lead, The Marker aimed to bring awareness to the socio-economic issues in Australia and was funded by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Similarly, his film Punch Drunk shed light on the marginalization of the elderly and mentally unwell. Sometimes, the actor’s love of telling stories is what drives him, which was the case with the feature Predestination. However, no matter what he is working on, his innate talent and dedication to his craft impress audiences, critics, and colleagues alike.
“I’ve worked with Ben on a number of projects. Most recently, we worked on Post Apocalyptic Man. As a writer, usually you’re not working directly with actors, but in the case of this project it became really valuable. Ben’s ability to cold read a scene and bring it to life was a revelation, and something we relied on in the early development right through to final script stage. Ben and I would stay up way too late discussing how we could bring more conflict, more drama, more humanity to this piece and I think it really shows in the final script. But then I was also in the rarified air of watching Ben work on set, and even then, he’s constantly drilling for more in the text, and during shooting I saw him make bolder and more compelling choices. Some of them made it into the final film, some didn’t, but I just remember the feeling on set was electric with every take,” said Daniel Walsh, Screenwriter. “I think Ben just has that thing that you can’t put your finger on. You roll the camera on him and you’re transfixed even before he’s said anything. You think to yourself, “What’s he going to do?” and he always surprises. He’s curious, in a way that most actors are, but he’s curious as the character, which is something else completely. I’m not at all surprised that he’s had the success that he’s had.”
Post Apocalyptic Man tells the story of humanity’s need for survival in a world where they are blind to their own destructive tendencies. The human population is in the grips of decline after genetic modification turns the female population sterile. When it is discovered that a child may carry a gene that is immune to the disease, forces of good and evil converge on a small Australian outback community to find the child and gain control over humanity. Cane Storm, the leader of the evil tyranny, sends his number one henchman Baker, played by Prendergast, to infiltrate the Renegades led by anti-hero Shade. Leathergirl escapes with her brother, who seemingly carries the gene, but is pursued by Baker. Throughout the film, audiences discover that Baker is a genetically engineered mercenary who will show no mercy and is hell bent on finding Shade and the boy who carries the cure.
“This film deals with humanity’s deterioration, something that is on all of our minds, but depicts it with food shortage and the notion of a barren human population. We haven’t been a declining population since World War I, and I think current generations aren’t really aware of that or prepared. This film gave a real sense of a species in decline, and the desperation and hope that springs from that. For me, it’s a fantastic analogy for how we currently look at our food waste, energy production, and government systems,” said Prendergast.
When Walsh and Director Nathan Phillips were looking for a clean-cut super soldier type of actor, they asked Prendergast to audition. Not only was he in incredible shape and fresh off an intensive training program, Prendergast was well-known for his tremendous talent and versatility. After auditioning for the part, he was offered the role immediately.
“From the very beginning it was evident that Ben was a thoughtful and dedicated artist, and he had key elements of his character down at a very early stage. He goes deep within his characters, finding the most truthful elements, but also playing with the duality that most interesting characters possess. We had an absolute blast on and off camera and I now consider him a really close friend. Ben gives over to the madness of filmmaking. He wants to find the gait, the voice, the truth of the human condition as it pertains to his character, but then he goes further than that and wants every other department to function too. He looks after camera department, makeup, wardrobe, etc. As a director, I never have to worry that we’re not going to get the shot,” said Nathan Phillips, Director.
Prendergast was aware, when preparing for the film, that he was not only playing a villain, but also a genetically superior being. Therefore, he wanted to look at the misogynistic and xenophobic nature of historical characters to get into the mindset of Baker. He took particular interest in looking at Nazi-Germany and the horrible beliefs in that time. Physically, he thought he should remain strong, but his vocal quality needed to be gravely and distinctive. Once he had all this figured out, he put on his costume of a trench coat and gloves, and instantly became the character in front of the camera.
“I always believe that even when there are nefarious or even psychopathic characters, they always have righteous reasons for their actions. Baker believes he deserves his place in the future utopia of humanity, and that given his clear genetic advantage he is doing humanity a service by cleansing the world of those beneath him. His narcissism has bred a psychopathic quality, and therefore he can operate in any way that Cane Storm, the leader of empire, needs him to. He’ll take any life and use any means necessary to get what he wants,” said Prendergast. “Strangely, this creates an empathy that an audience can follow, we love our bad guys because they have a mastery over their destiny, they know what they want and how to get it. Don’t we all wish for that?”
Baker was essential to the story of Post Apocalyptic Man, and Prendergast to its success. The film wouldn’t have worked without the conflict that Baker carried. The heroes and antiheroes of the film were struggling for survival in a world without food or the ability to procreate. Baker’s character introduced a final hurdle for the protagonists to take action against the empire, and audiences see that although at first they are terrorized, they eventually find the spark to create the resistance.
“It was such a fulfilling project. We were on a really tight shooting schedule but we made it work, producing something completely unique in the Australian film canon. Now considered a cult film, Post Apocalyptic Man is my favorite punk-film outing ever, and I made a lot of great friends in the process,” said Prendergast.
After premiering at St Kilda Film Festival, Post Apocalyptic Man played at independent theatres in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Afterwards, it was distributed digitally and still sees success, eight years after its premiere. If you have the opportunity, be sure to watch the film and see Prendergast terrify and excite audiences.
By Sean Desouza