The most successful art is that which is universal and international in its nature. That which needs no translation and has an appeal that transcends the local identity. The same can be true for the artists which present said art; when we see something of ourselves in them, we are more welcoming. This is an apt description of actor George Zach who seemingly always appears as the character but in a way that doesn’t seem foreign. It’s a benevolent part of this actor’s career which has spanned theatre to film, Australia to numerous other parts of the world. From his Logie nominated role as Michael in Loulla to the metaphysically mysterious priest in Six Steps to Eternal Death, Zach has always found a way to perfectly fit in. There’s an element from his early childhood which contributed to this template and blossomed into a highly successful career.
Australians know George Zach well from his appearance in the iconic 90’s comedy film Nirvana Street Murder. Zach starred with other well-known Aussie actors such as Golden Globe nominated actor Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Dark Knight Rises) and Mark Little depicted the culture clash of Greek immigrants and Australians in the country at the time. As a first generation son of Greek immigrants himself, George’s preparation for this role was literally a lifetime in the making. His own lineage has blended ideally with a number of productions in which he has been cast. These range from comedy to drama to…well, something altogether different. As someone who grew up with and rejected stereotypes, George was happy to take part in the SBS TV production English at Work. This ground breaking series dealt with issues relevant to people of non-English speaking backgrounds in work place environments. Presented in a dramatic documentary format, it afforded Zach the opportunity to portray an immensely diverse set of characters. He informs, “It was a really important and revealing program. Facets like the Australian sense of humor was explored. A joke in one person’s language can easily be an insult in another person’s culture. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. The propensity to be misunderstand is enormous. I did enjoy this series. It reminded me of how difficult it must have been for my parents and other immigrants who faced challenges which I can only imagine.”
Completely contrasting this very real world type of subject matter; George appeared in Peter T Nathan’s (known for the award winning Australian TV series Shortland Street and Home and Away) Six Steps to Eternal Death. Selected an Official Selection of the Celtic Mystery Short Film Festival, nominated for Best Supernatural Film at the New Hope Film Festival, and a recipient of awards from the Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest and others, this highly stylized and does not lend itself to a logical interpretation. Zach appears as a priest in an Alternative Universe where a Mother is forced to accept she is dead and move on. The actor notes that the power priests held over parishioners in his youth gave him insight into the role.
Equally fantastic and much more menacing is Zach’s appearance as King Oleander in Michael Loder and Charles Terrier’s fantasy/war film A Little Resistance. Driven to madness over the death of his wife, King Oleander embarks on a campaign of obliteration that ultimately results in his own daughter taking up arms against him. The personification of evil in its extremist form, George relates that he found the experiences quite enjoyable. For the affable actor, the role seems to have been a catharsis. Actors often take the painful circumstances of others and live through them, coming out wiser in the end. For George Zach, there are infinite more experiences awaiting him and his admirers.
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.
Andrew Steel is the latest Australian actor for Hollywood to watch. With a background that includes Australia’s leading TV shows such as Home and Away and Deadbeat Dads, The Justice Lease as well as internationally renowned films including Twisted, Little Lies, Bargain and Super Awesome! Andrew has even graced the stage performing in major theatrical productions, including the rugby-themed 10,000 Beers and Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.
Andrew is setting his sights on even bigger things, as he is set to star as the lead role of Stephen in the highly anticipated Picture Park Entertainment film, 10 Things I Hate About Life. 10 Things is a romantic comedy about a young woman and a young man falling in love with one another just as they are about to kill themselves. In this modern re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, our star-crossed lovers’ crazy shared experiences and similar emotional state forms a bond that draws them both into happiness and takes them on a rollercoaster ride of young love.
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