Film Interview – The Legend Of Ben Hall

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“Originally this project started as a Kickstarter film,” explains Director Mathew Holmes.

Australian cinema’s fascination with bushrangers has endured since the birth of Aussie cinema. The first feature film ever made in the world was about the notorious Kelly Gang, created here in Australia in 1906. Since then, the Ned Kelly story has been told a number of times on screens for better or for worse. In 1970, Rolling Stones’ front-man Mick Jagger travelled to Australia to don Kelly’s armour to mixed reactions. Over three decades later, Oscar winner Heath Ledger played the notorious outlaw for director Gregor Jordan. The bushranger cinema legend doesn’t stop at the Kelly family tree. In 1976, Dennis Hopper played Mad Dog Morgan in a performance that became infamous for Hopper’s off-screen behaviour rather than anything on-screen.

One bushranger though that hasn’t had his story on the big screen is arguably Australia’s most notorious bushrangers, Ben Hall. In a number of ways, Hall was a more prolific bushranger compared to Ned Kelly but nonetheless is often overshadowed by him in the history books. That is all about to change now thanks to a brand new film called ‘The Legend Of Ben Hall’, directed by Matthew Holmes.

Surprisingly, Holmes states that he originally intended to create a short film. “This project started as a Kickstarter film”, he explains. “We were really successful at raising more money than we required, so when we had shot for a short amount of time we showed our footage to Odeon’s Eye Entertainment. They were so impressed with what they saw, they decided that this should be a feature. So, we kept working together and expanded it into a full two hour film. I had actually wanted to make a feature film about Ben Hall, so I already had a script ready to go.”

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For Matthew, his fascination with Ben Hall began as a young teenager. “I’d actually always wanted to make a bushranger movie since I was about 13 or 14 years old, but I’d always wanted to make it about Ned Kelly and make it a bush western; an Australia western. But, then they made Ned Kelly and someone said to me that I should check out other bushrangers and they mentioned Ben Hall. So, I discovered Ben Hall in 2007 and as I started to read the history I realised that I had stumbled onto a wonderful true story that was screaming for a movie.”

As Holmes discovered, countless eyewitness accounts existed by people that knew Ben Hall. Whilst the story is faithful to those accounts, how did that help Holmes when it came to casting the film’s major roles? “ I started with the look”, reveals Holmes. “I went with actors that looked like their historical counterparts. That was very important for me because we have photographs of the people themselves. We know what they look like and I wanted a film where it looks like history is coming to life, so it was very important to me that the actor playing Ben Hall and the actors playing his gang looked similar to who they were playing. That started the process, then, of course, there was acting ability but I didn’t want either to be mutually exclusive”

“We spoke to so many actors,” says Holmes. “We auditioned them thoroughly and we found some wonderful performers throughout Melbourne and Sydney but we were also able to reach out to some Australian staples and get some great people like Arthur Angel and Andy McPhee. That gave the film more weight and they were super excited to get involved because they loved the material.”

The Legend Of Ben Hall will be in cinemas on December 1st.

Written By David Griffiths

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