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Meet Dum Dum... Sandwich... and Carpenter...
WATCH THE BIRDIES
stars of a new
film that will make us all
One of the star parts in "Storm Boy" is written for a pelican. And that's not the only distinctive element in this film, as NOEL RAIT reports
CASTING can be a problem for a
film producer, and the problems don't come any trickier than they
did in the new Australian film "Storm Boy."
The story, based on South Australian
author Colin Thiele's book, calls for a character named Mr Percival and Mr Percival happens to be a pelican.
Producer Matt Carroll's solution was to
have three engaging pelicans trained so that they could alternate in the role.
Dum-Dum. Sandwich and Carpenter - the pelicans in question - performed well
on film, and added an extra element to the atmosphere on the set.
It was easy to see they were popular with another of the film's stars, 11-year-old Greg Rowe of Adelaide, when we visited
the location in South Australia.
The "Storm Boy" of the film, played by Greg, rears the pelican Mr Percival from infancy. A dramatic highlight of events is
when the pelican carries out a line to save the crew of a wrecked ship.
Mr Percival is shot in the story, but Greg hastily assured me thar this incident in the film is only a stunt. His eyes shone as
he talked about his first-ever movie role.
He was chosen from 70 other boys to play the part.
It was a freezing winter's day on South Australia's wild and beautiful Coorong, at the mouth of the Murray River, where the South Australian Film Corporation is making the film.
Shuddering on the windswept Hats below vast sand dunes, we watched while the crew waded waist-high in water to take and re-take one scene featuring Greg and
Melbourne actor Peter Cummins who
plays his hermit father.
Peter Cummins finds it easy to fit into
his role as Tom. the father, a loner who
lives with his son in a humpy hideaway and shuns people.
Wearing ancient, fishy jeans - "after
handling all that fish 1 have a really authentic smell" and sporting a few days' stubbly growth on his chin, Peter recalled a hut in virgin bush in Victoria where he used to escape modern life.
Producer Matt Carroll took us for a brisk climb over the sand dunes behind the
holiday town of Goolwa to see the humpy, built in the SA Film Corporation's Norwood studios. Nestled in a dip of the giant dunes, with a glimpse of roaring ocean breakers beyond, the derelict looking "old" humpy is so authentic we
couldn't believe it wasn't the home of some eccentric old-timer.
He showed us how special processes had been used to "age" the timbers and pointed out patched-up windows and missing parts that added to the effect.
The spell of the haunting story of "Storm Boy" and the setting of the Coorong has been felt by everyone
involved in the film,
"I started it all." Matt Carroll said. "1
read the book and thought it was fantastic.
"Wherever you point the camera the country here is so beautiful. And the soft, diffused winter light will add to the film's
Of Greg Rowe he said: "Greg is a terrific kid. He is just brilliant, considering he is eompletelv untrained in acting."
And, returning to those other stars, the pelicans - was Matt Carroll pleased?
"So far we have had amazing results with the pelicans, considering they are very
wild and sensitive birds.
"They suffer very badly from stress. It is a major achievement just to be able to work these birds without killing them."
The extent of the achievement was
amply illustrated as pelican trainer Gordon Noble put Dum-Dum. Carpenter and Sandwich through their parlour tricks for us. Gordon lay on the ground with them and they played ball, pulled cigarettes out of a packet and lovingly caressed him with their comical beaks. ZO
ABOVE LEFT: Gordon Noble, of Adelaide, with the pelicans he trained for their roles in the film. They're wearing identification discs in case they stray.
ABOVE: Eleven-year-old Greg Rowe was chosen from 70 other boys for his star part in "Storm Boy." His friendship with the pelicans came as a bonus. BELOW: Hard to believe this humpy is brand new. Specially built for the film, its timbers were "aged" for authenticity. Pictures: Vic Grimmett.