By Jillian Whitworth
CREW AND CAST
Director: Antony J Bowman Jack: Hugh Jackman
Producer: Lance Reynolds Ruby: Claudia Karvan
First Assistant Director: Charles Rotherham Hamish: Andrew S Gilbert
Editor: Veronika Jenet Suzie: Jenie Drynan
Cinematographer: David Burr Bennie: Lance (producer's name)
Music Director: Burkhand Dallwitz Arty: Bruce Venables
Costume Designer: Louise Wakefield Ziggy: Angie Milliken
Production Designer: John Dowding
Distributors: Beyond Films (international sales)
Polygram Filmed Entertainment (Australia/ UK/ Germany)
The first official screening of Paperback Hero was in London, December 1998 for industry guests. The world premier was in Sydney on the 24th of March 1999 and it was then released in the UK on the 25th of June 1999.
BOX OFFICE FIGURES
First week in release: 6th position, $372,929
Second week in release: 14th position, $293,459
Third week in release: 18th position
Paperback Hero was only screened in the cinemas for three weeks and made a total profit of $979,179
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF INTERVIEWS
I found only one interview with Antony J Bowman and that was on www.urbancinefile.com.au
There were, however, numerous sites that featured interviews with members of the cast. These could be found on www.blockbuster.com
For everything you could possibly hope to know about any of the cast members go to www.hollywood.com or www.imdb.com
Hugh Jackman in particular featured prominently on most of the websites that so much as mentioned Paperback Hero. In light of his recent blockbuster success in numerous films such as X-Men, Swordfish and Kate and Leopold he features in thousands of sites including his own homepage www.hughjackman.metropoliglobal.com
So it isn't written in English but the pictures are enough to keep the average female interested.
I was unable to find any information regarding Paperback Hero in any newspapers, journals or books. From this I can only conclude that however popular Paperback Hero may have been, it was not regarded on a high enough level to make an impact on the literary world.
While I found no references to Paperback Hero in books or journals, it definitely had a strong presence on the Internet. Upon doing a search for Paperback Hero I was confronted with literally thousands of sites (74100 to be precise). Surprisingly a large number of these were actually related to the film Paperback Hero directed by Bowman (the rest were dedicated to the R rated 1973 film of the same name).
The only bibliographical details that I can supply are the following websites:
To find information on Paperback Hero I first tried the Internet where I was greeted with a sufficient amount of information. I then tried the libraries where I found nothing what so ever. As I mentioned numerous times previously Paperback Hero was not mentioned in any of the books I found. I also tried some old newspapers but once again had no luck. Perhaps if I had persevered I may have discovered a review but my field was simply too large.
For my information on the theoretical aspects of Australian cinema I used O'Regan, T (1996) Australian National Cinema. Routledge: London and New York.
Jack Willis (Hugh Jackman) is a truck driver who travels the roads of the dusty Australian outback. He is also the author of the romantic novel called A Bird in the Hand. Find that surprising? Well that is exactly the reaction that he fears which is why he chooses to use the name of his best friend, Ruby Vale, as a pseudonym. The tomboyish Ruby (Claudia Karvan) is however, is not much more convincing in the role of romantic novelist. She is the local crop-dusting pilot and owner of the only café in town, the Boomerang Café. When the novel becomes a huge success, however, Jack convinces Ruby to play along with the charade. Ruby sets off for Sydney, with Jack as her manager, pretending to be the author of a book she has never read. She cannot refuse the offer however, when the publicist promises to pay for her wedding to the local vet Hamish (Andrew Gilbert). The romantic turmoil of Jack's book becomes a reality as Ruby begins to find the handsome Jack Willis significantly more appealing than her stuffy fiance while at the same time Jack is making futile attempts to avoid the romantic advances of his publicist Ziggy.
Paperback Hero, directed by Antony J Bowman, is a simple but entertaining comedy. It is one of those great films that you can watch with your brain turned off, for it offers no intellectual challenge whatsoever. All that is required of you is to laugh at the jokes and the charming characters and be moved by the sweetness of the developing romance between the two protagonists.
Too many Australian filmmakers attempt to make a Hollywood film and miss the numerous opportunities within a truly Australian film. With Paperback Hero, Bowman has taken a Hollywood concept and successfully made it Australian. The romantic comedy is one of the most overdone and butchered formulas used in the Hollywood film industry. It often results in numerous tacky cliches and a weak and inadequate supporting cast. In Paperback Hero, however, Bowman has avoided such cliches with success. The quirky but simple supporting characters are honest and entertaining, the dusty outback location is uniquely Australian and the script is engaging and funny. The characters, the script and the generally laidback and casual style of the film all make it authentically Australian.
Paperback Hero contains a number of extra little details that adds to the humour of the main story. There's a Sinatra-loving dog called Lance, an interesting yet amusing karaoke scene and the caricatured nature of the supporting characters. All of these details add to the "Australian" style of this Hollywood film.
While many would claim that Paperback Hero is stereotypical and predictable, the characters and the overall nature of the film save the unoriginal script. Both Karvan and Jackman are outstanding in their roles as Ruby and Jack. They are both renowned actors and have a chemistry together that shines throughout the film. This is especially so in the karaoke scene in which they both become aware of their feelings for each other. While the script may not be particularly thought provoking or original it is an entertaining and delightful romance that is saved by its outstanding actors and heart-warming atmosphere.
The critical appraisals of Paperback Hero were generally positive which is surprising considering the simplistic nature of the film. There was, however, a significant lack of actual reviews available. While I found many synopses on the film, very few actually critique Paperback Hero, instead simply outlining the plot and story. While most of the reviews I did find were generally positive some made the obvious comments such as its unfortunate similarities with a cliched Hollywood film, its shallow and predictable story and the amateurish direction. The response of most critics, however, appeared to disregard these aspects of the film or simply saw it as an advantageous element. The most common comment made throughout the reviews that I read was the exceptional appreciation of the talent of Claudia Karvan and Hugh Jackman. Many critics felt that Paperback Hero would not have made it without them.
PRODUCTION CIRCUMSTANCES/ BOX OFFICE
I found very little information available on the production circumstances of Paperback Hero. The very small amount of information I did find was located on the Internet. I found no textbooks that even mentioned Paperback Hero in the index. I can only assume that this is because most do not consider it an influential or prominent part of the history of Australian cinema. Many Australian films have a reputation for their originality and focus on current and crucial societal issues. Paperback Hero is definitely not such a film being only a pleasant and entertaining romantic comedy.
What I did find was that Paperback Hero was released in Sydney on March the 24th 1999. Interestingly enough its first official screening was actually in London in November 1998 for industry guests. The general response to the film before the world premier was however fairly positive. It received rave reviews mainly in regards to the performances of its actors. The official UK release was June the 25th 1999. It started off in the box office in sixth place but by its third week had slipped down to 18th. It unfortunately lasted only three weeks in the box office and made a total of $979,179.
PRIOR WORK OF THE PRODUCTION CREW
There were only two other films mentioned in relation to Antony J Bowman. These were Relatives and Cappuccino. I searched for both of these films and had no success in finding any information on either. From this I assume that Paperback Hero was Bowman's first (perhaps only?) successful feature film for his other two failed to even warrant a mention throughout most of his interviews. Many of the critics reviewing Paperback Hero have made mention of its outstanding score. The musical director was Burkhand Dallwitz who is also known for his involvement in The Truman Show for which he won a golden globe. One critic claims the music, "soars like a crazed cropdusting plane…" (www.urbancinefile.com.au). The costume designer, Louise Wakefield, is also recognised for her work on Shine, Doing Time for Patsy Cline and Babe.
PAPERBACK HERO IN RELATION TO AUSTRALIAN CINEMA
Paperback Hero stands out quite significantly in comparison to other films in Australia during the 1990s. During the 90s many Australians were looking for work overseas and many were coming from overseas to work in Australia due to the cancellation of the 10BA tax concessions of the 1980s. This, as well as a rapidly changing society, had a huge influence on Australian cinema. With multiculturalism on the rise many films such as Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Heartbreak Kid (1993) were centred on this new society. The rise of the involvement of women in Australian cinema also had a huge influence on the film industry. Paperback Hero, however, did not fit in with any of these developments. It consisted of no multicultural issues whatsoever and obviously consists of a male dominated crew. On the whole the film is told from the perspective of a male. Paperback Hero did not do as well as might be expected on the box office not so much due to its Australian competitors but more because of its Hollywood competition. Many Australian films succeed because of their "Australianness" or because they are marketed as independent films. Paperback Hero however is packaged as a Hollywood film. Regardless of how many Australian attributes the film may contain it is primarily a Hollywood formula.
MEDIUM SIZED ENGLISH LANGUAGE CINEMA
As well as being a national cinema, the Australian film industry is also a medium-sized English-language cinema. This places Australia along side other cinemas such as British, New Zealand and American. "Australian and English-Canadian cinemas face particular problems by virtue of sharing a similar exhibition market, market size, producing in English and being a major place in the international trade in national images," (O'Regan 1996, p.78). In English speaking countries such as Australia, the USA, UK and Canada the film industry is geared predominantly towards the English language films with only a minor proportion of the audience turning to sub-titled foreign films. One would assume that Paperback Hero's similarities to that of a Hollywood film would be advantageous in that it becomes a universally known concept. Many Australian films suffer on an international level due to the fact that it is a medium-sized, English-language cinema. While Hollywood does continue to dominate the film market in many European countries, subtitles are much more common and accepted in these nations. This leaves only a small market for English language films (excluding Hollywood of course). Paperback Hero, however, is accessible to these nations because of its well-known Hollywood formula, yet at the same time it maintains originality through its "Australian" characteristics.