Writer/director David Michod edited “Inside Film” magazine and made short films in preparation for his feature film debut, ANIMAL KINGDOM. The short films wowed Sundance a few years back, and this year, so did ANIMAL KINGDOM, a gritty film about a family of criminals in Melbourne, Australia, and the estranged, traumatized grandson and nephew, J, who finds himself in their midst when his mother overdoses on heroin.
During my talk with Michod, he discussed the pleasures and perils of working with a cast of alpha males, using a newcomer in the pivotal lead role, and why Guy Pearce is the actor who can do anything, as far as Michod is concerned. He also offered insight into the impact that Blue Tongue Films, a loose collective of new Australian filmmakers, is having on that country’s film industry in general, and his career in particular. He finished by comparing Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of his next film, HESHER, with the late Heath Ledger.
ANIMAL KINGDOM is a gritty and uncompromising look at the family dynamics of a Melbourne, Australia, clan of career criminals and the grandson and nephew, J, who finds himself in their midst after the death of his mother. Welcomed with open arms by his bubbly extrovert of a grandmother Smurf, Jay is quickly embroiled in the psychological and criminal turmoil that is the norm for this family. He also embarks on a romance with Nicky, whose normal family appeals to him, but also leaves him feeling even more alienated. A series of violent acts puts J in the way of the police, particularly a detective, played by Guy Pearce, who both wants to solve the crimes and also save J. ANIMAL KINGDOM won this year’s Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival. Michod is a member of Blue Tongue Film, which also produced THE SQUARE, released in this country earlier this year. ANIMAL KINGDOM co-stars James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford, Laura Wheelwright, Jacki Weaver And Michod himself as a reporter.