Cinema Australia Original Content:
Jordon Prince-Wright’s The Decadent and Depraved is a hardcore, rough as guts western shot throughout country Western Australia.
After a brilliantly shot, bloody and violent opening scene sets up the story, The Decadent and Depraved follows Leon (Ben Mortley), a wanted man being delivered to Her Majesty’s army to be hanged for his crimes.
Leon is being transported by Police Captain Jack Dalton (Michael Muntz) whose hopes for a trouble-free journey are quickly dashed as he is faced with a series of difficult obstacles – all consequences of transporting such a high value target.
Here, we introduce you to the cast of The Decadent and Depraved, all of who have written exclusively for Cinema Australia about their experiences making this film.
Meet the Cast of Jordon Prince-Wright’s wild Western The Decadent and Depraved.
Character: Captain Dalton
Notable awards for The Decadent and Depraved: Best Actor: Los Angeles Film Awards, Best Actor: New York Film Awards
When co-director and producer Jordon Prince-Wright asked me to have a look at the screenplay for what would be his first feature film, I was immediately intrigued as he said it was a Western, a genre I have been a fan of since I was a kid. As I read through the screenplay I couldn’t believe how good it was; quirky dialogue and characters existing within a conventional western story replete with bounty hunters, gun slingers and an evil land owner. As one critic suggested, the dialogue had a Tarantino-esque quality to it. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to be involved with the film.
I had worked with Jordon Prince-Wright before on one of his short films and thought at the time, this kid has an obvious talent for making films. When you couple that talent with a quiet confidence, endless energy, infectious enthusiasm and a willingness to tackle projects that would daunt most seasoned director/producers, it becomes obvious he has all the necessary traits for a successful career in film. I even said to Jordon after reading the script of The Decadent and Depraved, “You can’t make this. You’re going to need millions!” I still shake my head as to how he managed to pull it off.
What ensued was an extremely rewarding experience. Filming in the remote Murchison and Goldfields regions of WA was a rare opportunity to see parts of WA I’d never seen before and everywhere we went, the shires went out of their way to make us feel welcome and assist where they could. The remoteness of the locations presented all sorts of logistical, accomodation and catering problems, however no-one complained as the entire cast and crew was focused on creating the best film they could.
I thought working with two directors might present difficulties as no doubt there would be differences of opinions at times between them as to how a scene should be shot or interpreted – those difficulties remained imaginary. Jordon and Axel had a very harmonious relationship on set and were a joy to work with. Especially pleasing was their willingness to seek input from their actors when it came to finding the best way to interpret and deliver dialogue and block action.
The role of Captain Dalton was a gift as he goes on quite a journey of self discovery in his efforts to bring murderer Leon Murphy in to face English justice – the hangman’s noose. From someone who unflinchingly believes everyone must face the consequences of their actions, he comes to realise that things aren’t always so black and white, especially after his captive poses him the question, “Can a moral man maintain his conscience in an immoral world?”
That The Decadent and Depraved is receiving such critical acclaim in the USA by wining a number of awards is a wonderful endorsement of the extraordinary efforts put in by a very dedicated and talented cast and crew in what was at times a difficult and uncomfortable shoot thanks to the rugged and remote landscape in which the film was set. It’s also a fine reward for the vision of two exceptional young talents in Jordon Prince-Wright and Axel August.
Character: Leon Murphey
The Decadent and Depraved was as much of an adventure to shoot as the story is on screen, and it was so exciting to be in WA’s first Western.
We got to tour the state from Cue to Kukerin and see so many beautiful places in Western Australia. Some of the highlights for me were getting to ride horses around the Murchison, the massive shootout we filmed at Melangata Station, and the night scenes we shot around Kukerin when it got to around minus 5 degrees. My fingers are still thawing out after being under a rain machine in that temperature for three nights straight!
These night scenes involved a big fight choreographed by Andy Fraser which were so much fun to do, even though the grass all around us had icicles on them! Our armourer, Don Henderson, taught us an old State Emergency Service trick of wrapping ourselves in glad wrap under costumes to help keep us warmer. I think most of the budget went on glad wrap actually. And we had to be extra careful we didn’t melt when we went to the bonfire to warm up.
It’s a great story, with some really interesting questions at its core about morality and violence, the touchstones of many of the great westerns.
One of the aspects I really loved about my character was his connection to the local Aboriginal population. His understanding of the injustices perpetrated against them is one of his key motivators in all my character’s actions.
What Jordon, Axel, and the whole team pulled off with the smallest of budgets and minimal resources still astounds me.
I can’t wait to see what they do next.
As a kid I watched my fair share of John Wayne movies, which inevitably evoked the customary play fantasies that revolved around supposed good guys and bad guys killing each other in red hot ‘run ‘em down shoot ‘em up’ show-downs. And I remember watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as an adolescent, being sucked into the gunslinger hero thing.
For weeks I wandered about with a pretend cigar hanging off my lip and quoting, “When you have to shoot, shoot!”
As a stage actor, in later years, I’ve played a range of dubious, corrupt men like Joe Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe. But my role in the The Decadent and Depraved, which afforded me the licence to be ruthless and brutally powerful, was absolute gold for an impassioned performer. The experience of playing the malevolent, multi-layered Maitland in a series of larger-than-life scenes required deep immersion into the shady depths of his character.
And out there, embedded in that vast red landscape pitted with spinifex, mulga and ghost gums, the role at times felt spookily real, rather like being the black heart of someone else’s nightmare.
Jordon, Axel and myself where all on the same page when it came to how Maitland should be played. As with all the best movie bad guys, it’s the stillness and faux-civility of the character that makes them more unpredictable dangerous; think Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast or Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.
Playing Maitland was undoubtedly a highlight in my career.
Character: Lillian Murphey
When I first read the script for The Decadent and Depraved it was almost like re-living history; it strikes right to the heart of pioneering Australia and depicts the brutally tough yet refreshingly simplistic lifestyle of those who lived before us. It is also strangely innocent, despite its darkness.
I think that was my key fascination with my character, Lillian. She is that small ray of hope on a dark horizon, if you like, as well as being a timeless depiction of a child fallen victim to her parents decisions and trapped by men’s decadence – and depravity, of course.
In order to understand Lillian better, my role prep included 59 pages of diary entries from her perspective; detailing her life in the months leading up to The Decadent and Depraved and then throughout it.
As a young actor on my first major gig, I have to say that I loved every moment of being on set. We worked hard and played hard, and I think the fact that we were all in awe of the breathtaking locations and thrilled to be involved in something as unique as WA’s first Western feature film really shows in the final product.
Jordon had a very clear vision of what he wanted – both in terms of the film and from each individual actor. He didn’t bombard us with thousands of notes and what notes he did give were always directly correlated back to the relevant architypes of the characters we were portraying. He didn’t pander to individuals but to the overall production, and I admire him for that.
I was fifteen when I auditioned for The Decadent and Depraved. It was actually my first audition, although apparently you’re not supposed to book those. I had been training intensively at Perth Film School for two years at the time and had done a few short films, but I never expected to book the role that would land me shooting in the stunning outback with Perth’s next up and coming director!
As a then-fifteen year old, I honestly have to say I had no qualms about being directed by a nineteen year old, as Jordon was when I met him. It was a little odd that the director was pretty well the youngest person on set – myself excluded – but he seemed confident and capable in the role. We tend to be a very face value society in the respect that people struggle to see past a youthful face and acknowledge that the person behind it is someone worth taking seriously. Successfully helming a production before his twenty-first birthday is not only a massive achievement for him but an inspiration to all ambitious young people with the talent, dedication and guts to break stereotypes and make things happen.
The Decadent and Depraved was an absolutely exhilarating experience and privilege to be a part of. The aspiring and expertly executed, independent West Australian production brought to life by an extremely gifted and dedicated gang in incredible detail. From the custom-made costumes, award-winning prosthetics and makeup, to the authentic props and weaponry, all helped bring out the best performances from the actors, who were a joy to play off and the best part – we got to do it in our very own back yard, perfectly lit and beautifully captured in all its cinematic glory.
A most professional production team guided by our fearless leaders, Jordon and Axel, with grit and maturity beyond their meagre years and lifted up by oodles of support from the local community and backers which is still so humbling.
Ellis is such a well-written character that he didn’t so much as jump off the page but rode, bucking and rearing, which, incidentally, is about how well I fared with non-human, four-legged stars the film! Ellis is a son-of-a-gun and a few shells short of a six-shooter. Wild and as untamed as the landscapes we filmed in, from the stinking heat of Yalgoo in the North West to the bitter cold of Kukerin in the Wheatbelt and all parts in between. A loveable, roguish character with a dark and inappropriate sense of humour who finds enjoyment in things he most definitely should not. Myself, as an actor and human being – pretty much the same. No, that’s not true. I don’t have a moustache.
Click here to find out more details on The Decadent and Depraved including screening details.