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by MATTHEW EELES
There’s a lot to get excited about when it comes to the highly-anticipated Gold.
Firstly, it’s one of the first major Australian films of the year to be released virtually simultaneously in cinemas and on a streaming service – in this film’s case, Stan.
It also stars one of the world’s most watchable actors, Zac Efron, in his first film Down Under. Efron has come a long way since the 2006 TV movie, High School Musical, and was hilarious in gut-busting comedies like Dirty Grandpa and Bad Neighbours. But Gold seems like the perfect fit for Efron who has impressed in darker films like The Paperboy and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
But for any Australian film enthusiast, it’s Anthony Hayes involvement that’s the most exciting. Wether in front of or behind the camera, anything Hayes is involved in almost always guarantees a thrilling watch. Hayes not only stars alongside Efron and Susie Porter in Gold, he also directed, co-produced and co-wrote the film.
While we wait for Gold to be released in the coming days, here are five things we thought you should know about the film.
1. Here’s the synopsis
When two drifters (Efron, Hayes) travelling through the desert stumble across the biggest gold nugget ever found, the dream of immense wealth and greed takes hold. They hatch a plan to protect and excavate their bounty with one man leaving to secure the necessary equipment to pull it out of the earth. The other man remains and must endure harsh desert elements, preying wild dogs and mysterious intruders, whilst battling the sinking suspicion that he has been abandoned to his own fate.
2. What attracted Zac Efron to the role
“When I read the script, I was really struck by how different it was and how little dialogue there was. I genuinely fell in love with it, imagining this person that we don’t really know, make very complex choices throughout the movie, and sort of adapt and, and try to survive,” says Efron.
“It reminded me of an old Western in, in some ways, it had a very classic movie feel to it. There’s not too much talking, and we never really find out too much about the character. It leaves a lot open to the audience to interpret, which I loved. It’s a very complex and an intelligent piece of work. I love survival stories and the simplicity of watching somebody try and figure out living in the wild or surviving in the wild. All of those elements combined made me very interested in playing the part.”
3. What inspired Hayes and co-writer Polly Smyth to write the film
Hayes and co-writer Polly Smyth began working on the script in 2018, inspired by themes of greed, capitalism, global warming and society values at that time.
“Gold is a survival allegorical tale about greed and the lengths men will go to secure themselves a fortune,” Hayes said.
“But more than that, it is about insecurities, betrayal and our investment in materialism. The film predominantly plays out on one patch of desert, it is an actors’ piece, but also a thriller, and elevated genre film. There are the survival elements, but more than that, much deeper than that, is the allegorical exploration of greed and the motivations behind our desire to be rich. We wanted to create a film about issues we believed in, like what we’re doing to the planet and the human disease, as it were and where we’re heading,” Hayes continued.
These are the things in the era of Trump, the era of Wall Street not getting rapped over the knuckles and the era of tearing up the Paris Agreement, that seemed like a good thing to talk about.”
4. The film was shot in the the stark South Australian desert
Principal photography began on November 2020, with the 70-plus crew and production team based out of Leigh Creek – 558kms from Adelaide – shooting in and around the Nilpena region for the following five weeks.
The cast and crew faced harsh weather conditions on location, with the temperature clocking 50-degrees Celsius on some days and with sandstorms interrupting the shooting schedule.
“It was really gruelling for the crew in particular, for the grips and gaffers who had to lug around equipment in the middle of the desert – they were absolute champions,” Hayes said.
“There’s a real can-do attitude with South Australian crew, they are amazing, and the quality is second-tonone. They’re so hardworking.
“We had sandstorms, one of which we are using in the film. It was a real challenge. It was probably the most brutal shoot I’ve done in my 35 year career. It was extraordinary.
“But these are also the positives of the film, because it puts you in the movie – it puts you in the elements, it puts Zac in the elements. There’s no escaping it. It’s hot. It’s horrible, you thrive off those elements and capture it on film. And I think that’s what’s great about it – you see it and you feel it on the screen.”
5. Gold was shot by director of photography, Ross Giardina
Capturing the look and feel of Gold is Ross Giardina – an International Award-winning cinematographer who specialises in film, commercials, music videos and documentary. Giardina’s feature credits include The Dressmaker (second unit); Catch The Fair One and Significant Strangers. Ross is a triple Golden Tripod winner at the Australian Cinematographer’s Society Awards for his advertising work.
Gold is in select cinemas from January 13, and will premiere Australia Day on Stan.