Director Stephan Elliott is back with another hilariously weird slice of Australiana. Jess Jones caught up with him about his new film, Kylie Minogue, and growing up in the ‘70s.
Director Stephan Elliott is perhaps best known for his 1994 gay classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a film that he recently revealed was originally intended to feature Kylie Minogue hits rather than its ABBA-heavy soundtrack.
Elliott’s new film, Swinging Safari, is a gloriously surreal homage to Australia in the 1970s.
In it, Minogue stars alongside Guy Pearce, both almost unrecognisable in kitsch seventies hair and garb—a landmark reunion after they appeared together in Neighbours almost 30 years ago.
Other well-known Australian actors join Pearce and Minogue on screen, with national treasure Richard Roxburgh narrating.
Working with icon Minogue on the film was a long time coming and “the worst experience in the world”, Elliott jokes.
“When I wrote the script and Guy said yes, I thought my god, Kylie will never do it,” he says.
“The one thing that got all the cast together was the fact that we’re all kind of the same age, and every one of us lived through this period. Almost every shot is full of things that open the memory floodgates.”
Elliott and the cast worked together to develop the rich nostalgia woven throughout the film, from fondue and Fags lollies to free-range parenting.
“Part of the gamble was making something so genre and time-specific that a lot of people maybe would not get it, but at screenings, millennials are fascinated by it,” Elliott says.
“They’re looking at it like a science fiction film.
“Kids come up to me and say, ‘Is this true, were you really raised like this, did this really happen?’
“This is for a generation of helicopter children that have been so protected, so mollycoddled… the generation before that, we were raised free-range. There simply weren’t any rules, and I think we all turned out fine.”
Swinging Safari follows three families in a small beachside town through a series of quirky events. Elliott says a great deal of the kids’ stories are based on his own childhood.
“But the real joy was bringing the actors to the table who also grew up in their own version of that world,” he adds.
“I let the adults kind of become their own creations, and that was great.
“I said, ‘If you get stuck, what would your parents do in that situation?’ There were beautiful moments at several points in the film of the actors playing their parents.”
Swinging Safari is in cinemas now, and the stage version of Priscilla—featuring a soundtrack of Kylie Minogue hits—is about to hit theatres on its new Australian tour.