A new Australian film, Dead Europe, opens November 15, adapted from the novel by Melbourne born and bred writer, Christos Tsiolkas
Christos, many people have said that your novel Dead Europe would be unfilmable – what do you think of the finished product?
My response is a mixture of relief, genuine astonishment, and also gratitude. There is something of a leap of faith involved in giving your material over to someone else to adapt. But I had seen and loved Tony Krawitz’s film, Jew Boy, and so it was not a difficult decision to make. I was excited to trust him with the adaptation. Seeing the film in a cinema, within a few minutes the fact that I had written the original book disappeared from my consciousness and I was swept up in the film. I too was one of the people who thought the book “unfilmable”. I was wrong, which shows why I am the novelist and why Tony is the film director.
You were pretty involved with The Slap as that was being produced; how involved were you in the writing of the script and the production of this film?
Sometimes the best thing for the writer to do is disappear. Once I knew that Tony wanted to direct it, that Emile Sherman was producing it and that Louise Fox was scripting it, I knew that the best thing for me to do was stay in the background. I knew their work, knew that they would all approach it with passion and commitment and – just as importantly – intelligence. I was there if they needed to discuss anything with me but otherwise I just let them do their work.
The main character, Isaac, is a Greek gay man from Melbourne travelling to Europe for the first time – how much of you is there in him?
Ah, always a difficult question, I’m not sure if the writer is the best person to answer it. Can any of us see ourselves that clearly? Certainly, there are aspects of Isaac that are drawn from my own experience and from my own character. But there is also a clarity I have about the book being fiction. Isaac is both based on my life and not at all autobiographical. I think all writers draw from within themselves when creating, when imagining, but the more we work at the craft of our writing the more we understand the difference between memoir and fiction. In any case, Isaac now partly belongs to Ewen Leslie. That’s what a terrific actor does, she or he possess the character.
Dead Europe screens from Thu Nov 1.