Roger Ward is a pioneer of Australian film and television,’ so Wikipedia writes. And I am sure there are a few who would agree with that, as I was never some starlet sitting at a soda fountain awaiting discovery. Having been a working actor from an extremely young age, both on stage and radio, I was (by the time of the renaissance of Australian films and the beginning of television) a fully fledged professional. I do admit the work on offer in those early days was un-stimulating half hour dramas such as ‘Divorce Court’ where one was asked to play, sometimes on a week to week basis, either a Judge, an irate husband, or a court orderly. There was never a script, just an outline, forcing us to create dialogue on the spot. There was another of a similar vein entitled ‘Consider Your Verdict’ and another where the actors were given the outline of a mixed up character who confessed all to a real Psychologist who would give his verdict at the end of the show. During those early days, I divided my work between film, television and stage and was fortunate enough to work opposite Academy Award winner Ray Milland in the touring production of Hostile Witness and be directed by the brilliant Hayes Gordon in Same Difference. I also toured with mad cap British actor, John Inman.
In the late sixties Crawford productions, offered me a contract as both, an actor for their various television shows, and script editor for their long running series Homicide. The day to day script editing was a great learning curve and gave me the skills to write the script for the highly successful film, ‘The Set’ which was adapted from my novel. Since then I have written the story for ‘Brothers’ a dramatic movie set in the Philippines and New Zealand, and a couple of documentaries, ‘Flex Appeal’, a look at women who train with weights, and ‘Silent Scream’ an expose of those suffering from achondroplasia or dwarfism.
At this moment I have three feature films on offer as an actor and a major production house evaluating ‘The Set’ as a long term television series.
The novel, ‘The Set’ is available through Amazon.
Satisfied. Almost relieved. For at last the public have a chance to see what all the fuss was about. When the film came out (or in the case of those who saw the film later on) they would have heard that I had spent 10 years writing the work from which the film was made. Yet seeing it, even though they may have been entertained, or shocked, or disgusted, they probably thought, ‘It took him ten years to write that?’ So to finally have it out there, even though 300 pages were cut from the narrative is still a great feeling as if I’ve come full circle and even though I was apprehensive at the reception the book would receive, I’m damned pleased that it’s finally out there.
Actually there is quite a lot of conjecture as to the identity of my characters, especially in the early days when the manuscript was being bandied about to publishers, film people, and the odd journalist. In most cases their guesses were wrong. For instance, the book is set in Adelaide and I feature a large department store and the people who work within it. For authenticity I used the Adelaide department store named John Martin and Co and within the book the public relations manager of that store befriends and then seduces the young protagonist Paul. Well the American producer Frank Brittain, who had bought the film rights, was convinced that ‘John Martin’ was a camouflaged ‘David Jones’ and the very well known man about town, David Lloyd Jones, the basis for the public relations manager. He was wrong of course but I never told him so. Also Frank thinks to this day that my female lead, Leah Lee, who goes on to become a television presenter, was based on the television journalist Jana Wendt when in actual fact Jana was not even on the radar until well after the book was completed.
I’ve done the Paris thing, and you’re right, it is extremely stimulating and I think I’ve done some of my best work while sitting on a small balcony over looking Notre Dame but I had dreamed about Tahiti since I was a school kid and used the writing of the novel as an excuse to go. Although I must say, when I stepped off the SS Southern Cross that July day in 1960 I was the loneliest and saddest I have ever been. It was a Quantum Leap to step off the comfort of a luxury liner with all meals found and a comfortable bed supplied, to face the reality of living on ones wits and his ability with pen and paper. I had to find accommodation, some sort of work, and finish off a novel that seemed to be reaching into eternity. My assets were a Royal Royalite portable typewriter, my diaries and notes, one ream of quarto paper, a camera, a few clothes and an airline ticket from Tahiti to London. And to stand on that rickety jetty and watch the SS Southern Cross sail away and take my new found friends with her was a very heart rending experience. I stood there until the ship was no more then I roamed the waterfront seeking places to call my home, but none were satisfactory. Fortunately a couple of yachtsmen recognized my plight and allowed me to sleep on the deck of their craft for the first night. The next day I came across a couple of New Zealanders who offered me a third share of their luxury hotel ‘Fare’ for the two weeks they were staying. I knew a third of the cost would almost break me but I was so desperate that I accepted. As it was, fate stepped in and within a few hours I had met Marlon Brando who was on the island scouting locations for Mutiny on the Bounty, Bengt Daniellson who had sailed over by raft from South America on the Kon Tiki Expedition, descendants of the authors of Mutiny on the Bounty and Dewey Martin a delightful Hollywood actor who happened to be staying at the same hotel. Dewey informed me there was a derelict house being offered for rent nearby so we went out to inspect it. It was ideal for what I wanted and the rent was reasonable so just as we were returning to the real estate office to clinch the deal, a giant black limousine came through the gates and the passenger leaped out to wring Dewey’s hand. It was the Italian film director Franco Rossi and he informed he had just rented the property as a set for his upcoming film Nude Oddysee. He asked Dewey if he would star in the film but he was in Tahiti to get over his recent divorce from singer Peggy Lee and he declined, however he did arrange for me to do bits and pieces within the film, which of course accorded me much needed Pacific Francs with which to live. If my luck changed that day, it changed again a few days later when I met an American who wanted to sub-let a one bedroom hut on the outskirts of Papeete. I jumped at the chance and moved in. It was then that I began to write in earnest and became an elite member of the chosen few who had come to Tahiti in an attempt to make a living from their art, both visual and written. At that time the only way to reach Papeete was by passenger liner, private yacht, or fly in on the cumbersome, propeller driven wreck that swooped in every Tuesday. My companions called it the 'Mail Plane' and once it had landed we would all traipse to the post office to hopefully receive a cheque for our offers to magazines or newspapers or in the case of the visual artists, to their agents. If we received a rejection slip, which was often the case, it would be merely torn into pieces while we returned to our home base and continued with our work until the same time the following week.
No aggro if that’s what you mean. In fact the Mahu’s as they are known up there received very strong romantic vibes from these self same, so called, butch men. In fact I laughed uproariously one day when I was in a café having coffee and one of the newly arrived was writing a post card, I could see by the look in his eyes that it was to a loved one and for a moment I felt empathy for the loneliness I sensed he had, but suddenly one of the Gay’s came in with a graceful gliding walk, threw his head side ways and shook his long black hair as he leaned down to the American and said in a husky French accented voice, ‘Come, I eat you, you eat me, we have some fun.’ The poor unfortunate took one look at the gorgeous face two inches away from his, did a brief reconnoiter of who may be watching, thought, ‘To hell with it’, tore the post card in half and left with the beaming Mahu. Now this was happening in a French outpost at the very same time that the National Assembly of France declared Homosexuality a ‘social scourge’ and urged the Government to take action against it. While at the same time, and across the Pacific in San Francisco, in a move that possibly led to the acceptance of my own material for film, a television station made, and then broadcast a documentary on homosexuals entitled ‘The Rejected’ so it appeared I was barking up the right tree.
Yes. The writing style in the 50’s and 60’s was slightly different to today, so I tightened up, and deleted certain passages. Also, when one knows his work is definitely going to be published, he tends to take a more critical look at it and when I did, I found that the thinly veiled, real life characters that were used as a blue print for my protagonists were a bit too thinly veiled so I cut some of their more outrageous activities. More out of respect to those passed on, than an attempt to white wash their lives.
Initially I was in South Australia and that was where I garnered the majority of my research and where I created the notes and diaries that I would use as the basis for the book. I was in theatre at that time; in fact I have been involved in it from age twelve. But I also worked on radio for the ABC, although my main source of income then was with the Murdoch owned News Ltd as a cadet reporter during which time I created a stack of published articles. Most were based on the entertainment world and it got me thinking that a novel, with that world threaded through it would make an unusual Australian novel as most books written during that time were based on the land, or bushrangers and I felt it was time to describe our everyday, modern life but with a theatrical background. I was also intrigued by the gay guys and gals that frequented the theatre, both as performers and in the background. I liked their attitude and felt empathy for their plight, and it was a plight at that time, no public recognition, ostracized if they flaunted their gaiety and having to live together inconspicuously (I’m living with my brother) (but there’s no family resemblance) (I was adopted) so I decided to thread their unique life style throughout the novel as well. I was also a Surf Life Saver and incorporated that side of life into it as well. These three elements, I thought, would make The Set unique so I began to write. However, I found with everyday work, performing in plays, doing radio gigs and partaking of the social life that I enjoyed, I could not discipline myself to sit at the typewriter for the many hours that it needed so I planned to do a ‘Paul Gauguin’ and made arrangements to head for the South seas to complete the work.
I had my moments of course, but the trouble was, postage was so expensive from Tahiti and a short story or article was not a one page Aerogramme so one had to be reasonably sure it was a goer before sending it, so I was not prolific in my ‘other’ writings, especially after I began to get work in other fields. For instance I helped out with the Dina Shore Show when they came to the islands for their television special, and of course there was work on Mutiny, and the Italian film that I mentioned. In fact I was doing well enough to be able to knock back the regular Gigolo work that was on offer from some of the more desperate housewives who arrived on the island looking for love.
There was any kind of love one could want up there. And that did surprise me. Because you are right, Polynesia was often described as the ‘Island of Love’ and it shocked me to find, in amongst all of this female beauty and supposedly heterosexual men were extremely sensual males with painted eyes and flowers in their hair and the most elegant of gestures, mixing in quite freely and without threat. Even Marlon Brando had a Gay male companion. Although he also imported a lithe, Asian Indian girl whom he had found dancing in a Las Vegas Casino.
Yes, I never witnessed it myself but it was rumored that Brando did like his vice, versa. In fact he does say in an interview, recreated in Wikepedia, ‘Homosexuality is so much in fashion it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me.’
You know, I thought the exact same thing, here was I in the supposed heterosexual male paradise, and the main street was rife with outlandish Queens, all fluttering their eye lids behind languid flowing hair, their faces made up and all of them having such a happy and refreshing attitude to every thing, especially sex.
No I was in my own little world, but I must admit I was very confident when I finally finished the first draft. Because I knew it had something the others did not so I decided to head for home, instead of London as I planned. I had a positive feeling and a strange knowledge that I would sell the work. However, adventurous to the end I cashed my airline ticket, Tahiti to London, and gave the money to the Captain of a 37 foot Schooner rigged yacht that was heading for Sydney and became a third member of the crew. I spent 8 months on the high seas, enduring a near ship wreck on Mitiaro in the Cook group, a typhoon just off Lord Howe, and the heart stopping moment of being washed onto a hidden reef by wind and seas to arrive in Australia with shoulder length hair, a wild beard, and what I thought would be my future in 735 quarto pages wrapped protectively in plastic. My prophecy of a sale was correct, although I did jump the gun and released the film rights before I published the novel. However my confidence did buckle a little when Frank Brittain, the American film producer who had bought it, asked me to write the film play as well. Now that is an art within itself and I was soon floundering in over writes because I refused to cut any of my scenarios from the 735 page novel. It was a dissection I just could not do. Frank solved that problem by blue penciling every depiction of homosexuality within the manuscript and saying. “Write a 130 page screen play about that.” Now that was art.
Without doubt one of the most notorious Australian films ever made, Turkey Shoot has attracted both wildly positive and negative reactions over the years. Starring Steve Railsback, Olivia Hussey, Michael Craig and Roger Ward it has an alterative title in the US of: Escape 2000 and Blood Camp Thatcher in the UK. The curator of Australian Screen, the Australian film archives, Rickard Kuipers says. It’s lanky Mad Max (1979) and Stone (1974) alumnus Roger Ward who leaves the most lasting impression as the sadistic Ritter.
Bad Behaviour is a 2010 Australian horror thriller film, written and directed and by Joseph Sims and starring John Jarratt, Lindsay Farris and Dwaine Stevenson and features in supporting roles Robert Coleby, Georgina Symes, Roger Ward, Jean Kittson and Ellen Grimshaw. The film won 6 awards at the 2010 Melbourne Underground Film Festival, Including Best Supporting actor for Roger Ward
The story follows the lives of five Australian teenagers and their battle to be accepted by their peers. Set in the 1960s amongst the backdrop of parental rebellion, sexual experimentation and individuals struggling to forge careers, The Set is an Antipodean Peyton Place with a touch of television’s Desperate Housewives.
Roger Ward played the on going rock and roll dancer and singer, shakespeare quoting, rubbish collector, Weppo Smith. The premise, original story outlines, and the original characters were devised by David Sale who also wrote the scripts for the first episodes and continued as script editor for much of the show's run. The series proved to be a huge success, running from 1972 until 1977. Number 96 was so popular it spawned a feature film version, filmed in December 1973, which became one of the most profitable Australian movies ever made. Number 96 was known for its groundbreaking sex scenes and nudity and for its comedy characters. The series was the first in the world to feature an openly gay regular character
.(starring Mel Gibson), Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays Byrne, and Roger Ward, as Fifi. James McCausland and Miller wrote the screenplay from a story by Miller and Kennedy. The film grossed substantially at the box office. It held the Guinness record for most profitable film for decades, and has been credited for further opening up the global market to Australian New Wave films. The film became the first in a series, spawning the sequels Mad Max 2 (a.k.a. The Road Warrior) in 1981 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. A fourth installment, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy as Max, is scheduled for release on May 15, 2015
The Man from Hong Kong (known in the U.S.A. as The Dragon Flies) is a 1975 action film that marked the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production filmed in both nations. It was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith and starred Shanghai-born Jimmy Wang-Yu and former 007 George Lazenby. With Roger Ward and Hugh Keays Byrne as the Tom and Jerry cops