Interview originally produced for subtitledonline.com
After being spotted in a local shopping centre, Lucas Pittaway was cast in the starring role of Snowtown, Justin Kurzel’s harrowing filmic account of Australia’s bodies in barrels murders. Pittaway plays Jamie Vlassakis, a teenager who is manipulated into assisting a series of grisly murders by serial killer John Bunting (Daniel Henshall). The film is a stark observation exploring the father son relationship between the manipulated and the manipulator and has received a lot of praise and accolades from the critics. Including us!
Having never acted before, we talk with Lucas about the experience of making a movie based on Australia’s worst case of violence in recent memory.
I have heard that you were cast in the film after you were spotted in a shopping centre. How did you become involved with Snowtown?
I had just bought a pack of jelly beans in the Elizabeth shopping centre and I saw this lady talking to my brother. So I walked over and she asked me if she could have a word about living in the area. I’d heard rumours that a lady was auditioning people for a movie about kids in the area but I thought my mates had fallen for a scam! Strangely enough when she asked me to come in for audition I was more than happy to. Two auditions later and three days of script reading I was offered the lead.
Your character is very much the focus of the movie. Having never acted before, how did you prepare for the role?
To help everyone prepare for their characters everyone spent nearly all their time building the relationships you see on camera, off camera as well. Dan and I went to parties together, we had big family dinners with all the cast, we even went fishing for a weekend with Maddy and Marcus, the two younger brothers in the movie. Personally I had to learn how to put myself in a state where I could portray certain emotions and still think about things like where the camera is, keeping to the script and still being able to drop back and forth between takes. It was definitely a new thing to me but luckily Dan and Justin are amazing to work with and were so accommodating for everyone going through the same situation.
How much were you aware of the original murders?
Before the film I knew nearly nothing about the murders. Like so many people my age in the area I only knew the terms snowtown murders and bodies in the barrels. I didn’t even know this happened in my local area. I was shocked to discover just how brutal and close to home it was.
Given the dark subject matter, how was the atmosphere on set?
Strangely enough, on set it was far from what you see on camera. I had never experienced such a diverse range of people all working together, it was great. Obviously when the camera was rolling and when we were in filming those heavy scenes it became a little quiet but luckily we were such a close group and you had everyone there for support, I wouldn’t have made it through without Dan or Justin.
What kind of learning processes did you go through whilst working on the film?
The first thing I had to learn was how to act. I failed year 10 drama! So for me this was like diving in the deep end with a cramp and a lead vest. I had to learn how to portray emotions that were obviously not my own, discover a new way of responding to people but most importantly I had to remember, don’t look at the camera!
Watching the movie, Jamie doesn’t seem to be an evil character like Bunting. It is more that he is a victim of a series of bad influences, of which he seems incapable of rising above. By the end of the film how do you feel about him?
Honestly I find it hard to view the film in the same way as an audience member. It’s really hard for me to have specific feelings about characters or events in the film. I feel that for Jamie the whole series of events has a snowball effect that he can’t predict at the start. He sees John Bunting as a great role model in his life and doesn’t realise just what he’s getting himself into. The strongest decision for Jamie is his morals or his loyalty.
A lot of critics are saying that you remind them of a young Heath Ledger. How does that affect you?
It’s always a compliment. It doesn’t seem to make any noticeable difference in my life except for the great help it has been when I go out to town and I’m not in a rush to brush it off.
Do you have any aspirations of doing more acting?
Of course! I am always keen to read scripts and audition for things I like. I’m definitely making the most of this opportunity. I have done some work in a few things since. Look out for a short film titled Spine.