Wayne Blair Interview
Wayne Blair Interview
Wayne Blair, director of comedy drama The Sapphires, about an all-girl, Australian Aboriginal singing group in the 1960s, talks to View about the creation of the film, the music and passion that filled the shoot and the finished film, and how important the film is as a way of bringing the true story of the Aboriginal experience to the world.
How did the project came about?

Wayne Blair

Well, it was a stage play back in 2005 in Sydney and it started in Melbourne, actually, in 2004. I was an actor in the original show, so basically that’s how I found out about it and I was in the belly of the beast for 3 or 4 months in Australia. I think Tony Briggs, the sole writer of the stage show, was offered by a number of producers to make the film, to make the stage play into a film. I was there at the right place at the right time, and he was involved in my short film that won an award at Berlin.

And yeah, it was sort of one friend to another, he asked me, ‘Would you be attached as the director?’, and I thought, ‘Yeah, okay’. So it was like a simple transaction from one friend to another, and then over the last seven years we sort of tried to get the script out and then we made the film last year, so it was a deal between two friends.
Is Chris O’Dowd’s part similar to the way it’s written in the stage show?

Wayne Blair

No, he was an Australian in the stage show. The two writers, Tony joined forces with Keith Thompson and it became a film, made it an English character. And then once Chris was cast, we just instantly made him Irish, just because of his Irish sensibilities, you know. The stars were aligned and it was a coup on our part, it just made the script so much better.
Watching it, you would think the story was always that way, so it’s interesting how these things work out.

Wayne Blair

No, it only happened six weeks out from the shoot.
Talk me through the rest of the casting.

Wayne Blair

And then we got the four girls. Also we got Tory Kittles, the black American from the States as well. But the four girls took about 8 to 12 months and they were part of our auditioning about 150 girls in Australia. So it took about 8 to 12 months to find our four girls. But we went everywhere in Australia to look for some new talent or to unearth someone. In the last three to four weeks, they came down to the last 8. Even Deb - she has a good, a great career in Australia, she’s won a couple of big awards over there - she wanted to audition 5 or 6 times. I wanted her to audition, just to feel the dynamics of the group. We got down to our last four and they were the best four we had, so that’s great.
Were there any other changes made between the stage version and the screen version?

Wayne Blair

I think some of the songs changed. A lot of the songs have changed. We just had more scope in the film rather than the stage show and we had a bit more time to think about it, so that was one of the big changes.

Of course Chris’s character changed and a couple of the girls’ journeys, especially with Kay having that stolen generation story in there. Tony and Keith wanted to elaborate on that, just to remind Australia or remind the world, and just say that’s a part of her, that's part of her state as a character, where she starts out. I mean, you know, the greatest great characters are sort of like us – we're all fractured, we all have that pain and happiness. So a couple of the girls’ journeys were changed. And of course, when we see the girls as young girls, or when we see the girls at the mission, in the stage version that wasn't apparent. Basically, they’re fleshed out. And a lot of numbers, it was the songs, a couple of characters’ journeys, and of course the big one, Dave Lovelace being Irish instead of Australian.
How did you decide on the songs?

Wayne Blair

Just through communication in a room. Just giving Tony and Keith (co-writers of the film) the sense of freedom and just letting them have a play a bit, just to give it a little bit more weight than the stage show offered. So yeah, just by communication over the last 3 or 4 years, really.
How much of a rehearsal period did you get with all the actors?

Wayne Blair

Well, we had about 4 to 6 weeks I think, with the girls. But what was great with the girls, because it was a long process - I suppose, as an actor when you get cast in a film or something, you might get one or two scenes that you audition - they had about 13 or 15. So they knew the script very well every day when we were shooting. I had a couple of weeks of choreography as well, just to get all the dances down before we shot as well as the drama rehearsals. So they got to know each other very well.

I think it’s a great idea actually, when you think about it; if I was doing a courtroom drama, maybe getting all the actors and stuff into a room and just learning a dance routine or doing yoga or doing pilates or something. I think a dance routine is better than singing a song because it’s instant getting to know you, like we’re sweating together and we're all in the same boat. So that was great.

But with Chris, he was cast 3 or 4 weeks out and he was doing an American film at the time, (Friends with Kids) hopping in a pool with Megan Fox. So he only got to us, like 3 or 4 days before the shoot. It was one of those things that worked out great, because in the story the manager just meets the girls - the girls are family for 25 to 30 years, whereas he meets the girls on the first day. We actually shot those first two or three scenes when he meets them, on the first 2 or 3 days of the shoot. So it was very, very real. But for me and him, we had about 3 or 4 days. You know, he could have been shit, he could have been demanding or he could have been like, ‘I’m just going to stay in my trailer and drink copious amounts of Scotch’. It was the opposite.

He was an utter professional but also he just added to that dynamic of the four girls and so in the six week shoot we had, they just got to know each other better and better and it just worked for the plot points in our film.

Most Read Today

Content updated: 19/04/2019 05:38

Latest Features

Take a stand at the Human Rights Film Festival.
The best films to watch for the 2014 Christmas season
Director Richard Ayoade and actor Jesse Eisenberg talk about creating their doppleganger comedy horror
The writer and co-star of The Stag talks about filming his all male comedy in rural Ireland

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films