Wake in Fright

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson as Joe in 'Wake in Fright’ (1971)

Director’s statement — Ted Kotcheff

For years the negative of Wake in Fright (1971) was thought to be lost and gone forever. The search for it was almost like a film –- 'The Hunt for O-Negative’ — and its final discovery, in Pittsburgh of all places, in a box marked 'for destruction’ sounds like a film-maker’s fantasy. The relentless lead detective that found it was also the film’s editor, Anthony Buckley; he has served me brilliantly twice now. The loss of the negative would have been a knife in my heart as Wake in Fright is one of my proudest achievements.

It was the last film of the great Australian cinema actor Chips Rafferty and the first film of the outstanding Jack Thompson. There are two things in the making of a film that stay with you -– the film itself, of course, but also the work involved in making it: the months of preparation, the shooting, the editing, one’s co-workers. In this, I was blessed. The Australian crew were young, talented, enthusiastic, fun and daring. It was one of the happiest experiences in my career.

I loved the outback with its unearthly colours and shapes, the courageous people who lived in its inhospitable circumstances, the town of Broken Hill and the men there who befriended me, the two-up schools I became addicted to.

For years I looked for a subject that would take me back to make another film in the outback but it was not to be. But I have Wake in Fright so close to my heart.

Next: The novel