Shooting in Broken Hill

John Grant (Gary Bond) in the desert in Wake in FrightJohn Grant (Gary Bond) in the desert in Wake in Fright

After several weeks shooting the Wake in Fright unit left Sydney and travelled by road to Broken Hill in the second week of February 1970. The filmmakers shot in Broken Hill, including the main street, the old railway station in its residential areas and on locations within several hours of the town, including Silverton, Yanco Glen and Kinalung.

It was high summer and conditions were intensely hot, with temperatures approaching 50 degrees celsius and the air full of dust (the area receives less than five inches of rain a year). Rubie says that many locals were recruited to play bit parts including professional kangaroo hunter Jacko Jackson who, after giving Grant a lift, wants to buy the young man a drink, but they get into an argument and Jacko dismisses Grant with the memorable line, 'Ya mad, ya bastard.’

For Kotcheff, the most challenging aspect of the outback shoot were the scenes of shooting and fighting kangaroos. 'The hunt was always a tremendous puzzle for me,’ he says. 'I certainly didn’t want to kill any animal for the film. Finally, it was arranged for me to go out with pro hunters in this big refrigerated truck and they would hunt and pack off the dead meat.’

Joe (Jack Thompson) revels in the thrill of the chase in Wake in FrightJoe (Jack Thompson) revels in the thrill of the chase in Wake in Fright

Kotcheff learnt about roo shooting. 'We shot the roo hunters shooting kangaroos. One of the hunters said to me, “Where do you want me to shoot them?” And I asked him what he meant. He said, “I can shoot them in the heart or the kidney or the brain.” And I said, “what’s the difference?”
“If it’s the kidneys they drop dead immediately,” he explained. “Shoot them in the heart they leap around for four or five jumps and in the brain they spin for a couple of seconds and then they die.”’

Tony Buckley seamlessly intercut the actuality footage of a real kangaroo hunt with the staged action featuring the actors. For the scenes where Peter Whittle’s character fights a kangaroo, Kotcheff says expert wranglers were hired to supervise the action.

Shooting wrapped in the first week of March with the scenes of Grant wandering the desert attempting to hitch a ride on a lonely road.