The New Boy Promotion

Cate Blanchett and Warwick Thornton made the rounds in Sydney to promote The New Boy. The movie is out in cinemas in Australia on Thursday, July 6. They spoke to ABC Radio, did interviews with different programmes and news outlets. There are some behind the scenes footages within the interviews which you can watch below.


Cate Blanchett and Warwick Thornton on The New Boy

The pair had long been in each other’s orbits but it wasn’t until the 2020 Berlin film festival that they met in person. Thornton was there for the second season of the outback crime series Mystery Road, which he co-directed with Wayne Blair (who plays the orphanage handyman in The New Boy). Blanchett was in Berlin promoting the Australian refugee drama Stateless, which she appears in and produced under her banner Dirty Films.

As lockdown set in, Thornton and Blanchett began talking – across continents, for hours, often late into the night. The New Boy was unearthed and the priest became a nun. “Initially, because it was written with a priest in mind, I just thought Dirty Films could be involved,” Blanchett says. “I wasn’t necessarily even thinking that I’d be acting in it.”

The decision to gender-flip the character breathed nuance into a dormant film. Unlike an imperious priest, Sister Eileen is sweary and salty, driven to frenzy by her fervour for Christ that borders on infatuation. In an early scene, a mass becomes a rambunctious singalong when she belts out a hymn at full volume for her audience of eight slightly bemused orphans. Later, when a long-awaited crucifix sculpture arrives, she gazes at the bare-chested Jesus like he’s a long-lost lover. “Oh, blessed father, he’s travelled a long way,” she whispers adoringly.

For all her spikiness, Sister Eileen injects a lightness into the film. So do the antics of the orphan boys and the sprawling landscapes of South Australia, where the film was shot – wheat fields as yellow as the new boy’s flaxen mop, often lit up by a golden-hour glow. “There’s a kind of buoyancy and an optimism, and an indefatigable quality about this boy’s spirit,” Blanchett says. She nods to Thornton: “Whereas I think if you’d made it 18 years ago, that spirit would have been extinguished.”

The lightness feels new for a film-maker whose best-known work has captured the harsh reality of Australia’s colonial past and present: Samson and Delilah’s unflinching depiction of poverty and addiction, or the 2017 western Sweet Country, a blood-soaked period piece following an Aboriginal farmhand on the lam after killing a lecherous white rancher.

There are certainly flickers of a more macabre film in The New Boy – snakes slithering around the place, a biblical fire that strikes the wheat fields. And on the face of it the setup brims with tragedy: an Indigenous boy being spirited away and indoctrinated into the church. “Saviour,” says Thornton, “is such a dangerous word – like ‘we got to save these children from the devil’.”

Even so, the violence is sublimated beneath the more immediate story of a clash of faiths. Can the new boy maintain his powers even as he’s confronted – and intrigued – by the shock of Christianity? Can Sister Eileen reconcile his abilities with her fanatical beliefs?

Above all, Thornton sees it as a film about survival. “Sister Eileen is trying to survive [too],” he says. “What this child is actually showing completely debunks so much that has been written for the last 2,000 years.”

Blanchett agrees: “We often think about organised religions, western religions, as being hermetically sealed and deeply incurious about other religions – in this case Indigenous spirituality. Where you find Sister Eileen … is at a place of great spiritual doubt, looking for a miracle. And to her surprise, the miracle comes in the form of a young man who she thinks, in a way: is this a black Christ?”

The New Boy, says Blanchett, is a chance to challenge the fixity of religious doctrines. “It’s quintessentially Australian in a lot of ways,” she says. “But it speaks to a larger universal struggle with certainty, uncertainty and doubt.”

Herald Sun Interview

The two-time Oscar-winning A-lister is currently based in the UK but has returned to her homeland to promote The New Boy, her new drama with acclaimed Indigenous director Warwick rtThornton. Sitting in the Roslyn Packer Theatre at the Sydney Theatre Company, which she ran from 2008 to 2011 with her husband Andrew Upton, she said that living overseas in the US and the UK has given her perspective to see how much creative Australian talent is celebrated internationally, and how ignored it can be at homeland.

“The worst thing for us as an actor in Australia is getting in the back of the cab and a cabbie asking ‘what do you do?’ Because you think, ‘Oh, God …’,” she said. “You’re constantly having to fight for the space or to justify the fact that you have the right to actually be an artist in Australia.

“But yet overseas, our culture is celebrated and sung and praised but we don’t often do it internally. We don’t often know what we have here. And living and working overseas, I can see absolutely objectively what we have here.”

Blanchett said helping to promote homegrown stories such as The New Boy, about an Indigenous youth with supernatural powers who is taken in by a Catholic mission in World War II era outback Australia, is a top priority for her. She not only plays a nun in the South Australia shot film, but also co-produced the film through her company Dirty Films. Blanchett, Thornton and co-stars Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair and 11-year-old newcomer Aswan Reid took the spiritual drama to the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it received a standing ovation.

“Any chance I have to amplify that and to find ways for that work to get out overseas and be celebrated, but also to be celebrated here, is deeply important to me,” Blanchett said.

Blanchett is visiting Australia hot on the heels of her appearance at the Glastonbury Festival last month, dancing to the Sparks song The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte. Blanchett had previously appeared in the video for the veteran American pop duo’s song, but her impromptu performance in front of tens of thousands of delirious punters the set the internet alight. “Oh, did it?,” she said with a laugh. “Well, that’s exciting. I love Glastonbury. I’d known Sparks for a while now and I was in video and they were going to Glastonbury and I was going Glastonbury so they said, ‘would I?’. And I went ‘Why not?’. Everything was made up. Everything was on the fly.”

Source: The Guardian, Herald