Interview John Jarratt talks reprising his role for Wolf Creek

Ahead of the release of the TV series on DVD and Blu-ray, we spoke to the man depicting Mick Taylor.

30,000 people go missing in Australia each year, with 90% found within the first month. The rest are never seen again.

TV series Wolf Creek is based on the international hit feature film of the same name, John Jarratt reprises his role as murdering psychopath Mick Taylor, wreaking havoc in the Australian outback. Wolf Creek follows American teenager Eve Thorogood (Lucy Fry, 11.22.63) on holiday with her family in Northern Australia when sadistic killer Mick targets the family, viciously slaughtering them for his own twisted pleasure. Seriously injured, Eve survives the massacre of her parents and little brother, and sets out to bring the killer to justice. And so begins a chilling game of cat and mouse, with the roles reversed and the hunter becoming the hunted. A Tarantino-esque revenge tale, Wolf Creek reveals Eve’s complex and extraordinary journey, as she evolves from child to adult, from prey to predator. But can she triumph over Mick Taylor, evil incarnate? 

The Wolf Creek show is a great adaptation, and at six hour-long episodes is lean and mean and doesn’t pull any punches or tread any water. John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor is just as vicious as in the two films, and we recently caught up with John.

As a horror fan, and a fan of the movies, we’re really enjoying the Wolf Creek TV series. What did you think of the idea of making it into a show when it was first pitched to you?
Well, when Gregg (McClean – Wolf Creek’s writer/director) rang me and said that he thought that he was thinking of turning it into a TV series I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t imagine it, and I thought, “Well, we’re starting to trot Mick Taylor out a bit now, aren’t we?” So I just said, “I can’t see it”, and Greg said, “We’ve got a great idea and I’ll send you the scripts”. I said, “OK, send me the scripts and we’ll go from there”, because there’s three things that make a good movie or a TV show and that’s the script, the script and the script. So they sent me the scripts and I had to eat my words – they were very good and well put together.

And were the scripts still a work in progress at that point? Did you want any input?
Nah, I had to see the whole goddamn thing. They were all early drafts but I had to see a through line to tell if it was going to work. The way they put it together is very clever, because all the horror hounds would be sitting there, rubbing their hands together, waiting to see Mick Taylor in the first episode, and could hardly wait to tweet “This is pussy”, you know?

But it wasn’t, and we made sure it wasn’t. But the good thing was that Mick turns up, does his thing, takes out a few Americans, and then the title track starts and then the thriller begins, you know?

Then the horror fans get wet in their jeans every time Mick turns up – cos that’s what you’re gonna get whenever you see Mick – and everyone’s happy! It’s very tried and tested when you think about it. It’s Unforgiven, and The Fugitive, and all those bloody Charlie Bronson movies.

Death Wish?
Yeah, but Lucy Fry plays Clint Eastwood in this, you know? That’s interesting. A skinny little school girl turns into this bloody vengeful monster, so that’s interesting.

Changing formats from film to TV, were there any restrictions in place on what you were allowed to do or show?
You’re wasting your time if that’s going to become part of the equation, you know? Then don’t bother doing it – it’s like remaking Fawlty Towers but not making it too funny, you know? [laughs] If there had been restrictions, I wouldn’t have done it. It wouldn’t work, and all the horror hounds would rub their hands together and say it was a pussy show!

Obviously having yourself and the movies writer and director Greg McClean involved meant that most fans were already onside. How much day-to-day involvement did Greg have beyond writing?
He was the mover and shaker. He put the whole thing together, and was very smart about it. He got the guys at Screen Time to put it together - they’re a production company who do big end TV in Australia, so they know what they’re doing. They worked with him on it, then we got this exciting new streaming service which is called ‘Stan’, which is like the Australian Netflix, and we became their flagship show, and it went through the roof over here! Greg steered it all the way, but unfortunately a movie he was doing got delayed and delayed and delayed so he could only do the last episode, but he was highly involved in pre-production and in contact all the time.

You mentioned Lucy earlier, what kind of relationship did you guys have, and how far were you happy to push her?
I thought they were going to have to get a bit of a ballsy actress to work with me, and that was going to be a bit of a task, because the girl is so young and she has to serve it up to Mick, and then they got Lucy Fry who – thank God – didn’t just serve it up, she threw it at me!

She’s not little, and she’s strong. She’s tall, about 5’10, I think, and I was working out with an African-Australian I ‘spose you’d call him, I dunno. “Kerim”, “Killer Kerim”, this amazing, very beautiful black dude who’s built like a brick shit house. So I said to Lucy, “Listen you skinny little bugger. You’d better go down and do a little work with Kerim.” Then it was “How many chin-ups did you do?”, and I beat her at stuff all the time. There was that going on, and I just teased her a lot, and she gave as good as she got.

Are there plans for a second series yet?
Well… You’ve seen…

We’re up to episode three, at the moment…
Well I’ll just say, mate, that evil never dies… [sinister laugh]

Wow. OK. As an actor, how do you approach playing Mick? Is it a difficult or dark head space to get yourself into, or do you find that you can switch him on and off now?
I can switch him on and off now, but when I first did it I couldn’t! It was brand new, I didn’t know whether it was going to work, I didn’t know whether I had created a monster or a really bad cartoon character! I thought it was going to either be absolutely brilliant, or absolutely shithouse! I knew what I wanted and I knew who he was, I’ll never understand it but… I can allow him to justify who he is, but I’ll never understand who he is, I never will.

I’m from the bush, and my dad’s a hard-arsed guy, a funny guy, larger than life, he was 5’8 and fourteen and a half stone of blood and muscle, a hardworking guy. Mick Taylor is basically an impersonation of my dad with serial killer and psychopath thrown in. Anyone who knows my old man knows that I’m doing Bruce! My dad had a really deep voice, so that’s why I did [goes into Mick Taylor’s voice] the gravel thing.

One of the things that creeps viewers out the most about Mick is the little laugh, the little chuckle that he does. Where does that come from?
OK. Well when I first talked to Greg about it, in the early days, before we made the first one, it took about six months to get the film up so I had plenty of time to think about it, but I said to him that I wanted to come up with a chuckle that starts out as a chuckle and ends up like Jaws music. So it was a device – there’s no doubt about it. So I walked around trying to find a chuckle and I did the [does the scary laugh] thing, and my labrador dog turned his head sideways – it sort of affected him a bit – and I thought, “I think that’s it”. So I just mucked around until I found it and it works very well.

You said that you were unsure if Mick was going to work or not, but it seems safe to say that he definitely has. In the horror community he is seen as an iconic villain now, which is amazing because we don’t get many new horror icons anymore. Why do you think we get such a kick out of character’s like that, and what do you enjoy most about creating and playing him?
I like the fact that I’m 64 now and to know that you’ve created an iconic character is a fantastic thing for an actor. I’m very proud of it, and I do enjoy playing Mick. Any actor will tell you that bad guys are always interesting to play. DeNiro and Pesci and those guys have made a living out of playing likeable bad bastards that you can’t help but like, but are terribly bad people. There’s something intriguing about them and it’s that thing that in real life… like ‘Making a Murder’, and the O.J. Simpson thing, you know? People are just attracted to… Donald Trump! Evil bastards! [laughs] You can’t help watching the mongrel bastard! [laughs]

Have you ever hitchhiked or backpacked yourself?
[laughs] I’m from the bush, but if I go outback I usually go 4x4 or in a truck, because I’m a builder as well. In between acting jobs I build houses, to keep me out of soap operas!

Wolf Creek (the TV series) will be available to buy in the UK on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD on 10th October.