Paul Fenech hits the big screen in Housos vs Authority
From deep in the Western suburbs of Sydney, Housos vs Authority sticks it to the man, writes Vicky Roach
Paul Fenech isn’t sure why it takes Baz Luhrmann and Hugh Jackman so long to make a movie.
“I don’t know what the hell they are doing,” says the can-do comedian who gave himself just eight months to deliver Housos Vs Authority – the film based on his popular SBS TV series – to the screen.
Fenech, of course, is joking. Or kind of. It takes a pretty healthy ego to even attempt such an ambitious feat.
“I know the depth of the filmmaking is trickier, but essentially it just comes down to cameras and actors and a script,” says the 39-year-old writer-director-producer-actor.
“To me, a lot of those guys are like heavyweight fighters – they come out every four years, have one fight, and then go and sit in the sun for a while.
“I guess that makes me like some sort of club fighter. I have to go every week otherwise I can’t pay the rent.”
Fenech is quite happy to position himself as a something of a battlers’ director – particularly since he believes the position was going begging.
The filmmaker, who got his first job with ABC TV as a stagehand sweeping floors, believes the majority of Australian features target a very small and select demographic.
Which might explain why Housos fans in Sydney’s often-maligned western suburbs have embraced characters such as the cop-baiting, thong-slapping Franky (Fenech) and his dole-bludging best mate Dazza (Jason Davis) with wholehearted enthusiasm in packed paid preview screenings across the country.
“The people I make films about are not the minority,” says Fenech.
“The greater part of Australia is much closer to Housos than it is to, say, The Slap, for example.
“Australia’s poor culture is growing and there’s no voice for them in the media.
“Don't shoot the messenger but I would like to make a comedy that’s relevant.”
Even the Boys in Blue appreciate the humour of Housos’ raucous, in-your-face celebration of the Australia’s authority-challenging underclass.
While filming on location in Sydney’s western suburbs, cast and crew regularly caught the attention of the local police.
“Every time we shoot a scene with the bikies or the Arabs, or any scene that has more than 10 people, a cop car will comes by,” says Fenech.
But once they realise its Housos shooting, they usually ask for a photograph.
“I can’t believe it. The police are some of our biggest fans.”
While the characters in Housos share a definite cinematic lineage with The Castle’s battling Kerrigan family, Fenech says Bugs Bunny was just as much of an inspiration.
And after watching his wildly anarchic creation run rings around the coppers for the best part of an hour and a half, the comparison sticks.
The ill-disciplined, foul-mouthed Franky and his motley crew of low lifes, pot heads and pension scammers have generated more than their fare share of criticism – before the television show even went to air, A Current Affair attacked Fenech after mistaking it for reality TV.
And the mission statement for if Housos Vs Authority might well have been: leave no politically-correct stone unturned.
In the film, the gang travel in a drug-laden campervan from the western outskirts of Sydney to the heart of Australia – so that Dazza’s foul-mouthed girlfriend Shazza (Elle Dawe) can be reunited with the dying mother she hasn’t seen since she was three.
Their socially-unacceptable behaviour reaches a literal and metaphorical pinnacle when they spray paint Uluru.
But Fenech says he’s not simply provoking controversy for controversy’s sake.
“Political correctness is great when it saves people from getting hurt, but when it infringes upon our right to have an Aussie perception, a kind of aussie humour, that’s really wrong.
“And I kind of feel that humour like ours is harking back to that really cheeky – I mean, larrikin is such a corny word, but to me there is something to that about the Australian character that’s very appealing.”
Housos Vs Authority opens today.
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Bogan pride: Paul Fenech (front left) and the cast of Housos vs Authority.