Interview: Bret McKenzie – ‘Two Little Boys’

New Zealand’s Oscar-winning Conchord Bret McKenzie stars alongside Aussie funnyman Hamish Blake (Hamish and Andy) in the Kiwi black comedy Two Little Boys, directed by Robert Sarkies (Scarfies, Out of the Blue) and based on a novel written by his brother Duncan Sarkies. Opens in cinemas September 20.

We were lucky enough to have a chat with Bret about the film (we resisted doing a roll call).

FLICKS: Hello Bret! How are you?

MCKENZIE: I’m great, thanks.

How did you become involved with ‘Two Little Boys’?

I’ve known Rob and Duncan for many years. I knew Duncan when I was in university, doing theatre stuff. When I was in the States years ago, they sent me the script. I thought it was really funny and really original. I was very enthusiastic and keen to get involved.

Your character in the movie, Nige, is passive by nature, kind of intellectually challenged and prone to panic attacks. Was it difficult for you to display all those characteristics?

It was definitely a challenge because Nige is so beaten down and his friend is such a psychopathic bully that it was quite exhausting to do the job. I underestimated what it would be like to play a man who’s killed someone while trying to keep it funny.

We were dealing with this dead backpacker and in order to make those scenes as real as possible, we had to treat the Norwegian corpse with a particular level of sincerity.

Do you prefer playing an elf or a bogan?

Good question. I think I preferred the mullet to the pointy ears.

Was that glorious mullet of yours a wig or naturally grown?

It was surprisingly easy to grow that. It was just a trim on the sides. I was loving how close my normal haircut was to a mullet.

What’s it like working with the Sarkies brothers?

They’re a great team. They’re quite different; their powers combine. They know exactly what they’re doing. Rob is a really passionate director. He always gets inside the character’s head in every scene. He was really living the movie as it went along.

It’s quite hard to describe and funny to watch because when you’re watching the playback, his face gets all tangled up. It’s quite hilarious to watch.

Do they ever conflict or are they like the Coen brothers where they’re one conjoined mind?

I’ve never worked with the Coen brothers, but I’d say the way Rob and Duncan work, Rob being the director and Duncan more the writer, is that they give each other advice in each other’s departments but they keep their final says.

So, Duncan was on set giving advice to Rob but there were never two directors, which is great because as an actor, you don’t want two directors.

“I wasn’t as fond of the speedos we needed to wear. Even summer in Invercargill is fairly arctic. There was absolutely no problem fitting into those speedos.”

Working on a set that portrayed early ‘90s New Zealand, did it make you nostalgic?

Yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for Adidas stirrup tracksuits. I wasn’t as fond of the speedos we needed to wear. Even summer in Invercargill is fairly arctic.

At least the cold would’ve helped you fit into those speedos.

There was absolutely no problem fitting into those speedos.

How did Hamish Blake end up becoming your co-star?

We did some auditions in New Zealand and Australia. He ended up being the star for it in the end. It was quite unlikely, I guess. Neither of us is very experienced in film acting. We’ve both done a lot of TV and have spent a lot of time playing ourselves. But this was quite a change for both of us, to be in a fairly dramatic comedy.

Being an Oscar-winner, were you afraid of upstaging Hamish Blake?

Not at all. He’s amazing. We were both slightly out of our depth so it was quite fun sharing that experience and helping each other along the way.

What was your fondest memory of the shoot?

There were lots of good times. Hamish was really funny to work with. He was a blast.

One particularly memorable day was when we were filming a scene with a real sea lion. I got chased up a dune by one. We had to improvise with this fairly wild creature.

There were a few sea lions on the beach and I remember reading the script and thinking “How are we going to get these sea lions?” But I was told that there was this beach in the Catlins where these sea lions hang out. So we just went down there hoping there would be some, and there were about three of them.

While I was waiting to start the scene, one of the sea lions started chasing me up the dunes. Another one attacked the camera crew.

Was the sea lion attack the most dangerous part of the shoot?

Yeah, that was definitely the most dangerous.

Newcomer Maaka Pohatu plays Gav, the third wheel in the film’s bromantic love triangle. Is he just as loveable in person as he is on screen?

Very much so. He’s a great guy. He’s fun to work with. With Gav, some of his earlier scenes are where the characters are getting along. They’re quite refreshing within the movie. Maaka and I spent a lot of time singing Yacht Rock in between takes.

Who played guitar?

We didn’t have a guitar. Just a capella. We also did a pretty mean version of Do You Like Pina Coladas.

Trying for another Oscar nod?

We were really trying to get it into the movie but it didn’t make it.

Do you think Jemaine and Andy will star in a film together, just out of spite?

I would love to see that film. Maybe they could do a Two Little Boys sequel.