Boys Are Back, The: Directed by Scott Hicks

Scott Hicks directed “The Boys Are Back,” starring Clive Owen, which open Sept 25, 2009 by Miramax.

With a screenplay that was equal parts exuberant and emotionally stripped-bare, as well as set
in Australia, Brenman had focused in on one particular director who seemed born for the material. This was Scott Hicks, who directed the critically acclaimed, multi Oscar-nominated film Shine, a worldwide box office hit, which recounted the intensely moving, often funny story of an Australian pianist’s breakdown and recovery, and garnered Geoffrey Rush the Academy Award for Best Actor for his richly human performance. “With Shine, Scott conveyed to the world that he is a master at working with actors and a master at working with complicated chamber pieces – which is the nature of family life,” says Greg Brenman.

Since Shine, Hicks has directed a number of Hollywood features, ranging from Snow Falling
on Cedars and Hearts in Atlantis to the recent No Reservations, but THE BOYS ARE BACK would bring Hicks himself back — not only home to his beloved South Australia, but to the theme of family upheaval and the inner territory of personal transformations in the midst of an absurdly impossible situation.

Hicks remembers being knocked out by the screenplay’s distinctive tone. “I loved the combination of emotion and humor,” he says. “Often in our darkest moments it is humor that gets us through. I think it a national characteristic of Australians and it is something of a feature of my work in the sense that Shine was a film that, in addition to being very emotional, was also quite funny.”

When he read the book, Allan Cubitt’s adaptation impressed him even more. “Carr’s book is
extremely entertaining, and very moving but it’s not a conventional narrative. Al had the challenge of creating a story that could thread together all these family incidents and he did a remarkable job of that,” he says. “My challenge was to then kind of unravel that and work out the choreography – the physical expression of the scenes — in a way that is alive and real.”

As Hicks began working closely with Cubitt, he found himself more and more swept up in the
Carr family’s unusual trek towards reconciliation. “It’s a very personal story about people trying to reconnect with each another and about all these ingredients– love, loss, humor –which make up our everyday existence,” says Hicks. “As a father, I couldn’t help but identify with the situations and emotional conflicts, which made it very close to home.”

He continues: “I found Joe’s story so very touching – the way the trauma of his wife’s sudden death forces him to wake up emotionally and realize that he has to pay attention or he will lose his sons. It’s something I think a lot of people will relate to. People’s lives are so frenetic now and raising children is so hugely attention consuming. It’s a dilemma that so many people face: how do I balance everything else in my life with my family? I think that’s really the center of this story. And it’s the stuff of great drama, because it deals with people’s vulnerabilities.”

Hicks also viewed the story as a romance – not your typical love story but, rather, about the
romantic ideals of creating a sustaining family, no matter how unconventional. “The real love story of this film is about a father and two sons,” comments Hicks. “The family undertakes a kind of human experiment — a household of boys in the absence of women — and yet somehow it works. The thing I wanted to get across in the end is that, with all the mistakes and the mess and the blunders, Joe brings his family back together. Is it all going to be easy and straightforward? I don’t think so, but that’s what life is like, and that’s the feeling I wanted in the film.”

As the team continued to work, Brenman also brought on board Australian-based producer Tim White, who was enamored with the finished script, noting that, unlike many films today, it works its spell on you slowly. “It insidiously took me in its grip,” says White. “It’s a restrained story yet told with great insight. It was the central character that really got under my skin. Having had a busy career and having been an absent father, I had a real connection with Joe Warr and I think lots of people will. I love the fact that he’s by no means flawless. He has a wry sense of humor and can be his own worst enemy. I also like that it’s a story not so much about an event as about a state of mind and the desire we all have to create our own private family haven.”