Since then, you’ve played so many memorable roles in films like Star Trek, Hanna and Lone Survivor, but the first character you’ve ever returned to in your whole film career is Aaron Falk from The Dry. What was it about this guy that made you and Robert Connolly feel like there was more to explore with him in Force of Nature?
Well, the second book is such a treat, and it has, in some ways, a much easier premise to explain and sell than The Dry. The Dry is a very complex story to try and distill into two or three sentences if you were trying to market that story, particularly overseas. When they see the film, they get it. Luckily, the success of the film in Australia got us a bit of forward momentum in the overseas market. But Force of Nature is: five women on a corporate retreat go on a hike on a team-building exercise and get lost. One of them is my informant, and she gets lost amongst the five. It’s just such a great premise and gave us the opportunity to cast these five incredible women in the lead roles. After The Dry, Rob and I sat down and tried to work out what to do next, and this just felt like a really great opportunity.
It needed some tweaks, which Jane Harper was open to and allowed us to do. We knew it was going to be completely different cinematically in terms of its location and its scale, and you didn’t have to watch The Dry to enjoy Force of Nature. We want it to be standalone. But for me, it was amazing. I’ve never been able to reprise a character before, so I felt like a cheek to turn up and go, “I already know this guy and I’ve done all this work on him, and the audience might know who he is but not where he’s at now, and how do we explore that?”
The difference is that in The Dry, he’s on a personal journey, and he gets lured into work. Here, he’s a professional in a work environment, and that is what then lures him into his personal and private convictions and moral complexities. So they’re quite different in that respect, but we always felt really confident that this could deliver another unique cinematic experience.
There’s this great line in Force of Nature where Aaron says, “Nature holds us all to account,” which speaks to how these films take all of the good guy and bad guy stereotypes and tell us that it’s not that black and white, because Mother Nature is the ultimate god that we must all bow down to.
That feels like a very natural thing for Australians. It’s one of the things that I feel intrinsically when I travel that I think makes us slightly different. We know our place in the pecking order as Australians, and we know that we sit under Mother Nature. Mother Nature constantly kicks our ass, whether it be drought, flood, bushfire, cyclone. It’s one or the other. You rarely get periods of rest in between. So I think we have such a deep respect and reverence for nature and its effects. Jane Harper does such an amazing job of depicting and revering the landscape, and that’s central to the drama and tension in her stories in almost all of her books.