Aficionados of Australian television no doubt already know his name – Lincoln Younes. Only 24 years old, he’s already made a claim to fame through regular starring roles in Tangle, Home & Away, Hiding and the recently-wrapped season of Love Child. Now he’s set to explode on the big screen, leading the twisted ensemble cast of the brilliantly berserk black comedy Down Under; a spot-on, satirical skewering of the violent, intolerant underbelly of Aussie culture.
I sat down to discuss the film with Lincoln, its production, the controversial issues surrounding it and what’s next for the young actor.
CH: Congratulations on Down Under, it’s an excellent film, very funny and thought provoking. How did you first become involved in the project?
LY: Thank you! I got involved through the normal means; an audition came up for it, I read the script. I had heard that Abe had written it and was directing it and I’d always wanted to work with him, so I auditioned for it and got the part. We started filming in January this year.
CH: The film is a very raw, brutally honest portrayal of the darker, racially charged underbelly of Australian culture. Did the film’s touchy subject matter present any challenges throughout production?
LY: I think the themes are quite difficult to balance and to execute correctly; for it work as a film and to affect people the way we wanted it to affect them, it had to be balanced. There couldn’t be any judgement. It had to be an exposition to allow the audience to make up their own minds about the whole issue. So that was quite difficult, but I think our biggest fear wasn’t so much the subject matter, it was that we wouldn’t bring to life Abe’s script; we basically thought that the script was flawless and we wanted to do it justice on screen – which I think we did.
CH: You play Hassim, who is probably the closest thing we have to a moral compass in the film. How did you go about preparing for this role, and how did you find bouncing off your co-stars, whose characters were a little more hate-fuelled and motivated by anger?
LY: I did a lot of research, and I suppose I used stuff from my heritage – I’m half Lebanese, so I spoke with family members and I drew on knowledge I already had from that side of things. I suppose for me it was really important that Hassim knows why he’s there, and almost represents or acts as the audience in a way; he asks a lot of the questions that the audience would be feeling – why are these people doing this? What are you doing… and will it all be okay? I suppose the thing that really interested me about him was that he shows no matter how moral you are, if you stay within that conflicted environment long enough… it changes you. Those events become irreversible; if you surround yourself with ignorance and anger-filled hate, the only outcome can be a negative one.
CH: There’s some pretty extreme violence in the film, and you’re involved in a number of fight scenes and a car accident. How did you find staging these, and what was the most challenging scene to capture?
LY: Good question. I really enjoyed every part of the film to be honest, whether it was trying to figure out how to capture something on film in the most efficient and most effective way, or… I suppose the best example is the end fight scene. It was really important to not make it staged, not to perfectly choreograph it – it had to be scrappy; it’s that scrappiness that gives a realistic edge to it and actually makes it more disturbing and more horrifying. They’re just boys, they don’t know how to fight, and that’s what happens in real life; it’s not always perfectly choreographed punches or people recovering really quickly. I suppose it was talking about those kinds of things, none of the cast members were acquainted with conflict in that way, so it was about discussing with the stunt coordinators the best way to give it that realistic edge.
CH: According to interviews, Abe was apparently expecting a number of outraged walk-outs from audience members, which the film didn’t experience much of in the end. Were you expecting a similar reaction?
LY: Yeah, I think all of us were… We weren’t afraid of it to be honest, whether people hate it or love it; it provokes a reaction, and it’s that reaction that we wanted out of it, we wanted people to think about it. If they were indifferent it would be quite worrying. But the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive – which is above and beyond what we could have hoped for – I think we had in our heads the worst case scenario, but what we’ve been left with is a great response which is very reassuring. And it drives home that this is an issue that needs to be talked about, and that people are hopefully finally ready to acknowledge it.
CH: A lot of your work has been regular roles on some of the most well-known Australian shows – Tangled, Home & Away, Hiding and now Love Child – have you found there is much of a transition or difference between TV and film?
LY: Yeah, I did find it very different. I found we had a lot more time, you know – TV production, especially for Home & Away is incredibly fast, so I really appreciated the time we were given with the film; the more time you have the more you can explore creative options.I suppose because of that time we had more opportunities to use really amazing cinematic equipment and stage the visuals. Learning to choreograph your acting around the technical side of film has been an incredible learning experience for me. Of course, at the end of the day if it’s a good story it will end up being the same quality whether it’s film or TV.
CH: You’re fast on your way to becoming very prolific in the Australian film industry. What’s next on your plate?
LY: To be honest, I feel like a lot in this industry is always thinking and talking about the next thing… I mean there are a couple of things coming up for me, but right now I’m actually just really enjoying the festival run with the film. With television you film it, and then it just airs on TV, so I guess there’s a bit of a disconnection – you don’t get to see people’s reactions. Whereas with this I’m sitting in a theatre, in the audience and seeing their reactions first hand; I’ve been enjoying that side of things, there’s stuff coming up, but for now I’m just enjoying that festival vibe. I was at the Sydney Film Festival and saw quite a lot of films; we had our world premiere there and it’s showing at the Melbourne Film Festival soon. I’m from Melbourne originally, so I get to take my mum there and she hasn’t seen it yet – I’m excited!
Down Under is available in Australian cinemas from August 11
Image courtesy of StudioCanal